• Alicia Philip
  • Valerie Ross
Location:
Aberdeen
Date:
Friday 21st November 2008
Reference:
SWI2008/013

Alicia:

My father, William Swienczyk Pyka, came to Britain in 1945. He was a young officer with the Polish army. He first of all fought at Arnheim and then he joined the Americans and he worked as an interpreter for them because he learned English when he was a schoolboy in Poland during the war. He was born in Bielsko in the south of Poland. It was actually previously Austrian territory before 1918. My father came to this country and I think he was de-mobbed from the army, in 1945.

 

When ... He told me that when they were de-mobbed, they were given the choice of three occupations: working in the fish, in a factory, and other occupations. I think they were given a small amount of money and their de-mob suit. My father chose to work in a linoleum factory and he chose to work at night because it was quieter in the linoleum factory and he could study. Because, although he had his Matura, the Polish qualifications, I think he had to re-sit some exams so he was hoping to get to university here in Scotland. He studied at the Dundee School of Economics in 1948-49 and 1948 he went to one of the dances a few miles outwith Aberdeen and he met my mum. So my parents married in 1949 and my dad still had to study so he was down in Dundee while my mother was on my grandfather’s farm. After he got his economics degree, he decided to study for his accountancy degree and a law degree. He did them at the same time so it was pretty hard work but he didn’t have enough money to do the degrees separately because he had a wife and child to support and another child was on the way. He got his law degree in 1955 and became an assistant with a legal firm in Aberdeen. There was some prejudice because initially he didn’t get interviews from some of the firms because he was foreign. One firm took him on because he also had the accountancy qualification and they were doing a big executory so he fitted the bill.

 

He worked with a legal firm in Aberdeen, Cooper & Hay, and 1962 became a partner. And he also did his accountancy practice in the evening because he wanted to give my family security because my mother was an invalid. He was involved in, and for most of the time was the president of, the Polish Combatants in Aberdeen. He wanted to keep the Polish spirit alive in Aberdeen. Sadly in Aberdeen we never had enough money to get a club. However, we always had our Polish Masses, trips to other clubs ... Dad liked going to the dinner dances and he invited the various other Polish organisations up to Aberdeen for our dances. He organised the Polish Mass, which we used to have then every two to three months in one of the churches in Aberdeen. He threw parties for the Polish people, he was quite hospitable, and we used to enjoy having his Polish friends around for parties. He taught my sister and I Polish because he thought we should know his language and my mother was quite enlightened because some of the Scottish women didn’t want their children to learn Polish because: “Foreign language muddled them up at school,” which was a bit silly but that’s what it was then. Dad took us to Poland several times for holidays, we always enjoyed them. My first holiday was in 1958 when I met my great-grandfather and every few years we would go to Poland to see our relatives and we had our relatives over here for holidays as well. My dad after the war, although we didn’t have much money, he would send food parcels to his relatives. It was quite a struggle but he would always try to send them. They would ... some of them would’ve pushed their luck a bit and asked for various things maybe we couldn’t afford to send but Dad always sent parcels to his relatives. He enjoyed being in Poland. Twice, I think, we were for six weeks in the summer. I look back and I thought: “That’s all the summer gone!” but he enjoyed spending as much time with his relatives and so they would also know us.

Simon:

Just, taking you back a bit. When you were growing up and that, how many Polish people do you remember being around? Did you feel like there was quite a strong community?

     

Alicia:

We had a strong community in Aberdeen then because the people were younger. We didn’t have the influx that we have now and the Polish people would meet more. A lot of them would form friendships, meet in each other’s houses. Dad would throw parties so the ones that he got on with ... Because some of the Polish people were jealous that my dad was a lawyer. So there was a bit of jealousy. So my dad was welcoming to everybody. One of his closest friends was a man who just was like a handyman but it’s not the kind of job you do, it’s the kind of person you are. So some of Dad’s friends ... like before he died, one of his best friends was a guy that did our garden. He wasn’t Polish but ... It’s the person not the qualifications they have. But some of them didn’t like that my dad was like the leader of the Polish folk, better educated and so on. There was jealousy and ... well, that was quite sad.

