LIFE’S journey can be exciting, fearful, challenging and complex and an individual’s response to the valleys they run down, and the mountains climbed, will determine their eventual outcome.
Marcus Czarnecki is a man who has experienced far more of those valleys and mountains than most and whose story reveals how childhood experience and an unstinting faith have combined to smooth his path.
For many years, Marcus has been a well-known face in the world of community engagement and development across the Grimsby area.
A highly experienced restorative practitioner, consultant and trainer, he is just embarking on a new career, after a long and highly enjoyable period working with the team at VANEL, (Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire).
As North East Lincolnshire’s Restorative Justice Champion, Marcus was integral to the Safer and Stronger Communities work that was steered by the organisation, which is based on Bargate. He was also a well-known figure, along with his Japanese wife Fumiko, within Communities Together – the group that promoted harmony within the area’s diverse communities.
Marcus’ soft spoken, conciliatory approach to problem solving and finding opportunity has been the key that has unlocked many issues at the heart of North East Lincolnshire’s challenges, and it is an attitude created from an eclectic past – with a slight bit of chaos thrown in.
Born at the old Second Avenue Maternity Hospital on the Nunsthorpe in 1964, his early life was shaped very much by his father. A Polish holocaust orphan, at the age of 12 his dad Yan, witnessed the murder of his parents, and experienced life working as a slave to the Third Reich. After enduring what many cannot imagine, he settled in Grimsby after the war – brought here by the fishing industry – and met wife Shirley.
“It was my father’s relationship with the world that was a great influence on me, and to a great extent it was a relationship that was understandably shaped by the events of the past,” recalled Marcus.
As he grew Marcus found, in Buddhism, a way to refocus his early life and look forward – and he was to need all that new-found calm and strength as life took its twists and turns.
A lover of the stage, he joined the Caxton Theatre Company and went on to be a pupil at the Mountview Theatre School in London in 1985. There followed a tour of Europe during which he played a plethora of Shakespeare characters – as he matured, then so did the parts he played.
“From Swiss finishing schools to military aeroplane hangers, we performed all over Europe and what a wonderful time it was,” said Marcus.
Back in London, he mixed stage with office and bank management work – living in a flat and making a living how many actors did, and still do. However, the global financial crash loomed, and work dipped. Already struggling, a flat fire saw Marcus lose everything – and with no insurance he faced life on the streets.
“I was totally homeless for two days and of no fixed abode for two years, in London. I found a storeroom above a shoe shop with just one lead to boil a kettle, and that was home,” he remembered.
Another turning point then came along, with Marcus deciding to travel to Europe where he spent three months, hitchhiking around – meeting life-long friends. On his return home, he landed at Dover and recalls looking out to sea when he happened across a woman sitting on a bench.
“What she said resonates still today. She told me that I must return home and added ‘you will not find what you are looking for out there’.”
When Marcus got home, his father was gravely ill and although he pulled through on that occasion, he died in 1995, aged 66.
“It gave mum, and all of us more time with him – but how strange that I was told to come home,” said Marcus.
With his life back on track, Marcus returned to London, meeting and marrying Fumiko and together they set on a future that followed the Buddhist path of ‘giving back’. After time in a call centre, where as a staff mentor he shaped a better way of working, the couple returned to Grimsby.
“You cannot be a true disciple without paying your debt of gratitude, and for me that was making a difference in my home town,” he explained.
For Marcus, that has involved his extensive work in North East Lincolnshire, where he has achieved much and seen his values shared by like-minded individuals who also want to make a difference.
“On returning to the area there was a sense that things had changed, the spirit of Grimsby was not as evident, it had become diluted and somewhat diminished.
“When I reflect on what has happened more recently too, it is very frustrating to see the change that austerity has brought with it. However, we must remember that as a nation we choose the leaders that we have, and are they manifestations of our own lives? Where we are now, in terms of the country, is perhaps where people are at,” he reflected.
However, locally, he has hope: “We have some people here who are extremely sincere and very capable who are driven by a great vision and a genuine concern for people rather than egotism. That is what we need.”
With his own business, Creative Dialogue Consultancy, now launched, Marcus is looking to the future and assisting organisations with successful holistic change and relationship development – enabling them to maximise their potential based on restorative practice and conflict transformation tools and understanding. Marcus can also be found at the Carers Support Service for North East Lincolnshire where he is a part-time training and information officer.