Polish Home Army
3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade at Tobruk
Polish 2nd Corps in the Middle East and Italy
Tadeusz Sokołowski was born on September 6, 1914, on the Sławów estate near Ztomierz.
He completed his compulsory military service in the 38th Lwow Rifle Infantry Regiment in Przemyśl. He then decided to continue his studies. He studied law at the University of Warsaw, where he graduated shortly before the war began.
In September 1939, he fought in Sztubno near Mosciska.
After Poland fell, he returned home and began to help people get across the border. With the assistance of his friends from his studies and military service, his mother, and Zbigniew Rys, he assembled a real transfer network chain.
In early 1940, under the pseudonyms "Ogórek" and "Zebaty", he joined the Polish resistance of the ZWZ "Union of Armed Struggle". His job included carrying weapons, ammunition, and money, and also serving as a guide when important personalities moved across the borders.
In the spring of 1940, he ended his militancy in the resistance, escaped Poland, and reached Libya, where on 10 June 1940 he was assigned to the 3rd company of the 2nd battalion of the Polish Free Army, as platoon chief and took part in the Libya campaign.
In the fall of 1941,1 he took part in the defence of Tobruk, where he was wounded, and spent some time in a Middle East hospital before returning to his unit.
In December 1943, he was transferred to Italy with the 3rd Carpathian Rifles Brigade of the Polish 2nd Corps.
He took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino and on 12 May 1944, he was taken prisoner by the Germans in the Monte Cassino area. He managed to escape and on 25 April 1945 he returned to his original unit.
On 1 July 1945 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Her was demobilized on 13 November 1946 in Predappio, Italy.
After the war he did not return to Poland, since it was now under communist control. Instead, he moved to Canada on a 2-year farm contract and was assigned to a farm near Stratford, Ontario.
Tadeusz called the first meeting of Polish veterans on 1 January 1947 (a few months after the arrival of the combatants in Canada). The meeting was held in the Polish Hall on Hill Street in London, Ontario. This led to the creation of the Polish Combatant’s Association – Branch 2, and he served as its President in 1947, 1948.
The first issue the branch had to address was that of the working conditions of Polish combatants who worked on area farms. The problem was of such importance that a special all members meeting was called. and subsequently held on October 5, 1947, attended by 315 members.
The combatants wanted to change the terms of the contracts under which they were allowed to immigrate to Canada, specifically, they wanted to be able to work on a farm of their own choice and not on the one they were assigned to, and to shorten the length of the contracts. These problems were not easy to solve. All parties to the discussions (the combatants, farmers, representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Agriculture) had diverse objectives. Disagreements abounded and the situation became so grave that the combatants threatened to strike. Only then did the representatives of the Ministry agree to meet with them.
Branch president Sokolowski and Mr. Glogowski of the Canadian Polish Congress, who acted as his interpreter, travelled together to Ottawa and were able to resolve the problems.
Tadeusz continued his involvement with the Polish Combatant’s Association and other Polish-Canadian associations, for the rest of his life.
Tadeusz Sokołowski died on 17 May 2006 in Midland, Ontario and is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.
Translation of Tadeusz Sokołowski's speech, at the Polish Veterans Association, Branch No. 2, London, Ontario, Canada, on 11 May 1947:
Six months have passed since we saw the lights of Halifax on the then unknown land of Canada. We were slowly approaching one more country in the chain of those we had passed through in our war march, and I hope that Canada is the end of our journey. The ship slowly approached the wharf, and we were greeted by the peace and quiet of a peaceful port, so different from the hustle and bustle of the ports we experienced on the Mediterranean Sea.
We were aware that we had come to a different country than the ones we had been to before. That other people live here and that relations between them were governed by different laws. In the first place, we were curious about what awaits us in Canada and how we will be received? We were glad that the turbulent Atlantic Ocean and even more turbulent Europe were far beyond us. We also knew that we did not know the English language or customs so far from our homeland.
I remember my first conversation with a correspondent for the Free Press [a newspaper in London, Ontario] was through an interpreter in French. What a distant time. Today we have taken a great step forward, we already speak English - some better, some worse, but enough to communicate with our legislator, and we even dare to speak in public, and I am sure that in a few months English will cease to be a problem for all of us.
Very often, in the first words of a conversation, we encounter the question "How do you like Canada?" We usually answer, "I am very satisfied that I came to Canada." And often in the eyes of the questioner you can see surprise, as if asking: Why is he so happy? Maybe from hard work? After all, the new arrivals have not even seen a beautiful summer in Canada. Yes, we are glad to be in Canada. Because we are in a country where the law applies to both those who are governed and those who rule, and that is not the case everywhere in the world right now. We are happy that we can live among people whose way of life and culture is the same as that in which we were raised and which we inherited from our ancestors.
Sometimes they ask us why did you come to Canada and not return to Poland? We usually answer succinctly - because the Russians rule Poland now. This is too short an answer, there are deeper reasons why we did not return to Poland.
The Russians brought with them another culture, different from ours, which developed in the middle of Asia; a foreign culture to a man brought up in Christian principles. A culture that does not know the concept of love of neighbor.
In each country, the governments are sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, or socialist, but none of the governments try to change the basic principles of life based on religion and culture, which is the achievement of many generations behind us.
And now in Poland there are such profound changes in the most fundamental forms of life, under the influence of Poland's new protector - Russia. We, who fought for many years in the name of freedom and respect for the law, did not want to change our ideals, for which so many brave people died in the fight, and therefore we did not want to return to Poland.
Canada is now our homeland. We want to live here, the life that all its citizens live. We want to be useful, we want to work, and I am sure Canadian society will be kind to us, knowing our past and our willingness to submit to the laws and customs of this country.
SOURCE: The original Polish text is part of the archives of the Polish Combatants Association, Branch No. 2, London, Ontario, Canada.