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Emil was born to Anastasia and Michal Kleban in Hodynie, Poland on February 27, 1921. He and his older brother Bronislaw enjoyed a village lifestyle with dogs and horses until they were forcibly taken to a work camp in Siberia by the Russians in 1940.

In June 1941, Germany turned on its ally, Russia. Stalin then quickly changed tactics and allied himself with the west so that the allies could help him defeat the Germans. This led to the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that called for the freeing of Poles imprisoned in POW camps and labour camps in the USSR, and the formation of a Polish Army in the southern USSR.

The news of this ‘amnesty’ did not reach every camp, but where it did become known, the men and boys soon made plans to make their way south to join the army. For most, this meant walking thousands of kilometres and only occasionally getting on a train for part of the journey.  Many did not make it, and those who did were emaciated skeletons by the time they got there.

General Anders was in charge of the army, and he tried hard to get the Russians to provide the food and equipment they had promised. When this became more and more impossible, he negotiated the right to evacuate the army to Persia, where the British would provide what was needed.

The evacuation took place by ship over the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi in Persia (now Iran). The ships that were used were oil tankers and coal ships, and other ships that were not equipped to handle passengers. They were filthy and lacked even the basic necessities, like water and latrines. The soldiers and civilians filled these ships to capacity for the 1-2 day trip. When there were storms, the situation got even worse – with most of the passengers suffering sea sickness.

Upon reaching Persia with the Polish 2nd Corps, Emil volunteered to be a paratrooper and was sent to Scotland via South Africa. In Scotland, he joined the 1st Polish Independent Paratroop Brigade and participated in the battle of Arnhem and was awarded the Polish Medal of Valour. Ater V.E. Day, Emil served during the Blockade of Berlin.

In November 1947, he demobbed in Nottingham where he married Zofia Butrymowicz on December 26, 1949. Working as a pipe fitter Emil and Zofia lived in a large Polish Ex-patriot community in Nottingham until 1958. Their son Richard was born in 1954 and Emil was determined to give him a better life, so they left friends and family and immigrated to Canada in 1958, settling in Winnipeg.

Emil passed away in Winnipeg on May 31, 2014 at the age of 93 years.

Copyright: Kleban family

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