Simon:

Where did the idea to create the Association come from? Was it your dad’s idea or was it just ...?

     

Alicia:

No! That booklet I gave you, that booklet. I think, if I read it right ... No, there’s another one. Maybe this is not the one. There is, about the Polish Association, there’s another book on it. No, after the war, the officers ... well, people who were in the Polish army and all that, they made their Polish Ex-Combatants Association throughout Britain. The Polish Ex-Combatants Associations, in London ... everywhere. They each had a number so I think Aberdeen was SPK27 (Stowarzyszenie Polskich Kombatantów - Polish Ex-Serviceman’s Association, branch 27). So throughout Britain you have the Ex-Combatants Association. I should’ve thought of that book, I’ve got it. So that’s ... So Dad didn’t create it. It was like the Aberdeen branch that Dad maybe set up with other people.

Simon:

So they were set up by the Polish military ...

     

Alicia:

Yeah. The military ... I suppose everybody belonged to it. It’s more, I suppose, the army ... Because I’ve got Dad’s SPK documents and all that. Yes, it was more like the army folk wasn’t it?

     

Valerie:

Yes.

     

Alicia:

The SPK. Pity. I should’ve looked out ...

     

Valerie:

Because it was ex-combatants ...

     

Alicia:

Ex-combatants, so it was army.

     

Simon:

Was it purely a social thing or did they, in the immediate post-war period ... Was it also helping people ...?

     

Alicia:

I think they helped people, yes. I think they helped people settle and that. I suppose if anybody was really hard up they could maybe get some help, I would think.

Valerie:

Yes, I’ve got all the SPK items.

     

Alicia:

They also had a court of honour, so if anybody broke the rules ... if there was some big fight or other, my dad had to arbitrate as a lawyer. It was quite serious. Remember that court of honour?

Valerie:

Yes.

     

Alicia:

They have that court of honour and if you really did something wrong, it was like a court so ... And they would have, you know, if there were at these meetings anything important, they had all their banners. I’ve got some of the pictures. You know, the pictures with the banners when they went to the church in Perth and that? So they had all the military stuff.

Simon:

Your dad spoke good English.

     

Alicia:

You could hear. You could understand his idioms and so on. No, my father's English was good.

Valerie:

It had to be because he was a lawyer and chartered accountant so he couldn’t ... he had to ... well, he did his university degrees in this country so ...

Alicia:

He was here so he had to have a good command of English.

     

Simon:

Well, what I was wanting to ask is for other soldiers, because you were saying your dad learnt English in Poland so arrived here with good English but quite a lot of the other ex-combatants ...

     

Alicia:

Had none.

     

Simon:

So how did they manage that?

     

Alicia:

Struggle. Some of them still speak broken English. Everything depends on your education so some will, even to this day, been here thirty or forty years, their English was poor: “I go to Glasgow.” Because, some of them ... because it also depends ... they were older so picking up a language ... if they were in their thirties, late twenties, thirties, picking up a language is more difficult. Dad was younger and he had a flare for languages so he was lucky. And he always studied. You know, he was always ... I’ve got some of his grammar books and everything was underlined and that. My dad was a perfectionist, wasn’t he?

Valerie:

Mmm hmm. He also liked to learn other languages because he knew bits of ... well, he was fluent in German and he also knew Spanish, a bit of Spanish, and he also was learning French not long before he died and ... he’d play Italian tapes and everything.

