Jozefa (nee Kawałek) SOLECKI
Jozefa Solecki was born on Saturday, October 17, 1925, in Mosciskach, Poland, and was one of the few remaining survivors of the Soviet Gułag. On September 17, 1939, the Russians invaded Poland and deported over a million Polish citizens along with her family, to a labour camp in Siberia, where her father Jan Kawałek died.
It was on February 10, 1940 that the family (her parents, and her siblings: Kazik, Florek, Jozef, Irena, and Frania) was deported in cattle cars from Poland to a place called Molotowska Blas, in the Ural Mountains and housed in two-family barracks. There was a stove with an area on top on which a person could sleep (such stoves can still be found in rural Poland and other East European countries). Beds had straw for mattresses. The Camp was called Kluczanka, in the Dobranski Region. For two years, the family struggled to survive the atrocities of Stalin's regime.
After the declaration of 'amnesty' in.1942, one of her brothers joined the Polish 2nd Corps arid another brother joined the 1st Polish Armoured Division, which resulted in her family being allowed to leave Siberia. They made their way to the southern USSR, and were eventually evacuassted to Persia (Iran).
Unable to return to Poland, the family was resettled in the British territories in Africa where Jozefa became a border guard. From 1942-1943 Jozefa, along with her mother and three younger siblings, lived in the Polish settlements of Kidugala and Tengeru in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where she completed her high school education. Jozefa joined the Polish Air Force in Africa and eventually made her way to the UK, where she joined the 300th Bomber Squadron of the Polish Air Force.
In Lincolnshire, she met her future husband, Zbigniew Solecki, who was a member of the 300th Bomber Squadron. He flew over 37 combat missions in a Lancaster plane. They married in April of 1946. In 1952, Jozefa and Zbigniew took advantage of the Bill allowing Polish ex-servicemen and women to immigrate to the United States and settled in Buffalo, New York. Jozefa and Zbigniew became productive U.S. citizens, raised a family, and educated their children.
Jozefa belonged to the Polish Veterans of World War II, and SWAP Post # 1, where she held the position of· Vice Commander. She also belonged to the Ladies Auxiliary and helped coordinate many cultural and social programs organized by the Post.
She received numerous awards and recognition of her achievements, including the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award, and the Women of Distinction Award from the Polish American Congress, WNY Division. She was also honoured with the Polish Golden Medal by the Polish Government, as well as the Siberian Cross for the hardship ahe endured during WWII.
Jozefa passed away on Aprilm 12, 2021 at the age of 95, and was buried with Military Honors at the Polish Veterans Plot, in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, New York.