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Sylvester was born on 3 December 1918, in Jaksice, near Bydgoszcz, Poland. He graduated from the Municipal High School in Jaksice. Then he studied at the University of Technology in Wrocław and Bydgoszcz. He joined the Polish Army in 1938.

Sylwester fought in the September Campaign against thew Germans. After the USSR’s aggression against Poland, Sylwester evacuated to Hungary, then made his way through Romania, Yugoslavia and Italy to France. France was already under German occupation, so he and his friends reached Bayonne in Scotland on the ship “Batory”. There he the joined 1st Polish Armoured Division under the command of General Stanisław Maczek.

Sylwester became a tank driver in the 1st Armored Regiment. He landed with the Division on the beaches of Arromanches on 30 July 1944. On 8 August, during the fighting in Caen, he was wounded, his commander was killed, and his tank was completely destroyed. After the bloody battle for Mont Ormel the division reached the Belgian border, and Prince Andrzej Poniatowski was given command of the tank and crew.

After crossing the Belgian border, the 1st Armored Regiment and the crew of Sylwester tank fought against the Germans, liberating Roeselare, Aalter, Tielt, Ruiselede, Gadawa and many other Belgian towns and villages. While stationed in Sint-Gillis-Waas, he met his future wife, Marcelle. After a break of several days, the Regiment moved further to the Netherlands.

After the liberation of the Netherlands and the winter stopover, Sylwester and the Division crossed the German border. Here he found his sister Teresa in a German camp. He took her to his fiancée’s family in Sint-Gillis-Waas. After a short time, his sister returned to Poland. After the end of the war, Sylwester returned to his Marcella van der Hayden and lived with her parents in Sint-Gillis-Waas.

Sylwester married Marcella  on June 15, 1948. After settling in Belgium, he initially worked for friends of Marcella’s parents. Then he started working in a metallurgical factory, then in a teflon factory. He volunteered in the Volunteer Fire Department and was involved in commemorating the achievements of the soldiers of the 1st Armored Division.

He was awarded the following medals: the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Cross of Valor, the Gold Cross of Merit, the “Pro Memoria” Meda,l and many other Polish, Belgian, French and British decorations

Sylwester died in Sint-Gillis-Waas, Belgium, on 26 May 2015. He is buried at the Municipal cemetery in Sint-Gillis-Waas, Belgium

Translated from the original Polish

Copyright: Witold Gudyś (Polska Grupa Pamięci Historycznej)

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