Michal sipped his tea and looked at Kasia as she laid a plate of baked tarts on the table. She smiled and came over to kiss him.
“Would you like a tart with your tea?”
“Thanks, I will”.
Within a few minutes, Kasia had got two second cups of tea and half the plate of baking was cleared.
“We’d better leave some for the boys”, said Kasia
“And your father”, added Michal.
They both giggled as naughty schoolchildren do. They were both at the sink washing up when Kasia’s father arrived home. Karolina did not appear.
Her father enquired, “Where has Karolina got to?”
“She’s at our Aunt’s”, said Kasia, silently crossing her fingers behind her back. At least, that was Karolina’s usual ploy when there was trouble. Her father noticed a certain radiant look about his elder daughter, but said nothing. She put the kettle on afresh and set the plate of baking on the table. Michal sat down,
“Had a good day, Mr Jarocki?”
“Quite good, thank you; mustn’t grumble. And yourself?”
“Very good, thanks. Already identified a problem and a letter is in the post to England”.
“And will England provide an answer?”
“Do I detect a note of pessimism?”
“Well, I support Solidarity one hundred per cent, but this government is sticking. There seems little progress. Except in the matter of my two daughters. What, may I ask are your intentions?”
This caught Michal by surprise, but he responded immediately,
“Mr Jarocki, I am deeply grateful for your hospitality, and would in no way wish to abuse it. Kasia and I have an understanding. I would like to ask your permission to court her with a view to returning to England with her, where we shall be married”.
Mr Jarocki bit into one of the tarts before speaking again,
“Have you discussed all this with Kasia?”
“Not all of it, but I’ve only been here five minutes”.
“That’s what I mean; you’ve hardly had the time to discuss it all. I’ll speak to her this evening. She must give you her answer in the morning”.
As Michal turned in for the night, he heard raised voices that he could clearly identify as Kasia, Karolina and their father. He heard only snatches of the conversation, but his heart sank at the implications for his future with Kasia. He slept fitfully, finally sinking into a deep sleep about two in the morning. Imagine then his delight when Mr Jarocki spoke in the breakfast room,
“Michale, Kasia is pleased to accept your proposal. We shall make plans to attend this wedding in England”, he said as he extended his hand. Michal grasped it and felt exultant,
“Thank you. We shall have to work out the details soon and book the flights”.
Kasia came into the room and put her arms around his waist,
“So Father has told you?”
“Yes, darling. We are already planning to get this family over to England for the wedding!”
“Really! That’s marvellous. When shall we marry?”
“I thought the springtime - around April 10 next year”.
In England, at the headquarters of the Leicestershire Police Authority in Enderby, Sgt. Wyles received Michal’s letter and the enclosed assessment of need. He did no more than send a copy to the Campaign Headquarters in London to be processed with the rest. All planned aid was waiting for the fall of the communist regime in Poland; it played no part in the continuing struggle of the population and of Solidarity members in particular. As Michal was about to discover, the day to day troubles had a way of touching every household. He was aware, for example, that Kasia and her sister were both helping a community printing project in Czestochowa. On the day after the announcement of their engagement, Michal realised that the ladies involved in the Tygodnik mazowsze – weekly magazine production – had had a precarious existence under the recent martial law, and that even in 1986 there were a few communist hotheads who could make life difficult.
Karolina came home about three in the afternoon. She looked flustered and catching her breath as though she had run a hundred yards.
“O co chodzi?” “What’s the matter?” said her father.
“Please. Please come quickly”.
Michal entered the room. Karolina threw herself into his arms crying,
“They’re going to kill the girls. It’s a fight to the death!”
Both Michal and Mr Jarocki decided together that they should go to the print works. Karolina and her father led the way, Michal followed, checking his pistol as he hurried along. He had no time to think, but the realisation that Kasia was involved spurred him on. They reached the Square and raced to the opposite side, to the corner with the chemist’s shop. They slowed to a walk; tentatively they turned the corner,
“It’s round the next bend”, said Karolina.
Michal took out his komorka and punched in the number of the Komisariat,
“Hello, it’s Kaczynski and I need backup quickly at the print works off the Square”.
“What’s the nature of the problem?”
“Gunmen are threatening the print workers of the weekly magazine”.
