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Stosław was born in Toruń and attended the Adam Mickiewicz middle school in Bydgoszcz. His father, a military doctor and professor of medicine, was killed in a car accident. His oldest brother, a captain in the military, was killed on the first day of the war, between Krakow and Częstochowa. He was 28 years old. His mother took Stosław, his one-year-old brother and seven-year-old sister to the Borderlands. His mother was a pharmacist, who worked in a military hospital in Wilno. Stosław had just finished high school in Wilno at the Stefan Batory University. The end of the year was to culminate in the athletics competition of all schools. He had trained all year to participate in the 1500 meters race. But the competition never happened.

In 1941, the Russians came at night, telling us to pack quickly because we were being relocated. Stosław took a photo album and sports shoes with spikes that were used to run in stadiums. They separated our brother from us, and we learned later that he went north to Kamczatki. It was one of four a mass deportations carried out by the Russians to ethnically cleanse the borderlands. The trains went to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Samarkand.

After a few weeks of an exhausting journey on the goods train, 60 people in one wagon, we ended up in a penal kolkhoz in the Ałtajski region. In the distance, the tops of the Chinese mountains were visible. In the other direction was Lake Baikal. I had to work almost non-stop, day and night to support myself, my mother and my sister. If someone didn’t work, they didn’t receive food.

Food consisted of a  hard piece of bran bread, and soup that was brought once a day. The constant hunger was monstrous. On my birthday, on 21 July, I wished that I could buy as much bread as I want. We lived such a terrible life for several months, until the Polish Government in exile in London agreed with Russia on the creation of an army of Polish exiles. Its creation was entrusted to General Anders. When I learned about it, I went to Tashkent, to the branch of the Polish government that was forming there. I asked for help so that I could go with my family and sign up for the Polish army. They didn't help, they didn't even give me a single ruble. But they said I was free.

All these terrible experiences have given me a kind of hatred for the Russians. We suffered terribly there. Well, but with the money from the tobacco we sold at the station, we went to Dżałł-Abab so that I could get into the army. My mother started working again at a pharmacy in the military hospital, and I, as a gunner, was assigned to the anti-aircraft artillery regiment.

Stosław was with the Polish 2nd Corps from Russia, through Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, to Palestine. He survived because he was physically developed. In Russia he finished a non-commissioned school with a very good result, but they did not give him a degree because he was too young. But he quickly developed his military knowledge. He became a corporal of the cadets with a very good result in Habbaniyi, Iraq, which is why in Geder, in Palestine, he was already an instructor and trained soldiers.

The Polish president in exile came to Palestine to see how the training of soldiers was going. They then went through Egypt and sailed to Italy, to fight. They landed in Taranto and went up along the Adriatic Sea route.

Stosław served in 5th Kresowa Division, which was part of the 2nd Corps of General Anders. He was one of the first to see what Monte Cassino meant, because he was appointed as a reconnaissance officer to check the area before the battle. Four previous offensives had failed, and Monte Cassino, a strategic site connecting Rome with Naples, remained unconceived. They did their reconnaissance work at night, because only at night they could move, since  there were German fortifications everywhere. They were on mules.

Stosław wasn't scared yet. Fear came later. When they were hiding about two weeks in the bunkers under the top of the mountain. It was raining for two days. Finally, another day came, the sun shone, He took off his shirt and went outside, and first heard the whistle, and then the boom of the mortars falling around him. And yet it seemed that no one was there. It turned out that there were Germans everywhere. Conditions for conducting the offensive were very difficult.

A month later, when they took their positions, there was an unbearable smell in the air. No one had picked up the corpses on the hills, their bodies had decomposed. They waited for the order. When the day finally came, at 10 p.m., he heard one terrible bang at once. The sky turned white from the guns. Just like during the day. Stosław was ordered to report to Captain Alexander Florkowski. The Germans were sitting in the rocks. Among them was one of the best Italian paratrooper divisions. They were soldiers ready for anything. Captain Florkowski told us to provide support to the infantry that was going up to Monte Cassino. It was an extremely tough offensive that lasted eight days. There were 1,051 killed, 4,000 wounded. A bullet struck his leg. The Germans were firing bullets from the mountain, and they made a poignant whistling sound, so one had the impression that they were flying over one’s head and would hit. They were convinced that the Germans had already detected them, because one mortar fell next to them. And it didn't explode. It went deep into the ground. If it had exploded, they would all be gone,