Alicia:

Italian tapes, yes. He always wanted knowledge. He was always reading books. Evening gardening, news, television ... He had a thirst for knowledge. And because he lived on his own as well, you had to keep yourself occupied and he also said: “If you don’t use your brain, your brain cells die.” So like the local paper, the Press and Journal, he would do his crosswords every day, keep his brain sharp. I mean, as I say, the night before he died at ten-to-eleven at night he was on the computer preparing this speech to give the next day in Edinburgh and he was ill because he’d fallen on the Thursday. When I visited on the Friday he hadn’t the energy to come downstairs and have a cup of tea with me. He lived most of the time upstairs in his office because it was such a struggle to come downstairs. So towards the end of his life he would often just say: “Bring me grapes and something upstairs to eat,” because he was so shattered. He had so many pills for his heart and his kidneys were failing so the day before he died when we visited he didn’t even have the energy to come downstairs to have a cup of tea with me and the part-time housekeeper so I just said that day: “Look, you just stay upstairs. I’m here.” All he wanted, even if you’d pop in for just five minutes, he’d seen you. It wasn’t the length of the time, was it?

Valerie:

Well, I was never just in for five minutes you know because I’ve got plenty to do but with you working ...

     

Alicia:

Me working! Sometimes if I ... Like that day, he said: “You haven’t had lunch with me during the week when the housekeeper was,” and I said: “I’m covering another area of the city,” and I’d said, the day before he died: “I’ll come next week for lunch,” not realising, you know, that’s it. That’s it, he always wanted to see us and the boys and this is it. But it was a struggle for the Polish folk because there is prejudice against newcomers and so on. Because at the end of the war, in Aberdeen, it was: “Poles Go Home.” That’s what was written and shouted at in the street: “Poles Go Home!”

Valerie:

And a lot of the Scottish men didn’t like the Polish men because they took great care of their appearance.

Alicia:

And Dad always said that when a Polish officer or somebody wanted a dance they stood before a woman, clicked their heels: “Can I have this dance?” whereas others: “You coming up for a dance?” you know? They had manners and that created friction because ... like, when my dad married my mum, some of the relatives were like: “Oh, you’re marrying a foreigner!” you know? This is what you had in the 40s: “You’re marrying a foreigner, is a Scottish man not good enough for you?” Things like that.

Simon:

So even though the Poles had fought on the same side in the war ...

     

Alicia:

There was prejudice. You don’t know what it was like in the 40s, the 50s. Because I remember what it was like at school, that was 1958 when I was going to Poland with Dad. I’m not on tape am I?

Simon:

Yes.

     

Alicia:

Oh, that’s OK. You’ll edit it won’t you? When I was ... I was only a little girl of eight, I was going to Poland with my daddy. I hadn’t a clue what it meant going to Poland with Daddy but some of the folk in Aberdeen were speaking and saying: “You’ll be put in prison!” I thought: “What’s this mean? I’m going to be put in ...?” you know? Because we were going to a Communist country: “Going to prison?” you know? It just ... People ... No, I was saying having a Polish father, most Polish fathers were quite strict. Dad was strict. You had to study hard and not waste your time and so on.

Simon:

Were you friends with other kids from similar families? Like through the ...?

     

Alicia:

Oh yes, but most of our friends were Scottish. But we went to the convent school in Aberdeen, the Catholic convent school, so there were a few children with Polish parents there but most of our friends were Scottish.

     

Valerie:

Because our mother was Scottish and our family here was Scottish so ...

     

Alicia:

See, this is ... it’s different. If you interview someone who has two Polish parents, their life would be different from ours because they’d be eating the Polish cuisine and so on. Whereas our mother was Scottish so we’ve got more of a British outlook.

Simon:

I’m just trying to get a picture of what it was maybe like in the 50s and 60s ...

     

Valerie:

In what way?

     

Alicia:

There wasn’t much money! Like most folk in the 50s and 60s, we didn’t have money. Folk didn’t have money. You had one channel on the TV.

     

Valerie:

But that was nothing to do with money because there was only one channel on the TV.

     

Alicia:

No but ... I mean ... well, children in the 50s, they’re not indulged like children nowadays.

