Marcin Zarowny and Karol Michalec were living a seemingly idyllic life together in the welcoming gay friendly haven of Brighton and Hove.
HAVING escaped a lifetime of homophobia in their native Poland they had found not only love in one another, but the freedom here in the UK to live openly and freely with their relationship on show for the world to see.
From their UK base during the four years of their relationship they had travelled the world together most recently returning from a trip to Thailand. Their Instagram friendly looks were not merely for show, they presented daily an impenetrable ideal of togetherness not only to those around them, but also to one another.
A little over a week ago, and the day after his 35th birthday Marcin left the home in Hove he shared with Karol to go for a walk. Upon discovering Marcin had left behind his keys and his phone Karol instinctively knew something was wrong and was overcome with a sense of fear as he ran out of the house turning left to run to the seafront to search for his partner, lover and best friend. Marcin had turned right and unbeknown to Karol, hung himself in nearby Hove Park. He was discovered early the next day and died later that afternoon in hospital as Karol stroked his hand for the last time.
Since Marcin’s death Karol has been piecing together segments of the past few weeks which did not hold such weighted significance until now. “I wish I had seen the signs more clearly. Marcin would say ‘will you look after yourself when I’m gone’ which I used to brush off and say – what are you talking about – but now I see that he was thinking about this [suicide] all along”.
Marcin’s former partner with whom he owned a house in Poland, died in May of this year from alcohol related health complications. He had racked up considerable debt on the property having re-mortgaged without anyone’s knowledge and Marcin had found both news of his friend’s death and the property debt devastating.
“Marcin did appear to be spiralling out of control these past few weeks, drinking a lot and saying things which didn’t appear to make any sense”. Marcin was given up by his birth mother at eight months old and Karol says that he always felt he didn’t have a home. “When his friend died and the house was lost, I guess it was too much for him to lose everything, especially never having a family home in the first place”.
Karol and Marcin both experienced extreme homophobia in their country of birth, punched in the face in the street for having an eyebrow piercing and Karol’s father threatened to kill himself when he found a photograph of his son kissing a man.
Before meeting Karol, Marcin would travel across Europe to meet gay men as he didn’t want to meet them in Poland. “In Poland we would never be able to walk around holding hands or be openly gay. Over the past few years of living in Britain it was my saving grace to have a Polish boyfriend and now that rock is gone”.
Karol also speaks about the impact of the Brexit debate upon Marcin. “Marcin had a strong Polish accent and his English wasn’t as confident as mine. He has been threatened many times which he found terrifying. This is not the Britain it was when I arrived here fourteen years ago and yet we cannot go back. People say we have come here to take their jobs but I am an artist, just whose jobs am I taking by making art?”
Karol goes on to describe the current situation in Poland for LGBT+ communities: “There is now an ultra conservative government in Poland, people have been arrested at 6am in their houses for posting a photograph of the Virgin Mary with rainbow colours around her. It’s not safe”.
Following Marcin’s death, Karol has been surrounded by friends who have cared for and supported him. He is accessing local mental health support through MindOut the LGBTQ Mental Health Service, to help him manage his own feelings during his time of grief, support he had previously sought some years ago when he too found himself in crisis. However, he fears this may not be enough: “I may leave Brighton for a time as we built a life here together. Marcin is going to be a constant memory for me here in every restaurant, café, every pebble on the beach. We didn’t seek emergency help had I known it was this severe I would have done something more. He wasn’t just my partner – he was my best friend, companionship and a soul mate”.
Karol’s message to the Brighton communities is clear. “Please, look out for each other people. Seek help. Talk to each other. In the modern day of rage politics, building walls and creating enemies only through sticking together and looking after one another will we make sense of the world around us”.
Karol has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Marcin’s funeral and to cover the cost of sending his ashes back to his family in Poland.
If you would like to make a donation towards Marcin’s funeral, click here:
Need help with your mental health? Contact MindOut. The LGBT Mental Health Service.
Or call 01273 234839
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