- Contributed by
- People in story:
- George (Jerzy) Kempik
- Location of story:
- OUTSIDE POLAND
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 November 2003
JERZY KEMPIK - HIS JOURNEY TO FREEDOM. This is a painting I had done of my dad in his Polish uniform. I have no pictures, seemed the next best thing. To his right are images of his life before and after the war, to his left are images of the ruins of the Abbey at Cassino and the monument of the 5th Division at Cassino between the two eagles each side of the gate into the Polish cemetery at Monte Cassino.
I have left a copy of the story below as my personal story, it has become my own personal story, I live the life of a son tormented by the aftermath and effects of WW2 almost 60 years after it ended.
I thought it would be worth while adding these extra few words.
I do not know how my father would have felt about his story being laid bare to the world or my feelings on how Poland was treated after the war. It surprises me how many people are ignorant of the simple fact that Poland was betrayed by both Britain and America. I was one of these people up until about three years ago.
Put very simply, my understanding is that WW2 started because Germany invaded Poland. My understanding is that before the end of the war Britain and America got together with Russia and agreed, to hand Poland over to the Russians.
Where was the sense in this? I reeks of corruption, the worst kind, political corruption. Will any one ever be held accountable for this. I don't think so.
I think there is also a little bit of consistency apparent hear if you think about what has happened in Iraq and is probably about to happen after the war. Deals for financial and political gain. I was and still am, all for the overthrow of Sadam.
If you want to understand how most Polish "EXILES" felt and this is exactly what these were. Men who had been through hell and back, thinking that once the war was over they would be able to go back home, please search out a very good book called "An Army in Exile" written by General W Anders.
If you are interested in finding out more, check out he web site below, it pretty well expresses my thoughts a little bit more clearly.
MY FATHERS STORY.
My father died in 1969 when I was 11, we lived in Fife, Scotland. He was working as a Coal Miner then, he had worked in the coal mines in Poland as a very young man and since coming over to Scotland after the war.
When he was alive he never spoke much to anyone about his time during the war, or his life back in Poland, he had kept in contact by letter, with his family but up until 1968 he had never been back to his home to Katowice.
During the summer 1968 he managed to take all of us back to Poland, a holiday of which, I have many fond memories, however sadly, one year later he died. Tragically we never had any more contact with our Polish Relations, which is still something I personally find hard to come to terms with. For the last thirty odd year I have had a yearning to find out more about him, and to contact our Polish family and as I'm not getting any younger and my own children were asking about there grad father, I decided to start my search.
I first tried to contact the M.O.D. records department, Not really expecting to get very far. This day changed my life. The telephone call I made is very clear in my mind. When I got through I spoke to the lady in charge who ask for some very basic details, my fathers name and date of birth. She put the phone down, I heard her footsteps clip clopping across the floor and what sounded like the a massive filling cabinet drawer opening, then closing, clip clop back to the phone, she said yes, there was a file on my father, she was happy to send me a copy but said it would be best if my mother applied for these records. I was overjoyed.
They sent us a copy of his War Record which informed me that he had been conscripted into the German Army when Germany invaded Poland, I do not have any great details except what I am about to tell you, which is also on a record I subsequently received from an army records department in Germany.
Translation of German document information.
He was in The Grenadier Regiment 15 (Motorised) 3rd Company, I believe part of the 29th Tank Infantry Division
I believe that he had been in Africa, and as the german army was pushed out of Africa my father ended up eventually in Italy, I dred to think what he had been through, but from this account on his German records, enough was enough.
The Infantryman Kempik had at the 21,12.43 orders to get food, rations for his section. He delivered the rations at about 9.15pm.
after that Kempik (K) got the order to go back to his trench and to hold fort. Instead of filling this order, K was lying down to sleep in an empty bunker/shelter. Here he was found by a platoon messenger at the 22.12.43 at 2.00am. This person gave K the order to go to his trench immediately. At the next control at 5.00am. K was still sleeping in his bunker. Kempik got for the 3rd. time the order to go to his trench. He left the bunker and went in the direction of his trench. Since that point of time Kempik was never seen.
Because of the testimony of a witness one assumes, that Kempik is deserted to the enemy. This assumption is confirmed by the ascertainment that at his delivery of the food, two rations of sausage and two rations of chocolate were missing. K had the apparently the intent to desert and he used this opportunity to get food because there might have passed a longer time till he was captured.
