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On Eagles' Wings

Kitchener, Ontario, May 5/6, 2007

Toronto, Ontario, October 21, 2007
Kitchener, Ontario, May 5/6, 2007
London, Ontario, October 22, 2006
A New Direction
Cleveland, Ohio
Buffalo, October 2009
Building a Simple Display

May 5 and May 6, 2007

Wearing the Polish 2nd Corps Battle Dress

The second in our series of gatherings of the generations was held at the Royal Canadian Legion - Polish Veterans Hall in Kitchener. The Polish-language event (and May 3rd celebration) took place on May 5 while the English-language event took place on May 6, 2007. Both days were hosted by Krystyna Piotrowska-Freiburger.

I just wasn't into this stuff before, but now I really get it. Do more. Do lots of these, we need them. I wanted you to know how much it's appreciated. Keep doing these.
What can I say about today... very emotional indeed.. We were wishing my dad could have been there to see. To find out how important some of his papers were historically just blew us away. Thank you so very much for letting us be a part of this day and bringing us back to our roots.
Thank You! This was so special! Fantastic - extremely well organized! Lots to do and see and eat.
I enjoyed today's event immensely! Patriotic, emotional, classy! It was great to be able to keep in touch with our roots, meet survivors and enhance our sense of pride as Poles. Thank you!
Loved it! Everything - Great Job.
I was blown away. Fantastic. The best part was speaking to the survivors.
My favourite part was the candle lighting ceremony. Thanks.
I enjoyed today's event immensely. The best part was meeting all the wonderful people.
A superb idea and beautiful execution! Thank You!
I just wanted to thank you and Derrick for all the information you had for us. It's all really interesting. I was especially blown away by the "Iron Men with Eagles' Wings." Fascinating stuff. Polish history is just amazing and colourful. Hoping to make it to the event in Toronto. So much more to learn.
I was amazed at how many people were at the event on Sunday. It was a wonderful way to celebrate and recognize the sacrifices that were made in order for us to live the life we enjoy today. The pictures and artifacts collected and the displays were priceless. It was obvious the pride the living survivors had, being able to have a venue to finally display a very meaningful part of their lives. It also made us aware of the many injustices done to our ancestors that many of us may not have been fully aware of. 


Saturday, May 5
A combination event. Students from the Kitchener Sir Casimir Gzowski Polish School put on a play and the audience was also treated to a selection of traditional Polish dances performed by the Kujawiacy Folk Dance Ensemble. The occasion was the annual 3rd of May celebrations and the performances were a wonderful added touch to the On Eagles' Wings event.
The Kitchener event built on the success of the original held in London, Ontario in the fall of 2006. Two dozen or so personal history exhibits had been prepared for this weekend by survivors and their children. Some even added special creative touches to their projects.
Many survivors donned name tags and acted as our official "Meet and Greeters," standing by their displays and answering all questions that came their way. Representatives were available from many military formations and civilian groups:
  • Dr. Jerzy Bulik, child veteran of the Warsaw Uprising (Polish underground resistance), who has written a book about his experiences,
  • German labour camp survivors Mrs. Zofia Bogdanska, Mrs. Leokadia Kosiorek, Mrs. Stella Kozuch,  Mrs. Maria Michno, Mrs. Zofia Paszek, Mrs. Maria Sarnicka and Mrs. Celina Slusarczyk,
  • Dachau Concentration Camp survivor Mrs. Stefa Piotrowska,
  • Mr. Tadeusz Walewicz, Polish 1st Armoured Division,
  • Mr. Boleslaw Hertert, Military Police (2nd Corps) and bodyguard to General Wladyslaw Anders,
  • Mr. Stanislaw Kadela, Polish Navy,
  • 2nd Corps veterans, Mr. Antoni Ilowski (who wore his complete battle dress - shirt and trousers), Mr. Jan Kowalik, Mr. Boleslaw Kowalik, Mr. Edward Moczulski, Mr. Tadeusz Pecak, Mr. Leon Ziolkowski, Mr. Karol Zybura, Mr. Roman Jagiellowicz (who also wore his full battle uniform and even brought his personal collection of war memorabilia for display) and Mr. Czeslaw Waluk,
  • Cichociemny (Resistance Agent) Mr. Stanislaw Rybczynski,
  • Women's Army Corp veteran Mrs. Halina Weinberger,
  • American Occupation Army veteran Mr. Julian Wamil (who once guarded such notables as Himmler and Goering),
  • Siberian labour camp survivors Mrs. Janina Przygonska-Bancarz, Mrs. Wladyslawa Boc (who has just published a book of poetry - bilingual - relating her war time experiences), Mrs. Janina Tabaczynska-Radatus, Mrs. Weronika Zybura-Sawicka and Mr. Zbigniew Piotrowski.

