As time goes by, a generation of heroes who fought for Freedom during World War II is slowly disappearing.
One of the hundreds of thousands of Poles who were deported by Stalin
One of those heroes was named Tadeusz Cisek. He was born on June 23, 1923 in Horodenka, which was then part of the Stanisławów voivot, in Poland (currently it is part of Ukraine). Tadeusz was 16 years old when his country was invaded by Germany, Slovakia and the Soviet Union. Tadeusz's hometown was part of the so-called Kresy Strip, which was occupied by the Soviets and which, after the war, was not returned to Poland.
On February 10, 1940, Tadeusz and his family were deported by the Soviets to the USSR, along with hundreds of thousands of other Poles. A massive deportation that corresponds to the crime of genocide typified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a genocide that many forget. Of the 320,000 Poles deported by the Soviets, 150,000 were executed or died during deportation. In the case of Tadaeusz's family, only he, his mother and his sister survived the communist terror.
Tadeusz and his family were put on a train with crowded wagons and sent to the then Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, a long journey of more than 4,000 kilometers. Years later, Tadeusz recalled how those 20 months were deported in the USSR: "We were forced to endure hard labor and succumbed to hunger, malnutrition, and diseases. I lost five members of my immediate family. My own fate was harsh as well. While in exile, I contracted typhoid fever, I was one of the lucky ones to survive. Then, during the harsh winter, I frequently looked for any means to keep warm, burning whatever I could find. During one attempt to obtain wood, I was arrested and imprisoned for my infraction."
Anders' Army and the long journey from the USSR to Egypt
On June 22, 1941, Hitler betrayed his hitherto ally Stalin and Germany invaded the USSR. After years of purges against the Soviet people themselves, the communist dictator found himself in need of people to help him stop his former ally. For this reason, he granted an "amnesty" - as if they were criminals - to the Poles who had survived the brutal Soviet deportation. In August 1941 a Polish Army was formed in the USSR with the survivors, which was led by General Władysław Anders. Accompanied by their families, these Polish soldiers began a long journey crossing the current territories of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel until they reached Egypt.
In the ranks of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade
The survivors of the deportation formed the Second Polish Corps, under the command of Anders. After arriving in Egypt, Tadeuz was tasked with guarding prisoners of war who were sent by ship to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Once there, Tadeusz reached New York, from where he was sent to the United Kingdom, where he joined the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade in the summer of 1942. This brigade, under the command of General Stanisław Sosabowski, had been created in September 1941 in Scotland with Polish soldiers who had managed to reach Britain after fighting the Germans in France.
In September 1944, Tadeusz took part with the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade in the failed Operation Marken Garden. He was part of the mortar platoon of the 2nd Company of the 1st Battalion of the Brigade. Due to bad weather, his jump to Arnhem was delayed until the 5th day of the battle, on September 21, when they were parachuted into heavy fire. His platoon fought in that battle in the Dutch village of Driel, in Overbetuwe south of the river Rhine.
Exile and emigration to the United States
After the war was over, Tadeusz served in the Allied forces occupying Germany. After the demobilization of the Polish forces on the Western Front, many Poles who had fought alongside the Americans and the British decided to return to Poland, being treated as traitors by the communist dictatorship imposed by Stalin. Many of them were persecuted, imprisoned and even executed by the Soviets and by the Polish communists.
Because of this communist persecution, many Polish veterans were driven into exile. In 1947 Tadeusz returned to the United Kingdom, and once there he emigrated to the United States. His first job there was at General Motors in Chicago. He later bought a small farm in Milwaukee, where he and his wife, Leokadia, raised his two children, Edward and Elizabeth.
For many years, Tadeusz participated in the Wisconsin Division of the Polish American Congress (PAC) and the Polish Army Veterans Association of America, sharing his experiences with other Polish veterans of World War II, who knew him amicably as "Ted". In 2001, the PAC presented Tadeusz with the Congressman Clement Zablocki Civic Achievement Award, in recognition of his wartime service and his work with veterans.
In November 2013, the Polish government awarded Tadeusz the Pro Patria medal, which is awarded to veterans and victims of oppression. In September 2019, at the age of 96, Tadeusz returned to Arnhem and Driel at the invitation of the Dutch government along with other veterans.
Tadeusz passed away on December 8, 2021, at the age of 98. He dedicated this post to him as a tribute to his life and his fight for Freedom. Rest in peace.
Cześć jego pamięci!
Honor to his memory!
Main photo: Arnhem Boys. Tadeusz Cisek at his Milwaukee home.
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