Interview with Yvette Walczak

Yvette has had a very varied life life, born in Poland living through both Russian and German invasions, coming to England after the war and settling here.


A short sound recording of Yvette introducing herself.

yvette's parents

Yvette’s parents on their wedding dayEugenia Horodyszcz and Doctor Maurycy Syrota

When the Russian army occupied Bialystok, in Poland, Yvette’s father was sent to Siberia for re-education by the NKVD alongside large numbers of other professionals. He was released when the Nazi- Soviet no-agression pact came to an end in 1941 and managed to come to the UK to work in a Polish Military hospital. Yvette had remained with her mother in Poland, here is a photo of them together in happier times


She lived with her mother and governess until the Germans took their town and as her mother was designated a Jew, they were removed to the local ghetto. Yvette’s governess arranged for her to escape from the ghetto and organised hiding places for her until the end of the war. Leaving her mother was very hard for Yvette but even harder for her mother who perished in Auschwitz alongside millions of others.

Yvette’s book about this dreadful time is called, Let Her Go and is available here,

yvette&bookShe wrote the book as a memorial to her mother and to dissipate her anger against those who carried out the atrocities and those who looked the other way saying they didn’t know what was going on.

After the war, her father who was working in a Polish military hospital in the UK bribed someone to bring her out of Poland illegally, as it was officially a Russian satellite state with no exit visas, so she could travel to the UK. Unfortunately the guide dumped her in a camp for displaced persons in Austria and she was on her own at 14 in a foreign country with no means of support. Luckily she made friends with a family who took her under their wing. When one of their relatives came to pick them up to take them to Italy she asked if she could tag along as she had 2 aunts in Italy with the Polish army.

yvette's aunts

She was very lucky at this point as she was taken to Italy and her aunts found her and ‘spoilt her rotten’ as Yvette says and they put her on a boat to the UK, there were lots of Polish people on the boat but she didn’t feel she needed looking after, after everything she had been through. She then had to travel from Dover to Shropshire where her father was working and living.


He hadn’t seen her for 6 years and was rather surprised by how adult and self -confident she seemed. He tried to sort her out as quickly as possible by sending her to an expensive girls boarding school but Yvette hated it as she felt she didn’t fit in and her father had just wanted to get rid of her. She then went to an ordinary local school where she boarded with a landlady during the term and went home to her father during the holidays. She came to London when she was 17 and studied accountancy for a year but it bored her and then she had TB, so spent a year in the Brompton Hospital.  After her recovery she was accepted by the LSE, where she studied Sociology specialising in Social Anthropology and then focussed on counselling. She became a medical social worker, then a psychiatric social worker, a senior lecturer at the University of North London and a Children’s Guardian, working as a court officer making recommendations to the court about adoption, care and divorce. Her father, who had remarried by the time she graduated at 23 then died and his second wife emigrated, with their 2 sons, to Australia.

Yvette wrote 2 books, the first with Sheila Burns, Divorce the child’s point of view and He and She, men in the 80’s. She is now retired and lives locally.

Palmers Green Tales visits Ruth Winston House

We visited Ruth Winston House last month and interviewed Jean Waller and Yvonne Quigley who told us about the courses run there.  It looks like a great place to be. Ruth Winston MBE was an energetic and forward thinking Mayor of Southgate and she set up RWH over 50 years ago.  It runs a huge variety of courses for over 50’s.



An interview with John Peace, talking about the construction of the Hazelwood Park Estate

The story of Albert Frederick Simmons, the house he built for his bride The Gables, his grandson John Peace and another of their illustrious relatives Thomas Allom.


A large number of the houses in Palmers Green were built at the beginning of the twentieth century, between 1900 and the outbreak of the First world war in 1914.



Fox Lane Fields, the area looks very different today.


