Bradford Telegraph & Argus Saturday December 30, 2006
Whats Up John?! - Carrot Obsession Links up to Long Lost Family
A visit to the Ukraine by former Bradford Council administrator, John Stolarczyk, made him realise why he has an obsession with carrots. He just can't help it - it's in his blood.
Ten years ago he started a virtual carrot museum on the internet and today, at 125 pages and 150 hits a day, it is still the only one of its kind anywhere. And his home in Clayton Hall Road, Cross Hills, near Skipton, is a carrot cornucopia. Everywhere you look, from his Christmas tree, bedecked in carrot fairy lights, to the bespoke carrot corkscrew he has had manufactured, there are examples of the colourful vegetable.
The 56-year-old is also writing its history, tracing its ancient roots from Afghanistan, to Europe and then the US in the 17th century He carrot-hops the globe chasing like-minded carrot connoisseurs from the US in the west to Russia in the east.
But on his last jaunt abroad, to the Ukraine, carrots, for once, were not on his agenda - or so he believed. His motive was to trace his Polish roots, to unearth his heritage by hunting down the village from where his mother, Juliana, was snatched as a 14-year-old in 1940, by German soldiers and forced to labour on a farm for the Third Reich. The village, then in Poland, was wiped off the map and Juliana believed her family was destroyed in the same way.
She married Mr Stolarczyk's father, Josef, a soldier in the Polish army, moved to Bradford, brought up three children and died two years ago, still believing her connections with her homeland had been destroyed. Mr Stolarczyk said: "My sister had tried in the past to find out where mum came from, but without much success. "We knew that our grandfather had died because mum was still living there when it happened. My grandmother remarried and had two sons.
"So when mum died, we decided to try once more, if you like to put some closure on things. "We knew it would be difficult but we got an old map and eventually found the place, but there was just a church, a graveyard and nothing else." So they set off with little more than a destination and a smattering of Polish to help them along, eventually getting more help from a guide.
On reaching the village one off the first people they spoke to was an elderly woman who amazingly remembered Mr Stolarczyk's family Further inquiries led to them learning that the original family name was Diduch and they had moved to nearby Kisliv close to Lvuv. Mr Stolarczyk said: "We were directed to a number of other people - it was pure happenstance, fate, it was like a people chain leading us in the right direction."
After about ten hours they eventually believed they had found the location. "We set off down this dirt track towards the place, knocked on the door and said we were looking for the Diduch family and explained who we were," said Mr Stolarczyk. "Suddenly this elderly man came out and I realised then he was one of my mother's half brothers - I could see her in him.
"We went into the house for a cup of tea and to talk about the war and what happened. It was quite a tearful experience. "He then asked me if I wanted to go out to see the farm and I could hardly believe my eyes - he was growing carrots - about two acres of them. "It was uncanny I tried to explain to him the coincidence and my interest in carrots. It was freakish. "But at the same time I felt there was something spiritual about it. It was as if mum had been guiding us there."
Since then he has made more contact, learned he has more cousins and hopes eventually some may visit him in Cross Hills.
The carrot museum can be reached on www.carrotmuseum.co.uk
e-mail: clive.white @bradford.newsquest.co.uk
The old wives' tale that carrots make you see in the dark has a grain of truth.
The vegetable is packed with beta carotene -vitamin A - which is good for eyesight.
It is also a powerful antidioxidant making it a good cancer fighter and is supposed to have anti-aging qualities.
The vitamin A helps cleanse the kidneys and liver and a high dose in the run up to the over-indulgence of Christmas will have helped you fight the after effects.
Carrots are not just orange, but come in white, the original colour of the vegetable, purple, red and yellow.
The largest carrot ever recorded was in 1996 at 16ft 10.5 ins (5.14 metres).
And the heaviest was 18.985 lbs recorded in 1998.
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