Surviving Warsaw 1939-1945: Untold Stories of Occupation and the Ghetto
Dr Marek Szablewski, a Durham university physics lecturer born and brought up in Sheffield, has recently returned from an eight-week Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship (www.wcmt.org.uk) to Europe. The aim of his Fellowship was to research his hidden Polish family history and the journey that brought his parents to Yorkshire after World War Two. Marek will be discussing his work and the tales he uncovered.
Marek travelled to Warsaw to work on his project “Surviving Warsaw 1939-1945: untold stories of occupation and the ghetto”, digging up information from archives and museums, talking to relatives and visiting sites of special interest in order to fill in the gaps in his late father’s stories and documents. He uncovered information about his grandfather Stefan and how he drew on the skills developed during his career as a printer, revolutionary socialist, conscript, prisoner of war, escapee, insurgent, police officer and undercover detective to hide his third wife, who was Jewish, and their daughter during the Second World War and Nazi occupation of Poland. He also uncovered information about his father, Witold, who worked as an apprentice toolmaker in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he secretly helped make guns and carry messages between Jewish leaders and the Polish resistance, and saw suffering, humanity and heroism on both sides of the Ghetto walls. Like many other young Poles Witold took part in the heroic but ultimately tragic 63 day Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis in 1944. After the surrender he was taken prisoner and transported to the same German POW camp that his father had escaped from in 1914. After the war he ended up in Britain, married and joined the toolmakers W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner where he rose to become technical director. He died in 2008. Marek said: “I am conscious that I am the custodian of these stories as there are very few first-hand witnesses left. I plan to write a book and give talks to the next generation and anyone who is interested in order to bear witness, challenge stereotypes, celebrate survival and show how our history relates to the way we live now".
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