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Bernard Zdzisław Skarbek

Bernard Zdzisław Skarbek
Bernard was born on 1 July 1921 in Zakroczym, Poland. His father, Kazimierz, was of aristocratic ancestry (coat of arms Abdank), and an officer in the Polish Police. His mother Bronisława’s maiden name was Choroś. Aged 18, Bernard was about to starta cadetship at the Air Force Academy in Dęblin when Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the West on 1 September 1939. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded the Polish Eastern territories, and arrested his father who was taken to the USSR, murdered in Kalinin (now Tver) in April 1940, and buried in one of the mass graves in Miednoje as part of the Katyń massacre. For months before Bernard was arrested, he helped save the lives of soldiers, women and children by leading them to freedom across frozen rivers under the cover of darkness. In February 1940, also his mother, sister Maria Bogumiła and brother Jerzy Rajmund were arrested and deported to Siberia. Bernard was sentenced without trial to ten years hard labour in a Gulag camp in the Akmolinskaya region. On 22 June 1941 Nazi Germany attacked Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. In July 1941, the Polish Government-in-Exile (London) signed a treaty with the USSR granting an “amnesty” for some of the Polish citizens in the Soviet “Gulag”.
As a result, the Polish Army was formed to assist the allies in fight against Hitler’s war machine and Bernard joined it early in 1942. He was evacuated out of the USSR by boat across the Caspian Sea to Persia (Iran). With the Polish Armed Forces under British command, Bernard was transported to Qastina and Gedera in Palestine in May 1942 to train in various aspects of soldiering and, specifically, as a telephone technician.
In that capacity, he was recruited into the 3rd Division of the Carpathian Riflemen of the 2nd Polish Corps. Prior to the invasion of Italy and the subsequent battles on the Apennine Peninsula, Bernard’s unit  was sent to establish, under the cover of darkness, communication cables for the advancing allied frontline commanders and troops.This task was very difficult and dangerous due to German and Italian snipers and heavy artillery. Bernard bravely participated in the battles of Sangro, Monte Cassino (mid May 1944), Ancona and Bologna. He was wounded in the chest during the bombardment of Loreto, and recovered in various hospitals in Italy and later in Scotland.

3d Carpathian Rifle Division (Polish 2d Corps) badge

Medals and decorations

Discharged from the army in November 1948 with the rank of Corporal Cadet Officer, he has been promoted several times since (in 2014, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel).

In 1949, Bernard married Maria Oszczypała who had served as a nurse in the Polish Armed Forces. They lived and worked in London until they immigrated to Australia in 1956 with their daughter Anna. Bernard was employed at the Canberra Brickworks as a mechanic until 1966 when he joined the Department of Trade, Industry and Commerce in the Australian Public Service. He served several terms as President of the Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Association (SPK) in the Australian Capital Territory and was also a member of the SPK’s National Board. He was a volunteer and a substantial fundraiser for causes of the Polish community. His two daughters, Anna Skurowski and Susan Longbottom, also live in Canberra.



Memorabilia from the military service

Ceremonial (personalised) sabre awarded in Warsaw, Poland, July 2016

Lieut. Col. Bernard Skarbek and Capt. Waldemar Niemotko
in front of the Rats of Tobruk Memorial in Canberra, December 2016

Bernard has been awarded with numerous distinctions:

British Military Honours

1939/45 Star

Italy Star

Defence Medal

War Medal 1939/45

Polish Military Honours

Cross of Valour (Krzyż Walecznych), No. 24056, 15 November 1944

Cross of Monte Cassino (Krzyż Monte Cassino), No. 12048, 18 May 1945

Cross of Merit with Swords (Krzyż Zasługi z Mieczami), 21 May 1945

September 1939 Campaign Cross (Krzyż za Kampanię 1939), 11 November 1980

Polish Armed Forces in the West Deed Combat Cross (Krzyż Czynu Zbrojnego P.S.Z na Zachodzie)
No. 40-93-99, 30 September 1993

Australian Civil Honour

Order of Australia Medal (OAM), 27 January 1990

Polish Civil Honours

Gold Cross of Merit (Złoty Krzyż Zasługi), 18 August 1975

Order of the Rebirth of Poland Knight’s Cross (Krzyż Kawalerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski), 11 November 1986

Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland Knight’s Cross (Order Zasługi R.P. V KL), No. 160-2002-3, 4 July 2002

Pro Memoria Medal (Pro Memoria), No. 1596-113/KU/05, 5 May 2005

Siberian Exiles Cross (Krzyż Zesłańców Sybiru), No. 18-2006-127, 27 March 2006

Pro Patria Medal (Pro Patria), No. 533/KU/14, 23 October 2014

Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Krzyż Oficerski Orderu Zasługi R.P.),
No. 303-2016, 11 July 2016

Polish Organisational Honours

Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Association Silver Medal (Srebrna Odznaka SPK), 15 August 1962

Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Association Gold Medal (Złota Odznaka SPK), 15 August 1964

World Federation of Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Associations Combatants Cross 
(Krzyż Kombatancki SPK Federacji Światowej), 15 August 1977

National Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Associations Silver Combatants Cross 
(Srebrny Krzyż Kombatancki Krajowe SPK), 1 September 1983, Australia

Silver Medal of the National Treasury (Srebrny Medal Skarbu Narodowego), 
5 January 1984, Poland

National Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Associations Gold Combatants Cross
(Złoty Krzyż Kombatancki, Krajowe SPK),
1 September 1985, Australia

Gold Medal of the National Treasury (Złoty Medal Skarbu Narodowego), 12 June 1989, Poland

In July 2016, during an official function in Warsaw, Poland, Bernard was presented 
with a personalised, ceremonial sabre.

Hell at Monte Cassino 1944

Bernard Zdzislaw Skarbek
OAM Polish Armed Forces
2nd Polish Corps
3rd Carpathian Division – Signals
B.Z. Skarbek My memories of Monte Cassino in 1944 often come to mind, despite the passage of time which keeps pushing them away. They are not forgotten, but the details are becoming blurred. They are deeply hidden inside, in my heart, but these memories belong to many. Now, after seventy years, I will try to share them, these memories of the 3rd Carpathian Division – Signals during the days of the struggle for Monte Cassino.

