Polish 2nd Corps
My name is Adam Mercik and I was born in Warsaw in 1926. From my early childhood, my dream was to put on a uniform as soon as possible - to be a soldier. I don't remember when, but my mother said that she was not surprised by these dreams, because I had a baptism of fire very early - when I was one month old to be exact. Of course, you can laugh, but there is an element of truth in it: my father was the commander of a company of infantry cadets at a school in Warsaw, then located in Aleje Ujazdowskie. In May 1926, there was a government crisis, the army under the command of Marshal Piłsudski demanded the removal of the president - there were street fights. The Cadet School - faithful to the oath, sided with the president and found itself under heavy machine gun fire. My mother told me how several times a day she had to take me out of the playpen and escape to the basement while the bullets whizzed overhead. Well, wasn't that a baptism by fire?
It is ironic that my military plans – just as I was about to go to the Cadet Corps - were thwarted by the German invasion in September 1939. My father worked in the General Staff in the branch which, when the war broke out, was to act as a liaison between the Government and the Staff. So, when the Government left Warsaw on September 6, so did we; that is, my mother and I, together with my father. German intelligence knew perfectly well what evacuation plans the government had - we were bombarded non-stop on our way. Those who have not experienced the roar of a Junkers siren and the whistling of a falling bomb do not know what war is. Once saboteurs set fire to the village where we were supposed to spend the night. We crossed the Romanian border on September 19 at 2:30 in the morning, Soviet tanks closed the border an hour later. So one hour decided whether we would find ourselves in a Soviet paradise, and the prospect of years in a Siberian gulag or whether we would end up in a poor but civilized country.
I stayed in Rumania for almost a year. Two important events remain in my memory from this period: the first scout meeting abroad on October 1st in Calamansi, where I wrote down the names and ranks of 24 scouts and 13 girl guides - this is how the team of the Heroes of Defense was created, the second is a successful escape from beyond the fence of my father's internment camp, in which I played a major role. If this escape had not been successful, I would not be here today. This escape deserves a separate discussion not because it was dramatic, but because it illuminates what was going on then, plus the fact that because my father was not a Pilsudian, this escape happened. Permission to escape had to be approved by the "Holy Inquisition" in the form of General Izydor Modelski, who in Paris in 1939/40 decided who could be admitted to the Polish Army, solely based on their political past. Father got to Bucharest and was admitted to the so-called "underground attaché", where he remained even after Romania was occupied by Germany.
For my mother and me, it was necessary to flee Romania - the fascist organization of the Iron Guard of General Antonescu took over the government - German troops could enter any day. So, through Turkey, we reached Cyprus on the day the German troops entered Rumania and into the protection of His Majesty. Mother was killed during a robbery, so the governor of Cyprus allowed me to join a military transport to Palestine. My 15th birthday found me in Haifa, soon to be reunited with my father, who with the help of English intelligence managed to get out of Romania and through Turkey to reach the Carpathian Rifle Brigade in Palestine. In Tel Aviv, I joined several thousand Polish refugees - there were schools, middle school and high school, scouting, and a sports clubs. Since I was two years away from my seventeenth birthday, I had to count the months until I could finally join my dream army. Two memories are associated with this period: one positive, those are gliding courses on Polish gliders - the other negative, when the headmistress Helena Baryszowa and Professor Jędrzejewicz were removed from the gymnasium associated with Marshal Piłsudski. This our Ministry of Education in London could not tolerate. After the war, former students founded a commemorative plaque, now placed in the Polish consulate in Tel Aviv, dedicated to this school, and President Wałęsa posthumously awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta to headmistress Baryszowa. It was the least we could do for her.
When I finally reached my 17th birthday, I applied to the draft board. Everything was going well when the typhus epidemic closed the school and sent thousands, like me, to the hospital. Finally, I passed my final exams as an extramural student at the end of January 1944, and a few days later I registered in the Gedera Assembly Camp. It was the last camp of the 2nd Corps in Palestine - the corps was either in Egypt or already in Italy. The camp collected those released from the hospital or prison so that when four civilians suddenly came forward, they didn't really know what to do with us. Eventually we were registered, uniformed and equipped. Here I have to claim a record that has not been broken at least in the 2nd Corps: at 11 o'clock I reported to the camp as a civilian - at 11 o'clock in the evening, i.e. in twelve hours, I stood guard in full gear and with a rifle loaded with live ammunition. It also has its own funny story. We were quickly transferred to Egypt to the 7th Light Artillery Regiment to land on March 16 in Italy. I remember that day well - it was cold and wet snow was falling - after hot Egypt, that's how sunny Italy greeted us!
