Veteran Stories:
Mieczyslaw “Mike” Kalaska

Army

  • Emblem of the 3rd Polish (Carpathian) Infantry Division.

    Credit: Image made by Halibutt and uploaded to Wikipedia by the author.

    Image made by Halibutt and uploaded to Wikipedia by the author.
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"We were destroyed; two companies more or less were destroyed by artillery barrage. All the officers including company commander, radio operator, all this was killed."

Transcript

My father is in a [Soviet] prisoner of war [camp], my mother, I heard later on that a lot of people were deported by Russians to Siberia. She actually ended up in Siberia, so I was all by myself. And I thought that I should do something about it, contribute, because there was a lot of young people like myself. We went to Budapest and the Polish government had arrangement made up to help us. So we went from Budapest in Hungary, went to Yugoslavia to the [it is] Croatia now, that’s a little port, Split, [also known as] Spalato, they call it Split. And there was a Polish boat, old freighter, 5,000 tonne freighter called [SS] Warszawa, to boot. They took us to Syria, all those recruits, volunteers. And actually, it wasn’t Syria, it was Lebanon to Beirut. And Beirut was like unit of Polish Army which was taking in recruits and I joined there. When I was at Monte Cassino [Italy], when it [was the] last attack [in May 1944], like there was the last major attack, which was actually we won, we got that. Our company had like planned for our company, our battalion [1st Polish (Carpathian) Rifle Battalion] was attacking a secondary location, Monastery Hill. And it was 1st Company, 2nd and 3rd, four companies, one after another. And our company was in the front line a month before offensive started. So we were put as the last. And not just they put us last, we were placed where all the ammunition was located and everything. And Germans had already everything figured out; how to destroy things because they knew where we could hide. So when the first three companies went to attack, our company was, went under artillery barrage. In other words, the bullets were, the shells were falling all over. So out of two companies, last one and the one before, out of 200, there was only about 50 left, that able [to] work. All the other was either wounded or dead. So we were a big plan to go, we couldn’t move anywhere. You had to stay, wait for our turn, and our turn never come because the other companies were stopped by just, the German, the defensive was just too strong for them; they couldn’t do nothing. They were just stuck in there. And we were destroyed; two companies more or less were destroyed by artillery barrage. All the officers including company commander, radio operator, all this was killed. I was thinking, I don’t want to get wounded; and I don’t want to get killed before I do something. You know, like to be noticeable. I didn’t want to just be there and that’s it. I want to do something in my mind, I had to do something. And that’s kept me. And another thing that happened, one time, just before we were getting ready for this last offensive, a schoolgirl from… the girl that was going to school with me together, came from Russia, was free from Russia and she knew what unit I am, she sent me a letter encourage me into the front. And I got the letter, I’m glad that somebody knows if the devil takes me, that somebody, my father or mother will know where I am. And naturally, I will say scared, I don’t know. Naturally scared because you don’t want to die, but I mean, when you’re in a position like this, you’re sort of like accept it has to be like that. The worst part of this [was] when we found out that England is not going to give us a free country, which they promised after the war, you’re going to have a free country. We fought for six years, giving all we had and in the end, we found out that their situation is such that they can’t make it. They can’t keep their word. We were offered, go back to Poland as a private, we figure you go march again to Poland. There’s no such deal because objected by [Soviet Premier Joseph] Stalin. So I could go back to Poland; and I was near Russia, but I heard from all those boys that came from Russia, what it was like, so Russia not option for me. The other option was take British citizenship and because I was not sure whether I will be able to fit in England after this disappointing turn of event that they promised us. I myself, I don’t know how people somehow made it, but for me, it was difficult decision. And a third option was British, or Canadian offer to work on farm for two years on contract to gain landed immigrant status. And I took that one because that to me was most acceptable. The return to Poland, absolutely no; England, more or less objectionable, but Canadian was choice. And I’m glad I did make this decision because it was the only, I was with Canadian units many times on the front, side by side. So for me, it seemed like people normal. They were Polish descent, Canadian soldiers. We met them in the bars or stuff like this. So for me, that was more acceptable.
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