BERNARD WILKOWSKI (22nd Feb. 1921 – 23rd Jan. 2015)

BERNARD WILKOWSKI (22nd Feb. 1921 – 23rd Jan. 2015)

Bernard will be remembered in Evington as a popular teacher and Head of Languages at Judgemeadow Community College.  He joined when the school first opened and retired in 1986.

Bernard was born on the family farm in Karolewo, a hamlet in northern Poland to parents Franciszek and Monika Wilkowski.  He was the eldest of five children, with three older half siblings.  Rural life revolved around the farm and Church in nearby Pinczyn.  Bernard went to the local primary school, and then to boarding school where his school reports showed his intellectual ability at an early age.

In 1938 Bernard went to a Seminary in Belgium to study Scholastic Philosophy leading to Theological training for the Roman Catholic Priesthood.  When war broke out in Europe, Bernard joined other Polish nationals, becoming an officer in one of the two Polish Infantry Divisions fighting with the French military.  French was his second language, spoken like a native.

When France capitulated in June 1940 Bernard with fellow soldiers decided to march to neutral Switzerland.  Wounded and captured by Germans, he was imprisoned but escaped and walked to Switzerland needing a month in hospital to recover.

In 1941 the Polish Consulate sent Bernard to Fribourg University, Switzerland to study theology.

Bernard was still determined to fight, so in 1942 made his way to the south of France.  In Marseille, he joined other Polish nationals who decided to head for Spain.  They had a hazardous winter crossing the Pyrenees; without the proper equipment and clinging to glaciers and narrow ledges with their fingernails, losing one of their number in a tragic fall.

They reached Spain only to be imprisoned in the concentration camp, Miranda de Ebro.  Conditions in the camp were atrocious; and the Polish prisoners initiated a hunger strike that lasted for ten days until the Red Cross were called and Bernard found himself sent to Madrid, again to continue his studies, and then on the Portugal, Gibraltar and finally England by sea.

On arrival Bernard was interrogated by the intelligence service in case he was a spy.  He then enlisted as a signalman in the Polish Air Force and was sent to Scotland to learn English.

In 1948 Bernard married Gloria Maria Pastor and was then discharged from the Air Force, and worked in London as a waiter.  In 1954 they came to Leicester and Bernard worked at the Bell Hotel as Head Waiter, and then Head Chef at the Red Lion in Rothley.  He later became the publican at The Blue Lion in Thrussington.

In 1966 Bernard married Eileen Morris living in Thurnby.  Here he enjoyed cultivating a very large garden and playing with his collie dog Pedro.

Bernard went to train to be a teacher at City of Leicester College of Education in 1967, his main subjects being French and Geography.  After qualifying as a teacher Bernard took up a post as French master at City of Leicester Boys Grammar School.  After four years Bernard moved to Judgemeadow School Evington as Head of Languages Department, with Headmaster Tony Green.

In 1970 Bernard went back to Poland for the first time in thirty years, to see his family.

Bernard retired from teaching in 1986, later moving to Croyde Close.  Here he may have retired from paid work but not life.

In retirement Bernard had many hobbies and past-times.  Wood working making lovely furniture, flying gliders and micro-lights, gardening growing his own fruit and vegetables, playing the guitar and bridge.  Keeping fit at the gym, making pottery, holiday travel for language and cultural activities.  Bernard spoke eight landguages, and loved to converse about world politics, science, astronomy and religion.

Bernard loved good food and wine, and most of all he loved to share it with his many friends and family.

Evington Echo