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Michal was born to Jozef and Anna Bednarczyk on 27 April 1914 in Bolotowce, Poland.  He worked on the family farm before joining the Polish Army prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.


Michal fought in the September Campaign against the Germans, but was then captured by the Russians, who has invaded Poland two weeks after the Germans, and he was sent to a POW camp in Siberia.

When they reached the work camp in Siberia, they were told that this is where they would eventually die, but in the meantime, they had to work 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. Luckily, Michal did learn of the ‘amnesty’ and made the difficult journey south to join the Polish army that was being formed in the USSR.

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.

Anders insisted on taking as many of the civilians that had reached the army as possible. There were 2 mass evacuations: in March/April 1942, and in September 1942. Then Stalin changed his mind and closed the borders. Those who had not been evacuated were now stuck in the USSR.

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.

Michal served in the artillery division of the Polish 2nd Corps.  He participated with distinction in the famous battles of Monte Cassino, Ancona, and Bologna, and was decorated with many Polish and British medals.

After the War, Michal was sent to the UK, along with the rest of the Polish 2nd Corps. There he joined the Polish Resettlement Corps, until he was demobilized in 1948.

Michal met and married his wife Stephanie in the UK. After the birth of their son George, the family immigrated to Canada, settling in Winnipeg in 1951. After working as a labourer, Michal and Stephanie established "Mikes Fine Foods" in the heart of the North End where he served his neighbourhood for six years. Michal subsequently began a long and distinguished career in real estate, working with Atlas Realty and Royal Trust over a period of 35 years.

Michal was a longtime member of the St. John Cantius Fraternal Aid Society, acting as President for two terms. He was a member of the Polish Combatants Association, Branch 13, and of the Royal Canadian Legion. Michal and Stephanie were members of St. John Cantius Parish since the early 50s and singing in the choir was one of Michals greatest joys.

Michal passed away in Winnipeg on 20 March 2001, at the age of 87 years. He was buried at the Holy Ghost Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Copyright: Bednarczyk family

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