We extend a hearty thank you to all of these survivors who came, some on their own power, some with the aid of canes, walkers, scooters or the steady arms of their children, to support our event.

The Polish School students were prepared for today's event by former Polish school teacher and event organizer Krystyna Piotrowska-Freiburger. Krys visited the students at their school on the previous Saturday and taught the class a condensed primer on Polish WW2 history. This enabled the students to get the most out of the event.
We were very lucky to have with us, for the entire weekend, Dr. Derrick Marczynski of the Electronic Museum of Canada, who impressed the attendees with his expertise in identifying documents, insignia, photographs, medals and memorabilia. At least two families approached Derrick with their bundles of papers and left the encounter with a new found knowledge of their relative's WW2 history. They were also told, that some of their documents are of historical value. It has almost become our motto: "Don't throw anything away!"
A few tables were set aside in the corner by the kitchen for our cafe. The volunteers worked hard to prepare a tasty lunch and their efforts were rewarded as the food was gobbled up by hungry patrons: pierogi, cabbage rolls and nalesniki (sweet cheese filled crepes) on day one and kielbasa with kapusta and more pierogies on day two.

Sunday, May 6, 2007
On Sunday, the 3rd of May celebrations over, all attention was focused on the On Eagles' Wings event itself. Many of the survivor "Meet and Greeters" returned for day two. Attendees came from around all over the region, including a contingent from Cambridge. A few even came from London, to learn more.
This day two films were played for interested viewers up on the stage: the BBC documentary Gladiators of WW2: Free Polish Forces and Europe's Secret Armies, Resisting Hitler: The Polish Resistance. Both are excellent, English-language productions that do not minimize or belittle the efforts of the Poles as do most mainstream media.
Organizers Freiburger and Sokolowski were joined today by their colleague Wanda Sawicka, the London co-ordinator, who led the day's Tribute.
Thank yous went out to the survivors, the dozen volunteers, the Polish Veteran's hall which graciously loaned us the use of their hall, Derrick Miarzynski and the Electronic Museum, and the ladies who happily toiled in the kitchen and sold out of food on both days.


The children and grandchildren of the Polish survivors of World War Two are invited to attend the gathering for an afternoon of education  and camaraderie.
For those who are lucky enough to have a survivor parent or grandparent still alive and well, we ask that you bring them along. Although the event is geared towards the 2nd and 3rd generations, we shall consider ourselves privileged to have our elders attend and participate.
For those whose survivor parents are no longer with us, please bring your families and together we will pay tribute to all of our cherished ancestors.
The Event Program
This event has been developed to appeal to all second and third generation Polish-Canadians in Southwestern Ontario.
On Sunday, May 6, 2007, the afternoon's program will be conducted in the English language.
  • Doors open at noon.
  • Event runs from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • Our cafe will be serving Polish food and refreshments throughout the event.
  • TRIBUTE to the Polish victims and survivors of World War Two at 3:00 pm.
  • Video DVDs will be shown on Sunday only.
  • Memorabilia display: WW2 veteran Roman Jagiellowicz.
  • Memorabilia display: The Electronic Museum Canada, Jolanta Bugajski, President. WW2 expertise provided by Dr. Derrick Miarzynski.


