Afterward

Winston Churchill with General Anders

 

The war came to Poland a second time, as the Soviets pushed the Germans back toward their original borders. There, horrific events unfolded: the destruction of Warsaw, the discoveries of the concentration camps.

After Monte Cassino, the 2nd Polish Corps fought its way up the Italian Adriatic Coast, meeting and overcoming resistance, fighting battles at Loretto/Ancona and at dozens of places on the way to the capture of Bologna. General Anders characterizes the mood of the army as being 'perpetually anxious about the future of their country.'

The news from the Yalta Conference was bitter and demoralizing. As agreed to by its American and British allies, the Soviets would take hundreds of miles of Polish territory for their own, altering the borders and putting the country under the Soviet sphere of influence. For people who had suffered so much at the hands of the Soviets, this news came as a blow. What would happen to their families and friends left behind in Poland, those who remained alive? The 2nd Corps had no illusions about what the Soviets would do with their country and their first impulse was to pull out of the battles in Italy and drive up to Poland and fight for their country.

Warsaw in ruins, 1945

 

This was a chimera. To leave Poland free, against the wishes of Stalin, would have been impossible. In any case, there was no will to fight the Soviets, who at the end of the war had lost many millions. Western leaders exercised poor judgement at Yalta, not recognizing the avaricious cruelty of the Soviets, but there was also the element of fatigue. The long war was almost over--no one wanted to fight more than one day that was necessary.

Poland, 2005. Compare with pre-war map. Note
that Hungary and Rumania are no longer to the south; Swinouscie was formerly the German Peenemund, Szczecin was formerly Stettin; there is no East Prussia, part of it has been replaced with a part of the Soviet Union

 

On the Queen Mary. Joseph Smuga is on the left,
standing over his two children

 

When the war ended, the 2nd Polish Corps was in Italy and numbered 112,000 men. What would become of the soldiers? Offers to return to Poland, where surely the Soviets would mistreat these people, were rebuffed by the vast majority of people. Of the people who had been in the Soviet camps, only 310 applied for repatriation to Poland.

This uncertain time, spent in Italy, ended after much discussion in the British Parliament. The 2nd Polish Corps fought under the Polish Government in Exile. When war ended, the Government in Exile became a kind of orphan. The Soviets and their own puppet government were in place in Poland--elections would be held, but when? Would they be free elections?

The 2nd Polish Corps took on its own orphan status and the British government acted, stepping in and demobilizing the army and bring it to England.

Joseph and I were married on the day after Christmas, 1945, in Loretto, Italy. Our daughter was born in Italy in September, 1946 and our son in March of 1948, in England.

In England, Joseph found work as a handiman, while many of his fellow soldiers were trained in various skills. These times were difficult for ex-Polish soldiers, who had once been the darlings of the British public. Now, in a time of unemployment, poverty and cold winters, the British public came to see these soldiers as men taking good jobs from them. They were blamed for other ills as well. But our small family survived, helped by our benefactors, the Trowers, on whose farm we lived.

In 1951, we boarded the liner Queen Mary and came to America. Here in this beautiful land, we were able to make good lives for ourselves.

 

 

With our British benefactors, the Trowers. 1960

 

 

1966

 

1977

 

1990, with grandchildren

 

2001

 

2005