DISTRICT council deputy leader Paul Przyszlak has just come back from an emotional trip to the land his father fled as Nazi Germany invaded Poland.
His dad, Kazimierz, was in his early 20s when he walked across mainland Europe with Polish army pals because they thought they could do more good by helping Britain’s war effort.
North London-born Paul (67) was only three-years-old when his dad died from TB as a result of scavenging food from the land on that long and dangerous trek.
Now he’s learned more about his dad’s wartime story after a first-time meeting with his dad’s sister, Filipina (89) and brother Wladszlaw (85).
He knew his dad had caught a boat from France to England, but discovered it sank after being fired on – and he had to be rescued by a second craft.
Paul said: “I have no real memory of my dad. I have a vague memory of visiting somebody in hospital once.
“I have never felt Polish although I have got Polish blood in me because I didn’t have any influence as a kid from my father.
“When I spoke to my aunt, her opening words were ‘I always wanted to meet some of Kazimierz’s family before I died’. This was through an interpreter but it was still very moving.”
Paul lost contact with the Polish side of his family – although his late mum, Kathleen, had exchanged letters for some years – and in 2009 went with his wife, Chris, to Krakow in the hope of tracking down some Przyszlaks.
He drew a blank but everything changed earlier this year when a relative, Marta Przyszlak, contacted him on Linkedin and asked if he was from Ukraine.
The family home of Lvov was Polish pre-war but became Ukranian when borders were re-drawn.
Paul said: “Starting with my great grandather, which is where Marta and I join up, there are 114 descendants.”
Paul and Chris met most of the family – with Marta (23) acting as interpreter – and had a big gathering at a restaurant.
As the Crowland couple pulled up in their car, PR12 LAK, there was a huge cheer.
Paul said: “Chris told me ‘I feel like the Queen’.”