Polonia ‘s roots stretch back to 1973 when Maciek Behnke and Henio Paulinski, members of the Polish YMCA, founded a volleyball club. The club resourced players from the Association and the Polish scouting movement, and under the name of ‘Polish YMCA ‘, entered the English National League ‘s Division 3. The team, initially led by Boleslaw Lesiecki (General Secretary for the Polish YMCA), gradually developed and progressed through the divisions recruiting new players from the youth nurtured from scouting.
During this time, a second Polish volleyball team, ‘Gryf ‘, was playing in the National League Division 1. Andy Mackiewicz, a player from Gryf, was invited to coach Polish YMCA, beginning a link between the two clubs. In 1976, Andy Lowczynowski became the new coach for the YMCA and coached the team for the next 5 years. Through his influence the club was to become one of the most long-lived and successful sides in English volleyball.
In 1978 Gryf lost many of its players through age and retirement and decided to merge with Polish YMCA forming two teams; Polonia Gryf, who continued to play in Division 1, and Polonia II who played in Division 3 South East. From 1979 to 1982, sponsorship from the YMCA prompted the teams to change their names once again to Polish YMCA, but in 1982/83, the club reverted back to Polonia and has remained so ever since.
Throughout the 80 ‘s, Polonia had a variety of coaches starting with Andy Lokiec, ex- Polish International junior setter at the Montreal Olympics. From 1982-87, James Tytko took over the coaching mantle in what was to be one of Polonia ‘s most successful periods in English volleyball. He led the team to two consecutive English League titles in 1984/85 and 1985/86, and second place in 1986/87. Edek Len and then Olek Juszkiewicz replaced Tytko from 1987 to 1990, but as many older players retired, Polonia slipped gradually to 10th in the League.
The team ‘s resurgance was swift however, and under the leadership of Slawek Mituniewicz, surged back in 1990/91 to clinch the KO Cup (3-2 winners over Liverpool), televised live for the first time on BBC ‘s Grandstand. Two more finals followed in 1991/92, but the team narrowly missed out to Malory 3-2 in the KO Cup and Liverpool in the Super Cup. Tytko returned to coach the team from 1992-94 before Jurek Jankowski took on the role of player/coach for the following 5 years. Former Polonia member Simon Golding came back to lead the side in 1999/00 with Jankowski taking over once again after Golding ‘s departure.
2001 to 2004 saw Polonia team up with Paul Westhead, former coach of Britannia Ladies, England Ladies, Ohio University and the Japanese team, Odakyu. The team however never gelled as a unit and were left once again without any much coveted silverware.
Ian Towers stepped in as coach in 2004/5 when the team were coachless and at a point of folding through lack of players. An influx of new blood and old however kept the Polonia spirit alive and after a hard fought season in the bottom half of the League, Polonia lived to fight another day.
Over the last 14 years Polonia has remained one of the top teams in English volleyball, consistantly finishing within the top four places in the League. The club reached several KO Cup semi-finals but never managed to rekindle their past glories. In the 2005/6 season ex-Polonia player and National Cup winner Julian Mazgon-Ballard took on the role of club coach for a short spell.
Jurek Jankowski returned for two more seasons to take over from where Julian left off. The 2006/7 was the best result for the men’s team for many years. They finished in 3rd place behind local rivals Malory and first time champions Docklands. Some mixed results including a first match of the season 3-0 win against Docklands and a loss against lower ranked teams was the story of the season. Personal circumstances have prevented Jurek from carrying on with the role and so the 2007/87 season sees Polonia player Krzys Hykiel took over the top job for the men’s team, his words were: “I am really excited about this new challenge in my life. It will be really tough to adjust to spending all of my time off the court, but you can expect me to be just as encouraging to my team from there! I anticipate the best ever squad Polonia has had, and hope that we can support each other throughout the coming year. Look out for some interesting new signings over the summer.”
Krzys coached for three seasons: the squad continued to go from strength to strength, but the result continued to elude the team when it really mattered. The highlight of the coaching tenure, was Polonia beating Sheffield at the semi finals in Kettering in 2010. The season was given a boost by the appointment to Assistant Coach of Vangelis Koutouleas: a professional coach from Greece and a person who had played at the highest level there representing his country on numerous occasions. This gave Polonia the chance to exact revenge on Malory in the Cup Final played at Crystal Palace for the first time since their last appearance in the early 1990s. Sadly the result that had been hoped for never materialized and Malory were the victors.
The 2010-2011 season looks to be the most promising yet, with squad numbers increasing to 17, Vangelis and Krzys swapping roles as the coaching staff. So far so good: Malory defeated 3-0 for the first time in almost two decades. With even more new players being recruited and some potential match winners on their way, the London League team has been relaunched under the leadership of ex-player Rafal Wlodarski.
In October 2010 two ex-players were inducted into the English Volleyball’s hall of Fame: Alex Bialokoz and Jurek Jankowski. The club and committee anticipate that 2010-2011 will be a rewarding year for both the club and Tyskie Beer (Polonia Official sponsors).