     

Valerie:

Well, that would’ve been in general. There weren’t the same amount of consumer goods in the shops.

     

Alicia:

This is it. Your apple and your orange and your two and six for Christmas and ... No, Dad was strict but I think Polish parents are quite strict, or were quite strict. I would say when I see the Polish children nowadays of the incomers, they’re a bit too soft with their children. They get to run wild a bit. At Polish functions they’re running around and you just feel like saying: “Keep your child under control like I kept my children under control.” Now if I was at a function and dropped a hot cup of tea on a kiddy, it won’t be because they’ve charge into you. You’ve dropped a hot cup of tea.

Valerie:

Dad was sort of ... He wanted us to do well in our education because he’d done extremely well. I mean, he had three university degrees so he had high expectations of us.

     

Alicia:

Yes. It was always study. Sometimes, I say, I felt we could have relaxed more but because our mother was ill and Dad was trying to earn extra money so that if anything happened to him we’d have some security, you know? But ... he drove to Poland one year! It was quite a ... And one year in Poland, in 1967, we took my mum and she was an invalid then and she loved being in Poland. We came back with a nice Polish dinner set, still got it.

Valerie:

It was quite an experience driving to Poland in 1963 because we were going through Czechoslovakia in the Cold War ...

Alicia:

That was awful.

     

Valerie:

They wouldn’t let us stop. We weren’t allowed to stay in a hotel for the night and I was only seven and we had to sleep in the car. And another time there was a motorcyclist killed on the road and we couldn’t take a detour through a field because we had so much stuff in our car and they were so slow and ...

     

Alicia:

It was two hours for this poor motorcyclist’s body to be seen to in Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, when we went through in ’63, we stopped in a petrol station and the guy there asked Dad if he had Johnny Walker whisky and I think we had and he let us wash and have a wee rest, because it was: “You drive through Prague,” and ... we had to go through Prague just: “Quickly!” because: “Get out of our country,” to go to Poland.

Valerie:

And then some small places ... you know, seeing a British car it was: “What’s that?” you know? In Czechoslovakia.

Alicia:

Oh yes, was it Czechoslovakia we went for a meal? Must’ve been ... or was that Germany? We went for our meal, I think it was Czechoslovakia, and because it was so Communist, Dad said to us when we took our meal deliberately: “Make the sign of the cross!” And of course the Czech officials were mad that we were making the sign of the cross but they couldn’t do anything because we were foreign. Dad was quite brave. And remember there was the Germans, he stood up to Germans in 1963. We were going through Germany in 1963 and it’s when they had all the automatic machines for coffee and tea and so on and Dad would just pause for a minute to say: “Where are coins put in?” and they were laughing, forgetting my dad understood German: “What are these stupid Englanders doing? They’re so stupid. Wouldn’t know the difference ...” and Dad just, in strong Prussian language, said “Was ist das?” and they got a shock that the dumb English person could speak German! It put a ... It wasn’t nice. As Dad said to them: “If you came to our country, we would help you, we wouldn’t laugh at you,” so that was it. We’ve been to Auschwitz and that was quite sad. I remember when I was a child in Poland, on one of my holidays, I saw a man who had the numbers tattooed on his arm. My dad lost a relative, we don’t know what happened to him, maybe finished off by the Germans. For some reason, my dad always defended the Jewish people because a lot of Polish people would say there was no anti-Semitism in Poland but Dad would say: “Well there was.” He was quite ...

Valerie:

Vociferous?

     

Alicia:

Vociferous. He was quite pro-Jewish people. He felt sorry for what they went through and he stood up for other ... He didn’t view Poland through rose-coloured spectacles. He could see the good points and the bad because I think he ... With the Polish Communist government, you know, the Polish officials in Edinburgh and Glasgow, he said what he thought. He wasn’t scared to express his opinions and I think they respected him for that because some of them had a Scottish-Polish association and they were all: “Oh, oh, the Communists are wonderful!” but Dad ... he could take an overview of people and so on.