Saturday, May 5, 2007 will feature a Polish language segment incorporating the traditional 3rd of May celebrations (commemorating the proclamation of Poland's constitution in 1791).
  • Doors open at noon.
  • Event runs from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • Our cafe will be serving Polish food and refreshments throughout the event.
  • 3rd of May AKADEMIA at 2:00 pm featuring the "Kujawiacy" Song and Dance Ensemble and the "Polmyslne Dzieci" Polish School Radio Theatre.
  • TRIBUTE to the Polish victims and survivors of World War Two at 3:00 pm.
  • Please note that there will be no films shown on Saturday.
  • Memorabilia display: WW2 veteran Roman Jagiellowicz.
  • Memorabilia display: The Electronic Museum Canada, Jolanta Bugajski, President. WW2 expertise provided by Dr. Derrick Miarzynski.
Please do not park in front of the main doors so that the elderly and the disabled may be dropped off with ease.
Polish veterans of the Kitchener-Waterloo region share the Royal Canadian Legion hall with their Canadian colleagues.
A short history of the Royal Canadian Legion - Polish Veterans' Branch 412
Following World War Two, the Polish Forces in the West under British Command were demobilized. The troops were encouraged to return to Poland (not an option for most) or to emigrate from Great Britain. Canada agreed to accept 4,000 Polish veterans. Some of these men headed for Kitchener.
Anticipating communication difficulties due to the language barrier, the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 50 Executive, with the help of 17 members of Polish descent, formed a new Polish branch which received its Charter on May 20, 1946. That Charter allowed members of the new Polish Veterans' Branch 412 to conduct Branch business and meetings in Polish and to record the minutes in Polish.
The first Branch 412 Executive was:
President......................John Startek
1st Vice-President.........John Zych
2nd Vice-President........Adam Wojtkowski
Secretary/Treasurer.......Louis Warzecha
Sgt-at-Arms..................Ted Zmija
The first group of veterans arrived in Kitchener in the fall of 1946. The local Polish community received them with open arms and the new Polish Branch invited them to join. At a May 11, 1947 banquet, the Association of Polish Army Veterans, Branch 172, presented Branch 412 with a specially designed and made Colours.
The Branch bought a house at 321 Wellington Street North in 1948 where they remained until 1964. The Ladies Auxiliary was established in 1954. Eventually, a new building was built at 601 Wellington Street North in 1964. This was quite the accomplishment by our parents as at the time most of the Branch members had young families, were paying off mortgages, with no OHIP or welfare to fall back on, while earning only 70 cents or so per hour.
In 1979 an extension to the building was built. This was followed by major renovations in the early 1980s and again during the mid 1990s. All funds were raised from among the membership and the Polish community.
Past Branch Presidents:
John Starek                             Ted Zmija                           Edward Paszek
Paul Krul                                 John Krynicki                     Joseph Gatner
Michael Czernuszka                 Joseph Hess                     Stanislaw Holubowicz
Tadeusz Pecak                        Tadeusz Nowak                  Leon Ziolkowski
Earl Kurt                                  Zygmunt Januszkiewicz      Walter Magier
It does not matter whether you are one-hundred percent Polish or not. Many Polish soldiers and civilian refugees who entered the world-wide Polish diaspora following World War Two married non-Poles. Many of the children are one-half Polish and quite often the grandchildren are one-quarter Polish. By the third generation, Polish language skills are generally quite poor. As long as you have a Polish connection, you are welcome.
It does not matter if you cannot speak Polish. The May 6 event is an English language event planned specifically for the second and third generations by organizers who themselves are not all fluent in Polish. Even if the only Polish word you know is "pierogi," you are welcome to join us.
Although the Polish language is the first language for many of us and holds a place of honour in our hearts, our goal at this gathering is to allow the younger generations to be able to communicate without difficulty. For a dose of Polish culture, feel free to attend the Polish language event on May 5.
Snacks and refreshments will be available at reasonable cost. The funds from these sales will stay with the Legion Hall in order to help them offset expenses as they have graciously donated the use of their hall for our event.
Memorabilia and Document Identification
Bring that box you have of WW2 memorabilia. Help will be available throughout the afternoon to assess your Polish Forces WW2 era documents, inscriptions (dependant on the readability of the material) and to identify medals and other WW2 era memorabilia. (N.B. Due to time constraints, we may not be able to accomodate large requests on site.)
Bring us your questions and queries.
Besides the military items we would also like to see the expressions of the survivors' lives; their poetry, art, sketches and carvings. 
Displays and videos will tell the story of the Polish experience during World War Two and provide a backdrop for conversation.
  • Photos
  • Documents
  • Books 
  • Memorabilia
  • Militaria/Polonia
  • Artwork
  • Poetry  
  • Videos/DVDs (Sunday only) 

Remembrance (Memorial) Wall

Attendees will be able to add the names of family members who survived the war, and also those who perished during the war, to our Remembrance Wall.

