Michalski Family Stories

Patricia (Michalski) Iurilli    Debra Michalski    Wladslaw Michalski (1929-1995)    Jean (Dolman) Michalski (x-x)   

Patricia (Michalski) Iurilli

Debra Michalski

Wladyslaw Michalski

He had finished one year of military college and was ready to be evaluated to become a pilot during his second year 1939 - 1940. He only just reached the minimum height. Everyone knew the war was about to break out. One afternoon a postman brought his orders activating him to service. He had 24 hours to report. He pretended to be his brother and signed John's name. The next day he spent wandering about his home town saying good bye. That evening he went home, asked his mother to pack him lunch for the next morning, went privately to Opa to explain his orders and said good bye. He told his mother he was going out and would be back. Instead he took the train to his unit. He was on the boarder of Poland on September 1 when the Germans crossed over. His best friend was shot in the throat and bled out on my father in the first half hour of the war. Then began the long retreat to Warsaw. He ended up with a battlefield promotion and in charge of his little group.

They got to Warsaw. The night before the Polish surrender, men chose whether to go into the POW camps, or put on civilian clothes and be part of the resistance. He also taught a Jewish man to say the rosary and make the sign of the cross, and say other latin prayers so he could pass as a catholic. The man survived the war. According to his POW card, he was taken captive on September 24, 1939,, and taken to Camp VIC. The POW camp was in north west Germany. One of the first things he did was to bribe some of the guards to buy some items on the contraband list. Eventually the guard realized dad wanted to build a radio. He balked at comtinuing to provide him with the needed parts, fearing trouble, but Dad said that if he did not get the rest of what he needed, that Dad would squeal on him. He hollowed out a beam in the rafter of the barracks and put the receiver in there, concealing it from all but the closest inspection. The concealment was packed with clay and had a wooden lid, so unless looking from above and up close it was completely invisible.

While at the POW camp, he worked on farms, which was meant to be far better than factories. Many of the farmers kept back more food than they were supposed to, so that they and their workers did eat better than most. One time my father stole some cheese and butter, and ate Tilset cheese and butter with no bread. Sounds gross, but they were hungry. Another time they got hold of the camp commandant's dog, which was a saint bernard. One fellow in the barracks was a butcher. The dog was better fed than the POWs, and was apparently good eating.

While working on the farms, he would drive the tractors too fast in the fields when possible, to break the axles or something. Replacing or repairing the equipment would hurt the war effort of the Nazis. They also used horses alot, because of broken equipment. He used to talk about a horse named fox, who was red in color, hence his name, who liked to snort in his oats and straw mixture to get rid of the chaff. You had to wet his food, or he would not have a full stomach. Fox also like to inhail a deep breath and expand his stomach when being harnessed or saddled. If you did not knee him in the gut, to cause him to exhale, you would not be able to satisfactorily tighten the cinch on his saddle, so you would not be able to mount him, because the saddle would slide around his body and you would be on the ground. Then the horse just looked down at you, as if he were laughing.

There was a priority system for escapes. Pilots went first, and they got some out. My father was interrogated for 3 months by the Gestapo. On the last day he was taken for questioning. On the way, the guard said very quietly. "This is the last day. You will be sent back to the POW camp today." He went into the room for questioning and was given a drink and a cigarette and asked to talk. He said he might have, if that guard had not spoken to him. He went back to the camp and spent two months in the hospital getting his strength back. The prisoners got Red Cross packages once in a while. They had cigarettes and a few other things in them. He would meet some of the people from the concentration forced labour forces sometimes, and give them a cigarette. The little group of four or five men would share one cigarette.

The day before liberation, my father went to the camp commandant and asked him to surrender. The fellow did, handing over his German Lugar. He just wanted to know where the radio was. Dad showed him.

Later, Dad was hit by shrapnle from a British bomb that almost took his left arm. He was unconscious after surgery on V-E day on May 7, 1945. His friends saved him a case of wine they found somewhere. Dad was activated into the Polish army of the Brittish secter. Revenge killings were not prosecuted for the first year. One farmer said that he had never really supported the Nazis. My father said that he had better not say that again. He had a photo of his family all looking pro hitler at Christmas of 1944. So the guy was supportive to the end. He met one man he would have liked to kill, but the one year time limit was up, so he just scared the crap out of him.

He got involved with anticommunist activities in Poland, so when Stalin cracked down on Poland and the show trials started, first his passport was confiscated; then he was ordered home. A friend warned him that he was scheduled for a show trial and execution. He later went to a displaced persons camp in Germany.

One of my father's cousins was headed for the priesthood. Family expectation. Family showed up for his mass/investature/whatever that is called, and he disappeared. No one ever heard from or of him again.

Jean (Dolman) Michalski

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