After 80 years of settling in, the history of the borough's now thriving Polish community is to be documented in vivid detail.

Polish Lives in Ealing will retrace the experience of residents across the borough and gather information on what has steadily become a sizeable minority.

A collection of recordings and individual anecdotes from Poles who are willing to share their story will be brought together and archived at the Gunnersbury Park Museum, and Ealing Council is urging anyone with a tale to tell to come forward.

Dr Jonathan Oates, who is gathering the material, said: "This has never been done before. If anyone wanted to find out about other communities in the borough, it would be very easy to do so with the information we have in the library. But we have little information about the Polish community, despite it being very large."

Dr Oates believes that Polish residents have played a crucial part in Ealing's growth and development.

"They have contributed to local business with all the shops, religion with the opening of a Polish Catholic church, and politically with two Polish councillors," he said.

Poles have been choosing to settle in Ealing since the 1920s, when there was a registered Polish population of around 50. The main influx, however, started during the Second World War when Polish pilots came to London to serve in the Polish squadrons of the RAF at Northolt Aerodrome. Many were reluctant to return to Poland after the war because it had turned communist after falling under the infuence of the Soviet regime.

In total 35 Poles lost their lives while fighting from Britain against the Nazis, and two Polish memorials have been erected in the borough to commemorate

Polish arrivals to Ealing never completely stopped. There was another large influx throughout the 1980s when many fled martial law, which further restricted personal freedom to try to curb democratic activism. Many more came hoping for a better life when communism collapsed in the 1990s, and later, when Poland entered the European Union in 2004. The borough now has the largest Polish population in London.

Councillor Joanna Dabrowska, a second generation Pole whose father fled the hardships of the Second World War, believes it is time "to cement into British history the story of British Poles in Ealing".

She said: "Until 2004 Poles have always been in the background; everyone had a Polish friend or classmate but no one was interested. Now they are seen as part of the community. It is accepted that they too make Ealing what it is.

"Poland and Britain were allies during the war, which is why many came to London in the first place. Later, for those who wanted to leave Poland, coming to London was attractive because it was coming to a place where there was an extended family who could help and answer questions."

Councillor Dabrowska believes that the Polish Lives in Ealing project will do more than simply raise awareness of the community's history.

"This would be good for third and fourth generation Poles to know what there ancestors are up to and for them to trace their ancestry and for everyone to learn about the hardships of being a refugee," she said.

So far 20 people have already come forward to participate, but Dr Oates is still looking for volunteers.

* If you would like to take part in the project as an interviewer or transcriber, call Dr Oates at Ealing Central Library on 0208 825 8194 or email joates