The First Lady of Polish London – Karolina Kaczorowska, passed away aged 90

Karolina Kaczorowska – the widow of Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of the Republic of Poland in exile, and thus the last emigre First Lady, passed away today.

The First Lady – Karolina Kaczorowska belonged to a generation known in Poland as “the lost generation of Columbuses”.   There were young Poles whose youth could not blossom as they entered it during the terrible times of the Second World War in Poland. Many of them tragically died, killed by German or Russian occupants of Poland.  But she, unlike so many others, can consider herself a fulfilled person, with an original life, marked by a concern for the most important good – the Motherland.

Karolina from the Mariampolski family comes from Kresy, the most Eastern part of Poland. In dramatic circumstances, like many other Poles, she was deported to Siberia. Together with others via Russia, Iran, India went to Africa and only there her fate changed for the better.

One important thing to celebrate about Karolina is that she has been going through the most impossible and tough experiences in life with a positive attitude and almost a “smile on her face” due to her deep faith in God. She loved her country, she loved people and most of all she loved God. Let’s remind Karolina’s amazing life story.

Karolina Kaczorowska and guests at Ognisko Polskie in Kensington, London in June 2011. Photo: Iwona Golinska

The First Lady’s extraordinary life started in Kresy, through the Soviet occupation and deportation into deepest and darkest Siberia, escape to Africa with Anders’s Army and finally reaching safety and stability in post-war London as an Émigré. Her story is amazing and representative of a “Polish Trail” that many “Kresovians” followed. Her interesting but not “easy” biography was described in the book “The President’s Wife. Karolina Kaczorowska” by Iwona Walentynowicz (pictured).

Cover page from the book “The President’s Wife Karolina Kaczorowska” by Iwona Walentynowicz. Photo: the Kaczorowski family archives.

Karolina Kaczorowska (de domo Mariampolska) was born September 26, 1930 in Stanisławów Poland (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine).  During the Soviet invasion of Poland (1939-1941) she was deported, along with her family, to Siberia.  She shared the same fate as our mother Lucja “Luna” Golinska who also was born in Kresy (not a million miles away from Karolina) and who also was deported to Gulag and survived the “inhuman land” of Soviet Russia and then was taken with her family to Africa via Teheran as a child refugee. In fact, the two ladies had a lot in common and became the best of friends ever since Africa.   They liked to call themselves “Afrykanki” – Africa ladies. One more thing in common they shared was the love for scouting, as Luna Golinska was a deputy of Karolina’s husband Scoutmaster Ryszard Kaczorowski, who later became the President of Poland in Exile, helping him running the Polish Scouting Organization. Therefore, they were friends not only on personal but also on family and professional grounds.

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After being released from the Soviet gulag, Karolina attended Polish school in a refugee camp in Uganda and after the War, she finally returned to Europe.  Since her homeland was under Soviet occupation she could not return to her beloved Poland and settled in London with her family.  She graduated from the University of London. For a number of years, she worked as a schoolteacher and was active in the Polish exiled Scouting movement, where she met her future husband. They got married on July 19, 1952.  The story of her true happiness began. They got married in London and lived together for 58 years until the tragic death of her husband in 2010 in Smolensk in the presidential plane crash.  Karolina and Ryszard had 2 daughters, as well as 5 grandchildren.

Karolina Kaczorowska was a big asset to the local Polish émigré community in the UK. From the left: major Sergiusz Paplinski, lady Munster, Karolina Kaczorowska, George Byczynski, Arkadiusz Urban at POSK 2017. Picture: British Poles

Karolina Kaczorowska was originally supposed to attend the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre along with her husband, but health reasons prevented her from going. The entire Polish delegation, including former President Kaczorowski, were killed in the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash. It was an extraordinarily difficult time for Karolina. I remember her grief and sadness and shared with her a lot of hugs at these sad times. Her devotion to Holly Mary, the Moher of God helped Karolina then, like in the other most difficult times of her life.

May she Rest in Peace.

Author: Iwona Golinska, the founder of the Polish Sue

Picture: Iwona Golinka, the Kaczorowski family archives, British Poles

 

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