Doncaster flood victim and former Leeds United star returning home for Christmas thanks to Legion help

Six weeks ago, the Doncaster floods had left former Leeds United footballer Eric Czerwionka’s life in tatters.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 12:22 pm

His home on the Willow Bridge caravan park near Bentley was underwater. He had found himself living on benefits for the first time in his life and he had learned that he had health problems that would require a heart operation.

But today, he can celebrate returning to his home again, after the Royal British Legion stepped in to help the former gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery.

Eric was a youth team player for Leeds in the 1970s under Don Revie, but saw his career halted due to a serious injury. He has lived at Willow Bridge for the past seven years, but his mobile home was left underwater when the River Don broke its banks in November. He is currently waiting for a heart operation.

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Eric Czerwionka

He said: “The Legion was the only place I felt I could turn. My home was under eight inches of water, but the case officer, Simon Hughes, came out to see me.

“They’re helping me with new carpets and wardrobes. They’ve already got me a new washer and a fridge, so I’m over the moon. They even gave me Argos vouchers to replace some of the smaller items I’ve lost.

“Every little bit of help is fantastic, because I’ve got to build my life back up again. I’m living on benefits which I’ve never had to do before, and it’s damned hard, so it’s amazing to have that safety net of the Legion. They’ve been incredible.

“I can see some light now at the end of the tunnel, but that’s all down to the Legion. Without them I would be snookered, and I’d be looking at a very different Christmas. This place is my pride and joy.”

Eric Czerwionka outside his caravan on Willow Bridge Caravan Park

Don Revie signed Eric and he was at Elland Road from 1974-1976, cleaning the boots of United legends Peter Lorimer and Paul Reaney.

Eric said: “Don was a good bloke, as a manager he was different class. I was a decent player, but I broke my leg and my cruciate ligament playing for the reserves against Chelsea over at Wetherby. These days, with medical advances, I would probably have come back from that injury, but in the seventies my career was finished. My hopes and dreams of playing football were over, so my brother suggested joining the army.”

He followed brother Ivan into the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, serving for six years.

After a career in the insurance industry, Eric ploughed his savings into the caravan in Doncaster, but following the floods, he wants the authorities to provide grants to enable residents to raise their properties and make them flood resistant.

Eric Czerwionka during his time with the Roya Horse Artillery

Eric, who also lost his truck and thousands of pounds of tools in the flood, spent the night sleeping in his son’s car before being able to return home to salvage his property.

He said: “I had already moved a lot of my possessions off the floor to keep them dry, but thanks to the Legion I’m one of the lucky ones – a lot of my neighbours have lost everything. At least I can spend Christmas at home.”

Debbie Harding, Area Manager for the Royal British Legion in Yorkshire, said: “Being forced out of your home at any time of year is devastating, but at Christmas it is particularly poignant. The floods have ravaged whole communities across Yorkshire, and Eric’s story is sadly familiar.

“However, thanks to your donations during the Poppy Appeal, the Royal British Legion is able to allocate resources to help people like Eric to rebuild their lives after a long and costly clean-up.

“Through our welfare work, we ensure that the unique contribution of veterans like Eric is never forgotten and we will be there to give support wherever and whenever it is needed.”