Zygmunt Chojecki was a Polish exile who settled in London after the war. His wife, Caroline Elizabeth Rowett, was introduced to him because, like her mother, he had also lost a leg. In his case, it was in Italy after the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Zygmunt, , had been deported with his family by the Russians from their home in eastern Poland during the Second World War. This happened after the Russians invaded Poland two weeks after the Germans had invaded from the west. They carved up Poland between them and the Russians soon started a campaign of ethnic cleansing - deporting Poles from the eastern borderlands to Siberia and northern Kazakhstan. There were four mass deportations in 1940 and 1941, displacing over 1 million Polish citizens.
The deoportees reached their destination in cattle cars, with little food or protection from the elements, and only a hole in the floor of the car to serve as a toilet. Many died on the way.
For nearly two years, Zygmunt was forced to work on collective farm in the USSR. When Germany turned on its previous ally Russia, the Polish-government-in-exile signed the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that freed the deportees and led to the formation of a Polish army in the southern part of the USSR.
After securing his release from forced labour, Zygmunt undertook a harrowing journey to reach the Polish army in the south. Travelling on foot and sometimes by train, it took severl months to reach his destination. By the time he reached the army, he was barely a skeleton!
Because the Russians did not provide the equipment and supplies they had promised, General Anders secured permission to evacuate to Persia (now Iran). This took place in the spring and the fall of 1942. Ships of all shapes and sizes were commandeered to take the soldiers (as well as a large contingent of their families) across the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi.
For the next two years Zygmunt trained with the army - in Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. Then in 1944, they set sail for Italy to join the Allies in the Italian Campaign. Zygmunt participated in the Battle of Monter Cassino - one of the fiercest battles of the war.
After the war, Zygmunt settled in England. He worked at the SSRC, helping with Russian translation — and introducing his wife to the team. The couple married in 1953 and had three children, who survive them. Maryla worked as a jeweller, Jan is a technology transfer specialist in biological science and Alina worked as a nurse specialising in premature babies.
His wife's role at Blechley Park during the war was little known until recent years. Caroline Chojecki, who was a superbly organised, systematic and creative thinker, made an important contribution to the methodology at Bletchley when in 1943 she introduced a card- indexing system that prefigured the computerised intelligence databases that she helped to develop after the war.
She began to compile a database that was later copied by the Admiralty in London, which required her to visit once a week to maintain its version of the index. The database grew steadily in size and importance as an analytical tool with Chojecki writing firm information in fountain pen, leaving more speculative details in pencil.
Responsibility for updating this database was one of the reasons why Chojecki ended up in a doctor’s surgery. “The card index was the bane of my existence because it would be useless unless kept up to date, but it proved invaluable later on,” she recalled.
After the war,her career took off again in the 1970s when she became a key member of the Soviet Studies Research Centre (SSRC), which was set up at Sandhurst in 1973. At Sandhurst she introduced a computerised version of the Bletchley card index system, which became central to the unit’s operation as it grappled with Soviet strategy and capabilities.
Zugmunt died in 1983, and Caroline Chojecki died on September 24, 2017, aged 96.
Copyright: Chojecki family