I was born in Kalusz, Poland, in 1928. Our family consisted of my mother Maria, father John, brothers Joseph and Bronek, and sisters Stefania and Stasia. My father was a successful farmer and mother was an excellent manager.
In the winter of 1939-40, in the middle of the night Russians forced my family together with hundreds of other family members, friends, and neighbors out of our homes. We were herded to the local train station. From there we were loaded into cattle cars for the three-month journey to a concentration camp in Siberia. While in Siberia my brother was able to join the newly formed Polish army. He subsequently died from poor health attributable to the harshness of the concentration camp. At age 14, I also joined the Polish Army. Eventually we were all told we could leave the concentration camp but had to make our own arrangements. The people elected a group of men to be in charge of this movement. After intense and difficult negotiations with the Russians in charge of the railroads, we able to leave the concentration camp, again in cattle cars. After a two week trip, lack of food, barely sufficient money to pay for the travel, and filled with anxiety, we reached Persia (Iran). My sister Stasia died of malnutrition.
We Army personnel traveled separately from the civilians. Thus I was parted from my family for onward travel via Palestine to Egypt where we stayed under the auspices of the British Military Command. It was here I was educated as an electrician. During this period my mother, having no idea where I might be, saw a photo of soldiers in a newspaper in Persia and recognized me as one of them. She wrote at once to regain communication with me and also tell me that my sister Stefania had married an American soldier. Eventually my parents and I were reunited in England. After more difficulties, in 1951 the Polish authorities were able to provide us with documentation to travel to the United States, to New York, and from there to San Francisco to be reunited with my sister and her husband. My sister and I had last seen each other in 1942 when I joined the Polish Army in Kazakhstan, Russia. After 9 years it was difficult to get to know each other again. By now she had 2 sons, a husband, and a new home.
My parents and I wanted to move from my sister’s home as soon a possible. It was very crowded and uncomfortable for two families. My mother, Maria, found a job and I was hired as an electrician by the Peterbild Truck Company. We were doing well financially and moved to San Leandro. However, my father, Jan, never excelled in English. He was lonely and very much missed having Polish people to speak with.
Somehow I learned that there was a Polish Club in San Francisco. By this time we had purchased a new Chevrolet so we could easily travel there. To our surprise we found this to be home to Polish from the Old Generation as well as the younger generation.. On our second visit we all became mem- bers and joined in the activities. Discovering the club made our new life complete. We attended this jewel which belonged to ALL Poles and we all had to speak Polish, which suited my father just fine.
The periodic dances which were performed at the club were a lot of fun, attended by both young and old. At one of these dances, my mother met a lady who had lived in the Untied States for sometime. They hit it off immediately. The lady bragged that her beautiful granddaughter Dorothy, was pure Polish; she had noticed me with my mother and started matchmaking! I was very happy to meet that vibrant young lady, Dorothy, who was attending high school. We began to see each other quite regularly and talk about our lives. She told me that she visited the Polish Club quite often since her grandparents were among the original founders. She had been visiting the club since she was 4 years old. While we were dating, and she attended Presentation High School, we decided to wait until after her graduation to make a final decision regarding our future. In the meantime my parents and I became more and more involved in the Club. In retro-spect I was very pleased to become very involved in the Club and contribute my talents wherever needed for its well being. I became a Director and then President. As President I led reconstruction of the Club and improvements to beautify it.
On July 26th 1963 my Dot and I were married in her parish church, St. Agnes, followed by our reception in the beautiful Polish Club of San Francisco, California, USA. We had about 200 guests, friends and relatives. It was a beautiful reception in every respect. We could not have had a finer establishment than this, for which we are thankful to this day.
My personal gratitude is to the Club’s founding fathers in the Polish community. The work for the Polish Club is not one person’s achievement, but a community endeavor. The person in charge is often praised for positive achievements – and criticized for bad ones. As of this writing, some of us are still devoting our time and care to this precious Club to preserve it for future generations.
My life with Dot at my side is still going strong. We have three wonderful children, two daughters, Diana (Nina) and Deborah (Debbie), and our son Floyd. We are proud grandparents of nine grandchildren. We are especially proud to say that we all belong to the Polish National Association. In addition we have insured my sister’s two sons and their 4 children. In all we have 17 family members insured with the PNA. With my deep involvement in the Polish community I feel that I became a pillar of the Polish Club. Our lives since our marriage have been filled with the grace of God. We have enjoyed financial success. Like everyone else, we experienced problems and setbacks in life. However in 2003 Dot and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in our Polish Club and this year are looking forward to our 53rd anniversary on July 26th.
Some of the proudest moments of our lives were that we were able to meet some very important people. We met Pope John Paul II in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Kardina Urbinowich, Polish President Lech Walesa, American Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, and last but not least the late President of PNA, Edward Moskal.
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