The decisions, made by our superiors on 28 April 1944, to improve existing communications as well as extend and preserve the telephone network before the attack by the 2nd Corps in Operation HONKER, gave us a lot to think about and accomplish. The task was huge, the time was short, and there were few people to do the work. So all the forces were mobilised, even those from outside the two radio platoons of the 3rd Carpathian Division – Signals.
Silence was enforced on all radio stations before the start of the attack. While we were unoccupied, we had to help the telephone linesmen. Most of the men were employed in burying cables between telephone exchanges east of the river Rapido. We had to deliver and unwind the cables, provided by the Centre of Advanced Communications of the 3rd Carpathian Division, in the valley south of the river (we referred to it as 'big bowl').
My memory has retained indelible recollections of two night trips from San Michele, known as 'Clapham Junction', to this area.
We travelled in a light transport column, consisting of jeeps, without making any noise; our lights were extinguished and we kept a safe distance between the vehicles. The Rapido river valley, which we had just crossed, was under enemy fire which came sporadically without any warning. The day after was very difficult; the Germans had us in their sights. Even the smoke from our special burning candles did not provide much cover. Moreover, the enemy knew all the roads down to the smallest paths. As their knowledge was so good, our supplies had to be delivered at night by the same routes while trying to dodge the irregular fire that varied in intensity. Most, however, came in the most unexpected circumstances.
We had to strain our eyes and pay attention so as not to lose sight of the jeep in front while driving along the narrow path down the slope of the valley. We also had be careful not to get lost, or hit, when there was firing to our left-hand side. As if on cue, we descended further, putting our heads almost under the steering wheel of the car, taking care not to take our foot off the accelerator as this would have caused the jeep to stall. After a brief moment of silence, a quick inspection was needed. Well, as it turned out, we got out on the left-hand side of the road where there was an overturned water tanker which had been damaged, apparently on its previous journey. Most of the shrapnel had gone into the tank and come out the other side. The tanker had saved us.
We arrived without further incident at the car park in the valley. Waiting for us there were guides from the 1st Carpathian Brigade's communications platoon. With their help, we took the cables up the mountain on the path often used by mules, at times clinging to the rock face. We heard the whistle of enemy fire while listening to stories about the terrible accidents some mules had suffered; these were often repeated. We were perspiring profusely. The 1st Carpathian Brigade's communications platoon had found themselves in the trenches on the eastern slope, a few metres behind the brigade's headquarters. Here we rested. Lying down, I had the thought that one bullet or grenade would be enough to stop us getting out of this hole, and there were seven of us. After identifying an area in the south for the 3rd Carpathian Division's future headquarters, a short stroll away from the headquarters of the 1st Carpathian Brigade, we returned to the car park and then went on to Czerwaro.
In two or three days, actually ... nights, we returned to the mountain to start building telephone lines with the cables which were then dropped down the slope. This was something a little energetic. I already knew the area, the enemy was no longer shooting - I thought 'The Krauts might be planning to leave'. But we did not have long to wait. Our task was fairly simple; we pushed the telephone lines down the shortest route to the bottom, just south of the valley of the Rapido river. The distance in a straight line was less than a kilometre, but the mountain's steep terrain was completely unfamiliar to us.
When we were about half way, we were met with mortar fire. The first bullets fell behind us, smashing rocks which then rolled down the mountain. I'll never understand how we found a hole several metres deep which we all dived into in the blink of an eye. I was probably the third in line, and we were panting and hugging mother earth. As we learned later, these trenches had been dug by the New Zealand Corps during the second offensive on Monte Cassino. For us, it was important that no one was hurt and that we finished our task. The lines along the entire length were protected from damage. Thanks to this, the commanders of the 3rd Carpathian Division were able to guide our troops precisely and support their activities throughout the battle. The maximum commitment and dedication of all the soldiers and officers of the 2nd Corps in the preparation for battle, and during the battle itself, gave us victory.
There are many books and descriptions of the heroic exploits during the Polish victory in the Battle of Monte Cassino. Other heroic events, of which there are many, have not been widely published, or are unknown in the cases where the soldiers involved were killed. 
Nowadays, excellent asphalt roads lead to the Benedictine monastery, and a new city has been built on the plains of the Liri valley. At the top of the cemetery for Polish fallen soldiers on Monte Cassino, the inscription on the obelisk reads:
For Our Freedom and Yours
We Polish Soldiers Gave
Our Spirits to God
Our Bodies to Italian Soil
Our Hearts to Poland.

Maria Skarbek

Born on 5 July 1926 in Kielce, Poland.

In December 1941, as a 15 year old, I was deported by the German occupying forces to German-occupied France, not far from Metz. I was directed to work on a farm, once French, now taken over by a German family. The family consisted of an older master, his sick wife, pregnant daughter and three underage children. I had the impression that these people had no idea about farm work.

I was right. After some time, they were taken away and some Germans from Romania came in their place. The work was very hard. The food was inadequate. I was always hungry and tired and ill-treated. All that the farm produced was taken for the army or for German families. I started falling sick with stomach problems and anaemia.

In October 1944, there was a lot of work on the farm, constant airplane raids and bombings gave us no respite. Halfway through the month, the American forces were close by. The Americans took us to a specially prepared camp at Chaumont, where the board and lodgings were fairly basic. To be honest, it was not much better than at the farm. I stayed there till the end of February 1945.

In March 1945, I was able to join the Polish Army and was evacuated along with others to England – Scotland, North Berwick. After so called "recruitment training", I was sent on a special nursing course to Army Hospital No. 1 in Taymouth Castle, Scotland. Work at the hospital was, despite difficulties of accepting the suffering of the soldier-patients, satisfying: it gave a feeling of fulfilment, a duty well-done and a smile or simple "thank you" from the soldiers gave a boost to carry on. I would frequently return to my quarters after a long shift with tears in my eyes, thinking of those young soldiers full of hopes and dreams but now lying injured, both physically and mentally.

