The Last Lancer: A Story of Loss and Survival in Poland and Ukraine (Paperback)
An intimate story of a Polish family torn apart by war: of heartbreak, loss, and survival against the odds.
Julian Czerkawski was born in 1926 on his aristocratic family's large estate, near Lwow, now Ukrainian Lviv. He was the son of a charismatic Polish lancer: one of the skilled cavalrymen who were proud of their descent from the legendary 'winger hussars' with their spectacular eagle feather armour.
After an idyllic and undeniably privileged rural childhood, family and military upheavals would change Julian's life forever. His eccentric and artistic family were torn apart by successive Soviet and German occupations. His teenage years involved work as a courier for the Resistance, participation in the Warsaw Uprising, and a spell in a Nazi labour camp. Fortunate to escape with his life, he made his way to the UK as a refugee, where he married and eventually acquired British citizenship. But an intense affection for the vanished people and places of his childhood memories remained.
In 2022, Putin's war in Ukraine and the sight of refugees passing through Lviv added urgency to his writer daughter Catherine's project of a lifetime, to try to uncover for herself everything that had been lost a generation before.
The Last Lancer pieces together beguiling glimpses of how the Czerkawski family lived and died in a region with a proud but turbulent history. It sheds light on their trauma, at the same time offering a deep, personal understanding of what was, and continues to be, a troubled place.