Tom's escape to freedom ends in Norwich
Polish welder Tomasz Marszalek had no idea what God had in store for him when he left his home city of Szczecin in 2007, heading for Norwich to escape a broken marriage, unemployment and a large court fine for drink driving. Les Champion reports.
An encounter with the Christian faith was the furthest thing in Tom's mind as he had absolutely no interest in religion. Life in Poland had become very difficult for the qualified foreman welder, following the collapse of his employer's business and the break-up of his marriage. Financial and social pressures were heavy, including a big court fine and six-month suspended sentence for drink driving.
He came to the UK, to Peterborough initially, and found work through a Polish agency, which sent him to Norwich. The job only lasted 2-3 weeks and then he was on the streets - destitute.
He started going to King's Care, which offers clothes washing, a shower, hot meal and company on Sunday afternoons at Kings Church in Norwich. He liked what he found, "this religion was nothing like the religion back home," said Tom.
It was as culturally different as the permitted visits to West Berlin in his youth and for Tom it was mind-blowing. As a consequence, he asked if he could help out in the kitchen and gradually built up his contribution and relationships.
He went on an Alpha course, and decided that following Jesus and belonging to His family was what he wanted: "From the day I was baptised, everything has changed in my life," said Tom.
During this time, he managed to send the money to cover his court fine to a relative in Poland. The money was never handed over, which made Tom a 'wanted' man in his home country - a situation which unsettled him and caused sleepless nights.
Tom was by now a member of Kings' conferencing staff. He consulted colleagues and elders of the church and decided to return to Poland to put things right. With their full support and encouragement, he returned to Poland on June 7 last year. Meanwhile, his solicitor in Poland was trying to get the jail sentence changed for electronic tagging, and Tom also paid the fine again, this time via his father, but it was too late, the legal wheels were already in motion.
Tom decided to enter his homeland by coach, there being less chance of detection at border control. God was with him…. There were 17 people on the coach, 14 had to surrender their passports for inspection, but Tom was waved through.
He spent three months keeping a low profile, waiting for a decision. Eventually he appeared in court, where the judge was so impressed, he asked Tom twice if he had come back voluntarily because he could not believe it.
Tom was tagged for six months and during this time, Kings Church sent three of his friends and colleagues to visit, support and encourage him in Poland.
After three months, Tom's solicitor applied for parole, which was granted. He returned to Norwich early in January, to a warm welcome from his colleagues and church family, and has now resumed his duties and his new life in Norwich.
"I am still surprised at the turn of events," said Tom. "I went back to Poland expecting prison, but the future is bright now! I am much happier setting out conference rooms at Kings than I was building petrol stations in Poland!"
Pictured above is Tomasz Marszalek outside the King’s Centre in Norwich.