After I completed the nursing course, still before the end of the war, I was sent to a convalescent home for the Polish Armed Forces in Pitlochry, Scotland. There were soldiers from the First Polish Armoured Division as well as those from the Home Army evacuated from Germany. The work here was calmer and focused more on mental care: reading books, organising lectures and other events. Most of the soldiers were waiting for artificial limbs. Additionally, I was also a non-commissioned officer in uniform, with responsibility for all the clothing required by the soldiers.

After the war ended in 1945, there was an influx of soldiers from the Second Corps, from Italy. A second convalescent home was opened, at Rumbling Bridge, near Kinross, Scotland. I was transferred to this smaller but luxuriously furnished place, owned by the Haigh family of whiskey fame. Sadly, we did not have access to the whiskey…Lady Haigh was a great fan of Pekinese dogs and had over 140 of them. They used to have their walk outside our building watched over by three guardians. At first, they were an attraction but we soon got used to them and did not pay any attention.

Our supply base was at the army's communications centre in Kinross. During one of my many official visits to the base, I met the man who is now my husband. Time passed quickly; the medical commission would come and send the now supposedly cured soldiers on various courses, e.g. accountancy, tailoring, watchmaking, etc.

In 1947 before Christmas, the Rumbling Bridge convalescent home was decommissioned. I was transferred to the Polish demobilisation centre at Witley camp near Godalming in Surrey, where I worked as a cashier and provisions organiser until I was demobbed in September 1948. In the meantime, my now husband had succeeded in also being transferred to Witley camp where he worked in the Documents Office till his demobilisation in November 1948. We continued to work as civilians in the same posts. Our marriage, celebrated by Army Chaplain Major A. Gajda, took place at the church in Godalming on 23 April 1949. The offices and documents were taken over by the English and moved to the British Ministry of Defence, Army Records Centre, Polish Section. Our private and civilian life started in London in 1950 and in Australia in 1956.

 One of us: Maria Skarbek
ArkadiuszFabjanowski, KronikaPolonii, August 2005, p. 23
Profiles Series

The 60th anniversary of the ending of World War ll is for some an anniversary of victory, for others it is only the ending of military action. In Poland, once again, there are heated debates and discussions about Poland's involvement in the war and the destruction of the Third Reich. Once again the loss of blood on the Western and Eastern fronts was calculated. Who has a greater right to be in the collective memory: those who fought on the Western front in the Polish Armed Forces or those from the Polish People's Army who fought in the east? There was a bidding war as to which battle had greater meaning: Monte Casino or Lenino. There is no doubt that there was an excess of spilt blood during the war.

The drama of the Polish soldier was that his work was diluted over two external fronts. In the west, he fought first for the freedom of France and Great Britain, then North Africa, Italy and western Europe, while all the time dreaming of his own free homeland. The Polish soldier from the east reached Poland but brought with him Soviet and Polish communists – though truth be told, it was these communists who allowed him to return to Poland. There was a third "quiet front" of the Polish underground where frequently unnamed soldiers paid with their lives for their love of Poland.

According to statistics and data, 850,000 soldiers from the Polish Armed Forces, the Polish People's Army and the Polish underground died during the 1939 Military Campaign. This is a very high figure when compared to the losses of the British (320,000) or American (300,000). Of course, the highest losses were suffered by the Red Army (13.6 million). We must also remember that there are not just the killed, but the vast numbers of injured, many of whom retained for their whole lives various physical or mental scars.

That is why on the 60th anniversary we dedicate this text to all those soldiers who fought for a return to life: paramedics, doctors, nurses – 90% of the latter were women, "little sisters" – who gave medical and spiritual support to the wounded. Time flies by and there are ever fewer of those brave women, participants of those events.

