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Wladyslawa CHALKO

Nurse in the Polish 2nd Corps

Władysława Chałko (nee Wróblewska) was a soldier of 2nd Polish Corps, commanded by General Wladyslaw Anders; in 1944, she participated in the battle for Monte Cassino. She has lived in Chicago for many years, and will be 99 in a few months.

How did she get into the army? She was forcibly taken to Siberia by the Russians. After release, she applied to the Polish army created in the USSR. “I was in the smallest army, in the group of nurses at the field hospital.


The Polish 2nd Corps was part of the 8th British Army. It came out of Siberia through Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. That's where preparations were made for operations in Italy.

When she was at Monte Cassino, the strategic hill had already been the target of two Allied attacks by the English, Americans, New Zealanders, Moroccans, Indians, French – without success. They didn't get to the top.

In the Polish army, which was ordered to attack the hill, the main nurse running the field hospital just behind the first line of the front was Władysław’s sister, then a Wróblewska.

The hospital was a makeshift structure, something like a large tent that only covered the wounded. It could be moved quite quickly as the front shifted. When the front moved to the summit of Monte Cassino, the hospital was left there until the end.

A team of six nurses working in it gave the injured first aid and made difficult decisions about those who had a chance of survival. They were transported to the hospital, where they were handled by surgeons and doctors. Soon after the start of the battle, the two hospitals began to lack space; there were hundreds of soldiers in need of help and dying.

I try not to come back to these memories, but sometimes they come – says Władysława with sadness.

For her services during the war, she received several medals, including the Silver Cross of Merit with Swords, and the Gold Cross of Merit, from the Polish government in exile, the British War Medal 1939–1945 and the Italy Star.

After the war, she found herself in England where, in 1947, she married the poet Zbigniew Chałko, a participant in the September campaign, a Warsaw insurgent, and a soldier of the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy. In 1951, on board the Queen Mary, she arrived with her husband and son in New York, and a few months later the family came to Chicago and settled here.


Source: Dziennik Zwiazkowy, 2000

Iraq 1943 - First left Władysława Wróblewska - centre Dr Warszawski Hospital Chief

Irak 1943 Field hospital in Kanaquin

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