Witold Tulasiewicz obituary

Other lives: Lecturer in the department of education at Cambridge University

My father, Witold Tulasiewicz, who has died aged 94, arrived in the UK during the second world war as a teenager when his family fled from Poland. He worked as a teacher in the postwar years and then, in the 1960s, became a lecturer in the department of education at Cambridge University.

He produced an index of The Kaiserchronik, a 12th-century chronicle written in Middle High German verse, that was issued in 1972 by an East Berlin publisher, and he developed close links with East Germany. In the 80s Witold developed a speciality in language awareness – how people communicate in real life. This stemmed from his own childhood, when he heard many languages.

He was born in Berlin and grew up in Germany, where his father, Edward Tulasiewicz, worked for the Polish diplomatic service; Witold’s mother, Halina (nee Wituska), was a talented pianist. In September 1939, Witold was in Leipzig with his parents. The Germans informed the Polish consular staff that they were going to invade and the family got a train back to Poland on the last day of peace. Witold’s father joined the Polish government in exile in France, and when France fell managed to escape via Casablanca and Swansea, with the family ending up in London, where Edward again worked with the government in exile.

After the war, Witold studied English at Swansea University, and became an inspector of the education being received by Polish refugees in resettlement camps. He then taught in grammar schools in Hertfordshire and in 1956 he met Maria Wierzbicka, his first wife (and my mother). In the early 60s we moved to Cambridge. In 1970 my parents divorced and three years later Witold married Lore Hofmann.

My father was proud of being a fellow of Wolfson College. But although he could often appear to be a perfect “Cambridge man” his fluency in languages allowed him to blend in in many places. I often wondered whether he felt at home everywhere, or perhaps, as is the case with many refugees, he did not really feel at home anywhere.

He retired in 1990, but kept up his academic work, writing articles and editing books, as well as teaching for a year at the University of Calgary and for a spell at the Institute for International Educational Research in Frankfurt. He maintained his home in Cambridge, and had a small house near Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, where he liked swimming in the sea.

He is survived by Lore and me, and by two grandchildren, Joseph and Jessica.

Eddie Tulasiewicz

The GuardianTramp

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