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Leon was born in eastern Poland in 1923.

The Germans invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians invaded from the east on 17 September 1939. They divided Poland between them. In the Russian-controlled area, the plan to ethnically-cleanse the area soon took effect with the first of four mass deportations to Siberia that were carried out in 1940 and 1941.

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. Leon had been deported to Siberia and was released when ‘amnesty’ was declared.

Leon made his way to the southern USSR where the Polish army was being formed. He joined the Polish 2nd Corps and evacuated to Persia (now Iran) 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.

After training in Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, Leon set sail for Italy with the Polish 2md Corps.  He took part in the Italian Campaign, including the battle of Monte Casino. After the war, Leon emigrated to Canada in 1946 on a two-year work contract. He relocated to Kitchener in 1949 and married Genowefa (nee Kusy) in 1950.They raised five children: Betty, Edward, Teresa, Andrew and Stanley.

He was a life member of Royal Canadian Legion and Polish Combatants Association, Branch #412, serving as President, Vice-President and Secretary Treasurer. He also served as President of the Polish School and was an active member of Sacred Heart Church.

Leon passed away in Kitchener, Ontario on Monday May 19, 2014, at the age of 91.

Copyright: Ziolkowski family

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