You may have encountered a tall, quietly-spoken man with a hat and a ready smile at work in our churchyard. Perhaps you have exchanged a friendly greeting. Well, this is Marek Wysocki (pronounced ‘vissotski’), our church gardener for two years now, who keeps the place tidy while encouraging wildlife. But what you may not know is that his family roots lie thousands of miles away, on the other side of Europe. Chatting to me over coffee recently, Marek recounted the dramatic and moving story – worthy of a Robert Harris novel – that led to his life here. Marek’s grandfather had been given land on the eastern borders of Poland (now Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus) to reward him for fighting for Polish independence in the 1920s. Here it was that Marek’s parents (who had yet to meet) were living before World War II. At the outbreak of war, the Soviet/Nazi pact included an agreement to partition Poland. The Soviets took over anyone with land, and Marek’s grandparents and parents spent some years in Siberian camps in the Arctic Circle, 200-400 miles east of Archangel. Conditions were incredibly tough: the prisoners were transported in cattle trucks, and Marek’s mother’s parents both died of typhoid. Her brother was lost in transit, having left the train at Isfahan to seek food. The train set off without him, and his family never saw him again. When the Nazis attacked Russia, the Soviets released their Polish prisoners. Marek’s orphaned mother ended up in India, and his father in Palestine, then Italy, too young to fight, but his grandfather fought with the Allies. Post-war, they settled in London, where they met, and where Marek, his brother and sister were born. Marek’s life has thankfully been quite different. He studied Fine Art at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design and later gained an RHS Diploma in Horticulture from Otley College. He and his wife Jo had been living in Hackney when their two daughters were born. But when Jo was offered a post at Suffolk County Council, they decided to move to the peace of deepest rural Suffolk, Monk Soham, and six years later to Woodbridge. Going for gold In order to fit in with their daughters’ school times, Marek needed flexible working hours and decided to take up gardening - something he had always loved. His enthusiasm for the subject, and the realisation that he needed to learn more, led to his study at Otley College (‘fantastic’, he said). This resulted in something rather special. His diploma group decided to enter a garden for the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show; out of all the designs submitted, Marek’s garden design for a naturalistic garden was chosen – and won a Gold Medal on behalf of the college. He hastened to add that the whole group was involved in growing and nurturing the plants, sourcing materials, and making the design a reality, with a huge amount of hard work and commitment from them all.