[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Long walk to freedom of former MP
From War to Westminster - Stefan Terlezki

A former MP who escaped the Nazis and Soviet communism to become a confidant of popes and presidents has told his remarkable story in his autobiography.

Stefan Terlezki was rounded up as a slave by the Germans in his native Ukraine, aged 14, during World War II.

He deserted as a Russian army conscript and walked across Europe before joining the British army catering corps.

The ex-Cardiff West Conservative MP, businessman and soccer chairman recalls his life in From War to Westminster.

Mr Terlezki's years in the Commons, from 1983-87, were the culmination of an amazing journey for a man who was bundled onto a train from his village bound for an Austrian labour camp.

"Working on a farm was hell for the simple reason that as a slave you had no right to anything," said Mr Terlezki, aged 77.

Stefan Terlezki
Stefan Terlezki was one of a record 14 Welsh Tory MPs in 1983

"You were just told, 'do this do that, come here, go there'. In fact they never called me by my name, and I wondered whether I would ever be called Stefan, let alone anything else.

"I was called many things but not Stefan, and that was hard to swallow."

But release from slave labour only led to his enforced enlistment by the Russians, when he learned he would be going to Japan to fight.

"I deserted with a friend of mine and subsequently we walked for weeks on end in order not to be caught by the Russians.

Painfully short reunion

"Eventually I joined the British army catering corps and I was able for the first time in years to eat bread by the loaves and not by slices."

Stefan Terlezki 1980s election poster
I wanted to be part of the people... and give to the country as much as I could that gave me so much when I had nothing
Stefan Terlezki on public service
He settled in Wales after the war, and worked as a miner, in a bakery and hotels, before buying his own hotels in Aberystwyth and Cardiff.

He also became a Cardiff councillor, where he was an outspoken campaigner on such issues as litter and opposing films such as Last Tango in Paris. He was chairman of Cardiff City Football Club in the mid-1970s, where he tried to control the hooligan problem.

One of his most emotional experiences came in 1984 when his father Oleksa was given permission to leave Siberia and visit his son in Britain.

His visa lasted only 28 days, but Mr Terlezki recalled a "happy but painfully short" reunion before his father's death the following year.

In the meantime Mr Terlezki met Pope John Paul II in both Cardiff in 1982 and at the Vatican, and met world leaders such as former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

He said: "My public life I think stems from my father and friends and circumstances.

"Just imagine: 14 years of age and taken away into slavery. I had to look after myself. I had no shoulders to cry on, only my own.

"Therefore I wanted to make sure that when I reached so-called freedom - whatever that meant at the time - I wanted to be part of the people and serve them and give to the country as much as I could that gave me so much when I had nothing."

From War to Westminster is published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd.



The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific