A Polish woman who was deported with her family to Siberia as a child by the Russian army before making her life in Melton following the Second World War has died aged 94.
Leonarda Czerwinski, who was known as Lola, arrived in the town in November 1946 after being posted with the Polish air force - she had joined up when she moved to the Middle East after being liberated from Siberian captivity.
She married highly-decorated fighter pilot, Boleslaw, known as Bronek, at St John’s Roman Catholic Church, in Melton, on June 4, 1949, and they remained married for more than 50 years until his death in 2000.
Last year, Lola and her sisters were awarded a Polish State decoration - The Siberian Exiles Cross - in recognition of their wartime sufferings.
Lola’s proud niece, Sian Truszkowska, has written a book about the family’s fight for survival during the war and their subsequent resettlement in Melton.
She said: “She was a brave and inspirational woman
“Lola was just eight-years-old when her mother died and from this moment on the family muddled together to get by.
“She was 14 when the Second World War began and on February 10, 1940, she was deported by the Red Army along with her family to Siberia.
“Lola later wrote about her experiences and the document is archived in the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in the United States.”
She was born on May 22, 1925, in the Polish hamlet of Maciejów. Her father, Franciszek, was a farmer and Lola had eight siblings and two step-siblings.
Shortly after Lola’s birth the family moved to the eastern territories in Poland known as the ‘Kresy’.
Franciszek bought low cost land in Międzyrzecz, in the province of Białystok - the village is now known as Mižeryčy as in Belarus.
In late 1933, Lola’s mother, Julianna, and twin brothers died within hours of one another.
When war broke out, the family was moved to Siberia because Lola’s father was settler.
Lola lived in a small room with 10 other people, food was severely rationed and she worked hard in a brick works for small wages.
Many people died from malnutrition, accidents and disease, including her father.
The siblings were moved again in June 1941 when Germany invaded, heading south to Kazakhstan.
The following year, Lola and her sisters left for Iran where at the age of 17 she joined the Polish Young Women Soldiers’ School in Palestine.
Lola enlisted in the Polish Auxiliary Service and in April 1944 was assigned to serve in the UK, under British command, at RAF Wilmslow in Cheshire.
After the war, she was posted to RAF Melton in November 1946 although most of the 2,000 personnel who had prepared aircrew and aircraft for war combat had left by then.
Lola was officially discharged and began living in a Polish resettlement camp for former air force personnel.
She decided not to return to Poland and made a request for her sisters, who were now living in Africa, to join her in England - they were reunited in Melton in May 1948 after being apart for six years.
After marrying Bronek the following year, he joined the British air force, leading to several posting in the UK and overseas.
The couple, who lived in various homes in Melton after his retirement, had sons Janusz, George, Stefan and Ryszard, daughters-in-law Kathleen, Angela, Adriana and Chantalle and grandchildren Suzanne, Stefan, Sarah, Laura, Julia, Christopher and Lola.
In later years the couple moved to Canada to be close to three of their sons.
Bronek died in 2000 and Lola eventually moved to a care home in Ontario, where she passed away on August 14.
A funeral service for Lola will be held at Our Lady of Częstochowa, in Sandy Lane, Melton, at 11am tomorrow (Thursday) followed by interment at the Thorpe Road cemetery.