The Last Lancer
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.