The People from Poland who got buried in Arusha
The President of Poland Andrzej Duda recently toured Tanzania, as part of his East African itinerary.
His visit this year rekindles the long lost history of the Poles that lived and died in Arusha leaving a legendary graveyard at Tengeru.
The site used to be a post-World War II camp for deportees from Eastern Europe.
The encampment was formed by Polish refugees who were fleeing from Russian occupation of Poland on the one side and Hitler on the other.
Nearly 25,000 refugees from Poland found themselves in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
However, the Kresy-Siberia Foundation documents that there were 18,000 Polish nationals on these shores.
Their biggest settlement was at Tengeru, one of the Wards making up the Meru District of Arusha.
Tengeru, according to early sources, was picked due to its favourable climate for the refugees that were on their way to the United Kingdom, United States and other destinations.
About 1,000 refugees didn’t want to go back home most remained in East Africa, with the majority choosing to stay in the Northern Tanzanian precinct.
In Arusha they contributed to the local community development such as building schools, and are credited for establishing the College of Agriculture at Tengeru as well as a medical clinic.
Other documents show the poles also dabbled in shoemaking, weaving, toy-making, rug-making, besides weaving string and rope from sisal.
At the moment all is left are their graves at a communal mausoleum in the outskirts of Arusha City.
The cemetery is striking in its similarity to the Commonwealth War Graves. Most of the head stones look the same and are lined in the same way.
Frangipani trees, a common feature of the German African graves, provide shade.
The garden is supposed to be taken care of by Simon Joseph who inherited the work from his father, a man that also tended the graves for 32 years.
Caretakers are usually supported financially by the Polish Embassy and donations from the many visitors who come to see this little bit of Eastern Europe in the heart of Africa.