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Stanislaw Korzeniowski; Soldier

#1
Stanislaw – or Stanley – Korzeniowski should be celebrated both in his own right and as a member of a community that has given much to Glasgow and to Scotland.

Born and brought up on a farm in north-eastern Poland, close to a town (Wolkowysk – too small to appear in most atlases), he would probably have lived out his life there had it not been for the Second World War. It was to bring terror, but also liberation.

When Hitler and Stalin joined forces in 1939 to attack and partition Poland, 18-year-old Stanislaw and his family were taken over by the Soviet Union. Along with their neighbours, they were given four hours to pack up and cram themselves into horse-drawn carts to be deported to Russia. There they were used as slave labour. “No-one,” he was later to say, “knows what the word ‘starving’ means unless they have had such an experience.”

When Hitler’s Panzers rolled across the Soviet borders in 1941, these Polish slaves became cannon fodder. Conscripted into the Red Army, they got a bit more food, but the Russians could spare no uniforms or weapons. Later, through an agreement negotiated with the British, he and many other Poles were deported again – to Persia. They had to walk most of the way. There they were incorporated into the British Army which gave them guns and uniforms, as well as food. They were sent to Afghanistan, then to Palestine and on to Egypt. But they did no fighting, and Stanley (as he had become) was a Polish patriot, determined to get into the war.

When a barrack-room notice invited volunteers to join the paratroops, he seized his chance. He was drafted to Scotland to join the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Tough training followed, with jumps from balloons and towers.

Eventually his brigade went into their first action: the Arnhem disaster, later immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far. Let down by poor intelligence, they came up against an unexpected force of Panzers. Stanley fought bravely but was twice caught in enemy fire, receiving wounds to his right arm and his back, and losing (for the rest of his life) much of his hearing. Taken to a field hospital, he was rescued and brought back to Scotland.

By the time Stanley had recovered, the war was over. He was given leave and a grant to become a student; then discharged in 1948. Making his way in Glasgow as a Pole and a Catholic – still not fully fit – was tough.

He took courses of every kind – mainly at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Commerce in Pitt Street – and did well, winning prizes and commendations. Always in work of some kind, he became a gardener, a calibrator of industrial instruments, a driver of fork-lift trucks and other vehicles at Glasgow and Luton Airports, then back to gardening. Always he filed away the glowing references he got for his honesty, loyalty and hard work.

Stanley married a Scottish girl and they had two daughters, but the marriage broke up. He got his parents to Britain and they found a flat in Glasgow. Then, in 1962, he married Jadwiga, a Polish girl – book-keeper and daughter of a forester – who came to join him in Hillhead’s Bank Street. Their loving, lifelong partnership produced a daughter and a son.

Bank Street was then known as “the Polish street”. Visitors to their flat will remember the Polish nest to which they were so warmly welcomed, with mirrors, ornaments, heavy curtains and furniture, a bottle of good vodka in the cupboard, and, in later years, a Polish soap opera twinkling on the screen of their television set. Stanley and Jadwiga went regularly to mass at St Simon’s church, by Partick Cross, and for dances at the Polish Club.

The war, which was the formative experience of his life, always stayed in Stanley’s mind. He joined the British Legion. He went to commemorative celebrations in the Netherlands, in Poland and in the United States – giving his Polish Paras’ tunic to the museum of the American Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

He also kept copies of the wartime Atlantic Charter and United Nations declarations on human rights – never forgetting what the conflict had been about. He made one painfully poignant return to the remains of his parents’ farm in the Soviet Union.

Jadwiga died on Christmas night 2007. Stanley, increasingly frail but still resolute – his gentle wit undimmed – was rehoused a few months later in Callieburn Court, a sheltered home close to his daughter and grandchildren. The competent and kindly staff there were proud of their Stan. And when, eventually, a combination of cancer, pneumonia and cardiac failure took him to the Beatson, his charm again evoked similar responses from all who came into contact with him.

Stanley was the last of Bank Street’s Poles. They have been succeeded by other migrants from all over the world. But a new generation of Poles has returned to the city, and St Simon’s now has a Polish assistant priest who officiated at Stanley’s and Jadwiga’s funerals, speaking almost entirely in Polish.

They are survived by three daughters, a son and three grandchildren.

Soldier;

Born, May 8, 1921;

Died, November 14, 2009.
 
#7
If you get the chance have a look at Poles Apart: The Polish Airborne at the Battle of Arnhem By George Cholewczynski, its excellent.
 

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