Stefan Żółkowski-Odell (1909-2003)
When Stefan Źółkowski, a captain in the Polish Air Force, bade farewell to his father at a tram stop in Pulawska Street, Warsaw on September 5, 1939, as the Germans invaded, it was the last time he would see him.
After internment in Rumania he travelled through Palestine, southern France, north Africa, Scotland and onto a re-distribution centre in Blackpool, where he met his wife-to-be, Winifred Ward, at the Tower Ballroom.
They were relocated to East Anglia, where he joined the RAF as a flight lieutenant stationed near Haverhill, and then with 307 Squadron at Coltishall and Horsham St Faith. In 1946, he and his wife moved to Ber Street, Norwich, where he opened a shop called Stefan selling glass, china and leather goods.
Their business grew with shops in Castle Street and St Stephens in Norwich, two in Great Yarmouth and one in Ipswich, and later developed an antiques repair business on Elm Hill.
He took British citizenship in 1948, and the couple changed their name to O’dell. They were founding members of Norwich International Club and the Anglo-Polish Club, and had a strong affinity with St John the Baptist Cathedral, where they were instrumental in establishing a memorial to the Polish men and women who died during the war.
He died in 2003, aged 94. Like many other Poles who came to Britain after World War II he made a significant contribution to the business and social life of this city and county and was always appreciative of the welcome and acceptance he had been given; a characteristic and tradition found among Norfolk people for centuries.
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