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Jozef was born on 1 January 1901 in Poland.

He was taken prisoner as a boy in 1914, while digging trenches in the front line.  He was forced to work in the salt mines, where he almost died of a blood hemorrhage.

During WW2, he fought in the September Campaign in Poland in 1939, was captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp in Siberia. When they reached the POW 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.

Jozef volunteered and  was assigned to the 22 Artillery Supply Company, 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, Polish 2nd Corps.

He evacuated to Persia with the army. 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.

He then trained in Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, before setting sail for Italy. He fought in the Italian Campaign with the Polish 2nd Corps, including the Battle of Monte Cassino. He reached the rank of Senior Rifleman.

He was awarded the following medals:

Polish medals: Cross of Merit with Swords, Monte Cassino Cross (#27198),

1939-1945 Polish War medal.
British Medals: 1939-1945 Star, Italy Star x 2, Defence Medal, 1939-45 Medal.

In 1946, Jozef came to the UK and joined the Polish Resettlement Corps. Sadly, he lost most iof his family, as well as his life savings, during the war. In 1949 he married Hilda Maddicot, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Maddicott, born in Alverston on the 18 April 1896. The marriage took place in Newton. Jozef worked for the Devon Concrete Works until he retired.

In 1952, Jozef applied for British Citizenship, and this was granted on the 26th February 1953 to Lawinski Josef (also known as Josef Lawinski-Maddicott).

Jozef passed away in Newton Abbott in 1978, at the age of 77 years. Hilda passed away in Torbay in June 1980, at the age of 84 years.

Copyright: Lawinski family

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