Simon:

And did you used to go along to the events at the Polish Club when you were kids?

     

Alicia:

Yes. I’ve got a picture of us in our party frocks. Because Dad was chairman and we didn’t really have babysitters so when we were little we were in our party frocks. I’ve got some of the pictures actually ...

     

Valerie:

But the Polish Club was for children then. You thinking more of the dinner dances?

     

Alicia:

I’m thinking more of the dinner dances. We would go to the dinner dances in our party frocks. No, we always went to the dinner dances.

Valerie:

When did the Polish ...? There was a Polish Club in Constitution Street.

     

Alicia:

That was in about 1958-59.

Valerie:

And when did it close?

     

Alicia:

I think it was just a year or two because you need people to run it. This is the problem. Because they’re talking now about having a Polish Club in Aberdeen and, as I said, well, for fifty years they’ve never managed to have one. Polish folk often bicker quite a lot. You know, when they had in the seventeenth, eighteenth century in parliament, one person had the veto. I think sometimes ... Polish folk, sometimes they go round and round in circles and don’t come to a decision because my dad was quite good at saying, if there was a meeting: “Stop going round and round in a circle, this is it!” because it could go on forever. He would explain, like a constitution and bits ... I think Polish people bicker a lot and speak a lot and don’t achieve a lot? (laughs) Because this has gone on with ... you know, the new people have come and: “We’re going to have this and that!” and I feel like saying: “Well for fifty years my dad’s tried.” You know, it’s not so easy. You need money, you need drive, people to give up their time to do things ... No, that’s what I find. There’s a lot of talk, talk, talk. You agree?

Valerie:

Emm ...

     

Alicia:

Well, they’ve talked about the Polish classes for the children. Hasn’t materialised. They’re going to do this and that ... I don’t think they realise about the obstacles. It’s not easy. But no ... I think ... I’m proud of my dad and I think, now that he’s passed away, you think more about his life. Cos there’s “Oh, yes Dad. As I was saying to you ... Oh, you were interviewed by the BBC? That’s good. Somebody’s ...” And you think: “Oh yes!” And I realised, people don’t deliver these life stories and so ...

     

Valerie:

That’s the radio for you.

     

Alicia:

It’s the radio. Any quote with the new Polish folk, my dad was always quoted in the Daily Mail. They’d phone him: “Mr Pyka, we need a quote.”

     

Valerie:

Or the P&J (Press and Journal).

     

Alicia:

P&J! For the last few years, with the new influx: “Mr Pyka! Quote?” Because, since he was also housebound, they knew that they’d get him. So I was always saying in my office: “Oh, my dad’s in the paper today.” No, so this was it. And he was always ... how would you say? Not like the ‘Godfather’ for Polish folk because that’s the wrong word, but you know what I mean? He’s like a ...

     

Valerie:

Mentor?

     

Alicia:

Mentor! This is like the Polish, like Grajzena. Have you met her? A mentor.

     

Valerie:

He helped a lot of them if they had any problems.

Alicia:

Free of charge. He’d give legal advice, free of charge.

Valerie:

And he would just say ...

     

Alicia:

A bottle of vodka!

     

Valerie:

Or something, yes.

     

Alicia:

Yes. For the last three years they had a lot of problems. Like there was one person working in the fish and the person was told: “Clear the machinery,” got injured, didn’t belong to a union so didn’t know their rights. So Dad gave them help. Dad pointed them in the direction of one of the legal firms in Aberdeen. He would give them free advice, write letters. He was the only notary public in Scotland, you know, for the ... was it for the Polish people? I saw the letter. He certified all their documents and that. He was the only one, I think, in the North East so I think that was it. And he wanted to help Polish people, incomers, because he knew what it was like when he was an incomer, all the struggle. And he wanted to help out as much as possible. And we still try to help the Polish people ourselves because when Dad passed away, we gave some of his furniture and various things to some of the Polish folk who were setting up their own houses. And we gave away his books and ... we gave away ...

Valerie:

A big filing cabinet!

     

Alicia:

Big filing cabinet.

     

Valerie:

The Easy English!

     

Alicia:

Yes. So we’ve given away furniture to folk that are maybe struggling a bit. We’re still ... I’m not so involved, like going to the Polish Mass and that like I did when Dad was there. Cos it took us weeks to go through Dad’s stuff. His documents ... you can’t just chuck them out. So I went back to the Polish Mass on the Sunday and that’s when I was told you maybe wanted to interview someone. So I won’t forget my Polish roots and I try encourage my sons as well and I hope maybe next year for my 60th, maybe go to Poland with my sons again?

Simon:

Do your sons speak Polish?

     

Alicia:

No. Just a few words because ... if you go along the generations ... usually you speak your mother’s tongue. My mother tongue is English. But I encourage them, you know? And I’d like to ... well, my elder one went to Poland three years ago. He was going to take my dad and myself but Dad wasn’t well. But no, they don’t forget their Polish roots.

Simon:

You’ve said, just about the Polish Mass, but in the past your dad used to help organise those. Were they ...?

     

Alicia:

Well yes. So we got a priest that came up from Dundee or Glasgow because there wasn’t any ... It’s different now. We’ve got two Catholic priests, Polish priests, in Aberdeen but there wasn’t many folk ... You’re talking about doing a Mass for forty folk a few years ago so you weren’t exactly going to get a priest from Glasgow coming once a week for forty folk. So it was every two months or so, but then we’ve got the influx. Now we have one in Torry, one in the cathedral ... So it’s a big number you’re talking about but you’re only talking about forty, fifty folk when there was a Polish Mass maybe fifteen years ago. As I was saying, maybe sadly, there’s a second generation of people who came to the Polish functions maybe ten or fifteen years ago don’t come anymore. Sad. Like my father with the boys. They’ve got Pyka, both, and so ... they’ve got the Pyka in their name. Dad wanted the children to have Pyka in them because ... I wouldn’t want them to forget they had a Polish grandfather and so on. It’s part of your heritage, what makes you. Do you want to see ...? Will I look out my albums? Do you want to see if I’ve got some of the Polish ...?

Simon:

There’s a letter here from your dad, saying ... writing to the newspapers about the kind of way they were covering people coming to Scotland so ... he was quite heavily involved in, I guess, this kind of help and ... maintain a proper understanding of ...?

     

Alicia:

I don’t know if I’ve got it or I’ve got it in Dad’s house. He cut out all the cuttings about the Polish folk when they died. Now I’ve maybe got it in my house ...

     

Valerie:

I might have it.

     

Alicia:

Or you’ve got it or it’s at Dad’s house. We’ll have to make a mini archive for ourselves! (laughs) Did you want to see my dad’s medals?

     
 

I’ll have to show you my claim to fame in a minute. This is maybe the last picture of Dad. That’s maybe an unimportant one, but that’s just one of the files so you can’t just chuck stuff out.

     

Simon:

I was saying, there’s quite an interesting letter here where he’s written to a paper, to the Press and Journal, to sort of circulate to ...

     

Alicia:

Do you want it? The letter?

     

Simon:

Oh no, you keep it.

     

Alicia:

No! We’ve got lots. I tore some things up because I can’t keep everything. See this is what he did. If they criticised the Polish people, things were wrong. Here’s a Christmas thing I think for the council journal. Yes, he always wrote for brochures, see? Maybe this is a ... This is what he did all the time.

     

Simon:

Incredibly busy!

     

Alicia:

Yep. He had a secretary so she typed all the letters because my dad had arthritis in his hands, so it was the secretary. I never thought all these things would be ... I mean, he was always ... P4 was “Polish Correspondence” because every file had a number. What year was that? I mean, he was ill for the last ...

