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Translation of parts of an

interview by Prof. Patalas

Jozef was born in 1914 in the Wilno region of eastern Poland. He was drafted into the Polish army in 1937 and served his full term in the 10th Lancers Regiment. In the first days of the war, he received an order to break in new horses as intensively as possible. Later he was assigned to a machinegun detachment and went to the front, east of Wilno.

After the Soviets invaded, Jozef evacuated to Lithuania with a group of colleagues. They had to surrender all our weapons and horses. It was losing the horses that he regretted most, for so much work had gone into their training. Lithuanian guards marched them to a camp in Rokiszki, about 150 kilometers from Kowno. He ended up in Kozelsk, where they were marched to the nearby old monastery, which had been turned into a POW camp. The camp was huge and must have housed some 20,000 prisoners. They spent the entire winter (1940-41) there, and in the spring they were transported to Hermanow, near Kamionka Strumiłowa, where they worked crushing stones used for building a road.

Next , they were shipped to the vicinity of Lwów to work on the construction of a new air strip near Zloczow. He was given a job as a carpenter.  When the Germans attacked the Russians, the Soviets began to evacuate the camp—some 15,000 people—towards the east in groups of 200 to 300 prisoners. Frequently attacked by German planes, they made it to Zloczow. But the railway station had just been bombed out, so they marched further on in the direction of Kiev, where the guards finally shoved them into railway cars. They were taken to Starobilsk and lodged in an old Eastern Orthodox church. It was there that they got the news about the Polish army forming somewhere in Russia. Somewhat later, the Soviets gave them 500 rubles each and sent them to Buzuluk, where many had already registered and had been temporarily assigned to various units. Jozef was assigned to the 12th Podole Lancers Regiment, to the headquarters security unit.

In December 1943, the 2nd Corps was shipped to the Italian front. It took thirty-six ships to carry all the men and equipment to Taranto in Italy. They engaged the enemy for the first time in San Basilio. Jozef’s regiment assumed the reconnaissance duties for the corps. For the battle of Monte Cassino, his regiment was turned into infantry. They went into action in the second wave.

After the war, Jozef learned that his parents had been murdered by the Soviets. His brother was arrested and taken to Moscow or somewhere; he was never heard from again. Under those circumstances, Jozef saw no point in going back to Poland.

Jozef emigrated to Canada on a two-year work contract, working on farms in Manitoba, after which he settled in Winnipeg. He worked in the tailor’s shop of the Canadian Army, making alterations to military uniforms.

He became a member of the Polish Combatants Association #13 and became a member of the colour party.

Copyright: Jankowski family

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