On the 8th day the 3rd Division entered Monte Cassino on one side, and Stosław’s 40 minutes later on the other side. So Stosław was one of the first to go to Monte Cassino. It was May 18th. Most of the Germans had fled. They left only a small hospital with their wounded. Today it is easy to talk about it, but this moment of climbing Monte Cassino, after eight days of fighting day and night was incredibly hard. The monastery was completely ruined. In the courtyard, among these ruins, a column with the statue of the Blessed Virgin was completely left untouched. In the 1990s, when Stosław visited Monte Cassino, he asked the museum’s director about this statue. He was told that there was no such statue, but he found the statue in the basement.  

When Stosław had reached the monastery, he had seen something else. Among the rubble on the ground, he found the relic of St. Benedict, the founder of the monastery. Years later, he asked at the monastery if he should return it and was told he could keep it. To this day, it is hanging over his bed.

The soldiers were all exhausted - without strength, they were lying on the rubble, falling asleep on the stones from fatigue. There was a joy that we had won because the capture of Monte Cassino opened the way to Rome. But physically they could not be happy. So many Poles had died, it was terrible. The capture of Monte Cassino was a great feat. The Germans were previously invincible and so well prepared. After the battle, they rested in Naples. What a surprise that life seemed normal there. It struck them that in the fields where the olive trees grew, the children walked and opera arias were sung.

Stosław didn't get a promotion. He had a platoon under him, but he was still a corporal, and he was assigned a motorcycle to ride. Then the 2nd Corps went to the north of Italy. The fighting still happened, but not as heavy as at Monte Cassino. Polish troops captured Bologna and the end of the war found them in Bolesnia. There we heard that the Germans had capitulated. Stosław got permission from the army to study marine engineering at the Technical University of Turin. But he couldn't finish his studies because the Italians did not extend his residence card. His mother, sister and brother were already in England. Stosław didn’t want to go back to communist Poland, afraid they would send him to Siberia again. The last transport from Italy he went to Argentina. With one trunk, containing his uniform, a menage, a cutlery, everything from the war.

Stosław started a new life in Buenos Aires. Young, happy and alone. He was first employed by Remington. Then he started a company that took apart old ships for scrap. He became one of the main experts. He met his wife at the Polish Club, and they have been married for 55 years..

Stosław is still working, running the companies. That keeps him active. He visited Poland in the 1980s, but it was not a pleasant trip. Personal control at the airport meant a full check, having to remove all his clothes. Everything was thoroughly checked. Opening his luggage and seeing the weekly from Argentina I he had with him, one of the tax collectors said: “And this is your propaganda.”

Professionally, there were two big things that occurred in his fife: He sold five thousand tons of iron for the construction of an overpass in Buenos Aires. And the second - that he bought five ships for scrap. It was the biggest deal that put him on his feet. For several years he was the president of the Polish Club in Buenos Aires. His wife helped him a lot. The fact that he is so healthy today, he credits to his wife's excellent cooking.

This was the fourth time Stosław has come to Monte Cassino. In the 1980s, when there were no celebrations organized by Poland, he went with his wife and daughter. Now, as he has come twice at the invitation of the President. A year and a half ago, he was promoted to Captain and awarded the “Pro Patria” and “Defender of the Fatherland” medals. Now they will be promoting h8im to Major. At Monte Cassino, he also met with one of his colleagues from the war, Wacław Pillar. At first, they did not recognize each other. Wacław landed first in Argentina after the war, then he and his family went to Canada. Now he lives in Rome. Soldiers from Monte Cassino have settled all over the world.

Fighting and dying at Monte Cassino, they were all wholeheartedly devoted to Poland. Stosław is proud of it, but also happy that he’s alive and can still go there. They fought for Poland to be free. But that was their tragedy and the mistake of Churchill and Roosevelt, that they sold them out. They won, but as a result, they lost. They could not return to their homeland.

People dream about something all their lives. Only life once goes up, another time it falls down. So Stosław  dreams of staying at the level he is at now - halfway between the bottom and the mountain.


Source: Translation of an interview by Anita of Czupryn on 10 June 2018 published on


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