Wladyslaw Stepek 1893-1943

Today is the 77th anniversary of the death of my grandfather, father of my father.

He died of bowel cancer, aged 49, in the Polish village of Haczow, where he was born.

It was 1943, during the middle of the Second World War.

Almost four years earlier he had to flee for his life from his home, some two hundred miles further east. The Red Army had him on a list of potential resistance leaders whom they were to summarily execute. Fortunately a friend heard of this and tipped him off.

So he returned in secret to his home village and joined the underground Polish army. A few months later his entire family, in his absence, were forcible removed from their home and taken by cattle train to the Soviet Union, to a labour camp. The family comprised my grandmother, age 36, my dad, 17, and his two younger sisters, just 14 and 12 years old.

My grandfather was fated never to see them again. Unknown to him, his wife, my grandmother, died of starvation in 1942. Nor was he ever to learn that his three children survived the calamity that befell them, and were able to leave the Soviet Union almost a year before he died, as there was no means of communicating between them during that time.

So he died, bereft of his wife and children, on this day in 1943, aged only 49. He was never to know that his son would, some three years later, find shelter, refuge, and recovery in Scotland, and he was never to learn that he would have Scottish grandchildren.

I was never to know him. Nor was I to know his wife, my grandmother.

Why am I writing this? If you are going through difficulties, understand from this tragedy just how bad life can be, and appreciate all the good things you have in your present-day existence. Be grateful for the family you do have. Especially be grateful that you have this beautiful thing called life. Many people are destined not to have long lives, so we are the lucky ones.

Appreciate that good fortune.

Love your life.

Martin Stepek

26 June 1943.


© 2019 by Martin Stepek.