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Piotr Burczynski was born on 22 October 1920, in the village of Cryzykow, in the district of Lwow, Poland. 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.

Piotr fought in the September Campaign in Poland against the Germans. When Poland capitulated, he was captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp in Siberia.

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. Piotr was one of those who made this perilous 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.

. 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.

Piotr joined the 3rd Carpathian Brigade, trained in the Middle East, and fought in the Battle of Tobruk in North Africa. He later sailed to Italy with the Polish 2nd Corps and fought in the Italian Campaign, including the battles of Monte Cassino, Bologna, and Ancona.

He was awarded the following medals: The 1939-1945 Star, the Italy Star, the 1939-1945 War medal, and the commemorative Cross of Monte Cassino.

In 1946, Piotr emigrated to Canada on a two-year work contract, to work on a farm or in mining. On the completion of the contract, Piotr settled in Winnipeg where he married Helena Krakowiak in 1950 and raised a daughter and a son: Wanda and Frank. He was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway for 34 years. Piotr was one of the founding members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #246.

Piotr passed away in Winnipeg on 24 May 2019, at the age of 99 years. He is buried at the Holy Ghost Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Copyright: Burczynski family

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