DELVING INTO THE PAST -- Graham Collyer
At our March meeting, we were delighted to welcome back Graham Collyer, who talked about his Gazette column “Delving IntoThe Past” and showed us some wonderful images of local views and characters. There was a fair amount of audience participation as locations and names were debated and Graham has left us with a couple of interesting Malborough photos that need a bit more research. In due course, we will be asking for help with identification.
A HOMELAND DENIED: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF A POLISH POW -- Irena Clarke
At our April meeting, the History Group welcomed Malborough resident Irena Clarke (née Kossakowski) to tell us about the extraordinary life of her father, Waclaw, as portrayed in her moving book “A Homeland Denied: In the Footsteps of a Polish POW”.
Waclaw Kossakowski was a young Warsaw University student whose peaceful life was changed dramatically and with far-reaching consequences when Germany and Russia attacked Poland in September 1939. As a Russian prisoner of war, he soon found himself a slave, working in excruciating conditions. From imprisonment in the notorious Kozelsk prison, he was sent to a forced labour camp in the Siberian Arctic Circle, where the inmates were forced to dig runways in temperatures as low as -50°C while under constant threat from sadistic guards.
Fate intervened and the icy wasteland was replaced by the blistering heat and dry deserts of the Middle East when, under a deal between Russia and the UK, the Polish prisoners were released to the Eighth Army. Waclaw then fought in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino, Ancona and Bologna.
After the war, rather than return to Poland, which was then under Russian control, he settled in England and married an English girl. Irena is one of a set of identical triplets – a story in itself!
Irena’s talk was illustrated by evocative photos and documents and she was proud to show us her father’s medals. It is a fascinating and poignant story and the book is a worthy tribute to Waclaw and the many unrecognised Poles whose stories should not be forgotten. It is well worth a read and is available on Amazon and at the Harbour Bookshop in Kingsbridge.