Survivor Stories

Survivors are encouraged to bring copies of their memoirs or even just outlines of their life history (in any language).

We will be accepting survivors' recollections and memoirs for our collection and possible non-profit publication. Should you wish to preserve your WW2 era historical materials for posterity, we will be pleased to accept your donation. Significant collections may be donated on your behalf to major Polish archives in North America or Europe.
For example, we recently donated one family's large collection of documents to the archives at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University in California. The materials will be made available to scholars for research into the Polish World War Two experience.
You never know what may be historically (if not financially) valuable. See the story of the film Land of My Mother below under the heading "Special Video Feature."
Forget-Me-Not Project (Niezapominajki) 
Survivors may sign up to be interviewed for our "Forget-Me-Not" project which will further help us to preserve our heritage. Various students of Polish history will conduct the interviews at times that are convenient to the surviovors and their families. The survivors may choose to have the interview video or audio taped. These tapes can be preserved as a family treasure for many years to come.
Special Video Feature
Not exactly a war film but certainly a treat for those in attendance, "Land of My Mother" will be available for viewing (on Sunday only) at this "On Eagles' Wings" event. Here is the story of the film as provided by The Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies:
"Land of My Mother
a wartime tribute to Poland narrated by Eve Curie
Land of My Mother was produced in New York during World War Two using footage from Malownicza Polska, the only colour film, so far as is known, ever produced in pre-war Poland.
There is a considerable mystery surrounding both the original Polish film and the later English language version. One story is that Malownicza Polska was filmed by Hollywood magnate Louis B. Mayer in the 1930s as a birthday present for his friend Marie Curie-Sklodowska. Another is that it was produced by Polish film makers for showing at the 1938 New York World's fair. And oddly enough, major Polish institutes and libraries in the United States and England were completely unaware of either film's existence.
It was the director of the film archives in Warsaw who finally identified the scenes from Malownicza Polska. It had long been assumed that all copies were lost during the war. The discovery of Land of My Mother restored to Poland the only colour cinematography of pre-war Warsaw, Wilno, Lwow, Gdynia, Zakopane, the Polish countryside and ancient works of art.
Montreal writer Irene Tomaszewski was given a badly damaged original of Land of My Mother in 1993 by Mrs. Barbara Makuch, whom she had interviewed for an article in The Toronto Star about the Polish underground organization, Zegota. Mrs. Makuch did not know of the film's provenance. Ms. Tomaszewski contacted the National Film Board of Canada which, in view of the film's significance, agreed to donate the time and expertise of its professionals to restore it and transfer the footage to a video cassette. The Mickiewicz Foundation in Toronto donated the funds to cover the cost of the materials. In 1994, Ms. Tomaszewski delivered the original film to the Film Archives in Warsaw."
This copy of Land of My Mother has been graciously donated to "On Eagles' Wings" by Ms. Tomaszewska.
The Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies
54 Cote St. Charles
Hudson Heights, Qc.
Canada  J0P 1J0
Military Matters
The afternoon's events will also be attractive to those Polish-Canadians interested in the Polish military during WW2. Enthusiasts will be able to exchange information, view displays and talk to veterans.

