Piotr Połacik fought in the September Campaign, then made his way to Syria to join the Independent Carpathian Brigade that later became the 3DSK. He served in Palestine, and then in the Italian campaign, advancing to the rank of Captain and then Company Commander.
He participated in the battles of: Tobruk, Sangro, Monte Cassino, Ancona, Loreto, and Bologna. He suffered serious wounds during these battles and was awarded several decorations, including the Virtuti Militari Cross, the Cross of Valour, the Silver Cross of Merit with swords, the Monte Cassino Cross, as well as other Polish and British medals. He was later awarded the POL0NIA RESTITUTA Cross, and the Order of Australia.
After the war, Piotr settled in Tasmania, married Katarzyna Twardowska, who had served in the Women's Auxiliary of the Polish Air Force in the UK. They had two sons and a daughter. He was very involved in the life of Polonia in Tasmania, including many of their sporting activities. Piotr died on 3 July 1985.
Post-war Poles in Tasmania:
In October 1947 the first group of 280 Polish ex-servicemen – the so called “Rats of Tobruk” from the Carpathian Brigade – came to the Hydro-Electric Commission’s construction camps in central Tasmania to start work. It was the first organised group of non-British migrants contracted and sponsored by the Australian Government. This group was followed by others; ex-servicemen as well as civilian Polish settlers, mostly refugees from displaced persons camps in England and Germany.
The choice of Polish soldiers as the first Government-sponsored group of non-British migrants was not accidental. Many friendships were forged when the Poles fought alongside Australians during the African campaign and the Polish soldiers, particularly the Carpathian Brigade, were known for their courage and discipline.
Over 800 Polish men arrived in 1947-48 in Tasmania. The majority of them spent two years working in isolated construction camps at Tarraleah, Bronte Park, Butlers Gorge, Waddamana and Liawenee. They worked 44 hours per week, in very rough weather conditions, living initially in provisional barracks with primitive facilities. In some of the camps, Polish rather than English was the main language of communication.
After completing their work contracts, most of the ex-servicemen stayed with the H.E.C. and while some remained in the camps, the majority moved to Hobart or Launceston.
There was a great sense of camaraderie among the Poles. The ex-servicemen formed the Association of the Carpathian Brigade ex-Servicemen and the Association of the Polish Veterans.
These early migrants became leaders and activists of the Polish community. They played a key role in establishing the Polish Association (in 1950), Polish Club (1961), Polish Credit Union, Polish School (1954), Polish Scouting Troop (1971), White Eagle sport club (1961), club “Oberek” dancing ensemble (1952) and the radio program. The Polish Ladies Auxiliary (1963), Senior’s Club (1977) and Polish Welfare Office (1990’s) were later established to help the frail and aging.
In the 2016 census nearly 3,500 Tasmanians claimed Polish ancestry and more than 1,000 of those stated that both their parents were born in Australia. Most Polish groups are headed now by the children of the post war migrants. The vitality of these groups has enriched the entire Tasmanian community and is the most important legacy of Polish post-war immigration.
The wedding of Piotr and Katarzyna