"It’s opened up a big, huge family for me" Pauline Ocimek, Scotland
Pauline Ocimek still doesn’t know how her Polish father, Stanislaw, found his way to Scotland during WWII. “My dad didn’t speak about his past much. I only got bits and pieces from my cousin,” she says. What she does know is that after the war her father searched tirelessly for his parents and siblings. Sadly, both the British Army and the Red Cross were unable to trace them in Poland and he was told it was most likely they had perished in the war.
Stanislaw married a local Scottish girl in 1949 and settled near Kirkcaldy, starting a family of his own. “He always lived in hope that someday he might find them,” says Pauline who was named after her paternal grandmother. For the rest of his life he carried a photograph of his little sister in his pocket with him everywhere he went. He was buried with it when he passed away in 1989.
After her father’s death, Pauline believed it was unlikely she would ever solve the puzzle of his past. But one day she came across MyHeritage, and decided to type in her family name and her grandparents’ names. Immediately, she got a Smart Match™ to two MyHeritage users in Poland.
“I sent them a message. Within 10 minutes I got a reply from this girl — it turned out that her father was my first cousin.”
Her cousin invited her to come and visit the family in Poland as soon as possible.
In the summer of 2014, Pauline traveled to Poland with her husband David. “I was overwhelmed. I cried the whole week I was there,” she says. Her Polish family picked them up from the airport and took Pauline to meet her cousin Christina who was living in the same house that her father grew up in. Gradually her father’s story began to emerge.
When the Germans invaded Poland, Pauline’s father’s family was sent to a farm to work for the Germans in northern Poland. Her father, Stanislaw, was of age to be drafted, and despite his mother’s efforts to forge papers for him, he was forced into the German army.
Pauline’s Polish family told her how Stanislaw’s mother, Paulina, went to church to pray for her missing son every week for the rest of her life. “The greatest thing was that I was able to visit her grave and I took a plaque saying ‘Mum’ on it, and that was from my dad,” says Pauline.
These days Pauline remains in touch with her Polish family.
“It’s opened up a big huge family for me. It was just five of us before. It’s hundreds now.”
Next, she hopes to solve the mystery of how a young Polish soldier turned up in Scotland in the final throes of WWII.