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.

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