Looking Back: Holocaust hero Allan’s medal stays in the family

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An epic quest to reunite the family of a Morecambe war hero with a special medal is finally at an end.

Chris Hammond has traced relatives of Allan Edwards, who saved the life of a Jewish girl by hiding her from the Nazis, after years of searching the world.

Allan, who died in 1994, was one of nine soldiers who risked their lives to hide Sara Rigler, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, in a German Prisoner of War camp in German-occupied Poland.

He was working as a labourer on a German-owned farm when he and fellow P.O.Ws found Sara, whose father, mother, sister and other relatives had all been killed in the Holocaust.

They hid her in their camp for three weeks, then took her to the house of a local woman where she was liberated by the Red Army and now lives in America.

Allan also met a Polish woman, Wanda, during the war, and after it ended they came back to Morecambe.

Two years ago Allan’s posthumous Heroes of the Holocaust medal was handed over to David Morris, MP for Morecambe, after The Visitor launched an appeal to find out if Allan had any surviving family.

None could be found but Chris, nephew of one of Allan’s fellow P.O.W.s, never gave up looking.

Eventually he traced Allan’s niece, who lives in Poland, with help from a Morecambe solicitor.

“I looked on line and found an advertisement from Robin Baines, Morecambe solicitor, looking for relatives of Wanda, because they were dealing with her estate after she died,” said Chris, who lives in Kent.

“I contacted Robin and he gave me three addresses in Poland.

“I got a letter written in Polish and sent it to all three families.

“Then I got a reply which after checking, turned out to be the real thing.”

This was from Pelagia Stefanowska, who lives in Kartuzy in north west Poland. Wanda Edwards was her auntie.

Chris got in touch with her by email, contacted the Government, and they arranged for the medal to be handed over by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Pickles travelled to the British Embassy in Warsaw en route to Auschwitz for Holocaust Memorial Day.

Sadly Pelagia, who is now in her 70s, was too ill to meet Mr Pickles. Instead her son and daughter Tadeuz and Justyna accepted the medal on her behalf last Monday, the day before the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Chris is delighted his quest is now at an end, having tracked down families of all nine recipients of the medal.

Perhaps he deserves a medal too after his years of hard work. Well done Chris, great stuff!