Monsignor Kazimierz Solowiej
1961 – 1979 – the first Parish Priest and founder of the Parish
He was born on 27 July 1912 in Woroniany in the province of Białystok. He graduated from the seminary in Wilno and gained an MA from the Stefan Batory University of Wilno. He was ordained by Archbishop Romuald Jałbrzykowski of Wilno on 11 June 1938. The outbreak of war saw him as the Prefect of the Secondary School in Wołożno. Following the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939 he escaped to France where he ministered to the needs of Polish refugees in Troyes. Following the fall of France he briefly acted in the role of liaison ‘officer’ between the Polish priests in France and the Primate of Poland Cardinal August Hlond who was in Lourdes. From 1941 to 1944 Fr.Sołowiej ministered to Polish refugees and interned soldiers in Algiers. Finally in 1944 his freat wish of being an army chaplain was realised when he was appointed Chaplain (with the rank of Captain) to the Signals Training Centre in Kinross, Scotland, a post he held until 1947. After demobilisation he remained in exile.
From 1948 to 1950 he ministered to the needs of Poles in Edinburgh and then ubtil 1955 he was Secretary General of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales.
In February 1955 he was appointed to run the unofficial Polish Parish in Central London centred around Brompton Oratory, with the task of locating a suitable church building which could be purchased and organised into a permanent Polish Parish for west London. After six years the Church of St.Andrew Bobola was blessed and opened and Fr.Sołowiej became its first parish priest. He remianed at its head for eighteen years. Known for his fiercely patriotic and anti communist sermons he was a well known personality of Poland’s exiled community in London, being appointed Chaplain in Chief of the Polish Ex-Combattant Association. He also set up the Heart of Jesus Association being its spiritual guide.
Monsignor Sołowiej died suddenly on 20 May 1979 leading a pilgramage to Rome and was buried in Gunnersbury cemetery. Among his decorations were the Commanders Cross of the Order of Poland’s Rebirth and the Army Medal.