“OK, We will attend in two; no, in three cars”.
Michal rang off and thought he heard a siren in the distance, but was mistaken. They would probably arrive quietly by preference. He edged towards the corner to get a better view of the print works. He saw the flash of a gunshot and its impact on the brick wall caused Michal to jump back, but not before a shard had scraped his cheek and drawn a line of bloody droplets. As he applied his handkerchief to it, he felt a hand at his elbow. It was the local police chief, Anderszewski who remonstrated with him,
“Don’t show yourself! You should not be the target – your uniform being so distinctive”.
“I’m sorry, I made a mistake”, said Michal continuing to dab at his cheek.
The chief immediately ordered four of his men to the rooftops in an effort to flush out the gunmen. Almost at once, they heard some shots and the clattering of a heavy object then the thud as it hit the ground. One gunman accounted for. Anderszewski ordered four more to get to the other side of the print works, going the long way round. He advised Michal and Mr Jarocki to stay where they were. Judging that his men were on the other side, he and five or six more men moved forward and down the alley leading to the corner of the print shop. As they moved off, their leader motioned the men on the roof to advance. Michal heard shouts and answering shots rang out. There was no way of assessing how many gunmen were at the print works, nor even if they had gained entry or not. Karolina’s explanation was sketchy at best, he remembered.
The skirmish developed very quickly after the shouting. Five gunmen were surrounded and gunfire shots were exchanged. Anderszewski and his men gained entry into the plant to find three of the print workers on the floor and two more held hostage by a burly thug. Michal’s heart skipped a beat. Was Kasia hurt? Then he saw her struggling with the thug who had hold of her arm together with another of the print workers. The second girl was crying. Michal took aim with his pistol and prepared to fire. Kasia continued to struggle and at one point tried to pull the thug down. As the hotheaded thug bent forward to control her, Michal fired. The look of surprise on the thug’s face was almost comical, but the bullet had found its mark. The thug collapsed in a heap with a reddening wound to the left temple. The remaining thugs could see the situation deteriorating quickly, so they threw down their weapons and gave themselves up. At this point, Michal moved forward. He could see Kasia apparently inert still in the limp grip of the corpse lying beside her. Michal raced to the front and knelt beside Kasia. He began to prise the fingers of the dead man from Kasia’s wrist. One by one he peeled them away. Kasia, who had obviously fainted, began to rouse. As soon as she recognised Michal as her rescuer, she pulled his face down and smothered him with kisses. With some difficulty, Michal encouraged her to stand. Very gently she did and together they began to walk back towards the entrance of the print shop. The men who had surrendered were handcuffed and led away to a waiting vehicle. Anderszewski expressed satisfaction,
“Our men gained entry into the print shop and found all the ladies safe and well”.
Mr Jarocki almost collapsed with relief, he sobbed uncontrollably for a while. Michal and Kasia walked out of the print shop. He felt full, but he approached his future father in law. Kasia found her voice as she rounded the corner,
Michal enfolded the two of them in the circle and when her father had recovered the three of them walked home with linked arms. Karolina followed at a distance with two lads in tow. There was a lot to talk about at dinner that evening,
“Michale, you’re a crack shot”, said Kasia.
“I could not have done it except you tried to drag the thug down”.
One month later, Kasia and Michal were at Krakow Airport getting ready to board a flight to London Heathrow. The Jarocki family were at the departure barrier to see them off: all were in good humour since they were to follow the happy couple in the spring. Michal had arranged for Kasia to lodge with a couple in Victoria Road, Melton – round the corner from his parents’ home on Sandy Lane. Kasia did not only make a concerted effort to learn English, but she and Michal made plans for their wedding in the spring of next year. Michal’s mother began work on the wedding gown, using lace from her own wedding dress. Kasia wrote to her sister to invite her to be a bridesmaid, but most importantly to supply her vital measurements so that her dress could be made. The Priest was given plenty of notice, once the date had been agreed.
On Saturday, 8th April 1987, Michal Tomasz Kaczynski married Kasia Helena Jarocki in the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Among the guests were Michal’s parents and Kasia’s father, together with Kasia’s sister, Karolina and her two brothers. The reception was held in the Polish Club next door to the Church and around forty guests sat down to enjoy the meal.