Troubador My Polish Spring

Released: 18/03/2015

eISBN: 9781784629410

Format: eBook

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My Polish Spring


My Polish Spring’ is the memoir of Heather Campbell, who lived and worked in post-war communist Poland with her scientist husband, Ian. I

an was raised in a family with communist ideals in the 1930s, their political outlook formed by the suffering of the First World War, the economic mayhem of the Great Depression, and the belief that communism would be the most effective bulwark against the rise of Nazism and Far Right politics. Heather herself came from a privileged background, but developed the same political stance as her future husband as a result of her work in factories during the Second World War. After their marriage in 1950, Heather and Ian felt that they should commit to their political beliefs by moving to a communist country, where they would take part in the building of an egalitarian socialist state. Moving to Poland in 1951, Ian and Heather worked at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology in Warsaw.

 ‘My Polish Spring’ relates the couple’s experiences, their increasing disillusionment with the injustices perpetrated by a Stalinist state, and their admiration for the courage of the Polish people, before their eventual return to England in 1959.

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Heather Campbell

Heather was born in Hove, Sussex, in 1925. She was the daughter of Lionel Harding Cox and his devoted wife, Winifred, who had been a ballet-trained dancer and actress in the London theatres. On her father’s side, Heather was the great grand-daughter of Edward William Cox, a successful lawyer, publisher and owner of journals in the Victorian era. She grew up in Newick, Sussex, where her father owned a large nursery called Chez Nous Nurseries.

At 18 Heather was required to work in the war effort. Because of her background, this was her first exposure to the lives of ordinary working people, an experience that she found very rewarding and which led her to adopt left-wing views. She became a member of the Young Communist League and a union representative during this era.

In the immediate post-war era, she became a professional ice skater and toured Europe with a company called “Hot Ice”. While she was with her ice show in Paris, she met her future husband, Ian, in a café overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Ian decided that this would be his future wife within a few hours of meeting her.

Ian had similar communist views. His father had fought in the First World War and had experienced the great depression of the 1930’s. He also detested Nazism and felt that communism was the most effective bulwark against this ideology. These factors had helped formed the family viewpoint that communism would lead to an egalitarian society with social justice and protection for all elements in society.

In this immediate post-war era, Ian decided to pursue a career in science, while courting Heather. He completed his PhD degree in the bio-medical sciences at the National Institute for Medical Research, in London. A few weeks before their marriage, and his PhD exam, there was an explosion in his laboratory which resulted in burns and loss of some sight in one eye. Despite this, Heather married him a few weeks after this accident.

At the time, the tragic and inhumane policies of many communist regimes were not fully known, or believed by those in the Party, and so they remained committed communists and political idealists. Ian was very keen to further communism and, as a consequence, he took the bold move of going with Heather to Warsaw, a move arranged by the Communist Party in the UK. In Poland they worked at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Cancer Research Institute in Warsaw. Heather’s reminiscences of Poland are the subject of this memoir which she wrote in the 1980s.

By 1959, they had decided to return to the United Kingdom. Heather and Ian were now no longer interested in politics, and Ian returned to his fundamental interest in science, taking up an academic staff appointment at the University of Manchester.

In retirement they lived in Carshalton in Surrey and later in Keynsham, near Bath. Heather passed away on the 23rd November 2014, her husband pre-deceasing her.

A studio portrait of Heather taken in 1959, shortly before her return to the United Kingdom.
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