UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)



Krakow in Poland

Poland has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004. A brief overview of the country’s political system, trade and economy and Poland as an EU member state can be viewed on the official website of the European Union.

Following the country's accession to the European Union and the opening of the labour market, there has been a very significant wave of Polish migration to the United Kingdom. Between 2015 and 2018 Poland was the most common non-UK country of birth after taking over from India. Since then, Poland has been the second most common non-UK country of birth but despite this decrease, Polish has remained the most common non-UK nationality in the UK since 2007 with the estimated number in June 2020 of 815.000 (Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: year ending June 2020, Office for National Statistics). Between 2004 and 2014 the number of Polish nationals in the UK increased from around 69.000 to around 853.000 (House of Commons Library Briefing Paper: Polish Population of the United Kingdom, 15 July 2016). As of June 2020 an estimated number of 127.000 Polish nationals lived in London (Office for National Statistics, Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: individual country data, July 2019 to June 2020), down from the peak of 187.000 in 2016 (Office for National Statistics, Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: individual country data, January to December 2016). In the year directly preceding Poland's accession to the EU, the estimated number of Poles living in London was 38.000 (Office for National Statistics, Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: individual country data, March 2003 to February 2004. Close to 70% of the Polish population in the UK are between the ages of 25 and 49 (Commons Library Briefing, 15 July 2016). The Polish population in the UK is, therefore, relatively young reflecting the predominantly economic character of the post-2004 Polish immigration wave to the UK. 

Although the vast majority of the current Polish population in the UK has arrived in the country after the 2004 EU enlargement, a significant Polish community existed in the UK before that. In the 19th century a small number of Polish people, mostly the country's social elite and political exiles, emigrated to the United Kingdom following the partition of Poland between Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire and a number of failed Polish uprisings against the partitioning powers. The most famous Pole to arrive in Great Britain during this period was Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, better known as Joseph Conrad. A large number of Poles migrating to Great Britain in the 19th century were of Jewish background. In the 20th century, the most significant influx to Britain from Poland took place with the outbreak of the Second World War. Most of the Poles that arrived in Britain during that period were military and political emigres including the Polish Government in Exile that relocated to London after the fall of France. When a communist, Soviet-controlled government was installed in Poland, most of the WW2 emigres and exiles decided to stay in Britain and many joined them between the years 1946 and 1949. As Keith Sword points out in his book Identity in Flux: the Polish community in Britain, this influx of Poles was well organised, had its own political and military leadership and a significant cultural and literary elite. It was mostly a military settlement and thus largely male and they were largely exiles and 'unwilling settlers' as opposed to the post EU accession wave. 



UK migration statistics and datasets

Polish migration statistics

Academic research, publications and projects

Doctoral theses: UCL

Doctoral theses: other universities


For articles in journals and book chapters see UCL SSEES Polish Migration project website.

Academic projects and resources


For literature until 2015 see the University of Lodz Project: Polish (e)migration literature in Great Britain and Ireland since 2004.

Polish authors

British authors


British feature films and TV series

Polish feature films and TV series

  • Londyńczycy [The Londoners] - Polish TV series about Polish immigrants in London; directed by Greg Zglinski and Maciej Migas; first aired on TVP1 in 2008
  • Oda do radości [Ode to Joy] -  directed by Anna Kazejak-Dawid, Jan Komasa, Maciej Migas. Poland: Gutek Film, 2006, film


  • My friend the Polish Girl - "borrows from the cinema verite and video bloggers to create a rare naturalism in style and performance. The fiction film watches as an experimental documentary told through the eyes (and lens) of amateur filmmaker Katie: an amateur rich kid following Alicja, an erratic unemployed Polish actress". Directed by Ewa Banaszkiewicz and Mateusz Dymek. Warsaw Pact Films (UK), 2018, film

Radio and TV documentaries

Media outlets and internet portals



Newspapers and magazines

Internet portals


Polish organisations in the UK