Within our Polish community in Canberra we have one such person: Maria Skarbek, who as a young woman served in the Medical Services of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Her path started in December 1941 when, as 15 year old, she was taken as forced labour to the German Reich, to Lorraine. There are only a few witnesses left to those times, but they do confirm that the German farmers were mostly harsh rather than kind towards their slave labour. Young Marysia's master was harsh and it was only her young and tough character that enabled her to survive to October 1944 when the American forces landed in the vicinity of Metz, near to where she worked. Liberated by the Americans, she was directed to a special camp in Chaumont, France, where she stayed till February 1945. After joining the Polish Army in March 1945, she was evacuated along with others to Scotland. In North Berwick, she went through recruitment training and then was placed on a nursing course at Taymouth Castle, also in Scotland. These regions, once known for their golf courses and comfortable hotels were now a place of convalescence for thousands of military invalids, including those of the Polish Armed Forces. After the nursing course, Maria Oszczypała was transferred to the Convalescent Home of the Polish Armed Forces at Pitlochry which looked after soldiers from General Maczek's First Armoured Division and soldiers from the Home Army evacuated from Germany. All were waiting for artificial limbs, and learning how to use them, as well as learning how to accept their fate.

After the end of the war, the increased numbers of soldiers – including those of the Second Corps – meant that a new convalescent home was opened for them at Rumbling Bridge. Maria was moved there and stayed after the end of her service in the Polish Armed Forces, as part of its Demobilisation Commission, until she was transferred to Witley Camp in Surrey.
On 23 April 1949, she married a soldier of the Second Corps, Zdzisław Skarbek, at the church in Godalming. The ceremony was celebrated by the army chaplain, Major A. Gajda. Civilian and private lives had begun for Mr and Mrs Skarbek. In 1950, they moved to London and, in 1956, they migrated to Australia.

At the decision of the President of the Republic Of Poland, Mrs Maria Skarbek was promoted to Lieutenant in June 2000. She has been awarded numerous Polish and British military medals and honours. Her active support of the Polish Combatants' Association and her participation in the ANZAC Day parade at the Australian War Memorial are evidence of the positive role of women in the destructive world of men: their unstinting work in rescuing lives. This is an effort which always deserves our highest respect.

Army Promotions (Promocje wojskowe)
Sergeant (Plutonowy
2nd Lieutenant (Podporucznik) 06.06.2000
Lieutenant (Porucznik) 30.07.2007

Polish Military Honours (Odznaczenia wojskowe-polskie)
Army Medal (Medal Wojska) nr 11548 18.03.1963
Badge for Faithful Service (Odznaka za Wierną Służbę) 11.11.1979
Cross of the Battles of the Polish Armed Forces in the West
Krzyż Czynu Bojowego Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie) nr 19-95-23 02.10.1995

British Military Honours (Odznaczenia wojskowe-angielskie)
War Medal 1939/45 28.03.1947
HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge 

Polish Organisational Honours (Odznaczenia organizacyjne-polskie)
Silver Medal of the National Treasury (Poland) (Srebrny Medal Skarbu Narodowego ) nr 7714 21.01.1987
World Federation of Polish Ex-Servicemen's Associations Combatants Cross
Krzyż Kombatancki SPK Federacji Światowej) 01.09.1989
Polish Ex-Servicemen's Association Gold Combatants Cross – Australia
Złoty Krzyż Kombatancki Krajowe SPK-Australia) 01.09.1992

Polish Civil Honours (Odznaczenia cywilne-polskie)
Honorary Silver Badge of the World Federation of Polish Ex-Servicemen's Associations
  (Srebrna Odznaka Honorowa SPK Federacji Światowej) 15.08.1981
Honorary Gold Badge of the World Federation of Polish Ex-Servicemen's Associations
  (Złota Odznaka Honorowa SPK Federacji Światowej) 15.08.1986
Pro Memoria Medal (Pro Memoria (Poland)) nr 113/KU/05 05.05.2005
Pro Patria Medal (Pro Patria (Poland)) 23.10.2014


Andrzej (Andrew) W. Kleeberg
*1920 Warsaw     †2010 Canberra
He was born the son of Juliusz and Halina (née Olszyńska) Kleeberg. Both his father and uncle Franciszek were generals in the Polish Army.  After finishing his secondary education, Andrew joined in 1939 the Polish Air Force and, then, served mostly as a RAF tail gunner on a "Wellington" bomber.  In October 1941, while flying over Bremen, his plane was shot down.  He was injured and captured by the Germans, and kept until 1945 as a prisoner No 39372.  In recognition of his bravery and achievements during the war, Andrew was awarded Poland’s highest war distinction, the Virtuti Military Cross. He also was honoured with numerous Polish, British and French distinctions.

