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Mark Krakowski was born in Kazakstan on 16 September 1943, the son of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland. His family fled Poland at the end of 1939 and survived the war in the Soviet Union, including an internment of 18 months in a Soviet gulag. His parents reached Kazakstan after they were released from the gulag in December 1941. His father then joined the Soviet army as a member of the Wanda Waszilewska brigade, a unit of Polish nationals in the Soviet red army. After the war, Mark and his mother were re-patriated to Poland, and, at the end of 1946, they re-united with his father. A period in refugee camps in Austria followed until the family, which included another son, were accepted as refugees in Sweden where they lived for 6 years. They immigrated to Canada in May 1954. Mark graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in history (1962-65). He attended Western's Faculty of Law for one year (1965-66). He also has a Master of Arts from the New School University (1968-70).
He has varied work experience as a senior research assistant for the Addiction Research Foundation, a parole officer, a human rights officer with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a labour staff representative for various organizations, and a regional representative of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Now retired, he currently resides in Toronto, and serves or has served as a board member on the Skyworks Charitable Foundation, Foodshare, and the Labour Community Services. He also completed nine years as a workers' representative on the Board of Referees, a quasi-judicial agency of the federal government's Employment Insurance Commission, which hears appeals of claimants who have been denied employment insurance by Service Canada.