I have been thinking about teachers, but not because their striking has put them in the headlines.

It is about the profound effect they can have on our lives.

My history teacher gave me a lifelong interest in the past, and you never know when what they said will come flooding back.

We have recently spent a glorious few days in Gdansk, Poland, a place that is dripping with history, and probably the most underrated city break destination in Europe.

Every day I have spent in Poland has brought back the words of my history teacher, who told us this: “Always remember that nobody has suffered more than the Poles.”

One of the reasons it stuck is because we live in a town with strong Polish connections.

When we were growing up in the 1960s and 70s, virtually every class had somebody in it with a difficult-to-spell Polish surname - because there was a wave of Polish immigration after the Second World War.

So it is no coincidence that we also have a twin town-like relationship with the Polish city of Torun.

And when I was researching the life of Swindon-born Battle of Britain hero, Sdn Ldr Harold Starr, I found another connection: some members of his squadron were Polish.

So a visit to the impressive national museum of the Second World War was a must while in Gdansk, and amongst the many exhibits there, you can find yet another Swindon connection: a model of a Supermarine Spitfire.

To appreciate the whole museum takes three or four hours, but what had the most impact on me was the sign at the entrance.

It not only made me think about what my history teacher told us, all those years ago, about Poland, but is also a perfect example of something else he taught us: not all versions of events are the same.

Because the sign explained that the Second World War was started by the Germans… and the Russians.


Well, the Russians eventually became our allies, but they were collaborators with the Nazis at first, and used the German invasion of Poland to mask their own stealing of Polish territory and the occupation of Finland.

So who is to argue with the Polish version of history?

While the horrors of war ended for most Europeans in 1945, it was far from over in Poland, and especially in Gdansk, where the retreating Nazis gave way to a Red Army that obliterated 90 per cent of the city, and Poland slipped behind the Iron Curtain.

And when that eventually came down, it was ironically a union - Solidarity, which was born in the Gdansk shipyards - that triggered freedom.

Polish history is almost impossibly complex and difficult, but one thing has always been clear to me: we owe our teachers a debt.

They know things, and we should listen to them.

And that is a lesson for all of us.