VILLAGERS have paid tribute to a “lovely and intelligent” student who has been murdered in Poland.
Kate Zaks, who grew up in Staplecross, was discovered near a railway line in Krakow on Saturday morning with head injuries.
Residents in the quiet village have been left shocked to the core by news of the death of the vibrant 21-year-old.
Kate, who was known locally as Kia, was born in London and moved to Staplecross around ten years ago with parents Greg and Viola, who run the Staplecross Post Office and Stores.
Kate, who had dual British and Polish nationality, had just completed her second year reading History of Art at Canterbury and was staying with Polish relatives in Krakow to allow her to do some work experience at an art gallery.
Her parents had been due to join their only child for a family holiday shortly.
David Young, chairman of Ewhurst Parish Council, knew Kate well.
On behalf of the council, Cllr Young said: “It’s very, very sad that someone so young and in her prime was taken from us.
“These things should not happen and my heart goes out to Greg and Viola.”
Cllr Young’s daughter Rachael was Kate’s best friend and the pair attended Robertsbridge Community College together before Kate transferred to Buckswood School in Guestling.
Kate was a regular visitor at the Young family home.
Cllr Young said: “She was a lovely girl, she was doing so well at university.
“She was incredibly intelligent and when she was home she used to come round most weekends and stay with Rachael.”
Kate was a keen horsewoman and enjoyed riding in both the British and Polish countryside.
Reverend Gordon Winchester, of St Marks Church, Staplecross, said the village was united in its prayers for Kate’s family.
He said: “People are absolutely devastated and really deeply shocked and in many cases it is people who have known Kate since she was a young girl.
“Her whole childhood was spent in the village and she often helped in her parents’ shop.
“I’m absolutely sure the whole community is united in their love and prayers for Greg and Viola in this time of devastating tragedy.”
Observer Staplecross Village Voice correspondent, Mary Reeve, said: “Kia was a lovely girl and was much respected locally.
“Local people’s hearts go out to Greg and Viola in this tragedy.”
Headteacher at Buckswood School, Tim Fish, also paid tribute to the former pupil.
He said: “Our deepest sympathies go to Mr and Mrs Zaks at this time.
“Kate was a happy schoolgirl in her time with us and we remember her well as a promising artist and a keen horse rider.
“Whenever a young person’s life is cut short it is a tragedy and all the more so when you have known them personally.
“It is Kate’s parents who now need the support of their local community in the coming weeks and months.”
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Dr Grant Pooke, head of history and philosophy of art at the University of Kent, said the School of Arts was “in shock” at the news of the gifted student’s death.
He said: “Kate was an exceptionally talented and well-liked student in her second year taking a BA Hons degree.
“She had developed a real gift for journalism and writing, having completed an arts review while in Poland.
“Our thoughts are with Kate’s family and friends.”
Kate’s parents have flown to Poland as the investigation into the death of their daughter continues.
Kate had told relatives on Friday that she was going out to meet someone, but her body was discovered nearby at 5am the next day.
It is believed she died after receiving blows to the head.
Yesterday (Thursday) it was reported that a bus driver, named in the national press as Miroslav L, had been arrested in connection with Kate’s death.