During the Second World War, Sue Ryder was seconded to the Polish Section of Special Operations Executive (SOE) which was set up by Winston Churchill with the instruction "to set Europe ablaze". Here she worked with the young men and women who had been trained in England and were then to be dropped back into Poland to continue the fight against the Nazis in that country. Their chances of survival were slim. Their courage and bravery made an indelible impression on the young Sue Ryder. It was this experience that launched her into a life of service. She resolved that if she survived the war she would devote her life to the relief of suffering and that whatever she was able to do would be a Living Memorial to the millions who were dying and suffering in defence of freedom and human values.
After the War, Sue Ryder worked amongst the ruins to bring relief and hope to thousands of sick and homeless people who had lost everything. She also went to court with young men and women who had been arrested by the Allies, often for what we would see as fairly trivial offences, but also on serious charges. She was their only friend and advocate. She continued prison visiting right to the end of her life.
A typical Sue Ryder Home in PolandIn the 1950’s, when Sue Ryder was in the process of building her first long term care home in Poland, many believed she should have built short term care facilities, but she firmly followed her beliefs. Lady Ryder believed it vitally important to ensure that the sick and disabled were not only treated and cared for, but that they also had the opportunity to find their purpose, dignity and reason for living.
During her lifetime Sue Ryder established more than thirty homes, centres or hospitals in Poland, many of which are still in existence, and doing excellent work today.
We have to remember that all this was achieved during the Communist era. Towards the end of that era, there were riots and martial law and terrible hardship. Sue Ryder remained faithful to the Polish people, launching appeals for food and funds in the UK and then sending lorry loads of food and medicines to be distributed to the most needy. She drove vans and Land Rovers herself, as she had done in all the post war years.
Our Founder not only loved Poland but she considered it her second country and actively supported it. She not only cared for the ex prisoners of the German concentration camps, but in the difficult years after the war, she supplied hospitals with medicines and built and equipped care homes and hospital wards which she turned over to the Polish Ministries of Health and Welfare. She looked after the patients like a mother and visited them every year.
Prayers being sung at Sue Ryder Social Care HomeThe funding for these homes previously came from a network of Sue Ryder shops located across Great Britain. Today, similar shops in Warsaw and Poznan use a share of the profits they earn from selling second-hand clothing and books to help promote the work of the Polish Foundation and support the operation of the Homes. Lady Ryder built a Home in Konstancin, outside Warsaw, for girls suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, an incurable illness. These girls came from all over Poland from poor backgrounds. She not only created for them conditions which made their lives much easier and more comfortable, but also gave them an education, a trade and they learned English. At present there are just a few girls in Konstancin, now elderly and disabled women, who require care. They have lived there 30-40 years. We are doing our best to ensure that they remain there.
Sue Ryder chose the title of “Lady Ryder of Warsaw”, as a tribute to the scores of Poles she met during the War. Her most valued Polish award, however, was a gold medal presented to her by Cardinal Jozef Glemp in December 1996 for recognition of her work and service to the Church and in Poland.
Wall PlaqueThe mission of the Polish foundation, Fundacje Sue Ryder, is to preserve the ethos of Sue Ryder and to embody and realise her ideals – the love of one’s neighbour, bringing him help and comfort in suffering and to sacrifice one’s own self in readiness to help those in need. Together with Fundacje Sue Ryder , the Lady Ryder of Warsaw Memorial Trust aims to keep Sue Ryder ‘s work alive in Poland.
Over the last 13 years, the Trust has provided grants to many needy Sue Ryder initiatives. There is now a square in Warsaw named after Sue Ryder in 2006, as well as a school in Wola Batorska. To find out more about the work in Poland the website address is www.sueryder.org.pl.