I obviously have mixed feeling regards this information, I know what kind of a fighter in life my dad was. I feel he was in such a state then he was past caring, but he was obviously clever enough to know that his next warning would have probably meant the firing squad, so he had nothing to lose but how must he have felt deserting the Germans with them after him heading in the direction of the then enemy, us.
He was taken prisoner at a place called San Vittori in Italy by the American Army (I have actually managed to find a copy of a documentary film made at the time by John Houston, of the Battle at San Vittori ). His war could have been over, as I have been told by many people including members of his division. He was held prisoner till about May 1944. He joined the Polish 2nd Corps. 5th Kresowa Division 18th Lwowski Battalion who had just completed one of the bloodiest battles in WW2 at Monte Cassino, where very many Polish soldiers lost there lives. He saw his first action at Anconna and fought for the remainder of the war up to Bologna, May 1945.
His record also told us that he was entitled to some medals one of which was the Cross of Valour which totally took us by surprise, and so far we have not been able to find out how, where or when this was won.
Although I was sent loads of great information, there was nothing about what happened to him when he was resettled in Scotland and I am also trying to find out more about this.
Since receiving all this information I have been down to London, first for the 60th Anniversary of his Division being formed, where I met loads of old soldiers, sadly non that knew him, I have been down two more times and have now become very friendly with most of the men and women who attend.
I had also managed to go back to Katowice, for the first time since my dad died, Easter, 2001. We stayed in Krakow, this is approx. 30 miles from Katowice and due to the fact we had not been able to contact our family before we left Scotland, we were not able to spend a lot of time with them. While we were there we went to Auswitch Concentration camp which is only 15 miles from where my family live, this sent a chill through my bones not only because of the huge scale of the place and organised killing that took place in the camp but also because it was so close to my fathers home in Katowice.
As I said we managed to trace our family and found out my fathers sister is still alive, she is 82years old this year and been through an awful lot, her story is probably one that I will never know. She was a very beautiful young girl suffering first, invasion by Germany then supposed "liberation" by Russia.
I returned to Poland again this year and I had much more contact with my family, I managed to spend a whole week with them and was very lucky to have the services of a translator most days.
I am still trying to find out more about what my dad went through and to find out the circumstance in which he was awarded The Cross of Valour.
I think I will try and find out more about his German army history next. For the short term, I intend going over to Italy next May for the 60th anniversary of the fall of Monte Cassino, when there, I intend to visit also the place where my father was captured, probably a place most important to the family here in Scotland, if he had not deserted it is most likely we would not be here.
I feel I am on a journey started on the outbreak of WW2 that maybe I will not complete but may only be finished by the Grand children and Great Grand children of Jerzy Kempik.
This is my fathers still uncompleted story.
UPDATE. AUGUST 14TH. 2005
It's been some time since I left my entry, many bad things have happened in the world but may good things also.
Last year, May 2004 I went to Italy for this first time in my life. Before I started to find out about my dad I had a strange aversion to Italy, maybe the story about my dad explains this even though I had no knowledge then.
I went with a group of Polish veterans to remember the men who died and commemorate the end of the battle at Monte Cassino, May 18th. 1944.
This journey was one of my dreams since I first started to look into my dads life during WW2.
One of my main aims was to visit the place where he was capture while in the German army. I don't know if anyone understood my wish to do this, but I am glad I did.
The ceremonies at Monte Cassino were also most moving, brought to a climax by a visit to Rome and ceremony in St. Peter's Square in the presance of Pope John Paul, the Polish pope. We all felt very honoured and special.
I had the opportunity to hear comments first hand from veterans about what they went through and also hear there thoughts about boys like my dad. The overwhelming evidence was that they accepted them as fellow Poles, fighting for the freedom of their country.
All except one man, who and this is most upsetting, as he knew my story and about my father. He said that his personal position was that when, and not if, he came across boys like my dad who had been first in the German army, he waited his time then very quietly and secretly killed these boys, sometimes in the heat of battle, I try to believe he was maybe talking through drink or maybe he was a bit mad. I have only told this to one other person, a Polish veteran, he was very upset and angry about this and told me this guy was an animal who even today should be held responsible for these acts of inhumanity. He has to live with these memories, that's his punishment.
I put this last statement into this journal entry even though it appears in a reply I sent to a man who offered me some reassurance last year regards my dads German war record, it seemed relevant to how I feel I have moved on since I left my story on this site.
I have moved on, I know much more about my dad, I have been to and met more people who were an important part of my dads life and I feel I am that little bit closer to knowing my dad.
"JUST AS A WEE SEPARATE COMMENT"
Does anyone else feel like the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan were not properly acknowledged of commemorated this year?
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