The next six months are the worst time in Italy. We waited in vain to be assigned to a line regiment - our main occupation was scraping potatoes and going on guard duty. Peeling potatoes makes sense, but what were we supposed to watch? The Germans were hundreds of kilometers north and had more important problems. Local Italians willingly sold us almost undrinkable wines for American cigarettes, and we fed their children in our kitchens. When I thought I had a good opportunity, I blurted out that my colleagues and I knew enough English to serve as interpreters, and back then English speakers were worth their weight in gold. Instead of being at the front, I was hanging around the back, helping to unload ships in the port of Bari, working with the gendarmerie in traffic control, and translating some documents or direct conversations. Once I was sent with a group of officers on some course at an English base near Naples. I reported to the brigadier, introduced our major, the commander of the group, when the brigadier, looking at my epaulettes, asked what rank I had. When I confirmed that I was just a gunner, he exploded. How can I accompany the officers to the casino or share quarters! He could not understand that the Polish Army did not recognize temporary officer ranks - and yet it was so easy to put on the appropriate epaulets on the shoulder boards. We were sent back, and a very unpleasant letter came to the command of the corps. When, during the Battle of Monte Cassino, even cooks were sent to the front, I approached the report and asked them to send me too. I was told "I'm needed more as a living translator than a fallen hero." And my friends died: during the campaign I lost six friends from school or scouting. One name should not be unfamiliar: Okulicki, Zbyszek Okulicki, son of the general, the last commander of the Home Army. I knew Zbyszek from that first meeting in Calamansi.
This nightmare period for me ended when I registered for cadet school. There was no stopping me here. I finished school as a corporal cadet in the artillery reserve, and I remember the parade after promotion perfectly: General Przewlocki was standing on the tribune and my father was next to him. I don't know who was more excited. A few days later I was sent to a newly formed artillery regiment to go with it to the front and train. I had the satisfaction that, as a gunner, I took part in the artillery barrage that launched the offensive on Bologna, a larger barrage than at Monte Cassino, because more of our regiments took part in it. I spent my nineteenth birthday at the front, dousing them with condensed milk, because we had nothing else to drink that day. It is also a separate and funny story. The war ended, but by the end of 1945 we were training for the next one. Fortunately, it didn't come to that.
In January 1946 I had a pleasant surprise: I was assigned to the Academic Center in Torino to study at the Politechnico Reale. It was yet another example of how General Anders took advantage of every opportunity to provide education to his soldiers - whether as cadets, or in primary schools, matriculation courses, or even academics. We were in uniform, on full pay, accommodated in requisitioned quarters - we were even driven to lectures, and there were almost four hundred of us in Torino, from private to captain. There were similar centers in Bologna and Rome. Lectures in Italian, and oral exams according to old university traditions. It was a wonderful time in a beautiful city whose motto was "citta delle colonne i de belle donne" (city of columns and beautiful women). It ended when the Allies stopped recognizing our government in London - I had to go back to my regiment, which I only caught up with in Scotland. There was no question of returning to Poland - we were "Anders' fascists".
For Christmas I went to visit my father at Foxley Officers' Camp in England. On Christmas Eve at the casino, I had a pleasant surprise: I met my friend from elementary school, we had been in the same class for four years. Secondary school separated us, then the war. She had been in the underground, fought in the Mokotów Uprising, escaped from captivity, escaped from Poland, and after many adventures reached Italy, where her father was in the II Corps. Our wedding took place a year later. I managed to get a scholarship and be sent to London to start my studies at the Polish University College in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. I got a professional job easily, but the atmosphere in England changed: we were not "comrades in arms", but those who take jobs from natives. We had to emigrate and Canada was an easy choice. I arrived at the end of April 1952 and as I have often said: plus one wife, one boy, two suitcases and a debt of $100! In Montreal, I got three offers in three days. I choose RCA Victor, because the offer was the best: $320 a month!
Today I do not remember the statistical data, but in Montreal there were several, if not a dozen or so, thousands of Poles of post-war political emigration. Many Poles worked at RCA Victor at that time - we joked that we were creating the Polish Mafia. Does anyone remember that in Rawdon in the Laurentians during our national holidays, the Polish flag waved at the town hall. Does anyone remember in Montreal: "blue balls" of airmen, costume balls of "Home Army soldiers", or formal engineers' balls at Chateau Champlain? I worked at STP, I was the secretary of the Main Board for two years and the president in 1958. But professional work requiring frequent trips, and not for a few days, but for months, precluded further social work.
Thus, began over thirty years of fascinating professional work at RCA/SPAR AEROSPACE, which gave me the opportunity to visit 13 countries - and once even fly around the world! The work consisted mainly in planning terrestrial communication systems (telephones and television), which required first planning on maps, then determining the location of the station, type and height of towers, types of antennas, while considering the cost of building roads leading to the station. Sometimes access was only possible by cable car, sometimes only by helicopter, such as in Jasper, British Columbia. Sometimes the only solution was to use passive reflectors instead of antennas, which I used in Nicaragua. In Mexico, it turned out that the maps were unreliable, and we had to create our own. I can talk about this for hours.
Towards the end of my career, a change occurred when communication satellites were introduced. Satellites took big steps, so to speak, they connected continents. So, systems such as CENTO, 88 stations connecting Karachi with Tehran and Ankara, slowly became obsolete. About a month ago on TV there was mention of the dismantling of the station in Jasper, which was no longer needed. This clearly confirmed that I was not needed either. I willingly retired, which does not mean that I stopped traveling - I had this germ in my blood and visited ten more countries, but this time at my expense!
After the death of my wife from bone marrow cancer nine years ago, I had to leave my beloved Hudson after 30 years, to move to Manoir Westmount Retirement Home. Looking back, I had a very rich but also happy life - to which you can quote the Polish saying: "Dumb is always lucky"!
SOURCE: Original Polish text is located at:
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