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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 16:18 GMT
Colourful ex-MP Terlezki dies, 78
Stefan Terlezki
Stefan Terlezki says he wanted to give to the UK as much as he could
Stefan Terlezki, who escaped both the Nazis and Soviets to become a Conservative MP, successful businessman and football chairman, has died at 78.

Imprisoned in a labour camp aged 14 during World War II, the Ukrainian arrived in Wales as a refugee.

A colourful character, he was among an unprecedented 14 Welsh Tory MPs elected in Margaret Thatcher's second term.

He had been chairman of Cardiff City FC and adviser to the opposition during Ukraine's transition to democracy.

Mr Terlezki was rounded up as a slave by the Germans in his native Ukraine.

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

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 was a Cardiff councillor before becoming the MP for Cardiff West in 1983. He was defeated four years later by Rhodri Morgan, who is now Assembly Member for the same seat, and first minister.

A young Stefan Terlezki
The young Terlezki arrived in Wales to make a career as a hotelier

Nick Bourne, leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh assembly, said: "For as long as I have been involved in Welsh politics Stefan Terlezki has been a close and valued friend.

"His life was a truly incredible one and yet, despite the horrors that he lived through, he was always the embodiment of good humour and brought a youthful enthusiasm to every task he took on.

"He will be missed immensely by me and the assembly Welsh Conservative group and our thoughts are very much with Mary and the family."

Kevin Brennan, current Labour MP for Cardiff West, said: "Despite our political differences one had to respect the remarkable journey that Stefan Terlezki made in his life to become the Member of Parliament for Cardiff West.

"The people of Cardiff West will remember him for his contribution to civic life and in particular his involvement with Cardiff City Football Club".

'Very forthright'

Gareth Neale, leader of the Conservatives on Cardiff Council, described Mr Terlezki as "very forthright and a very strong debater".

In July 2005 Mr Terlezki published his autobiography, From War to Westminster, telling the story of his journey from Nazi slave to MP.

On its publication, he told BBC Wales: "Working on a farm was hell for the simple reason that as a slave you had no right to anything.

Mr Terlezki was elected in Margaret Thatcher's 1983 landslide
"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."

As a councillor and MP, Mr Terlezki met Pope John Paul II twice and was introduced to world leaders such as former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

He said in 2005: "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."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Stefan Terlezki describes his flight to freedom



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