DCSIMG

Envelope reveals a tragic Leeds story

THE envelope spills open to reveal nothing but a few yellowing documents, a handful of black and white photographs and a tattered prayer book.

This is all there is to show for the life of a man who won medals for fighting Nazi oppression but ultimately struggled to find happiness in peacetime Leeds.

The simple bundle of paperwork – found in an abandoned archive at a Leeds hostel – chronicles a heartbreaking two decades in the life of Polish-born Marian Wojcicki.

On the face of it, his story begins well. According to his service record book, Marian joined the Polish Army in 1942 and fighting alongside the Allies, he was awarded the Africa and Italy Stars.

Within years of being demobbed from the forces, though, he was living a broken-down life, pawning his prized possessions and being arrested for vagrancy.

In 1960 he simply vanished, presumed dead.

Martin Patterson, who discovered the tragic collection at St George's Crypt, is now trying to discover exactly what happened to Marian and how his life ended in despair.

The fundraising director also wants to return the items to any surviving members of Marian's family.

Martin said: "It's an incredibly moving story. Here was a man who fought for freedom, served his country and ours so well and yet just a short time later he was effectively living on the streets.

"It's a very tragic tale.

Relatives

"We would love anyone who knows anything about him to contact us so we can reach any relatives he might have. We would like to return his photographs, prayer book and other records.

"He obviously treasured these things and I imagine his family would like to have them. They should be proud of what he achieved."

Born in 1905, Marian was 37 when he joined the Polish Army. He may already have had a wife and family – a photograph of two small children takes pride of place in his wallet – but it is not known what became of them.

Later photographs show Marian in active service in crucial Second World War battles including that of Monte Cassino and Bologna in Italy, in Tobruk in Libya and in Palestine.

According to his service book, he was discharged from the Army in 1949 and chose to come to Britain.

Initially he was found a place at the Whitley Camp in Surrey before he was transferred to the Breighton Hostel in Selby. He soon moved on to the Aketon Road National Service Hostel in Castleford. In 1954 he is shown as living at the Hightown Miners' Hostel and later at the Pinderfields Miners' Hostel in Stanley, Wakefield.

Between 1954 and 1958 he is shown as working at Jackson Bros in Knottingley, and his income tax forms show he was earning a respectable 163.19 a year. He also had about 36 in a National Savings account. Life was by no means entirely comfortable, but neither should it have been a struggle.

Mystery

So it is a mystery when in 1958, a pawnbrokers stub shows he hocked a pocket watch for 1.

In 1959, a police caution shows he was arrested for roughsleeping and another record shows him as unemployed and forced into clearing snow by the state.

Martin said: “It really is quite fascinating but so sad at the same time. He seemed to be doing pretty and then his life suddenly starts to go downhill. He loses his job and there are obviously some issues where he lived.

“Eventually he must have ended up at St George’s Crypt where he left his most treasured things for safekeeping.

“He must have never returned. We simply lose track of him in 1960 and you can probably assume the worst.”

vicki.robinson@ypn.co.uk

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page