Jan Mokrzycki l Magdalena Mokrzycka l Ryszard Weber l Fran Oborski l Alan Dołhasz l Bartek Roczniak l Jarosław Kobzdej l Joanna Baran l Joanna Palmowska l Joanna Szalewska-Pineau l Jolanta Koza l Konrad Katarzyński l Marcin Sawicki

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Jan Mokrzycki
England became my new home, but my heart was still with the Vistula.

Born in 1932 in Warsaw
Came to Britain in 1947
Education: Dental Surgeon
Performed work: retired surgeon, dentist, currently Vice - President of the Federation of Poland in the UK
Hobbies: golf

The Parents of Jan Mokrzycki were arrested by the Gestapo in Warsaw in 1941, when he was 9 years old.  His father, uncle and grandfather were shot in the Pawiak, his mother was sentenced to death and sent to Auschwitz, where later she was transferred to Ravensbrück concentration camp. “She had survived the nightmare of war, partly because” - as Jan says - “she was a very tough person, and partly because of her profession as doctor”.  After her liberation by the Americans, Jan’s mother learned that her son survived the war and she returned to Poland to find him. “She did not want me to be raised in a communist system, so she took me by my collar and we sneaked through the border first to the Czech Republic, then to Austria and Germany” - says Jan.  While there his mother become a contact between the English Corp and the First Division of General Maczek. They arrived to England with them. “I am from nonexistent generation in England” - says Jan. “I came here when I was 14 years old. My generation hardly existed here, because my peers, who were deported to Russia, mostly lost their lives there. I had to learn English immediately, because if I wanted a glass of water I had to ask for it in English. Thus, I  speak not too bad  today” - he laughs.

He was educated as a dental surgeon, and opened his own practice in Coventry. The majority of Poles who arrived here were soldiers. “In England, my mother could luckily work in her profession because she was a doctor in the army. Her specialty, however, was not recognized by the British, so she had to re-specialize in lung illnesses. As these soldiers came out of the camps, which the British created for them, they settled in the areas where there was work for them, but close to this camps. In these towns the Polish churches, centers and clubs were created later. It has survived to this day and this is the testament that old Polonia (Polish diaspora) has left to newcomers” - he says. “We hope that you will use them and will build your future upon them, and soon build new ones. I know that the new and the old Polonia look at each other with suspicion, however, would be a pity to lose what already exists. It is easier to continue something than to start from scratch”.

Then the whole Polonia got used to living in England, and it was a strange life, the opposite of what it is today. “England became my new home, but my heart was still with the Vistula. Poland was an extremely remote country. Many people did not want to go there at all. We, however, in the 60's began to visit Poland. I felt that if our children were to feel Polish and to understand  why their parents sent them to Saturday school, they had to know the language, and they needed to visit this strange country” – he explains. As a result, approximately every 2 years since 1965 they would go to Poland. “The journey was difficult. It was not the case that we flew across in a few minutes and there was this huge contrast with England, where there was plenty of everything, and Poland which was imprisoned by the Communist system. I always drove and the car was loaded with clothes of all kinds, to help my family somehow. Previously, we kept in touch with them only by letters, and the letters were written very carefully not to expose them to accusations that they are spies of the West. At this time in Poland there was paranoia that all were spies”.

Jan is retired now, but he still serves as vice - president of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, after 10 years of being a chairman. “An organization like the Federation of Poles is necessary - he explains - because we need an organization that will speak on behalf of the entire Polish community. If I did not work for Federation, I would never have met so many amazing people or visited such interesting places and countries. I never expected that I will be a guest at a formal banquet at Buckingham Palace or in the Presidential Palace in Poland. I was in Lviv and Vilnius, with the European Union of Polish Communities, which is an organization linking the Polish community in all European countries. I have Also visited Chicago, where I was a guest of the Polish American community. For me it is great that a new generation have come here and organize themselves in places where previously there was no Polish organizations. There are new Polish schools not to mention Polish Shops. Those groups stay together and somehow work together, so I do not agree with the view that we are a conflicted nation. I hope that people who come here do not forget where they came from and that they will be proud of their heritage. The Poles have achieved a lot, so let's be proud of our Polish identity. If you look at the books of British universities you will see the names of many Polish  professors. Poles somehow manage to get everywhere. We are quite capable nation. The contribution of the Poles in World War II was immense. At the exit from London to the M40 is a War Memorial, a monument to Polish pilots - the only such monument of the minority which fought for Britain. I think everything will be fine if not better than fine. Upon retirement, as I stop being vice-president, maybe I'll play more golf - he says. To play golf well you have to start when you are 6, and I started when I was 60. This is a very enjoyable sport which you can play when you are eighty something, so I have few years left”.

Jan Mokrzycki was interviewed by Mat Kawczyński.