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Obituary: Boris Fijalkowski 1924-2015

Published on: 31 Aug, 2015
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2015

Boleslaw (Anglicised to Boris) Fijalkowski died on May 19 2015, after a long illness. He was a delightful, modest and humorous man and a valued local artist who contributed significantly to our local culture and the artistic record of Guildford.

His gentleness belied the story of his early life as a deportee from war torn Poland, forced labour in Siberia and as a combatant with the Free Polish forces in the Italian campaign. Here, in a belated obituary based on an earlier interview he gave to Auriol Earle of The Guildford Society, is a summary of a life that deserves to be a book.

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Boris Fijalkowski.

Born in 1924, Boris Fijalkowski came to England from Lvov in his native Poland, by a circuitous and dramatic journey which started at 3am one morning in April 1940, when he and his mother were arrested after Russian soldiers broke into their home.

His father had been killed, probably executed by the Russians, along with most Polish officers they had captured.

Boris and his mother, with 40,000 others, were forced into sealed trucks which carried them 5,600km over mountains and across deserts to Bukon in Kazakhstan, Western Siberia.

Saralon School Classroom

Saralon School Classroom – drawn in Siberian exile by Boris when a teenager- Boris Fajilkowski©.

During the next two years Boris had to work in extreme conditions on various farming, irrigation and building projects; there was little to eat or drink and survival was a struggle. In 1942, Boris and his mother escaped to join up with the Polish Army which had been formed following the German invasion of Russia.

Map, drawn by Boris, showing his escape route from Siberia to Tehran where he joined the Free Polish Army.

Map, drawn by Boris, showing his escape route from Siberia to Tehran where he joined the Free Polish Army.

They encountered many problems during the 1,800 km journey to Tashkent and thence to Tehran, where the Free Polish Army was forming before its move to Palestine and link up with the British Eighth Army in Egypt. Having left Poland as a schoolboy, Boris was now a man – a soldier who took part in the whole Italian campaign including the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Boris in his army uniform with his mother who ... to stay near her son.

Boris, an officer in a Polish signals unit, with his mother, who worked as a YMCA canteen manageress to stay near her son, during the Italian campaign.

When the Second World War ended, Boris was resettled in Scotland and in 1946 enrolled in the Polish School of Architecture which formed part of the University of London. After qualification he joined the LCC Schools Architects’ Department.

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Boris pictured here a few years ago happily at work on an etching.

He moved to Guildford in 1960 when he accepted a job with Frank Rutter in Thursley. In January 1971 he joined Scott Brownrigg & Turner.

Boris officially retired in 1989 on his sixty-fifth birthday but carried on part-time for several years. He notably was the project architect when, in 1982, the firm bought Bradstone Brook at Shalford and converted it from a semi-derelict residence into its corporate headquarters.

In Guildford, Boris spent much time sketching the town’s buildings and its landscape. He served on The Guildford Society’s committee for many years and contributed drawings and paintings to its newsletters and books including illustrations for Russell Chamberlin’s book Guildford, Town Under Siege in 1987 and for Nature and Tradition, a study of Guildford’s Arts and Crafts buildings, published in 1993.

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Guildford Borough Council also made use of his gift: he illustrated its 1990 Local Plan. In 2004, The Guildford Society published Glimpses of Guildford, a book featuring Boris’s drawings and paintings and in 2012, an exhibition of the same title was held in Guildford House Gallery.

As a child, Boris was happiest when sketching and even in Siberia he recorded the nature of the landscape, the dress and activities of its people and their homes on any scraps of paper he could find.

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Some of Boris’ wartimes drawings that he managed to save. He drew on any scraps of paper he could find. On the “Bukon – Bazaar” drawing Russian printing can be seen. Click on image to enlarge – Boris Fajilkowski©

Sad to say, much of this early work was confiscated by suspicious officials at the many frontiers he had to cross during his wartime escape. How fortunate we are that Guildford inspired such a naturally-gifted artist of trained architectural skills to record the charm of the town and its setting in the Surrey Hills.

Boris is survived by his wife Janina and sons, Krzys and Pete.

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One of Boris’ glimpses of Guildford – The Town Mill in Millbrook – Boris Fajilkowski©.

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Responses to Obituary: Boris Fijalkowski 1924-2015

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    August 31, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Sad news but what a long, eventful and fruitful life.

    I remember him from when I worked at Guildford House in the 90s. He was always friendly and courteous. RIP Boris Fijalkowski and condolences to his bereaved family.

    Some of his work is in the Borough collection.

    John Brownrigg, his colleague, was also a frequent visitor and exhibitor with his silver works and was equally charming.

    Another age and a gentler time.

  2. Otters Pool Studio Reply

    September 1, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    We were sad to hear of Boris’s passing as he often popped in to the studio. We have been selling prints of his famous ‘long’ line drawing of Guildford High Street on his behalf for several years and free of commission, with all proceeds going to Boris. We will continue this arrangement with proceeds now going to his wife.

  3. Gordon Bridger Reply

    September 3, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Boris had a lovely pleasant nature and huge artistic skills. His drawings of Guildford are a memorial to his life and character for all time.

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