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Translation of parts of an interview by Prof. Patalas

Konstanty was born in 1922 in Dołhinów, county of Wilejka, Wilno region. In September 1939, he belonged to a reserve company of KOP (Border Patrol). It was becoming clear that the Soviets had come not to help but to invade. All local telephone lines had been cut, so they had no information. Konstanty was assigned to a reconnaissance platoon. They were issued bicycles and sent afield to scout for the movements of the Soviet troops. After they had gathered some intelligence, they rode back along the Katerinski Trakt, an old highway almost thirty metres wide.

They soon received an order to cross the Lithuanian border, but all who wanted to go home were allowed to do so. He released the supply wagons, and the supplies of canned meat and cigarettes were distributed among the men. In the early afternoon they walked over a hill, through a grove, and across the border. They were soon captured by the Russians and imprisoned.

When the Germans attacked the Russians in June 1941, they were marched to the railway station in Borysow and loaded into freight cars. The Germans bombed the entire station, at the time crowded with Soviet troops and refugees. Their car jumped with every explosion. Outside, the Soviet soldiers were falling to their knees, raising their arms, praying for deliverance. What a sight: the Soviets praying in the midst of blood, death, and twisted metal!

They survived the air raid. By train they were taken first to Moscow, then on to Riazan, where they put them in a big prison. There we learned about the agreement between Sikorski and Stalin. And so, instead of a punishing sentence, Konstanty got a certificate of release, a loaf of bread, some onions, 100 grams of salt, and eighty rubles. They were let out of prison in groups of ten, and the certificates entitled them to ride by train to the Polish army headquarters in Buzuluk. Unfortunately, no one told them where it was and how to get there.

Some weeks later, they arrived at Totskoye. Konstanty was assigned to the 21st Infantry Regiment, the “Children of Warsaw.” In Guzar, in Asia, he found himself in the communications company of the division. On April 1, they were transported by a boat with the grandiose name Velikaia Partia Bolshevikov [The Great Bolshevik Party] from Krasnowodsk to Pahlavi, Persia (now Iran).

Easter of 1943 was spent in the vicinity of Tehran. From there they went through Basra, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea, until they ended up in Palestine, in a large camp called Kastino. After some intensive training, Konstanty was assigned, together with twelve others, to a communications platoon, attached to an artillery battery. They went into action for the first time on the river Sangro in Italy.

On May 3 they relieved the British units at Monte Cassino. They stayed on the front line until May 17 and were pulled back just before the decisive attack on the stronghold. Thousands of guns hurled tonnes of explosives at the hilltop. In the firing frenzy, the barrels of their big guns turned red-hot; they had to pour water on them and wrap them in wet blankets to keep firing. The paint on them burned into a coat of blackness. They did not go up the hill; when the assault began, they crouched in their trenches, while the infantry marched over their heads to death and victory. For surviving those two weeks and for the battles near Piedmont, which followed shortly afterward, Konstanty was awarded the Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour).

He was wounded twice during the Italian campaign. First, at Rimini, he got a piece of shrapnel in my buttock. He hurt and bled a bit, but his life was in no danger, and he did not even go to hospital. He got rid of the shrapnel only after he arrived in Winnipeg. The second time happened at Imola, at the very end of the war, when a fragment of steel lodged in his leg. He carried that souvenir all his life.

After the war, Konstanty came to Canada on a two-year farm-work contract, after which he settled in Winnipeg. He met Jozia who had been born in Canada, but her family was Polish through and through. She was still very young, barely eighteen when they met. Their courtship was short but sweet, and a few months later they were married, and soon started a family.

In the spring of 1949, he began to work at Inland Steel, where he worked until he retired.

Konstanty passed away in Winnipeg on September 20, 2014.

Copyright: Jackiewicz family

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