Tributes to Lena Grabowska as Doncaster girl, aged five, loses battle against cancer.

Teachers and friends choked back the tears to pay tribute to a popular little girl who lost her battle against cancer aged just five.

Lena Grabowska fought a long battle against a brain tumour, after her parents first noticed there was something wrong when she was aged just three.

Lena Grabowska

Lena Grabowska

But she died at the family home in Wheatley, with her close family around, after a brave fight against the illness.

This week, teachers and friends gathered at her school, Park Primary School in Wheatley, to remember her and plant an oak tree in her memory. Lena'a mum and dad joined them for the ceremony.

Teachers turned out wearing butterfly costumes and designs, in honour of Lena's favourite animals.

Headteacher Karen Fagg told the gathering of pupils and parents: "We all remember Lena very fondly as a strong willed little girl who loved to play with her friends..

The memorial event to Lena Lena Grabowska at Park Primary School, Wheatley

The memorial event to Lena Lena Grabowska at Park Primary School, Wheatley

"Lena loved being outside, especially racing around on the cars and the bikes. She also loved to draw pictures for her friends, especially rainbows and unicorns and butterflies - hence today's theme."

"Even when she was very ill, she was still thinking about the feelings of other people, and loved to give out smiley face stickers.

"She was loved by all who knew her and we all miss her greatly."

She told how one member of staff had gone to tie Lena's shoelace for her and was embraced by a huge hug.

Pupils also paid tribute to Lena. They were asked to write town their memories of the little girl with the big smile, with some of them read out at the service.

One child, named only as Bradley wrote: "She was a good girl with long brown hair and she had glasses and she loved butterflies and colourful things."

"Another, classmate, named only as Nicole. added: Lena was a good friend and I wish she was here. I hope you are chasing butterflies what

you loved. I miss you."

A third classmate, named as By Freyja, read: "Lena, everybody loves you. I wish you were here so I could give you lots of hugs. Everybody misses you."

Youngsters sang the Lords Prayer, and several teachers read ilnes from a poem called I'll Lend You a Child, one briefly struggling to say her words as she was overcome with emotion.

Finally, youngsters sang the song her classmates had told the staff they thought was Lena's favourite; Happy, from the film Despicable Me.

The service was followed by a charity fundraiser in the hall, to raise money which will be split between the cancer charity McMillan Cancer Care, and books for the school library, which will also carry labels bearing Lena's name.

Headteacher Mrs Fagg said after the service that telling the pupils that Lena had last her fight against cancer was the hardest moment of her teaching career.

She said: "We will never forget her - the children still talk about her. She had a lovely group of friends who still talk about. Whenever someone talks about a book with rainbows, unicorns or butterflies we hear her name mentioned."

She said the oak tree the school was planting in her memory would be another way for the youngsters to remember her and it would be looked after by her follow pupils. In the long term it is hoped that it will be planted in a sensory garden that the school hopes to create.

She said it had been hard to write the tributes to Lena, and to select the right poems and songs.

"There were a lot of tears choked back today," she said.

Deputy Rebecca Gude added: "There was not a member of staff who didn't get to know Lena. We consider ourselves a big family at the school and we have lost a member of that family.

"We wanted a celebration of our memories of Lena."

FAMILY LIGHTS A CANDLE FOR LENA EACH DAY

Lena's mum and dad Krzysztof Grabowski and Judyta Urban keep a candle burning at their Wheatley home in their daughter's memory.

It is among the ways in which they look back on the daughter who they loved and lost in March this year.

Dad Krzysztof said: "She was a brave little girl. I would like people to remember her as smiling, happy, and really stubborn."

The couple's younger child, three-year-old Eric has asked where his sister is, and Grabowski and Judyta told him that she was as an angel now. Krzysztof believes Eric understands more than people realise, and the couple will make sure he does not forget his big sister.

They have an urn with Lena's ashes and a special glass cupboard containing some of her favourite things , such as her favourite T-shirt and some of her beloved butterflies

"We keep the things that remind us of her," said Krzysztof. "We light a candle every day in her memory, and we have an electric candle in the cupboard."

The couple said the ceremony in memory of Lena meant a lot to them, but it had been a hard day for them.

"We have good days and bad days. It was nice, but it is hard for us."

He also paid tribute to the work of the organisations which had helped Lena. He said the staff at Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice, Sheffield Children's Hospital and McMillan Cancer Care had been brilliant, and urged people to donate money to them to help them continue their work.

Lena's family first noticed something was wrong when the youngster started experiencing problems with her vision at age of three.

Medics initially dismissed the problems and advised Lena’s parents Krzysztof and Judyta to take her to an optician. But on a trip to visit family in Poland their world came crashing down when Lena was finally diagnosed with a 4cm brain tumour.

Lena underwent gruelling in Poland in a bid to shrink the tumour. The family initially hoped to take her abroad for ground breaking proton beam therapy - a highly-targeted type of radiotherapy, but doctors warned her it would not work.

Speaking about the shock diagnosis, Lena’s dad Krzysztof, 34, said: “Lena had started to look sideways as if she wanted to see clearer or better.

“She had also complained about headaches and her speech had slowed down.

“We went to a doctors with her but her headaches were ignored and we were redirected to the ophthalmologist to check her eyesight. Her issues with looking sideways were diagnosed as worsening eyesight and nothing else was done about that.”

Lena’s mum Judyta, aged 28, said her bright and bubbly little girl was a bundle of energy before the heartbreaking diagnosis.