Land, when it was sold for house building, often had caveats attached saying that the houses to be built should be of a certain standard, which is why we are surrounded by houses with lovely stained glass windows, large rooms and beautiful fireplaces


Albert Frederick Simmons, built a lot of the houses on the Hazelwood Park Estate, he was a young builder who had been brought up in the East End and after he had qualified as a surveyor began building in Palmers Green, his first planning application was agreed in 1899 and his first houses completed in 1900, when he was 26.

john 2Albert Frederick Simmons 

John P plans house
The Plans for the estate.

advert John P

An advert for the Hazelwood park Estate houses.

It is interesting to see that the houses were built to be sold, leased or rented. We currently see many more people renting their homes rather than buying them, which is returning to a way of life which was common before the 1950s.

I was recently privileged to interview John Peace, Albert’s grandson, who still lives in the house, Albert, built for his new bride in 1906.

photo 3

John pictured here as a baby with his elder brother Michael

John P baby

Michael as a baby with his paternal grandparents in Palmers Green.

peacegrandparents 1

It is rumoured that Albert built the house but didn’t let his bride to be, see either the plans or the house until they moved in on their wedding day.

the gables4the GablesThe Gables3The Gables

John P plan of houseThe plans for the Gables

He had completed the house, the gardens and the tennis court by the time they moved in and added a motor house, or garage in 1907. The Plans of the Gables show how beautifully and carefully the house was designed. Its’ address was plot 1 Osborne road but it is now in New River Crescent. The original house had a very large garden bits of which were later used to build more houses, Askew Villas.

Although Albert didn’t play tennis his bride, Maud Askew Whitridge, did and their tennis court which at first, hosted tennis matches for a few friends later became the Hazelwood Lawn Tennis Club, which was so popular it was moved firstly to some land off new River Crescent and then to Winchmore Hill.

Rolling the tennis court and painting white lines

rolling lawn

Maud always had a live in maid until the First world war when her maid became a Clippy on the trams, ( Tram conductor). This is a story which was replicated across the UK, when domestic servants realised they could earn a salary elsewhere, they left their positions, leaving housewives to pick up the pieces. Maud painted some of the brass work on her fireplaces black to save housework and it took John’s brother Michael, a long time to return the brass work to its pristine condition. Unfortunately Albert died in 1920 when he was only 46, leaving Maud to look after both the Gables and their young daughter. Sadly Maud and Albert had lost 4 other babies who had died in infancy. Unfortunately this was a fairly common occurrence at the time, as it was before inoculations against diseases were available and the advent of antibiotics. We only have to remember the large numbers who died in the flu pandemic after the first world war which especially affected the young.

Some of John’s earliest memories are of playing cards with relatives and friends during the Christmas holidays. He has been actively involved with St John’s church and the choir for most of his life. Seen here in 1955.

John P choirboy

St Johns Party

A Camercraft picture of a fancy dress party at St John’s

John P Victory party Osborne Road

A victory party in Osborne Road


John has another illustrious ancestor, Thomas Allom who is the son of his 4 times great grandfather.

Thomas Allom


Thomas was a famous architect, artist and designer and a founding member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He designed the Saloon and staircase at Highclere Castle, which is famous today on our screens as Downton Abbey. He worked quite closely with Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of parliament who asked him to paint a picture of how the H of P would look when they were finished. This picture was so admired by the Russian Tsar during his visit to London, that he was given it as a present and it is on display at the Hermitage. During another more recent state visit by Gorbachev, the picture was loaned to the Palace of Westminster for a special display to commemorate friendship between the two countries. Copies were made during the visit and they were signed by the then Prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the Russian President, Gorbachev to represent the beginning of better relations with Russia. Allom also designed and built 3 churches, including St Peter’s Notting Hill and several houses of note in London. John rescued the bust of Thomas from the garden of a relative’s last house.

John P Thomas Allom

We are very lucky to benefit from the hard work of builders and architects such as Albert F Simmons and Thomas Allom who have ensured that their legacy is enjoyed by future generations. Other connections in John’s family are Thomas Garrick miniaturist and early photographer and Sir Henry Wolford Davis, composer.

Jenny Bourke 29.3.15