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ARTICLE WHICH APPEARED IN THE CRAVEN HERALD - 27 February 2004

John is carrot crazy
By Newsdesk
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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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