ZBIGNIEW Leszczynski, who has died aged 89, was a most remarkable man and was recognised as a war hero by the Polish government. An account of his brave exploits, in escaping between advancing Russians on one side and Germans on the other, leading his men in fierce combat as a young 2nd lieutenant, was published under the title Escape to Freedom in the Peeblesshire News in 1993.
Finally reaching Hungary, evading capture at the very last minute, he arrived in Britain to join Polish forces here and became a care officer at a large hospital in England before moving to Scotland where he trained special agents, radio operators, and couriers for sabotage work in occupied Poland.
While in Scotland, he met his first wife, Catherine Taylor McGilp, and they married in 1949. Sadly, she died in 1978.
In 1948, Zbigniew obtained a degree in social studies from Edinburgh University and went on to take a Masters degree in fine arts in 1955, while also studying sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art. In that same year, he took British nationality.
He went on to teach art in a number of secondary schools, while continuing to work as a sculptor, and he retired in 1972. Nine years later, he met and married, in Peebles, his second wife, Barbara Edwards, a noted authoress who wrote under the name of Barbara Simon.
An article in the Peeblesshire News in September 1997 described some of his 300 sculpture works, many of which were accepted in churches throughout Europe and the rest of the world. In spite of suffering a severe stroke, he continued to work at his sculpture, even with only one useful hand.
He and his second wife’s work for Polish culture was recently rewarded when both received the coveted Polish title of Mecanas, which means Master of Culture. In 2002, he and Barbara generously donated their collection of books to the English language department of Warsaw University.
Zbigniew’s wartime heroics had already been recognised with medals and decorations from the council of state of the Polish Republic, the Military Historical Review of the Polish ministry of defence and the British government.
He was also an author of note, and his recent book on the pagan Slavonic gods was translated into ten languages by its German publisher.
Zbigniew Leszczynski came of noble stock, spoke seven languages, and could trace his ancestry with certainty, in a direct male line, to the year 650 AD. His ancestors included Stojmir, the prince ruler of Bohemia, and Borylaw, the l4th century primate of Poland.
He had a great interest in pursuing the welfare of his fellow men, as his many letters to newspapers on social issues testified.
He died at the end of June in Borders General Hospital after suffering a second stroke. He was a most talented, brave and compassionate man, and a good friend. He will be sorely missed.