On display will be: 

  • Military documents
  • Polish WW2 medals
  • Memorabilia
  • Books
Video DVD Schedule
On Sunday (May 6, 2007) two video DVDs will be shown before the Tribute in the meeting room (follow the signs).
1:00 p.m.  - "Gladiators of WW2: Free Polish Forces"  a thorough BBC documentary about the Polish Armed Forces in the West (approx. 50 minutes).
1:50 p.m.  - "Secret Armies: The Polish Resistance" the most complete English language documentary describing the Polish resistance movement (approx. 50 minutes).
3:30 p.m.  -  "Land of My Mother" will be shown following the Tribute (see description above).
Other videos that are worth seeking out and purchasing:
  • Video - "Poles in Action" is Henryk Bartul's compilation of three rarely seen documentaries shot by the Polish Film Unit of the British Army during WW2: The Capture of Monte Cassino, Polish Bombers' Holiday and Tale of a City (The Polish Resistance in Warsaw).
  • Video - "For Your Freedom and Ours" is Michael Adamski's summary of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, from the Polish point of view.
  • Video - "A Forgotten Odyssey" by Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszynska tells the story of the deportations to the Soviet Union and includes first person accounts. 
  • Video - "Rescued From Death in Siberia," by Michael Adamski. 

Meet and Greet

Meet and greet soldier veterans and civilian survivors who settled in the Kitchener-Waterloo region after World War Two.
The gathering presents a perfect opportunity to chat with others of the second and third generations and swap stories.
Tribute to the Fallen and to the Survivors
A tribute to the Polish victims and survivors of World War Two and their families will be observed at 3:00 pm on both days.
The event is free of charge.
Donations will be accepted.
Krystyna Piotrowska-Freiburger, Kitchener-Waterloo Coordinator:
My family was deported to Siberia in 1940 where many of them died, including two of my brothers. After their release my father joined and fought with the Polish army while my mother and oldest brother were sent to Africa. After six years of being apart, they rejoined in England where they lived in a Polish camp for displaced people. This is where my younger brother and I were born. I was nine years old when we moved to Canada.
We spoke only Polish at home so I could not speak English when I started school. I attended Polish school on Saturdays, belonged to the choir and dance group and participated in all the Polish events and celebrations. Eventually I taught at the Polish school even before becoming a teacher in the Canadian educational system.
Of course growing up in the Polish community I heard the stories of the many survivors of German labour and concentration camps, the Warsaw Uprising, Soviet Gulags etc. I was always sympathetic but never really understood or realized the horrendous lives these people had endured and survived. I did not even understand the entire history as to how these people managed to be in so many places within such a short time.
It wasn't until I got older and started to translate my mother's journals for my children, that I realized the incredible story of my parents and all of their friends. I wanted to know more and so began my work of research. The more I learned the more I wanted to share this unknown and forgotten history with other Poles and Canadians, especially the sons, daughters and grandchildren, who themselves did not know or understand this amazing journey undertaken by their families. Our parents' lives have influenced ours and made us the people that we are. 
Wanda Sawicki, London Event Coordinator:
Although my parents met after World War Two in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I was born, I consider my own life's journey to have begun with events they each survived during the war. Their stories, grief and survivor skills have influenced my world view and informed the work that I do today.
My mother was ten years old when she and her family were deported to Siberia from their home in Eastern Poland (the "Kresy" or borderland region). Following their release, my grandmother died on the way to Iran. They went on to Africa and England before coming to Canada.
As a young teen, my father was also deported to Siberia. He was later able to join the Polish army under General Anders and fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
In the early 1960s our family settled in London, Ontario where we joined the Polish community and I learned that many families had similar war histories to those of my parents. My involvement with the Polish scouts, choir and dance group contributed to my sense of "Polishness" which sometimes complemented, and sometimes conflicted with a sense of Canadian identity.
I have worked with immigrants and refugees from around the world in my capacity of art therapist at a local community health centre for over 15 years. The group for Polish senior women which I have co-facilitated for 12 years has demonstrated a strength of spirit which they have generously shared through exhibitions, conference work and community events. Cross-cultural work has taught me how much we all have in common as we strive for integrity of self and community, and how much we have to offer and gain by sharing our life stories of loss and survival.
Henry Sokolowski, Ontario Event Coordinator:
My mother's family lived out most of the war near their home in northeastern Poland. They were deported to Germany for slave labour in the summer of 1944. Although the parents perished, the children managed to escape to Italy the following spring after an Allied bombing raid destroyed their camp, sending everyone, guards included, running for their lives. My mother made her way to Canada after first obtaining a nursing certificate in England.
My father fought against the German blitzkrieg in September 1939. The following February the Soviets deported him, together with his family, to Siberia. After spending time at a labour camp and a few months in prison, he was released. He then joined the Polish Army in Uzbekistan and fought in Italy before coming to Canada by way of England. 
I was born and raised in Toronto and grew up 100% Polish. I did not learn English until I started school at five years-of-age. Both my parents died before I finished school and I quickly drifted fully into the Canadian community.
Five years ago, my children were working on a "family tree" project at school. This kindled in me an urge to learn about my roots. I embarked upon a two year search for information about my parents' experiences, slowly reading through material with the help of a large Polish-English dictionary. I realized very quickly that they had gone through hell during the war. I then knew that I was blessed to have had these tough and courageous people as my parents.
I now enjoy helping others of my generation learn about their parents' history and of the Polish experience during World War Two. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of the Polish Combatants' Association branch # 20 in Toronto, where I am currently involved in helping the veterans to prepare the Association and its banquet hall for the next generation.
Margaret Zaczek, Consultant (London/Kitchener):
I was born in Wroclaw, Poland and came to Canada with my husband and son in 1990. My parents migrated after World War Two from the Warsaw area to Wroclaw, which belonged to Germany before the war but is now located in southwestern Poland.
My husband's parents relocated from the Lwow region, which became part of the Soviet Union after the war, to Nowa Ruda in the new southwestern territory of Poland.
Growing up, I heard many secretly told stories about the war, and stories of our neighbours, the Kresowiacy and Sybiracy.
In Canada, I have been working as a counsellor/psychotherapist with individuals, families and groups. Part of my work since 1996, has been with Polish senior women, survivors of war and deportations.
I feel passionate about helping all to understand that sliver of our parents' experiences and the impact of those experiences on future generations.

