Michael Pollek

Born: 24th February 1954

Reading, UK

Date of interview: 13th July 2006

Map showing where Michael Pollek came from

What was your mother's profession?

My mother, both my mother and father were born in 1922, they were born in the Carpathian mountains, they, of farming stock, my grandfather on my mother's side, my mother's father, he was a deacon in the church, so he would assist with the mass on Sundays. It wasn't an ordained position but it was somebody who would sing the chants, who would prepare the mass books, would prepare the documents, would be in charge of the writing process, and he taught my mother how to read and write. My mother only did two years of schooling because then she was sent out to work. She was the eldest girl of four girls and there was two older brothers but they died and we don't know what happened to them.

When she came to England she worked several jobs, all labouring. She was a cleaner, she worked at Crimpy Crisps, she worked at Ideal Casements on a packing line and then she became ill and had to give up work. My father, had a brother and a sister. He didn't go to school at all, he worked, my father's parents were butchers and therefore their knowledge was needed in meat and not in books.

My father left Ukraine 'cos there was, in, and I don't know the dates, the Germans had already invaded. They were looking for volunteers to work in Germany. There was hunger abound and when the Germans first came into Ukraine, they were greeted by the Ukrainians as liberators because what they were angry about, the Ukrainians this is, was the Russian oppression. So they were greeted as liberators and at first it was good, things did work out. And then of course the German position soon changed to what they always intended it to do, which was that the Ukrainians or the Slavs were only fit to be slaves or destroyed.

My father together with two others volunteered to work in Germany. His, the three of them were sent in cattle trucks, they were split up, luckily for my father he ended up in Austria, working in Austria for a very good family who were just ordinary farmers but not Nazis. When liberation came he wanted to go to Canada and again get as far away as he could from the Communists. He had an opportunity of settling actually in that farm where he was working, the farmer was willing to let him to marry his daughter 'cos they were very close and so on. My father was just too concerned about the Russians and everybody in those days was just moving away from the Russians. So he wanted to get to Canada and got on the wrong boat and ended up in England. But he obviously thought when he got to England that this was Canada, how he would've thought that only a couple of hours on a boat meant he was in Canada.

My mother on the other hand unfortunately, because of money problems, she was sent into the equivalent, I suppose in English of service. She was working for another family, between five and seven miles away, as a house, general house help. She was taken by the Nazis when they came to Germany. That part of the war my mother never really talked about. Neither did my father actually, neither of them really talked about the war. I know that my mother became mentally ill as a result of what happened in the war. I don't know what camps she was in but I do know that she looked after German children as a nurse maid, she was very good at that and one of the things that I suppose saved her from others, was that she was very good at looking after kids, she had natural affinity.