Yorkshire MP Alexander Stafford on his pride in his Ukrainian heritage and the 'horrific' conflict unfolding

A Yorkshire MP has spoken of his “pride” in his Ukrainian heritage as he has seen the “horrific scenes” heaped upon the country since the Russian invasion last week.

Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford (UK Parliament)
Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford (UK Parliament)

Alexander Stafford described the conflict as something that people held out “real hope would not happen” in the 21st century, as he remembered his grandfather Paul Kreciglowa.

Mr Kreciglowa was “ethnically Ukrainian” having been born in a part of the country that had become part of Poland after the First World War and is now in Ukraine.

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Sent to the Siberian Gulags as a young teenager at the start of the Second World War for protesting against the Soviets, Mr Kreciglowa was later enlisted into the Polish Army, where he fought in Italy and Normandy as a tank gunner.

After the war ended he found himself in a Surrey refugee camp.

There, he met Mr Stafford’s grandmother, Polish Lilly Kreciglowa who had also arrived in the south of England having worked in the canteen of a US Army base through the war.

“Quite a lot of my politics comes from that,” Mr Stafford said.

“Essentially, they came over here, they had no knowledge of English as a first language.

“The community helped them, our community, they basically wanted them to fit in.

“But if you work hard, you can come from literally nothing in a refugee camp in this country, not even English.

“And you can achieve whatever you want.

“And it’s that sort of ethos. I think that’s really it for me, you can achieve anything if you work hard.

“But you also need that community support and also to then give something back to the community.”

Although both grandparents did not talk too much about their experiences, Mr Kreciglowa had “six or seven” siblings, Mr Stafford said, but was the only one of them to survive the war.

Mr Kreciglowa died in the 2000s, “partly as a result of a wound he got in the Gulag.

“When he was in the Gulag he was bayonetted, we don’t know why he was bayonetted.”

The bones did not knit together properly after that injury, and an infection took hold in that “weak part of his body” towards the end of his life.

Earlier this week, Mr Stafford mentioned his grandfather in the Commons as he asked the Prime Minister to make sure he explores “every single possible option” to make sure Putin faces the toughest sanctions possible.

He told colleagues: “I am proud of my Ukrainian heritage.

“Never more so than this past week.”

Describing the way in which “this plucky nation, the nation of my family has stood up to Putin’s army”, he added: “I know that the world is watching the Prime Minister and our country.”

It was his first intervention on the issue in Parliament, on which he says he hopes to be able to make more in the coming weeks.

He described the scenes over the last 10 days as “awful” and “absolutely devastating.

“It’s absolutely horrific.

“It’s one of those things, unfortunately, we thought it might happen, could happen.

“But I don’t think anyone fully believed that it would really happen.

“There was real hope that it wouldn’t happen.

“And especially in the 21st century.

“You’re seeing things that you thought were consigned to the Cold War.

“Horrific scenes with absolutely needless harm.

“One of Putin’s justifications is that it should be part of Russia, because they’re like, brothers.

“And in some ways, Ukrainians are brothers with the Russians, which is what’s even more to me ridiculous that you would kill your own brother

“They’re your friends, they are brothers. There’s so many cross-community links.”

The MP who has two young children, said that he will make sure that they will know the story of their great grandparents as they grow older.

“Of course, it’s very important to know where you come from.

“Because otherwise how do you know where you’re going?

“You need to have your roots, your history and the culture.

“That’s very important.

“You should be proud of where you come from.

“I’m proud I come from my background.

“Where my grandparents came from; my mother, my father. That stuff makes you who you are.”