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Son to miss war veteran’s funeral as home town comes to standstill
THE whole of his Polish home town will turn out today as the flag-draped coffin of Second World War veteran Kazimierz Michalski passes by.
Mr Michalski, who lived in Oxford for more than 50 years, will be honoured by hundreds of schoolchildren, officials, the town’s mayor and an orchestra in Sieniawa, Poland.
But one person who won’t be in attendance is the 104-year-old’s son Andre Michalski, who is unable to travel because he is not eligible for a passport.
After arriving in Oxford in 1953, aged 10, Andre has never registered as a British citizen, but is not recognised as a Polish citizen either because he has not lived there since the outbreak of war.
Despite desperate attempts to get the situation resolved, including visits to the passport offices in London, discussions with the Polish consulate and a visit to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, he last night accepted he would not be able to be at his father’s funeral.
The 75-year-old said: “The long and short of it is I can’t be issued with a passport or any other travel document and I’ve fallen between two stools.
“I will be thinking of him.
“I certainly want to go there – as soon as the official bureaucratic stuff can be sorted out I shall be on the plane.
“I shall stay in the place where he was buried, they are family graves.”
His father, who was a survivor of a Soviet Gulag, was featured in the Oxford Mail when he fought off a thief in his home in Thorncliffe Road, Summertown, at the age of 101.
After escape from the Gulag in 1941, he found his way across thousands of miles, without tickets, supplies or money, from Pechora in the Arctic Circle back to Uzbekistan.
He then travelled hundreds more miles to be reunited with his wife Janina and son Andre, who had fled.
Mr Michalski later settled in Oxford after the war.
He continued to donate funds to schools and libraries in Sieniawa and helped to finance Polish education charities.
Polish Embassy spokesman Robert Szaniawski said the 104-year-old’s extraordinary life would be celebrated today.
He said: “The funeral will be full of honours.
“The mayor of Sieniawa will be there, the coffin will be decorated with white and red flags and there will be guests from London from the Polish Diaspora, and the head of the office for veterans in Poland will attend.
“His close friend Prof Norman Davies from Oxford has sent a special wreath of flowers.
“Everybody in the town will be involved in his funeral.”
Mr Michalski died while visiting Sieniawa, in South East Poland, earlier this month.
Before the war, Mr Michalski worked as a lawyer and then a judge before he was sentenced to hard labour by the Russian secret police.
After escaping a Siberian Gulag and travelling thousands of miles from the Arctic Circle to Uzbekistan, where he joined the Polish army, he went on to fight in Italy alongside British troops.
Carving out a life for himself in Oxford, he worked at the Cherry Blossom shoe polish factory and then as a clerk at Blackwell’s before eventually retiring as a curator of the international law section of the Oxford University Law Library.