Portrait of Wladyslaw Pasaj taken in Italy in 1944-45.Wladyslaw Pasaj
Wladyslaw Pasaj and friends in Italy. His fiancee, Helena, is second from the right.Wladyslaw Pasaj
Zulus in front of their home in a Zulu Reservation in South Africa, 1942.Wladyslaw Pasaj
Wladyslaw Pasaj leaning against a truck in northern Italy in the summer of 1944 or 1945. He was waiting for a signal to leave during his campaign in Italy.Wladyslaw Pasaj
Zulus dancing in South Africa, 1942.Wladyslaw Pasaj
"And I didn’t even go 100 yards when I was stopped by the Polish partisans. So I joined them."
That moment, well there was nobody else to take over the troop. I had to take over because I was trained for it. And I became a troop commander with the four guns over there. So we were withdrawing slowly and fighting from place to place, until we got to Lwów and over there, it was during the action, we discovered that we were attacked by Russia as well, from the other side. And we were between the Russians and Germans, between them.
So one day, we would attack Germans, one day, well, how I managed to get to that unit there: well when I was wounded, I was in the ambulance, and [before that] when I was firing, it was 3,400 metres. That was the last order I fired and on the wake up, I was in German hands and I was wounded and I had a big scar on my leg here. The German officer came and asked, do you want to be evacuated west or do you want to stay over here, because Lwów is going to be given to Russia. I didn’t know that the Russians attacked us. There was no radios, we didn’t have it.
So I said, I want to be evacuated west because when I was in university, I joined the Polish National Democratic Party which was against communists. And the Russians they went to a communist country, which came. So I didn’t want to be near them. In that ambulance, there were four of us and we had to go through the creek, because the bridge was blown out. And they’d forgot to take my little knife I have for sharpening the pencils, you know, for my datas, they write a lot down. And the branches were hitting the side of the…. There were four of us wounded and I jumped out and another guy. It must be a shock for the Germans to discover that they lost two of their prisoners of war. (laughs) And I didn’t even go 100 yards when I was stopped by the Polish partisans. So I joined them. That’s why I can ride a horse - which artillery man cannot ride a horse? My old artillery was horse artillery.
And got my rifle and a couple of hand grenades and one day, we attack Germans, next day, in the evening, Russians, you know, until we’d run out of ammunition. And he said in pure Polish, German officer, he said, Come with me, join the prisoners of war and you can be on the main road. So we went over and we came to river San, waiting over there. And I was still, you know, a little bit with my leg, you know, sore. I managed to get, I see from that bridge, which was partially damaged, that my house is standing. So I told the other three guys, I said, listen, don’t worry, I see my house. If anybody’s there, at least we can survive. So managed to get over through the river and got home.
And in the morning, somebody knocked [on] the door. I went over, here is a German guard [that I knew] and he said that there is a Ukrainian woman came to the Gestapo and said that I killed a German soldier on the river San. I said, I didn’t. He say, I know, I was with you but they’ll shoot you first and then they ask questions. So he took off. And I just grabbed a small loaf of bread, put the revolver there, because I got the arms and ammunition, to put over there and took off, didn’t tell my mother a thing. She was sick, she was in the bed. And about 15 minutes after that, the Germans came and said, where’s your son. My mother said, he’s around. I didn’t tell my mother I’m going away. They look around and she said, oh, he just made me cup of tea. He [the soldier] put his hand on the cup and took it off because it was hot.
And I was hiding all day and in the evening, I managed to get somebody to get me a ticket on a train. I went on the back of the train, I was trying to go west and then finally, they sent us on the 21st of June , I was on the train from Southampton to Glasgow, where the Polish Forces were organized. And after that, when I learned everything, I learn English, I learned a special job, that is to locate the enemy gun by photographic sound waves, you know, the sound of the shell and the gun which fired and direction it was going. I learned that job, it was really good because that was my profession, I would say.
They was going to organize the Polish Forces, they were in the Middle East already, going to organize that regiment in England. Then they changed their mind and they sent me to Middle East. So I was in South Africa, India, all the countries, North Africa, Egypt. Then I joined the Polish Forces, 2nd Polish Corps and I was in the 16th Field Artillery.