Kirkcaldy book launch marks extraordinary life of a Kirkcaldy-trained WWII hero

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Kirkcaldy is to host a book launch about the extraordinary life of Jan Stepek, a Polish war hero, who did his military training in Kirkcaldy, after escaping a Soviet Gulag and travelling 5,000 miles barefoot to sign up for the Polish army in Persia.

Martin Stepek, his son, will read excerpts from his book about his father and his extraordinary life. The book launch for ‘Jan Stepek Part 1: Gulag to Glasgow’ takes place at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 30 at the Polish Club, Bennochy Road. It is a free event, with tickets available via Eventbrite at: Jan Stepek: Gulag to Glasgow Tickets, Sun, Jun 30, 2024 at 3:00 PM | Eventbrite.

Jan was born near Lviv, Poland, in present-day Ukraine. Son of a Polish resistance leader, He escaped a Siberian Gulag with his family and undertook an 8000 km journey to Persia, where he was treated for typhus, starvation and dysentery. His incredible odyssey took in Ukraine, Russia, Basra in Iraq, modern-day Iran and Palestine – all the hotspots in the news today

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His son Martin said: “When my dad arrived at the Persian refugee centre, he was so emaciated, he could circle his thigh in one hand.”

Martin Stepek will launch the book at the Polish Club in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)Martin Stepek will launch the book at the Polish Club in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)
Martin Stepek will launch the book at the Polish Club in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Submitted)

Jan then passed through several more locations in the Middle East before he was posted to Kirkcaldy for military training. He went on to serve in the Polish Navy and saw combat in many pivotal moments, including the battle of Monte Cassino, which paved the way for the D-day landings.

After the war, Jan settled in Scotland, where he became one of the country’s most highly regarded businessmen. His chain of home appliance shops were featured in the 1980s tv ads for Glens, Hutchisons, Robertsons and Stepek.

Kirkcaldy man, Bill Mair will interview Martin, who will read excerpts from his book and take questions from the audience.

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Martin is the author of six books on living mindfully, five volumes of poetry, as well as this historical memoir of his father's early life. He was awarded the Polish Gold Cross of Merit for services to Poland by the country's UK Ambassador in 2017 for promoting links between Poland and Scotland,

Martin has delivered readings and talks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the University of Warsaw, and the Royal Institute, London, and also in as diverse settings as primary schools through to some of the highest security prisons in the UK.