top of page


Stefan Seligman was a lieutenant in a light artillery regiment serving near Wilno (today Vilnius) at the time of the German invasion in 1939. On 17 September, the Russians entered Polish territory from the East, in alliance with Nazi Germany. Along with General Wladyslaw Anders and many other officers, he was imprisoned in Lubyanka by the NKVD before being deported to a mining camp in the far north of Siberia.

With the announcement of the ‘Amnesty’ in 1941, a Polish Army on Soviet soil was formed, to incorporate the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and volunteers now freed from captivity across the Soviet Empire. With an eye to the spiritual welfare of the men, brutalised after months in captivity, an urgent appeal was sent to the Polish chaplaincy in the West to send through prayer books, chalices and pattens. Priests from rural pre-war parishes who had been caught up in the Soviet deportations now found themselves ministering to thousands of military men.

By the end of 1941, under the command of General Anders, the Polish Army numbered 25,000 soldiers, while the drivers were to be provided from among the many women freed from the camps, including Stefan Seligmn’s wife.. At this point, the Poles were attempting to discover the whereabouts of thousands of missing officers – not until 1990 would the Russian government formally admit responsibility and regret for the Katyn Massacre.

Facing a lack of resources from the Soviet authorities, the Polish forces were transported to Pahlevi in Persia beginning in March 1942: the Persian community rallied to provide clothing and support to thousands of Polish refugees, including women and children, and worldwide appeals for clothing were issued.

The Polish 2nd Corps was formally founded in 1943. Its training took it from Persia to Iraq, Palestine, and then Egypt, before embarking for Italy in February 1944. During all this preparation for war, Stefan Seligman still found time to woo and marry in Jerusalem. Not a huge amount of time: just three weeks between their first date and their wedding, hastened by the prospect of Stefan having to set sail for Italy.

In mid-March, General Leese had proposed that, given successive failures to seize the monastery at Monte Cassino, the Polish 2nd Corps should be given the task.

“The Germans still held firm and blocked the road to Rome,” wrote General Anders in his memoirs. “I realised that the cost in lives must be heavy, but I realised too the importance of the capture of Monte Cassino to the Allied cause, and most of all t that of Poland.”

Polish preparations were considerable: bringing up huge stocks or ammunition and equipment in secrecy, carried by mules and soldiers in the final stages; establishing a new communications system, strengthening and widening roads, filling the Rapido valley with smoke screens, engaging in training, capturing strongly fortified mountain positions, and the use of flamethrowers.

Stefan Seligman, now in the 6th Lwowski Light Artillery Regiment, went into action on 11 May 1944. “Shoulder to shoulder with us will fight British, American, Canadian, and New Zealand divisions, together with French, Italian and Indian troops,” wrote Anders in his Order of the Day. 

On the first day, Phantom Ridge was captured; at 10:20 on 18 May, the 12th Lancers Regiment raised the Polish flag over the ruins of Monte Cassino. More than 1,000 Poles died in the battle.

Within three weeks, Allied troops entered the city of Rome. Stefan Seligman’s own journey took him from Cassino to Ancona – and then to the UK and a life in exile, since his hometown had been gifted to the USSR at Yalta.


        Excerpts from an address delivered by Andre Adamson on behalf of Jenny Grant

(Stefan’s granddaughter) at the Cathedral of St Michael & St George in Aldershot,

on the 80th anniversary of the Liberation of Rome (Posted online on TheTablet blog)

Copyright: Seligman family

bottom of page