Leszek Zelazowski's account  of his parent's life


Leszek Żelazowski in Haydon Park Camp

My father, Marian, was born in the village of Szczucice in Poland in 1917. He had finished his national service when war broke out in 1939 and was serving as a police officer in the eastern city of Stanisławów.  On the fall of Poland he and many others escaped the country and began a journey of many months across Europe. He travelled south through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia ended up in France where he joined up and fought alongside the French.
On the fall of France he again escaped and made his way to England. Soon after his arrival he was sent to Scotland where the Polish army was being rebuilt.  He enlisted in the 1st Armoured Field Regiment of the 1st Armoured Division (the Black Devils).  He made many friends in Scotland among his fellow soldiers and among the local people.  One family he got to know well were the Malcolms, who lived in Broughty Ferry. He used to go to their house and was always warmly welcomed and indeed became good friends. They even visited us after the war and stayed at our house. My father would never hear a bad word said about the Scots’ 'thrifty' nature, he said the people would always share anything and everything.
In June 1944 the 1st Armoured Division went across to France as part of the Invasion force and he and his unit were involved in all the major battles. He spoke of the joy of the people of Breda in Belgium, which the 1st Division relieved. I think at the time it brought hope to the Poles believing that Poland too might be won back from the foe.
The 1st Armoured Division’s route was from Caen where they landed in France to Wilhelmshaven in Germany.  Soon after hostilities ceased in May 1945 he found himself in Haren, in NE Germany. For a few years this town was taken over by the Poles and became a Polish city, Maczków (named after General Maczek commander of the 1st Armoured Division).
My mother, Zofia, was born in the village of Tarnówka, Poland in April 1923. She along with her family was dispossessed of their farm in May of 1940 by the Germans. Her parents, older brother and his family were relocated near Warsaw in miserable conditions, and she and her brother Damian were sent into forced labour on a farm in Germany. She spent the next five years working there. She was not unkindly treated but life was hard although she was allowed one visit back to Poland during the war to visit her sisters. However she never saw her father again because he died during the time the family were displaced near Warsaw.
At the end of hostilities she too found herself in Maczków (Haren), and there she met my father. They were married on 3rd March 1947 and opted to come to England with the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC).

My father worked on a local building site

On arrival in England they were located in an ex-military camp in Haydon Park. They lived in Nissen huts, in difficult conditions but alongside all the other young couples and families they started to make a life for themselves in their new country. They made the most of it and gathered furniture, furnishings and anything they could to make homes out of the huts.
My father worked on a local building site and my mother worked in a glove factory. I was born in the Polish military hospital in Diddington, in Huntingdon, now Cambridge, in 1948. My mother became very ill soon after I was born and was hospitalised at Diddington. My father was left caring for me and was helped by friends at the camp, notably Mr. and Mrs. Borowiczka.
They met people here who would remain lifelong friends. Notably Mr. & Mrs. Stolarczyk and Mr. & Mrs.  Borowiczka. Also  at the camp was Stefan Sałapa, who was from the same part of Poland as my father, indeed lived in a village, Bidziny, just a few kilometres away. He had served alongside my father in the 1st Armoured Field Regiment and they were very close friends and would remain so for the rest of their lives. At my Christening at the camp Stefan was my Godfather and pani Wanda Imiałkowska my Godmother, we were quite close, he even lived with us for a time.

My godparents and mother, August 1948

My mother and me, June 1948

My dad with me in a new pram 1948


The Żelazowski family on a walk in the camp, 1949

Mother outside one of the huts, 1949

Dad and I at the camp, summer 1949

My parents always spoke happily of their time at the camp. Life was not easy but they were among friends and once my mother started working they had a little more money and could afford some small luxuries, like new clothes for me and a super pram! We lived in the camp until 1952 when we moved up to Bradford in Yorkshire. At first we lived in lodgings which were difficult to come by, but then my parents managed to buy a small back to back and we had our own home. My father started working in woollen mills and would spend nearly all his working life in the woollen industry during Bradford’s ‘Worstedopolis’ years. We attended the Polish masses at St. Joseph's Church and met up with friends, the Stolarczyk and Borowiczka families and many others.
My parents settled in Bradford and made their lives there. They both were able to return to Poland to visit their families.  My father did not see his parents again because they died before his visit but my mum did see her mother and I met my Babcia in 1960 when we visited Poland.
  Page  1  Haydon Park  Teresa Stolarczyk-Marshall
  Page  2  Haydon Park  Elżbieta Narewska-Servas
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