In 1948 Andrew migrated to Australia and joined Stanley Abłamowicz in Yass in drilling water bores. (Stanley was his friend from the prisoners-of-war camp and later became the Mayor of Yass). In 1951 Andrew studied geology at the University of Sydney but when his parents arrived in Australia he started instead a small business with them.  In 1955 he married Ina Ruth Ratliff, a New Zealander.  A change of career followed when he became employed in 1963 by the AMP Society as a field agent in Cooma, providing insurance services to staff engaged in the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric scheme.

The Generals in a pre war time:
Franciszek (Frank) Kleeberg, uncle/sitting and Juliusz (Julius) Kleeberg, father/standing

In 1980  Andrew moved to Canberra where he joined the Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Association and became its national President in 1982. He was heavily involved in the local community work, notably, by being instrumental in setting up a TAFE college in Cooma.  Andrew was recognised for various facets of his community involvement with the award of the OAM. His great legacies were in contributing to form the Polish Children's Home Trust in Marayong, establishing the Foundation of the Polish Ex-servicemen’s Association in Australia and ensuring that the National Library of Australia in Canberra agreed to start the "Polonica Collection". Andrew authored two books: "Who was General Julius Edward Kleeberg?" (Canberra, 1995) and "My long and varied life" (Poznań, 2010). His surviving children are Mark Kleeberg of Bowral and Alicia Peterson of Canberra.


Andrzej (Andrew) Kleeberg
                         RAF cap                                                                                       “Wellington” bomber                                    

Royal Air Force (RAF) cap and uniform,
with the arm badge “Poland”

 Polish, British and French
military distinctions

  Favourite desk

Andrew in his later life in Australia

Andrew’s study
in Canberra with the memorabilia

Another desk

Wall ornamentation

Roman Wierzbicki

Graduation as Corporal Cadet in Poland, 1936

Field training of Wierzbicki's military unit in Poland, 1936  

Memorabilia from his military service in France
Born on 23 August 1916, the son of Saturnin and Paulina, née Jenke, in Przeworsk in the southeast corner of Poland. Voluntary service in the local Officer Cadet School, 5th Regiment of Carpathian Riflemen, 1935-36 and graduation as a Corporal Cadet. His law studies at Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów were interrupted by Nazi Germany invading Poland on 1 September 1939.  No military call-up order reached him due to disruption of communications. Therefore, Roman departed on 3 September 1939 trying to reach his regiment in Przemyśl.  He joined another unit, crossed the border to Hungary and was interned there in Győr.  

He managed to sneak to France, arriving in April 1940. Enlisted in Coetquidan in the 1st Polish Division of Grenadiers, First Regiment, 3rd Battalion of Infantry.  The Division was commanded by Polish General Bronisław Duch and incorporated as part of the 20th French Army Corps, and was moved soon towards Luneville. Roman’s platoon was a machine-gun unit (cooling down the weapons with red wine which was a regular part of French Army rations). When on the frontline, during the months of May and June 1940, the Division fought a bloody, defensive battle near Marne-Rhine Canal at Legard, district Moussey, thus, enabling the steady retreat of the French Army to new positions. This was followed by further defensive battles in the region of Baccarat and Raon l’Etape. The campaign resulted in the Polish Division in France losing in excess of 5,000 men. After the French surrender in June 1940, Roman followed the instruction to move towards the Swiss border.

Once caught by a German patrol, he was put to a dreadful position of a prisoner-of-war in Strasbourg. Appalling forced labour conditions and malnutrition resulted in a need for a hospital treatment.  From there, he accepted the German alternative order for forced labour on a farm in Alsace.  In April 1941, Roman managed to escape to Nancy and subsequently Lyon which remained part of unoccupied France. Here he joined the underground organisation, the Maquis which had established a Polish wing.  Information was gathered about the local German military strengths.  On the brink of being caught, he escaped via Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar to Scotland.

