Polish Officer Cadet,
Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade,
& Polish Air Force in the UK
Born 20 November 1920, while his parents, Josef and Anna Gibas were on vacation in Czechoslovakia. He was the middle child between sisters Mira and Wanda, raised near Zywiec – a town in south-central Poland, in the Carpathian Mountains, on the Soła River near the border with Slovakia.
After graduating from high school, Rudolf enrolled in the army's officer training school. When World War II broke out, the Germans invaded Poland and, on 8 October 1939, he was taken prisoner. Her spent four years in several German POW camps, including a brief stay in the infamous Colditz Castle.
After tunneling out from Stalag VI-G in Bonn, he made his way to Holland, Belgium, and then France. He crossed the Pyrennes with a group of refugees that were guided by the French Underground. A fierce snowstorm forced most of the group to turn back. But Rudolf and three of his buddies pushed on. They became lost and could not see where they were going. Then Rudolf heard church bells and insisted that they should follow the sound. This is how they reached Spain, where Rudolf asked the Spanish patrol that found them where the church was. They told him that there was no church for 200 miles. He always believed that this was a miracle that saved their lives.
From Spain, Rudolf was evacuated to England, where he joined the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade and trained as a commando. He parachuted behind enemy lines the day before D-Day to blow up a bridge and was wounded by the explosion. Consequently, he was evacuated back to England as the D-Day invasion got underway.
Rudolf then joined the Polish Air Force in the UK, and was training to be a pilot when the war ended. After being demobilized, he met Gwendoline Glazebrook. They married on 19 February 1949. He graduated from Derby Technical College as a chemist.
Rudolf and Gwen emigrated to the United States in 1952, and initially lived with Rudolf’s uncle in Black Rock, New York. The family then moved to Riverside before settling in Tonawanda in 1971. Rudolf worked as a chemist at the GM Tonawanda plant for his entire career, retiring in 1982.
The couple had a son and a daughter, as well as five grandchildren.
Rudolf died June 9, 2019, in Cheektowaga, New York. He was 98 years old.
Polish: Bronze Cross of Merit, with swords