Simon:

This is 2004.

Alicia:

Uh huh. He was ill then. I never thought ... He always asked for literature because he would give talks to various organisations in Aberdeen and round about so this is why I had a lot of those Polish things.

     
 

Let’s see what’s in here. Now here is a file. SPK from 1964. See I’ve never really had a chance to go through all these. This is just a receipt and that. You can’t keep everything. Is that a pay slip or something? Since Dad passed away, we’ve just taken a lot of boxes to the house, then we’re working our way through them, you know?

Simon:

There’s a letter here. You were talking about people’s prejudice in the 50s, this is from 1957 to the Evening Express and he’s responding to someone who’s written a letter about ... “cross breeding with inferior stock” is what someone’s written. And he’s just written his letter defending the contribution that Polish people have made to the ...

Alicia:

This is it! This is a laugh. The inventory of the Polish Club on 31st of July 1959, so when they used that club. Here’s the inventory of all the things they had. Maybe I should donate that. Here’s all the members. In fact, according to ... No, this is later on. This is later on, this is 1980. Then it jumps to 1980. We’re looking at members Val. What’s he written here? This must be the money they’ve contributed or something?

Simon:

Ledgers.

     

Alicia:

This is what they would produce for the folk in Aberdeen. You know, what was happening. During the war, and so on, lack of food. My dad would eat anything. He wouldn’t waste food. He made some right concoctions sometimes. What was it he put ...? Jam on top of some things. He wouldn’t waste because he remembers. He loved a lot of jam because when he was a boy in the forced labour camps he only got a smearing of jam so he would always put a lot of jam on his stuff. What he used to make for us, we used to like it, the Polish scrambled egg - jajecznica. Lovely!

Valerie:

He was a good cook. Quite a good cook actually.

     

Alicia:

Then when I was little he’d make płatski, when we were on the farm. You know the potato things.

     

Valerie:

On the farm? I didn’t live on the farm.

     

Alicia:

Because I’m older than you. Well, we lived on a farm before you were born. Because my dad ... When we lived on my Granny and Granda’s farm, it wasn’t all that easy, because you’re living in somebody else’s house even though it was your parents. But there was like ... Top of one of the sheds, don’t know what they call it here. Like a chavver? A room that they used to have for a labourer on the farm? So my dad had that room to study so he was away from every ...

     

Valerie:

Because he left Poland with very little and ...

     

Alicia:

He had nothing. Not a thing.

     

Valerie:

Then later on he renounced his share to land in Poland.

Alicia:

Yes. His relatives, they had a share to a bit of land but he thought they could have it. I’ve got an angel, although it’s a bit battered. When I went to my great-grandfather’s house, there was this angel. I don’t know how far back it’s gone. So I’ve got this battered angel next door.

Valerie:

Dad’s own father died when he was twenty-seven.

     

Alicia:

So Dad was five when his dad died.

     

Valerie:

So he was raised by his grandfather. He fell off a horse, my grandfather, and then developed heart complications and died.

     

Alicia:

At twenty-seven.

     

Valerie:

He was a Polish army officer. Cavalry? So we never really ... we didn’t know him.

     

Alicia:

But when we went to Poland we’d always go to the cemetery and lay flowers on the grandfather’s grave, the great-grandfather. Dad paid for his headstone because he didn’t have a headstone or anything, so Dad paid for a headstone. So it says: “Erected by his son in Scotland.” And when Dad passed away he was going to write all the stuff he wanted when he passed away but he thought he had longer. Anyway, I found something he’d written in 1975 saying he’d wanted on his headstone so I’ve added: “Officer of The Polish Free Forces.” It’s on his headstone, which is Mum’s grave as well, will be our grave as well. Double grave. We’ve got the thistle on one side and the eagle on the other.