In January 1944, Roman joined the Polish forces under British command and was assigned to the Polish Reserve Battalion at Kinross. A stay in hospital due to rheumatic fever prevented him from participation in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  Instead, he was found soon eligible to complete his law degree at Magdalene College of Oxford University, in the Polish Faculty of Law.  This was aimed at preparing the staff for a new administration in a “Free Poland.”  He wisely undertook also a course in Marine Insurance, Shipping and Commercial Law at the School of Foreign Trade and Port Administration in London.

Having met an Aussie in London and being somewhat adventurous, Roman decided to give the land of “milk-and-honey” a chance.  He sailed on the “Stratheden” and arrived in Sydney on 21 December 1950.  His Polish Law degree did not present any assistance in getting employment.  However, he managed to get a job with British Traders Insurance Company, and in 1961 achieved a status as an Associate Member in the Marine Section of the Insurance Institute of Australia.

He married Janet Eggeling in November 1968. They have two sons: Matthew and Anthony. Roman has been awarded with numerous French, British and Polish military and civic distinctions.

Diploma of the Polish Faculty of Law from Oxford University, UK

Republique Française Medaille Commemorative Française de la Guerre 1939–1945
Republique Française Croix de Combattent
War Medal 1939–1945
H.M. Armed Forces Veteran
Krzyż Czynu Bojowego Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie
Odznaka Weterana Walk o Niepodległość
(awarded by the Head of the Office of Ex-Servicemen in Warsaw)

Senior, aged 84, in the Consulate General of Poland, Sydney on 11 November 2000,
awarded rank of Captain in Polish Army Reserve

Jacek Januariusz Zagórski
Born on 19 September 1923 in Lwów, the regional capital city of southeast Poland.  At the start of WWII at the age of 15, enlisted as a volunteer in the College Cadets to the guard duties at Lwów railway station.  Escaped to Romania where he was imprisoned.  In December 1939 Jacek escaped to Africa joining the Polish Army in exile.  His unit, transferred to France, took part in the defensive action.  After the fall of France in 1940, he made escape to Britain to rejoin the re-established Polish Army.  The horse-riding competitions of the pre-war Uhlans of Jazłowiec were adapted to the intensive training in tank warfare.  Jacek proved to become the best tank driver in his squadron and did not hesitate to shoot Scottish grouse with a .22 tank rifle, for supper at the officers’ mess. Graduated in 1943 with the rank of the 2nd Lieutenant from the Military Academy Sandhurst in Camberley where Bernard Montgomery and Winston Churchill had previously attended.

In 1944-45 he took part in the liberation of continental Europe, serving with the 1st Polish Armoured Division that was commanded by General Stanisław Maczek.  On 6 September 1944 Jacek led a reconnaissance patrol near Ypres in Belgium.  Surprising the Germans, the patrol captured the bridge on the main road.  Having received a head wound, Jacek remained in command in his light tank and maintained fire awaiting the arrival of the advance guard in their heavy tanks.  Although almost fainting from the loss of blood, he did not seek medical help until having completed a detailed report on the field situation.  This was not the first time that the superiors praised his daring determination and courage.  On 10 October 1944, as commander of another reconnaissance patrol near Falaise in France, Jacek succeeded in the task of establishing contact with Canadian forces, fighting fiercely through the German positions.  This time he was wounded in the leg and promoted to Lieutenant.  On 12 April 1945 his Polish 2nd Armoured Regiment liberated the POW Stalag VI-c Oberlangen in Northern Germany with 1750 Polish women, Home Army soldiers who had previously fought in the Warsaw Uprising.  Among them was his future (1949) wife, Aniela (“Lilka”, Lee) Sulistrowska boasting the ancestral, prince’s coat of arms “Lubicz.” On the last day of the war in Europe, 5 May 1945, his unit participated in the surrender of the German major naval station of Wilhelmshaven.

After the war, Jacek obtained a Bachelor of Science (Engineering) degree from the University of London, 1946-50, and emigrated with his wife and first son to Melbourne, 1951.  His career path started as Design Engineer for the first Australian aluminum smelter at Bell Bay in Tasmania, 1952-54, and he continued as Chief Design Engineer with Monsanto Chemicals in Melbourne, 1954-64.  Having worked as Chief Product Development Engineer with Massey-Ferguson in Melbourne, 1964-79, he was in charge of the team developing the world’s first self propelled chopper-type sugar cane harvester.  This meant that he obtained several Australian patents and undertook a special assignment in Florida, USA to develop a new version for the unique regional environment, 1972.  He was engaged in engineering consultancy, 1980-95, and lectured at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.  He also acted as Technical Adviser to various associations and became a fellow of several professional institutions. 

