The Tailor of Inverness
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The Tailor of Inverness is a story of journeys, of how a boy who grew up on a farm in Galicia (Eastern Poland, now Ukraine) came to be a tailor in Inverness, Scotland. He was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1939 and forced to work east of the Urals, then freed in an amnesty after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He then joined the thousands of Poles who travelled to Tehran, then Egypt, to join the British Army, fighting in North Africa and Italy. He was then resettled in Britain in 1948, joining his brother in Glasgow. This is the story he told.
horses and the sleigh, you see. And at night on the way back I heard a wolf howl. ‘Did you hear the wolf, Dad?’ ‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said. A few minutes later, a pack of wolves came running out of the darkness behind us. It was very frightening. ‘I can see them, Dad! They’re chasing us!’ We usually had torches, pitch torches, flaming torches to ward them away. But that time we didn’t have any. ‘Take the shovel!’ We had a shovel for the snow on the sleigh, so I took it in both
years wouldn’t be enough, would be 10! As soon as I left Russia I would never go back because if I go back I would by the scruff of the neck into jail! It’s not necessary to be against the state. You could say that you didn’t like that man in the kolkhoz, or you don’t like that horse! Then you accused of being against the state! That’s the case! It’s a fact! And to hell with you. Because you must remember that all the work, necessary work like a railway, the canals, even the mines, they were
20 kilometres, I was surprised and dismayed to find that it appeared to be the only stretch of motorway which the united Germans had failed to improve. Suddenly we were back in the holidays of my youth, ker-thunk, ker-thunk, ker-thunk, as we, ker-thunk, drove over, ker-thunk, the gaps between, ker-thunk, each of the old, ker-thunk, concrete slabs which made up the original autobahn. Potholes, cracks, low speed limits, roadworks, I wondered if the appalling surface remained to deter Germans from
short of breath, I sit with Mykola. He is dignified and quiet, full of good humour, happy to welcome me. He is also partially deaf, blind in one eye and showing signs of frailty, but he retains an upright posture and a very firm handshake. The living room walls are draped in tapestries, flower patterns and geometric peasant designs, all made by Xenia, family photographs and two of their favourite politicians, the nationalists Julia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko. A young man enters the flat,
to fight for Ukrainian independence. I realise that there has to be a lot more to it than that and curse my ignorance. The book contains photographs of smiling bands of soldiers posing in front of their forest hideouts or on the march, leading horses with machine guns strapped to their backs. Mykola turns to pages which list the names of the dead and points to one of them. ‘Tvoy kuzyn. Your cousin.’ There on the page is Teodosiy’s name, killed by the Russians in 1944 at the age of 17 for his