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PUBLICATION DATE: February 23, 2023
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The Last Lancer
By (author) Catherine Czerkawska
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 near Lwow, in Polish Galicia, on a farm with fertile grain fields and orchards. He was the son of a Polish lancer-one of the famous cavalrymen who carried forward the legacy of the hussar knights.But there would be no idyllic childhood for young Julian. Soviet annexation and then, in 1941, the German occupation of Lwow changed everything. At the age of eighteen, he was sent to a labour camp. Fortunate to escape after the war with his life, eventually he made his way to the UK. Here, he married and started a family, but an ache remained for the people and places of his childhood memories, even if he spoke of them only rarely.In 2022, Putin’s war in Ukraine and the sight of refugees passing through Lviv-the former Polish city of Lwow-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 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 and very personal understanding of a troubled place.
Reviews of The Last Lancer
'Poignant and powerful. One family's history comes into sharp focus against the tragic events of the present.' — Olga Wojtas
Catherine Czerkawska is a critically acclaimed writer of long and short fiction, non-fiction and plays. Her novels include The Curiosity Cabinet, The Physic Garden, Bird of Passage and The Jewel, about the life of Robert Burns’s wife, Jean Armour.In 2019 Contraband published A Proper Person to be Detained, an intriguing exploration of family history that takes us from 19th-century Ireland to the industrial heartlands of England and Scotland. Following on from this, The Last Lancer is a personal account of loss and survival in Poland and Ukraine, a book with a tragic resonance, given the current situation in that country.Catherine’s stage plays include Wormwood, about the Chernobyl disaster, and Quartz, both commissioned by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. She has also written more than 100 hours of drama for BBC Radio 4.She spent four years as Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland and when not writing, collects and deals in the antique textiles that occasionally find their way into her fiction.