Lieutenant in the Polish uniform (allied with Western powers), June 1945

Coat of arms of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, during World War II

Captain (retired).  Awarded the Polish Cross Virtuti Militari for courage in the battlefield, at the age of 21. Also decorated with several Polish, British and French military medals.  Member of Polish ex-servicemen’s associations in France and Australia. Author of two published memoirs. The Zagórskis have four sons and four grandchildren, all living in Australia.  His parents: Tadeusz (coat of arms “Ostoja”) and Irena née Kowalczewska, are buried at the Łyczaków cemetery in Lwów (now in Ukraine), their grave being cared for locally by Halina Makowska.

Memorabilia from Jacek's military service

Medals and decorations

     Ostoja                                                            Lubicz

Celebrating the Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2009,
with congratulations from all over the world, along with that from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The brooch on Lee's dress with a mermaid holding a sword in her hand, the coat of arms of Warsaw, is on a silver base that was hand made to Jacek's design, especially for their 60th wedding jubilee. It mounts a 0.75 carat diamond from his late mother's engagement ring.

Mieczysław (Mietek) Zapaśnik
1916 - 2005
Born on the estate of Tyszkiewicz in the western part of the Imperial Russia. As a result of the 1917 October Revolution, his family was forced to resettle to Harbin in Manchuria. Upon the 1932 Japanese invasion, Mietek moved with his mother to Yokohama, then, to Tokyo where he started working at the Polish Embassy. It got closed after the Japanese 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour and the personnel with their families were evacuated to Mozambique in Africa. Mietek volunteered to join the Polish Army, having left for England where he completed his cadetship. Commandeered to the First Polish Army division under the command of General Stanisław Maczek, he was severely wounded during the 1944 invasion of Normandy. After being hospitalised in England, he migrated to Australia and was demobilised in Sydney as a Lieutenant. He was awarded with several military distinctions. From 1948 to 1960 he worked on his mother’s farm near Windsor. In 1960 Mietek moved to live in Sydney. Upon completion of the management & administration course, he took a job with the American firm, Parker until his retirement in 1981.

 Mietek's war time distinctions

  The Defenders of Tobruk

All pages of The Defenders of Tobruk ...

Courtesy of Australian War Memorial


WWII commanders on Wańkowicz and Strzelecki

The courageous defence of the fortress of Tobruk in 1941, has forged strong bonds between Australian and Polish soldiers and their field commanders, generals Leslie Morshead and Stanisław Kopański.  Afterwards, the Australian “Rats of Tobruk” were called back home.  Their Polish comrades-in-arms had no home to go back to because their country was under German brutal occupation.  In the circumstances, they continued their tour of duty, as part of Allied forces, i.a. in the Italian campaign that was started  in late 1943.  The 2nd Corps under command of General Władysław Anders gained victory, mid-May 1944, in capturing a heavily fortified hill of Monte Cassino. The events were described in a book written by the Polish war correspondent, Melchior Wańkowicz.  In 1948 a letter exchange was carried out between Generals Morshead and Anders which resulted in three volumes of Wańkowicz’s book having been sent from London to Australia, in fulfilment of General Morshead’s desire to learn thoroughly about this epic war-time story.


Courtesy of Australian War Memorial


Brian John Downey Page
   1912 - 2008
Brian's life was characterised by self-determination, decisiveness and responsibility. He studied Arts Law at Sydney University and, then, joined the law firm Freehill and Hollingdale & Co.  Upon becoming its partner, he joined numerous prestigious clubs and expanded his professional profile. During the Second World War, he was assigned to the Administrative and Special Duties Division in New Guinea.  Subsequently, sent to Washington to serve with the Australian Air Mission to Combined Chiefs of Staff. 

Australian International Research Institute Incorporated
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