The Sunday Herald's Mindfulness columnist Martin Stepek is to be given a top honour for his work promoting links between Poland and Scotland.

Martin Stepek will be handed the Gold Cross of Merit for services to Poland by the country's UK Ambassador on Friday.

His book For There Is Hope chronicles the trials of his Polish ancestors, who suffered great hardships in the two world wars. He now helps Polish families integrate into Scottish society.

Stepek said: “I always said if anyone was daft enough to give me a British honour I would reject it, but this means a lot to me because of what my dad and grandparents went through and the history of Polish suffering.”

His grandfather Wladyslaw fought the Russians in World War I and died of cancer in 1943 while fighting in the Polish underground during World War II.

His father spent two years in an Russian gulag in the early years of World War II, before he was liberated and sent to British-occupied Persia.

At the end of the journey, his grandmother died aged 40 of “starvation and exhaustion”, his 20-year-old father Jan was so emaciated he could grasp his thighbone in one hand, and his 15-year-old aunt Danka weighed under four stone.

His father rejoined the Polish Army and fought off typhus, two bouts of dysentery and malaria. He joined the Polish Navy and sailed round the Horn of Africa to Liverpool, and then on to Kirkcaldy where he began his life in Scotland.

He was retrained and sent back to fight in the war in Europe, culminating in the D-Day landings. He remained in Scotland and built up a hugely successful business.

“He died four years ago," said Stepek, "aged 90 and I have tried to keep the family history of fighting for Poland and suffering alive, and help people understand the intimate connection between Scotland and Poland whose army was based here after Dunkirk.”