Members of Polish Veterans' Branch 412 Who Took Part in The Battle of Monte Cassino:
Apan, Piotr
Bancarz, Leon
Brzezicki, Franciszek
Bulkiewski, Franciszek
Buluk, Jozef
Cieciuch, Bronislaw
Cupryk Wladyslaw
Danielczak, Nikodem
Ejsmond, Lucjan
Erdman, Anatol
Fracz, Jan
Gnus, Alfons
Gosk, Henryk
Hamera, Jan
Holdenmajer, Wladyslaw
Hrydziuszko, Stanislaw
Ilowski, Antoni
Jakubiak, Jan
Jurczenko, Stanislaw
Kotecki, Jan
Kosiorek, Wincenty
Kowalik, Jan
Kozak, Tadeusz
Kuczynski, Wladyslaw
Kusy, Kazimierz (Virtuti Militari)
Kusz, Wladyslaw
Lazarski, Stanislaw
Lewandowski, Stefan
Lichacz, Adam
Lichodyjewski, Henryk
Lozicki, Jan
Mikjaniec, Bronislaw
Michalewicz, Jan
Mitukiewicz, Jan
Moczulski, Edward
Mordeczko, Jozef
Obergan, Teodor
Pajor, Stanislaw
Pecak, Tadeusz
Pietrzak, Wladyslaw
Piciukiewicz, Jan
Piotrowski, Adam
Piotrowski, Franciszek
Piotrowski, Jozef
Piotrowski, Tadeusz
Plachta, Stanislaw
Pokora, Boleslaw
Przygonski, Henryk
Sobon, Stanislaw
Stryjek, Stefan
Surdykowski, Kazimierz
Szczepanski, Franciszek
Szymanski, Wincenty
Urbanowicz, Piotr
Weiss, Jan
Wisniewski, Antoni
Wojnowski, Walenty
Wozniak, Franciszek
Wrobel, Ignacy
Zacharczuk, Konstanty
Zawadzki, Czeslaw
Zawadzki, Mieczyslaw
Ziolkowski, Leon
Zukowski, Czeslaw

  • Dress code is casual.
  • The organizers reserve the right to refuse admission or eject any person at their sole discretion.
  • Attendance is strictly voluntary and attendees shall not hold the organizers liable for any harm or damages sustained by the attendees or their property. 
  • Attendees agree to abide by the rules of the house of the Polish Combatants' Hall.
  • Buy and sell of items will not be permitted.
  • Solicitation will not be permitted.

"On Eagles' Wings" (copyright 2006 - 2010)