Michael Wolach (1914 - 2009) was born and brought up in Warsaw and received an excellent education in Poland where he learnt to speak about nine languages.
He fought against the Germans when they invaded Poland in 1939, but he managed to escape from Warsaw, where his entire family was captured and later killed in the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Wolach was himself captured by the Russians and sent to a prison camp in Siberia. After six months in the biting cold, he escaped again and, due to his knowledge of dialects and languages, he was able to make his way across Russia, to Armenia, then Israel and eventually to Egypt, where he rejoined the Polish army. With them he fought his way up through Italy. After the war, he settled in London where he was soon adopted by the leading émigré bridge players and he was a regular player at Crockfords, Lederers and the Hamilton.
He represented England in the Camrose matches and won most of the major English competitions. In 1961 he won the Gold Cup, playing with Joel Tarlo, Rixi Markus and Fritzi Gordon.
Women were very rare winners of the Gold Cup in those days and the prizes selected for 1961 were four elegant pairs of gentleman’s hair brushes, which were not appreciated by the ladies.
Mischa was a fairly regular partner of Rixi Markus for over 40 years – an amazing feat!
In 1962 Wolach was part of the British team which was invited by Rita Jacobson and Jack Harrison to tour South Africa. It was just after the Sharpeville incident so feelings about apartheid were at their highest and the British were told that they could only play matches against white opponents. The British refused and, after a discussion in the South African Parliament, it was agreed that they could play two matches against the coloureds and one against the blacks. The tour was a great success and, after the final Test Match, the British presented a trophy, the Pioneer Cup, a championship for teams with no restrictions to colour, creed or gender.
The competition became, and still is, one of South Africa’s major championships.
Camrose Trophy Selections: 1962 and 1966
Gold Cup Winner: 1961
Crockfords winner: 1960
Spring Foursomes Winner: 1967
National Pairs winner: 1948
Masters Pairs (1936-1965) winner: 1957
Tollemache Cup winner: 1959 1691 and 1964
Hubert Phillips Trophy winner: 1962 1964 and 1970