Stefan Terlezki, who died on February 21 aged 78, endured an appalling youth as a slave of the Nazis during the Second World War, and even survived being rescued by the Russians; after various hair-raising adventures he ended up in Britain, where he became a successful hotelier and served for four years as Conservative MP for Cardiff West.
The horrifying experiences of his teenage years left him with a visceral loathing of totalitarianism, whether Nazi or Communist; and he did not take kindly to the likes of Arthur Scargill, or of anyone inclined to dilate upon the joys of collectivism. Conversely, he had equally little time for those who abused the blessings of freedom.
Terlezki thought that football hooligans should be birched, and that terrorists, drug-traffickers and other criminals forfeited all claim to the civilities of Western democracy. Although an attractive and friendly man, he was not always a comfortable figure - though that was partly due to his harsh Ukranian accent. On the other hand the toughness, resource and resilience which he showed throughout his life testify to the potential of the individual will.
Stefan Terlezki was born at Oleshiw on October 29 1927 and grew up nearby at Antoniwka, some 85 miles east of Kiev in what is now part of the Ukraine, but which between the wars belonged to Poland. His father was a peasant farmer who also worked in a brickworks and even before the Second World War found himself in hot water for leading a sit-in to obtain shorter working hours.
When the Russians took over the village in 1939, the Terlezki family initially regarded them with favour, but soon changed their ideas after the commissars banned extra wages during the harvest. In 1942 the Nazis arrived at Antoniwka; Stefan, aged 14, remembered them throwing Jews over a bridge to perish in the swirling currents below. At his school the Germans picked him out for forced labour. A few hours later he and his father said goodbye at the railway station; they would not see each other again for 42 years.
Stefan was taken in a cattle truck to Voitsberg, near Graz in Austria, where he was sold in a slave market to a local farmer. More fortunate than many in his misfortune, he managed to survive because there were always potatoes to eat.
When the Russians occupied Voitsberg in 1945, Terlezki was put on a train, apparently for repatriation. He discovered, however, that the real intention was that he should fight for the Red Army in Japan. Near Budapest he and a companion managed to escape and began to walk back towards Voitsberg. Spotted when getting across the river Raab, they took refuge in a forest, where they used dumped German weapons and ammunition to send their Soviet pursuers packing.
Later, at the river Mur, Terlezki was again spotted by Russian troops, and since he had no papers he feared the worst. Fortunately, a British sergeant, a former prisoner of war travelling with his Austrian girlfriend, succeeded in passing off Terlezki as her brother.
Terlezki finally reached Voitsberg, albeit with a leg wound sustained in the fracas in the forest, and hid out there until July 1945 when the Russians pulled back east of Graz and left the area under British control. After a spell in a camp for displaced persons, he managed to find a job in the bakery of a British Army canteen. From there he was brought to England, arriving at Harwich in 1948 with 40 Austrian schillings in his pocket, which he exchanged for £1.
Terlezki was directed to train as a coal miner in south Wales, and from there graduated to the kitchen in a miners' hostel. This in turn led to a course at the Cardiff College of Food Technology and Commerce, and eventually to a successful career as a hotelier in Aberystwyth and Cardiff.
He learned to write excellent English, and his rough accent never inhibited his dominating conversational style. He sealed his devotion to Wales when he married a girl from the Rhondda Valley in 1955.
Terlezki broke into politics when he was elected as a Conservative to Cardiff City Council in 1968, which he doubled from 1973 with membership of the South Glamorgan County Council, occupying many offices and serving on several committees. One of his achievements was to prevent Last Tango in Paris being shown in Cardiff.
Nor did he neglect international affairs. "On no account must we agree to the Russian proposal to reduce our forces in Europe," he insisted in 1973. "It is exactly what the Marxists and Left-wing socialists want us to do. As one who was born into slavery, I want to die a free man."
In many of his political views he anticipated Mrs Thatcher. He remained, however, a fervent advocate of close ties with Europe, serving between 1973 and 1975 as chairman of both Keep Britain in Europe and the Conservative Group for European Movement.
In 1973 Terlezki was adopted as Tory candidate to oppose Jim Callaghan in Cardiff South East. The seat was never winnable; Terlezki did, however, become friendly with Callaghan. Outside politics he found solace in his avid support for Cardiff City football club, of which he was chairman between 1975 and 1977.
In 1983 the Speaker, George Thomas, retired, putting Cardiff West, the seat he had held for 38 years, up for grabs. Terlezki, as Conservative candidate, was particularly severe on the Social Democrats, whom he described as "wetter than the River Taff". His tactics paid off, for he was elected to the traditionally Labour seat with a majority of 1,174.
In the Commons he urged the government to crack down on the women protesting against cruise missiles at Greenham Common, arguing that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money would be saved if it were made a criminal offence to camp within five miles of a high-security military establishment.
Terlezki was intensely proud of his adopted nationality. He urged the return of compulsory military service, and introduced a bill proposing the institution of a Sir Winston Churchill National Day on May 10 (Churchill's birthday); this would replace the May Day holiday, which he regarded as Socialist in origin.
Terlezki's detestation of Soviet Russia was reinforced when he heard in 1958 that his father and sister had been sent to Siberia six years earlier, after requesting a pay rise. (His mother had died in the war - from a broken heart, Terlezki reckoned.) "We've got a marvellous climate here," his father wrote from Siberia, "we get 12 months of winter and the rest is summer."
Terlezki did not dare to visit him for fear of the KGB; and it was not until 1984 that Sir Geoffrey Howe, as Foreign Secretary, managed to negotiate permission for his father to come to Britain for a month. Their reunion in Cardiff was extensively covered in the press. But when Terlezki finally returned to Antoniwska in 1986, he learnt just before departing that his father had died.
He found very little improvement in his homeland. "The roads are as muddy and primitive as they were when I was a small boy," he commented.
Terlezki lost his seat to Rhodri Morgan in 1987, but found some compensation in his membership of the committee set up by the Council of Europe to investigate claims of the degradation and torture of prisoners.
He was apppointed CBE in 1992. His autobiography, From War to Westminster, was published in 2005.
Stefan Terlezki and his wife, Mary, had two daughters.
“I have experienced feudalism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism and, at the age of 14, a slave labour camp. I believe I can justifiably claim that I know how to appreciate freedom and democracy.”
RIP Stephan Terlezki.
Link made hot (aka "bump for the night crew in Asia").
Sounds like my Polish Mother-in-law.
Her father was in the Home Army and I guess was a war hero. They have a picture of him getting a medal from Lech Wolenza (sp).
Many Poles value freedom more than any other European nation. They had the Nazis and the Commies oppressing them for so long - and they value what is a relatively new found freedom.
Wow. Great read.
If the Globalist, Leftist shitheads here only knew how good they have it.
What you value is what you keep.
What you don't value is what you lose.
Success, prosperity and freedom should never lose its value.
Some of the most leftist-hating freedom-loving people I know are Russian and other Eastern European immigrants.