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Waclaw KUZIA

From obituary + family information

Waclaw Kuzia 1was born in Maly Plock, north-eastern Poland on October 15, 1913, as the first son of Boleslaw and Maria Kuzia, Wacek was deported to Siberia in 1915 along with his parents, grandparents and hundreds of thousands of other Poles.

With the conclusion of the First World War, the family returned to Maly Plock, where their house was still standing and farming life resumed. After finishing primary and junior high grades he began to work full-time on the family farm. Following the fall harvest, he worked in the local Borys millwork shop where he perfected his carpentry skills. In 1933 he was called for military duty, trained at the Military Police Training Academy in Grudziadz and then assigned to the 1st Gendarmerie Division in Warsaw. After fulfilling his military obligations, he returned home where he ran the farm and studied for two years at the Agricultural School in Marianow.

In August, 1939, in expectation of hostilities, Polish authorities ordered a general mobilization and Wacek reported for duty in Lomza, saw action in northeastern Poland before being taken prisoner by the Soviet Army. He was interned in various Soviet prisons including the Kozielsk prison camp, from which prisoners were taken for execution in the infamous Katyn Forest.

In June 1941, Germany turned on its ally, Russia. Stalin then quickly changed tactics and allied himself with the west so that the allies could help him defeat the Germans. This led to the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that called for the freeing of Poles imprisoned in POW camps and labour camps in the USSR, and the formation of a Polish Army in the southern USSR.

The news of this ‘amnesty’ did not reach every camp, but where it did become known, the men and boys soon made plans to make their way south to join the army. For most, this meant walking thousands of kilometers and only occasionally getting on a train for part of the journey.  Many did not make it, and those who did were emaciated skeletons by the time they got there.

Waclaw re-joined the Polish Army which had begun re-forming under General Wladyslaw Anders, and then via a circuitous route through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, crossed the Caspian Sea in a coal barge to arrive at Pahlavi, Persia (now Iran). He carried out Military Police duties while stationed in Persia, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt until June 1944 when he was transferred to Naples, Italy.

While stationed in the Middle East Wacek bought a Zeiss Ikon camera which he always had with him. While on duty he rode a British Triumph or American Indian motorcycle and documented his travels with photos of the sites he was able to visit from the Sphinx to the Temple of Luxor, the Vatican and many more. He leaves behind hundreds of negatives which he was able to identify and label during his retirement years.

When the war ended, he was demobilized in England, and on his family's advice not to return to Poland, now under Communist rule, he chose Canada as his new home. In return for passage and entry to Canada Polish ex-military members were required to work two seasons on farms, in forestry or mining. Wacek spent his first summer working the sugar beet fields of southern Manitoba. His next assignment was to the farm of Edward Zwierciadlowski, just north of Stonewall, MB.

Here, he met Edward's young wife Janina, recently arrived from a refugee camp in Mexico, Colonia Santa Rosa, near Leon, in the state of Gaunajuato, who later introduced Wacek to her niece Genowefa whom she sponsored to Canada from Mexico. This introduction resulted in their marriage in July 1949.

When his 2-year contract was over, Wacek settled in Winnipeg, and soon began work for Haag Construction, building homes in the developing Riverview area; he quickly rose through the ranks and became Otto Haag's head field manager, supervising the firm's residential construction projects in Fort Rouge, Windsor Park, River Heights, and finally a 300-unit project in Fort William (now Thunder Bay). In 1959, Wacek chose self-employment, carrying out residential and commercial construction and renovations until he was well into his 70s.

Waclaw was active in the Polish Canadian community, being one of the founding members of the Polish Combatants' Association Branch 13 in Winnipeg as well as the PCA Credit Union. He served the Combatants' Association in various executive positions, including two terms as President. In 1953, when difficulties were encountered in the building of the St. Andrew Bobola Church in St. Boniface he was asked to assist and with his construction expertise was able to resolve the problems. He and Genia decided to join the parish and have been life-long members.

He was a supporter of any worthwhile project or cause within the Polish Canadian community as well as the community at large. Wacek and Genia supported and encouraged their children in all of their endeavours and ensured they were kept busy with Saturday Polish language classes, Catechism, scouts, Polish dancing, music lessons, travels abroad and more. In his retirement years Wacek traveled to Poland often to visit family, participate with other military police alumni in various activities, and to see parts of Poland he'd not seen before.

In 2009 he was invited by the Polish Ministry of Veterans' Affairs to participate in ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and did so with great pride. Wacek never forgot his Polish roots and was eternally grateful to Canada for opening her doors and giving him every opportunity he could have ever wanted.

Waclaw passed away in Winnipeg on January 28, 2014, at the age of 100 years.

Copyright: Kuzia family

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