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Henryk was born on October 27, 1921, in Wilno, eastern Poland (now in Lithuania).

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was called up to fight in the September 1939 Campaign, after which he was arrested by the Russians and sent to a work camp in Siberia.

He was 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 out of wood to fuel it. There was also a hole in the floor thas wast 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.

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 now 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.

Henry joined the Polish 2nd Corps and served with great distinction in campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa. He was awarded the Cross of Valour in the battle of Monte Cassino.

He was also a skilled boxer and was the British 8th Army Middleweight Champion.

After the war, Henryk signed up for a two-year work contract and emigrated to Canada in 1947, eventually settling in Winnipeg. Here, in 1951, he met his life mate Czeslawa (nee Lorenc) and they began their new lives together and had two sons.

Henryk worked as a transit bus operator for the City of Winnipeg for 34 years, retiring in October 1986. He was a member of Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Church, a longtime member of the Polish Combatants Association #13, and a lifetime member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Andrew Mynarski VC Branch 34, where he served as Sargeant-at-Arms for over 25 years. He was also Vice-President and Treasurer of this Legion Branch.

With his wife Czeslawa, Henryk sang with the Polish Sokol Choir for many years, performing annually at Folklorama and touring throughout Canada, the U.S. and Poland. His many friends will long remember his beautiful tenor voice, flirtatious charm and great sense of humour.

Henryk passed away in Winnipeg on November 5, 2004 at the age of 83 years.

Copyright: Pilozow family

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