thumb Gen Anders w szpitalu Iran 1942Gen. Anders in hospital in Teheran 1942

 

The Polish Armed Forces in the USSR, known as the Anders Army, was established in Soviet Russia in 1941. The Army struggled from the very beginning with many organizational difficulties: insufficient supplies, lack of uniforms and hostility of the Soviet authorities. Gen. Anders made every effort to save as many Polish citizens as possible, not only the soldiers from the NKVD's investigative prisons and Gulag camps in Soviet Russia, but also Polish civilians, including orphans. The Army took care of the children, who lost their parents in that troubled time in Soviet Russia.  In March 1942, the General obtained permission from Stalin to evacuate the Army from the USSR - 77,000 soldiers and 43,000 civilians left the country.

The collection of the Pilsudski Institute in America contains many interesting materials about General Władysław Anders himself (collection no.113) and the Army. The collection includes recordings of people deported to the USSR in 1940/41, saved thanks to joining the Army (collection no.29). The archives of Jan Erdman, an employee of the Polish embassy in Kujbyshev, contain letters and poetry from Siberians. On the Institute's YouTube channel you can see 12 recorded memories of Siberians who settled in the USA after World War II.

 

thumb Gawronski800Capital William Gawronski In 1928, William Gawroński, a 17-year-old boy from New York’s East Side, swam the Hudson river to stowaway on a ship departing for the South Pole. That was a period of fascinating geographic expeditions, and the whole of America was watching Richard Byrd’s first American expedition to Antarctica.

Bill Gawroński and his parents were Polish-Americans, the parishioners of the oldest Polish Parish in New York - Saint Stanislaus the Martyr. Bill was a fabulous swimmer, part of the group called the Polish Falcons. His dream was to become an explorer and when it was announced Byrd was going to be leading the first American expedition to Antarctica, he became obsessed with the idea to join. Due to his extranoriday swimming abilities he was able to swim through the Hudson to board The City of New York docked in New Jersey. Bill always wore a golden medallion of the Immaculate Conception, given by his grandmother. He had the medallion during his famous swim of the Hudson River and the Antarctic expedition.

What was the fate of our hero after the expedition? Billy wanted to be an explorer, but due to the economic crisis in America and then the outbreak of World War II, he had to look for permanent employment. During the war he was the captain of the so-called Liberty Ships, American cargo transporters, crossing the Atlantic under the constant threat of German submarines. After the war, he worked for the American navy.When he retired, he settled in Maine, where he ran an antiques shop with his wife, Gizela. After Bill's death, Gizela donated his documents, including a telegram from the Antarctic expedition, photos and the Immaculate Conception medallion to the Institute: Collection No. 76.

We also recommend a book by an American journalist: Laurie Gwen Shapiro: The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica (Simon & Schuster), 2018.

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