Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Researching Decades Too Late



Updated January 9, 2017
For decades I purposely avoided the dozens of scattered and misplaced documents about my Dad's history and captivity that spanned over 50 years. Papers from the old country, documentation that my sister Susanna obtained some 12 years ago, data I randomly obtained in addition to written and oral family memories. Sure I perused them once or twice, and wow, some interesting stuff that has been laying in a pile for many decades.  But I knew once I got into them and focused, I would  get sucked into that personal historical abyss and I did, big time.

After months and now years of research that generated reams of prints, maps, data and facts, I've only taken a many steps forward and now need to come up to reflect. I am going to post what I have discovered to this point in my amateur analysis of the historical record and present a story and a time-line based on his WWII POW documents and the established historical record of  Polish WWII battles. I need to understand and relate the story of my Dad's  capture by the Russian Army then the captivity by the  German army. These events are only one generation removed from today and must be learned, understood and heeded. Those that don't learn, understand and heed history are doomed to repeat it.  And I'm sure no one would want to repeat this journey.

Damn, It would have been so much easier to ask him while he was alive but I was a dumb rebellious kid not realizing or appreciating the sacrifices he made, the history he could tell. Sure we heard some general anecdotal comments from him that we embellished or made fun of or both, not appreciating what horrendous ordeals he really went through and by the grace of God survived with death and carnage all around him.

So why try to understand his ordeal now? This is a personal redemption quest for me and tribute to a ordinary man that it turns out was really extraordinary. In addition,there is love, pride, appreciation, family history, mortality and  hopefully a story that will survive forever online for generations to come. He deserves the story be told as well as all Polish soldiers and civilians as part of the invasion and defense of Poland.

Now years after the initial publication of this blog, I continue to unearth shreds of evidence to complete Dad's story.  This is updated/edited regularily, I am data driven for personal accuracy so it will never be "right "for me. In spite of this I hope the reader can find it can be a good read.

If you are bored by endless dates, foreign locations and analysis, I ask you read the 1st two segments and last 3 segments  for the human side of this story.

Note there are 15 segments, if viewing via Facebook, Ipad and other e-devices require the reader to select "Older Posts" or the Next arrow to see segments beyond  #6 and #12. These last 9 posts close the loop!

3 comments:

  1. I remember the 2003 summer visit to "home". Mom and I were in her hot and humid upstairs bedroom when she pulled out "the documents". They were all folded and in a large, wrinkled plastic bag. I had no idea what she was showing me.

    As I opened the bag, and unfolded each document, my heart stood still. I was painfully under-educated on WWII history, and had never tried to get the incredible personal story from either of my parents in a systematic, thoughtful, organized fashion. However, I was smart enough to know I was holding history. I was HOLDING HISTORY. More importantly, I was holding my dad's history. He had already passed away, but his history shouldn't.

    In that moment, I became all the smart I should have been for many years.

    I knew the documents needed to be carefully preserved and organized. Many were frail and compromised from living in a plastic bag, having fold creases with years of exposure to extreme heat and cold. The bedroom didn't have heat or air-conditioning. Iowa summers are hot, and winters are cold. With my mom's consent, I took the documents and started the process of housing them in acid free page protectors and resting against card stock. Ironically, my mom's only request was that I take good care of them, and treat them with sentiment.

    Beyond organizing the documents safely, I needed to "do" something. I was not a history scholar. I was not a WWII scholar. And yet, WWII was sitting in my hands. My dad's legacy was sitting in my hands.

    I didn't know where to begin, and the world of Google was new to me. But, I started. Through a suggestion on the Internet, I took my first step.

    Late that year, I sent a letter to the International Red Cross and requested the tracing staff to verify and/or add to the existing information I had from an attestation document that included my dad's POW number. They received the letter in January of 2004. In November of 2004, I received return correspondence from the Tracing Division of the Red Cross.

    And there, the research journey began........at first, I was ecstatic to have "something" instead of nothing. Then I was ecstatic to have "a little more". Now, I'm ecstatic my brother expounded so deeply and richly on our dad's WWII journey. Now we have "SO much more".

    It's frightening to think how easily those documents could have been lost, inadvertently tossed out, overlooked, or somehow destroyed after my my mom died in 2012 and her house was cleaned out in preparation for sale.

    I'm grateful that "summer visit" resulted in the happenstance moment of my mom pulling out those documents; historically precious documents that had traveled from Poland and Germany to the United States, in a multitude of different hands, hearts, houses, across countries and across decades.

    How I wish I had seen them years earlier, or thought to ask my parents if they had documents pertaining to their WWII journey.
    There were multiple opportunities throughout my life to do so.

    Lesson learned far too late.

    I am grateful that my brother has so eloquently and astutely expanded on the initial research and provided our dad's story to an eternal audience.

    The labor involved in the research is a testament to our love for our heroic father.

    Typing from a phone....my apologies for an grammatical or punctuation errors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are clearly telling my story also. Father died in 1972, mother in 1994. Yes, we heard some stories of mother being prisonerin Siberia and fatherat Monte Cassino and General Anders. I actuality meet the general when he came to Chicago. But, like you I was not interested. Now, with both of them gone, my nephew, who was only four when my mother died, wants to know about his grandparents because he knows that they went thru hell. And, now I'm trying to put all the puzzle pieces together. And NOW, I realized the horrors they lived thru.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are clearly telling my story also. Father died in 1972, mother in 1994. Yes, we heard some stories of mother being prisonerin Siberia and fatherat Monte Cassino and General Anders. I actuality meet the general when he came to Chicago. But, like you I was not interested. Now, with both of them gone, my nephew, who was only four when my mother died, wants to know about his grandparents because he knows that they went thru hell. And, now I'm trying to put all the puzzle pieces together. And NOW, I realized the horrors they lived thru.

    ReplyDelete