An excerpt of the story of a U.S. citizen who volunteered to join the 1st Polish Armoured Division
A Man Without A Country
You are stationed in conquered Germany late in 1945, aiding in the occupation efforts after VE Day. Your life has been on hold for more than 3 years, well over six months of which were on the front lines in combat. One would think that your conscription would be ending soon and all you must do is hitch a ride on one of the many boats headed back home to the USA, along with the millions of others who have fought to end the tyranny in Europe. Piece of cake, right?
But then you hear rumblings regarding mustering out and you get correspondence from the US Foreign Service, where you are being told that you may no longer be a citizen of the country in which you were born. On top of that, the country whose forces you have fought with basically no longer exists, since it is being taken over by Communist Russia. Imagine the angst and consternation you would feel after jeopardizing life and limb for the cause of liberty and freedom.
At some point the 1st Armoured Division gets relieved of their post-war occupation duties and is sent back to Scotland. By this time the issue of repatriating to the US has somehow been resolved.
The fate of Maczek and his soldiers, after completing their duties in occupied Germany, was a bitter one. After the end of the war and his demobilisation, the communists not only stripped General Maczek of his Polish citizenship, but also his livelihood. He was forced to work as a barman, which was well below his qualifications, but also didn’t accord with his military merits and his temperament. He came to share the fate of many Poles in exile, who decided not to return to Poland. His soldiers dispersed around the world and when the British government, fearing a worsening of relations with Moscow, distanced themselves from General Maczek and the role he played in World War II, the responsibility to commemorate his glorious history came to rest on their shoulders.
Over the course of the many years of the war, a unique bond formed between Maczek and his soldiers. If it is possible for a commander to be like a father who looks after his children with great care. Iin the case of General Maczek, this was certainly true. For decades, the only places where memory strongly survived about Maczek and his men were Belgium and the Netherlands. It would be difficult to find better evidence of the durability of these memories and Maczek’s legacy today, than the Memorial Museum dedicated to Maczek in Breda.
Many of the Poles who served in Scotland declined to return to a Soviet-controlled Poland after the war. Their continued presence was not universally popular and there were fears from the trade unions that jobs needed by British ex-servicemen might be taken by Poles. Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary, urged the Poles to return to Poland, but many opted to join the Polish Resettlement Corps and remain in Britain. This organization, which was formed in 1946 and disbanded in 1949, aimed to ease the transition from military to civilian life, while keeping remaining Poles under military discipline. Quite a few Poles returned to Perthshire, as a look through the local telephone book in 1997 revealed plenty of Polish surnames.
On 21 May 1946, Ed was discharged from the Polish forces and returned home to the Pittsburgh area. After the continual correspondence with Frances Baranowski during his deployment, they reconnected and were married in April 1947. My sister Christine was born the next year, following in 1949 with my birth, then my brother Ed’s birth in 1952 and my sister Frances’ six years later.
Both of my parents lived their Polish heritage. Besides joining the local Polish War Veterans chapter in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh (my Dad as a veteran and my Mom in the Women’s Auxiliary), they dedicated their time to endeavors such as running many Polish Folk dancing events in the Pittsburgh area, especially the annual Polish Heritage Days at the local West View and Kennywood amusement parks. Additionally, my sisters and I attended Alliance College in northwest Pennsylvania where we continued our Polish studies and danced in the Polish Folk Dancing troupe called the Kujawiaki.
Author of “An American Patriot – Son of Poland” - Dan Marchewka, Dec. 2021