ARTICLE WHICH APPEARED IN THE CRAVEN HERALD - 27 February 2004
John is carrot crazy
John Stolarczyk just can't get enough carrots
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 launched his virtual carrot museum on the worldwide web and
today, at 125 pages and 150 hits a day, it is the only one of its kind anywhere.
And his home in Clayton Hill Road, Cross Hills, 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 USA in the 17th century.
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.
John Stolarczyk pictured on a carrot farm in the Ukraine
The village, then in Poland, was wiped off the map and Juliana believed her
family was destroyed in the same way.
She married John's father, Josef, a soldier in the Polish army, moved to
Bradford, brought up three children and died two years ago.
"My sister had tried in the past to find out where mum came from, but without
much success," said John.
"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 and a graveyard."
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 of the first people they spoke to was an elderly woman who
amazingly remembered John's family.
Further inquiries led to them learning that the family name was now Diduch and
they had moved to nearby Kisliv close to Lvuv.
"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," said John.
After about 10 hours they 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.
"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. But at the same time I felt there was something spiritual about
it. It was as if mum had been guiding us there," said John.
Since then John has made more contact, learned he has more cousins and hopes
eventually some may visit him in Cross Hills.
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