A Polish / Scottish Odyssey

Martin Stepek, the host of this show, ended by saying ‘enjoyment might not be the word, but I hope you’ve taken something from this.’ I don’t think I could put my feelings about this talk more succinctly. Completely, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Stepek’s family history, as told through the medium of storytelling, has been given to the world as a gift of hope in the darkest moments of human history.

Stepek - as well as being a journalist, poet and teacher of Mindfulness - is the author of ‘For There is Hope,’ his Polish family’s story from World War II. He spent the hour recounting stories from this book and reading its poetry aloud. I won’t lie; I find this hard to review. There isn’t a more moving and powerful ‘show’ available at this year’s Fringe than Stepek’s, but I’m wholly aware it isn’t for everyone. The entire audience were moved close to tears on more than one occasion and there was some solid nose-blowing by the end. Stepek tells an incredibly evocative and powerful story of human kindness and cruelty - cruelty which I hope none of us ever have to witness.

My notes on this show were mainly detailing the stories he told – I couldn’t help but want to save them for rereading and experiencing alone. I was completely unprepared for Stepek’s beautiful words and gentle poetry, his absolute talent for bringing his family history alive and giving it wholeheartedly to his audience. Not one person could possibly leave his auditorium without feeling a longing for peace and a deep sadness for the atrocities which people throughout the ages have experienced for war. Stepek drew these emotions from his audience with calm words, yet with an astounding depth of feeling.

Stepek is a wonderful public speaker and evocative storyteller. His book is a treasure to the reader and should be honoured as a piece of history in itself.

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Performances

The Blurb

Martin Stepeks talks about his English/Polish bilingual book For There is Hope, about his Polish ancestors’ experiences of deportation to Russian gulags during the Second World War. Martin’s father, Jan, survived and settled in Scotland.

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