Monday, September 26, 2011

Farewell To Our Hero

Julian Jankowski 
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
Goodbye,We love you and we will miss you, Rick and Kim

His Story:

Grandpa was not in the Polish army, his older brother Willie was. Julian was still a boy at home when the Russians took him. He was the second oldest of 13 children, named after his father, a loving jovial man that Julian loved more then life itself. When the father died a few years earlier, the elder Jankowski was surrounded by his entire family. He had been working in the fields when the rains came he ignored it and kept going but caught a chill. A few days later he looked at his wife and said get the Priest I am dying. He waited patiently while the family and Priest gathered then he closed his eyes and left them. Julian never got over his fathers passing.

When Germany invaded Poland(1939) the fight was over very quickly, Russia divided Poland equally with Germany. Together the two conquerors went about quelling any resistance or possible resistance.Total domination was the only thing they wanted.The people of the tiny town of Bialystok had heard rumors that they would be coming and everyone expected and feared the worst.I asked Grandpa why he did not run away, but he said they had lists and knew who they were looking for.His words were "what could I do, I was just a boy" there was no where to run plus what they did to families when people ran away was horrible.They always caught them and that was even worse so all he could do was wait for them to come.

Finally, one night it happened, trucks filed into the yard and surrounded the farmhouse. Soldiers poured out of the trucks, several had dogs. Suddenly there were bright lights and loud music, barking dogs and pounding on the door, outside there was extreme chaos. Julian can not watch war movies with this scene in it because he says it is much too real.The Russians were there to take Grandpa away, his crime? He was old enough to join the resistance. When he got in the truck Julian did not know if he would live through the night. He did not expect to see his home, his mother or his siblings again. He had not seen his oldest brother since he left to join the Polish Army, they did not know if Willie was dead or alive since Poland had been invaded. All Julian knew was it was no better to be at the hands of the Russians then it was to be caught by the Germans. In many cases he said that the Russians were much worse to their captives. Julian was comforted by the fact that he saw many of the men and boys from the village and surrounding farms. At least he thought he would not be alone.

They took the men to a train station and loaded them into big cars and for the next few days they stopped periodically to load up more men and sometimes women. When at last they stopped, they were in Siberia. Julian talks very little of his time in Siberia and he never told me which death camp he was at.Only in research did I read of a lot of the horrors my father in law had to endure. I do know very few survived these camps.Only with in the last 20 years did they discover mass graves in the forests surrounding these camps., graves filled with hundreds of thousands Polish citizens.
In telling his stories Julian is very quiet and it takes quite a bit of vodka to get him to talk about his experiences. Even then he skips many parts of his story.My retelling of his story is by me putting together the bits and pieces  I  was able to pry from his memories and it took me 20 years to get this much.

After being in the prison camp Julian and some of his neighbors were put to work digging trenches in front of Russian soldiers. He would report each morning and they would march out to the battle fields and dig. They were never given any food, ever.They were required to surrender any goods they found. But one day three of them discovered potatoes the two others were older men from the village , they all started to gobble the potatoes dirt and all when the guards discovered what they were doing.They stood them in a line and shot the men on either side of Julian sparing him because he was young and strong.He spent two weeks in what he called the box. When he got out he decided he needed to make friends with the guards because he wanted to live.

Once Germany turned against Russia a politician that had escaped Poland  and was in exile in  England took the chance to negotiate a sort of exchange. Russia would give him Polish men to take to England , train and outfit as soldiers and once done he would send them back for more men. But this Politician knew he would only do this once, he had no intention of sending anyone back to Russia. He negotiated for the most men he could get , Russia gave him 1500. Because Julian was a favorite of the guards they picked Grandpa to be part of that group.He was even able to include his circle of friends. When they left Siberia( the end of 1941) there were 15 of them. These prisoners were marched over the Siberian mountains into Afghanistan, Iran , Iraq and then Palestine (there was no Israel yet). Take a look at a map sometime and imagine 1500 starving Poles marching rag tag that great distance, God was with them that is for sure. Once in Palestine they boarded ships and were sent to Scotland, there they re-cooperated, were trained and became members of the Royal British Army. They were not required to join but all 1500 enlisted ( April 1, 1942). They knew they had to fight and win. They knew what was going to happen to their loved ones if they did not.They became part of the 1st Polish Armored Division, also known as the Black Devils. The British called them the black devils because of the black paint they put on their faces. These men are well known in England and regaled for their bravery. The black devils often were called upon to perform the worst assignments and often suicide missions. They are known for their ferocity.

The unit was sent to Africa and fought Rommel and his army.Once they were done there, they returned to England. In England they all re-enlisted because the job was not over yet. They were a part of D Day.Grandpa was on the first wave on Normandy Beach and fought all the way to Germany and the end of the European part of the war.

