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Teodor Gnidec

Teodor was born to Piotr Gnidec and Anna (nee Zyhailo) on 8 February 1917 in Kamionka Wołoska. Rawa Ruska district, Lwow province, Poland. On a Sunday in December 1939. Teodor and several others were arrested by eight men in a Soviet truck. He was imprisoned in Raw Ruska for two weeks. He was then transported to a prison in Lwow. He stayed there until mid-April 1940, when he was taken by train to Kiev. He was held two weeks in an open square at the railway station and finally reached Kharkov, where the prison was in a former monastery.

On 1 September 1940, Theodore, along with other prisoners, was loaded onto a train and transported to Arkhangelsk. In total, there were 450 men in this camp, 250 of whom were Poles. The others were Russians, Germans, Hungarians and Romanians. Loaded onto an exposed barge they went on a journey along the Peczory River, but the journey was discontinued because the river froze. After two weeks, the men were forced to walk on the icy river for 4 days and 3 nights. In mid-December 1940, they reached a labour camp located 40 km from Workuta.

They had to work on the construction of a railway line from Kotlasz to Workuta. They received 60 g of sugar per month as part of their food ration, which was obviously insufficient and as a result of which Theodore was in hospital due to avitaminosis 4-5 weeks in the summer of 1941.

In 1941, the Polish Government in Exile in England signed an agreement with Stalin, freeing Polish prisoners and enabling the creation of the Polish Army on Soviet soil. On 1 September 194,1 Teodor and 29 other prisoners were released from the camp. He received 300 roubles and food for 3 days.

He arrived in Buzułuk by train and then took the train to Tatiszczew, where he arrived in the first week of October 1941. As conditions for the army worsened, the Polish command demanded the possibility of evacuating the Polish Army to the Middle East. In the spring and fall of 1942, more than 100,000 Poles left the Soviet Union. They made a journey from Krasnowodz across the Caspian Sea to the port of Pahlevi in Persia (Iran) and then to Tehran. Trucks driven by experienced drivers went from Tehran through the mountains to Khanaqin in Iraq, near Kirkuk, where they were stationed from January to August 1943. There they trained at high temperatures during the dayand freezing temperatures at night. They continued their training from September to mid-October 1943 in the mountainous terrain in Lebanon.

In December 1943, they were transferred to Egypt, where Teodor had the opportunity to explore Cairo, see the pyramids and other places. Then, in early February 1944, he sailed to the port of Taranto in Italy. By the end of this month, they were stationed in Campobasso.

. Their next stop was Castrocaro near Cassino, where his unit - the 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, 13 Vilnius Rifle Battalion “Rys” - trained in mountainous terrain. On 5 May 1944, they reached Monte Cassino, where they stayed in the trenches until 11 May. That day at 11 p.m., about 16,000 guns began bombing German positions. The battle had begun. Teodor lost consciousness when a missile exploded near him. During the battle, he was wounded in his left arm, left thigh and the back of his head. He was transported to the hospital where he spent six weeks. During the battle for Monte Cassino, 46 soldiers from his company \were killed and 48 wounded. The final attack on Monte Cassino took place on 18 May 1944. This time it was victorious: Polish soldiers took over Monte Cassino and opened the way to Rome. Three days after Teodor returned from the hospital, the 2nd Corps liberated Ancona.

On 31 August 1944. Teodor was wounded again, in his right arm, as he moved a slain colleague. He was hospitalized and underwent skin grafts.

He returned to the 2nd Corps in Galeata in mid-November 1944. Together with his squad, he spent Christmas and the New Year in the vicinity of Bologna, a city that was liberated by the 2nd Corps in April 1945. In mid-April 1945. Teodor was promoted to the rank of Corporal after undergoing non-commissioned training.

At the end of World War II, Teodor remained in Italy. He studied at Modena for six weeks and then moved with the Corps to Naples. In August 1946, Canadian diplomats arrived in Italy in search of 6,000 healthy men to work on farms. Many Polish soldiers chose this opportunity instead of returning to communist Poland. Teodor left Italy to go to Canada with the first group of Polish soldiers. He sailed from Naples to Halifax. They each had to sign a two-year contract to work on a farm. Many of them replaced German prisoners of war who were returned to Germany.

Teodor was sent to St. Thomas in Ontario and worked on tobacco farms at Mount Brydges from 1947 to 1949. In June 1949, he moved to London, Ontario and moved into the building where its owners, Atkinsons, rented rooms for 5 cents a week. On the first floor there were four rooms, a shared bathroom and a kitchenette. Theodore shared the 3rd floor with a Polish – a pharmacist who worked for Dion Movers.

Teodor was granted Canadian citizenship in 1951/1952. The Atkinsons were his witnesses. The first job he found in London was to rebuild the roof of Bishop Cronyn Anglican Church for an hourly rate of 85 cents. He later worked at the Westminster Veteran’s Hospital. In 1978, he founded his own construction company with his sons, The E&A Gnidec Bros. General Construction Company.

In London, Teodor was a founding member of the Association of Polish Veterans, Branch #2. He was involved in the construction of both the Church of Our Lady of Częstochowa and the SPK building.

Teodor was awarded the following medals:

Polish: Army medal, Monte Cassino Cross

British: 1939-1945 Star; Italy Star


Teodor passed away on 16 September 1995 in London, Ontario, at the age of 78 years. He is buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in London.



Source:  Excerpts from the Book of Remembrance,

issued by the SPK Branch #2 in London, Ontario.

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