Stanislaw (Stan) KOBYLAK
November 3, 1930 - January 25, 2024
Stan was a mountain of a man, whose influence loomed large over all who knew him. He lived a life of lifetimes. He was born in southeastern Poland on 3 November 1930 to Wojciech and Anna (Gwozda) Kobylak. As a child, he happily whiled away his hours on the farm in Uhrynow Dolny until one horrific day in 1940, when the unimaginable occurred. World War II had arrived at their door.
The family was arrested by the Soviet Police, forcibly taken from their home, locked in a cattle car, and shipped to a labor camp in Siberia. Stan was only 9 years old, but he suffered at the hands of Stalin there for nearly two grueling years until he and his surviving family members, along with tens of thousands of other Polish exiles, were released from the camps as part of a British-brokered agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviets.
The family was made up of: Father Wojciech, Mother Anna (nee Gwozda), and 5 children (Jan, Wladyslawa, Stanislaw, Maria and Antoni (Marian). An older brother Jan (age 17) died in Komi USS, before they were able to leave Soviet Union in 1942.
Sadly not all of Stan’s remaining family survived to see freedom. His sisters,Wladyslawa and Maria, perished on the trek southward, leaving his mom, dad, Stan and his younger brother to mourn them as they journeyed (by train and on foot) through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
There, his family was torn apart once more when his father had to leave to join the ranks of the Polish 2nd Corps, to fight with the Allies against the Nazis. His sisters Marysia age 8 and Wladzia age 13 died on the way. After his father joined the Army Stanislaw, his 5 year old brother Marian, and his Mother went to a State Farm to harvest cotton.
They were later evacuated to Persia along with the Polish army, and Stan, his mother, and brother made their way to the refuge camp in Tehran, Iran. Months later, as the region became increasingly unsafe, still displaced and longing for solace, they continued by ship through Durban, South Africa and finally to Bwana M’kubwa, a Polish refugee camp in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).
Stan spent his adolescence there, attending a boarding school in nearby Lusaka. Finally able to enjoy being a kid, he looked back on his time in Africa fondly, often dubbing them the happiest years of his youth.
As a young adult in 1948, Stan joined his father in London, where the Polish 2nd Corps had set up under British command. His mother, with Stan’s younger brother in tow, reestablished her citizenship in the United States and began building a home for her family in Rossford, Ohio. One year later, somewhat reluctantly if you’d asked him, Stanley joined them – with thanks to his cousin, John Cieply, who helped him gain entrance to the U.S. Against all odds, the family was finally together again.
Stan met his sweetheart, Angela Wehrle, and with happier days ahead, married her on 18 June 1955. They built a family of five beautiful children and one pesky rooster who found his purpose in tormenting their eldest daughter. Stan and Angie celebrated an incredible 65 years of marriage together before she passed on September 26, 2020.
Stan spent most of his career with Mid States Grain Elevators, later owned by ADM/Countrymark, where his resourcefulness and jack-of-all-trades spirit served him well, as the Regional Facilities Superintendent until his hard-earned retirement in 1993. Never one to rest on his laurels, he was also a man of service. He served honorably in the US Army and was a member and commander of the Polish Army Veterans’ Association. Stan contributed to the publishing of a book, “Polish Schooling in War-Time Exile,” and was honored to present a copy to Pope John Paul II, in 2004. He was a devout Catholic and active member of his church, crediting his faith in God for his survival through the darkest of days.
Stan was fortunate to be able to visit his homeland of Poland often. He remained dedicated to his traditions and nurtured his relationships with family and friends there up until his dying breath. He was held in such high regard back home in Poland. Loved ones in Poland have declared his enthusiasm for recounting his childhood and challenging wartime experiences etched in their memories.
Lest up to now you’ve been led to believe he was all work and no play, it would be a great fault to honor his memory without mention of Stan’s happy place, his cottage on Lake Erie. He delighted in sharing his little slice of heaven on earth with family and friends. Fishing, boating, gardening, tinkering in the garage, cool-down swims at sunset after toiling away in the summer heat, it was righteous serenity – a happy ending for someone who’d quite literally had to fight for his life.
Stanley had a thirst for knowledge and penchant for sharing it. He even tried his hand at cooking in his later years, though truthfully, he not so secretly enjoyed his meals most when prepared by someone else. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren were always eager to learn how to cast a line and reel in a big one, or how to harness the wind without getting knocked out by the jib, and Stan happily obliged. His greatest love was his family, and he cherished his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Endearingly, they called him “Dziadzi.”
Stan is survived and his legacy will be carried by his children, Eugene, Theresa, Anna, John, and Christine; 11 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Angela Kobylak, his parents and siblings, Jan, Wladya, Marysia and Anthony.
Burial took place at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, in Rossford, Ohio.
Copyright: Kobylak family