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Emil Skulski was born September 3, 1916 in Poland, he was the son of the late Stanislaw Skulski and Julia (Hummer) Skulski.  He was 23 years old when the Germans invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians invaded from the east on 17 September 1939. They divided Poland between them. In the Russian-controlled area, the plan to ethnically-cleanse the area soon took effect with the first of four mass deportations to Siberia that were carried out in 1940 and 1941.

The family were forcibly taken from their home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. They had been given less than an hour to pack what they could, without knowing where they were being taken. They took what they could carry and had to leave the rest behind.

They were taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. This included infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and seniors. Most of the adults and seniors were women. The cattle car had two shelves at either end, where people could sit or sleep – the rest had to make do with the floor. There was a cast iron stove, but they soon ran our of wood to fuel it. There was also a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.

They travelled like this for weeks, and were given some water, stale bread, and watery soup, only a few times. When someone died, their bodies were cast out next to the tracks and left there. Many infants and elders did not survive this journey.

When they reached the work camp in Siberia, they were told that this is where they would eventually die, but in the meantime, they had to work in order to earn their daily ration of bread.

Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, they had to contend with hordes of mosquitoes and black flies, as well as infestations of bed bugs in the barracks. There were no medical facilities in these camps, and diseases ran rampant, leading to a high death toll.

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.

Anders insisted on taking as many of the civilians that had reached the army as possible. There were 2 mass evacuations: in March/April 1942, and in September 1942. Then Stalin changed his mind and closed the borders. Those who had not been evacuated were not stuck in the USSR.

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.

The Polish 2nd Corps trained in Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, before setting sail for Italy. Emil participated in the Italian Campaign (including Monte Cassino) with the 5PAL unit of the 2nd Corps, then joined its 663 Artillery Aircraft Squadron (also called the  663rd Polish Air Observation Post Squadron) a subdivision of the air force of the Polish Armed Forces.

The 663rd Artillery Aircraft Squadron was created on September 8, 1944, when pilots and ground personnel were gathered at Ebola Airport, 30 kilometers southeast of Salerno.

The decision to form the unit was made at the turn of May and June 1944. From each Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Polish Corps, two officers were selected. Each of the officers were referred to Cairo for medical examinations and then to Pretoria in South Africa. At the beginning of July, a group of artillery officers began training in piloting and artillery surveillance from the air, at 62nd Air School in Bloemfontein, South Africa. On 23 December 1944, they were transferred to the front in the Forli area.

On 8 January 1945, the pilots performed the first operating flights in favor of the British 5th Army Corps. From February, they also cooperated with the Italian partisans.

In April 1945, individual squadrons cooperated with the artillery of the Polish 2nd Corps in the battle for Bologna (Squadron "A" was assigned to 3 DSK, Squadron "B" - 5 KDP, and Squadron "C" - 2 GA). The Squadron's last combat flight was made on April 25. On 19 October 1946, the unit was dismantled.

After the war, Emil spent some time in England before emigrating to Thomaston, Connecticut, USA, States in 1952 and worked for T. Sendzimir, Inc until his retirement at the age of 82. He married Jeanine A. (Bruyneel) Skulski, and they had two children: Carina and Leszek. Emil was a very active member of the Polish Veteran’s Association.


Among the medals he was awarded:

  • the Virtuti Militari Numbered 11425 (Poland’s highest honour),

  • the Cross of Valour, the Polish War Medal,

  • the Monte Cassino Cross Numbered 20707,

  • the Unit 5PAL medal.

  • plus British Medals.

Emil passed away Friday, January 31, 2014, aged 97.

Lt. Emil Skulski in a dress uniform of the

663rd 663rd Artillery Aircraft Squadron

Copyright: Skulski family

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