During this re-enlistment the Poles were joined with a Canadian unit. They served together for the remainder of the European Campaign.

Somewhere in this time Grandpa was wounded, he has 3 scars on his upper right shoulder, when I asked about them he said oh it is nothing just a scratch some shrapnel that is all. Dad says that Grandpa told him (when he was a little boy) that a grenade blew up and he got three pieces of it in his shoulder. He never would talk to dad and Uncle Kenny about the war and what happened to him. So dad doesn't know what he was doing when he got hit.

With a far away chuckle grandpa talked about liberating France and a beautiful red headed girl that lived in a village there.He had wanted to marry her but could not say why he never returned to find her. He spoke of the celebration of life and how important it was to enjoy our lives because you never knew when it was going to end. Half serious, half laughing grandpa said they would fight all day and at night they lived and danced on tables because you did not know if tomorrow was your last.
I found some paperwork that spoke of medals and researched them. Grandpa won all the medals that England allowed them to give any of the Polish troops. One was a citation for capturing 12 Germans single handed. When I asked him about that story he smacked his lips like Grandpa always did and made that grandpa  face of his. He said " oh that was nothing", some Englishmen were surrounded by some Germans they had no supplies, no bullets and they were asking for volunteers. Someone to take these things to them. No  one wanted to go so I said "okay then I will go".

Once he got the things to them and was headed back to his unit  he came upon some Germans, he said to them "give up"  He explained to me that it was not hard they were very tired and laid their guns down, they did not want to fight anymore.He said they were glad they were going to go home alive." So, I took them back to camp with me".

Hahaha I was astonished, because he was very casual when he told that story.

At the end of the war there were only 5 of the 15 left and they remained close through their entire lives. They became friends with a man from Canada. Because of the settlement  with Russia at the end of the war,these men knew they could not go home to Poland. They remained in exile for the rest of their lives. Grandpa said he was unable to return to Poland until it regained it's freedom for Russia because he was afraid of retaliation since he had been their prisoner and that would have been 1979 but dad says he remembers him making his first trip home when he was about 8 and that would have been about 1967. At any rate his mother Emilia Jastrzebska Jankowska had already past away by the time he made it back home.

Grandpa was moved to reserve status April 29 1947 and was honorably discharged on April 3 1949.

After the Canadian friend returned home he sponsored one of the friends to go and live in Canada. He in turn obtained a job and citizenship and then sponsored another one to come from England. Each took his turn being responsible for another until all 6 were in Canada. It wasn't until Grandpa was settled in Canada that he found out that his brother Willie had been taken prisoner by the German's and had spent the entire war in one of their prison camps. He did survive but he had been tortured. They poured boiling water and oil on his legs. Julian said that Willie never quite recovered.Willie past away in 1994 I think.
The friends we remember
John Szczerba (we met him )
Victor Zdun

It was in Canada that Grandpa met Grandma but that is a story for another day :)
They were married December 6,1952 Bellieville Ontario Canada.
John Szczerba was one of their witnesses.

I was remiss when I came home from Grandpa's I did not
bring all of the original documents that he had
and what I do have (which are originals)
are written in a mix of english and polish
but the dates, and town spellings are different on each of them
even Grandpa's name is spelled differently depending on
what you look at. Grandpa said he was a Senior Master Srgt. 
when he got out of the army but these papers say he was a private.
It also says he served honorably with no discipline problems so after that
much time he certainly would not be a private.

I must get the paperwork read to me to make sure
there are no big mistakes. I am very sorry I
left any of he papers in California.
The British Ministry of Defence letter to grandpa which was dated in 1978 stated 
Grandpa had 3 medals the two I copied below
plus the Polish Army Medla.
But he also had an award given to him by the French
and a medal awarded for the capture of the Germans.
The records for them are more then likely lost now.
I will have to look a little harder to see if I have them .

When you read this think of Grandpa's voice and his smile.
Try to remember his love of life and the jokes, his accordion playing
and if you can remember think of him dancing the polka's
I love Grandpa very much, he was a very good man.
Grandpa loved you Lauree with all his heart
and Brandon he was very proud to be your Grandpa.
No man could have been prouder of his grandson then when you 
joined the Marines so when you celebrate your lives~ Lift a glass of cheer to Grandpa
and say~Nastrovia!
Don't forget to sing
Sto Lat
Sto lat, sto lat,Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat,Niech żyje, żyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech żyje, żyje nam,
Niech żyje nam!

Sto Lat (English version)
Good luck, good cheer, may you live a hundred years.
Good luck, good cheer, may you live a hundred years.
Good luck, good cheer, may you live a hundred years.
One hundred years!

~CNN Special Warsaw's forgotten soldiers~
This is a powerful story
of the fall of Warsaw and the ultimate and shocking
betrayal of the Allies to the people of Poland
The entire program is here and listed in order.