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Polish veteran of the epic Battle of Monte Cassino

and recipient of the Virtuti Militari medal

Anatol was born in Poland on 21 July 1907. Anatol graduated a year before the outbreak of World War II, from the Infantry School in Bydgoszcz, in the rank of second lieutenant. He graduated first among 62 graduates, received a saber presented to him by Gen. Szylling, and was honored with an invitation to Belvedere, to meet the President of the Republic of Poland, Ignacy Mościcki.

Anatol Tarnowiecki was assigned to the 6th Infantry Regiment of the Józef Piłsudski Legions in Wilno. After the mobilization, he was part of the 1st Infantry Division of the Legions in Wilno.

On 1 September 1939, like millions of Polish men, he faced the German invader and fought in the September Campaign. His family situation was very difficult because his wife died at the beginning of the war. When, after the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939, his unit withdrew to Lithuania and the soldiers were interned there, his three children remained without both parents.

In August 1940, the Soviet troops, in agreement with Germany, attacked Lithuania. Polish officers were deported to internment camps in Ostaszków, Kozielsk, and from there – the road of most of them led to Katyn. Anatol Tarnowiecki was in Kozielsk. Luckily, he avoided deportations to Katyń, and was sent to the Griazowiec camp.  In 1941, after Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union, the Sikorski-Majski Pact was signed, and ‘amnesty’ was declared for Polish prisoners in the USSR. The young officer was among the Poles who ended up in the Polish Army formed in the USSR by Gen. Władysław Anders – also released from Soviet captivity.

Anatol witnessed the visit of General Władysław Anders to Griazowiec, on 25 August 1941. Together with the Polish army, Anatol left the USSR and made his way to Iran. In Iran, the Polish refugees rested, and healed physical and mental wounds after being in the “inhuman land”, and above all – they trained in the art of war.

It was Tarnowiecki who is assumed to be one of those who bought a small Syrian bear from Iranian shepherds. There is a credible report, stating that he gifted it the bear to Irena Bokiewicz. This is how the story of Corporal Wojtek began. He eventually became part of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish 2nd Corps and won the hearts of the soldiers. After the war, he spent some time at a military base in Scotland where his fellow soldiers were billeted. But when they were all demobilized, Wojtek was given to the Edinburgh Zoo.

Capt. Anatol Tarnowiecki, commander of the 3rd company of the 6th battalion of the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division. His army Number was: 1907-16-III.

The 37-year-old company commander suffered serious injuries on May 17, 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino. After hospital treatment, Anatol returned to the front. In November 1944, he took part in the battles in the Apennine foothills between Ancona and Bolesnia, where he was wounded again. He returned to his unit only in 1945, and for his participation in the fighting in Italy, he was awarded the Virtuti Militari Cross. He was also awarded the Cross of Monte Cassino (#1946), the Cross of Valour and the Cross of Merit with the Swords. He ended the war in the rank of captain.

On 8 May 1945 World War II ended in Europe. The Polish Corps were stationed in Italy until 1946, and the soldiers were thinking about what would happen to them. Since Poland was in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union, many of them were afraid of returning to the Homeland. Some of them were making their lives in Italy, often marrying the girls there. Others, after the evacuation of the 2nd Corps to the UK, remained in the UK, or emigrated elsewhere.

Anatol Tarnowiecki has been demobilized in the rank of captain. His choice was simple – to return to Poland as soon as possible and find his three children and other family members with whom he had not been in contact since 1940. He was unable to return until February 1949, sailing on the “Batory”, after almost 10-years of wandering.

Poland was not the country he had left in 1939. Wilno, where he had built his family life and career, had become the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. He found his children, after being apart from them for almost ten years, and they moved to Lower Silesia, to Cieplice, near the Tatra Mountains. He worked there as a teacher for many years. He died in on 21 August 1991, at the age of 84 years, and was buried in the Parish Cemetery of Cieplice.

In Jelenia Góra you can find another trace of Captain Anatolu Tarnowiecki – he was commemorated as one of the Knights of the Order of Virtuti Militari associated with the Jelenia Góra area, on a plaque at the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Copyright: Tarnowiecki family

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