South West Wales

World War Two hero's past told at Goodwick funeral

Picture of Janusz Szuch Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Janusz Szuch 17-years-old with his mother Irena Szuch before his escape from Poland

To many living in a Pembrokeshire town, Janusz Szuch was a devoted family man who enjoyed repairing antique clocks.

But it was not until his funeral that neighbours in Goodwick, near Fishguard, found out the modest man living in their midst was secretly a World War Two hero.

Janusz Szuch - known as Bob or John to his friends - risked his life to help smuggle dozens of Jewish families out of the Warsaw ghetto saving them from the gas chambers.

He was just a child himself when he took soup and clothes to children hiding from the Nazis.

Mr Szuch died in July, aged 91, after a long battle with leukaemia.

His nephew-in-law Janusz Baczynski said surprised mourners were "touched" to hear of his relative's courage.

"He was a very brave man, they were a very brave family," he said.

Image copyright JANEK SKARZYNSKI/Getty Images
Image caption People leaving a storm sewer during the Warsaw Uprising

'My hero'

Mourners also heard at 16, Mr Szuch played a key role in the 1944 Warsaw uprising, when the Polish resistance tried to liberate the city from Nazi Germany.

Mr Baczynski, who travelled from Poland to deliver the eulogy, told how his wife Bogna Lewtak-Baczynska's uncle was repeatedly shot and almost blown up while fighting but always miraculously survived.

Tragically his young fiancee, who was also a child fighter, was shot and died clinging to his boots during the failed uprising.

"It was unimaginable," he said, adding he had 28 pieces of metal still in his body from the war when he died.

"He was my hero."

A representative from the Polish Consulate also attended the funeral last month on behalf of the Polish president and lay a presidential wreath.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Janusz Szuch aged 16 fought the Nazis in the Warsaw Uprising

In the final hours of the uprising Mr Szuch avoided being shot by German officers after a woman placed a religious statue on his body.

"She saved his life, the officer did not shoot him, it was a miracle, they killed everyone but him," said Mr Baczynski.

He later fled from Poland to Italy where he enlisted in the army with other Polish resistance fighters and took part in the battle of Arnhem, before moving to London.

But, while details of his remarkable life are displayed proudly in Poland, few knew of his bravery in Goodwick, where he later retired with his partner.

Mr Baczynska said his relative hardly spoke of his brave youth and never returned to Poland due to fear of being killed.

Image copyright Keystone/Getty Images
Image caption Captured members of the Polish resistance at the end of the Warsaw Uprising
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Fighting in the streets during the Warsaw Uprising
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Fire breaks out during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

'Gentle giant'

But he did share some of his past with Bernard Jackman, owner of the Glendower Hotel.

Mr Jackman said: "He was very modest like most brave people are - a very gentle giant.

"I wouldn't like to have done what he did, I suppose you could describe him as a hero."

Details of Mr Szuch's youth are displayed in Warsaw Uprising Museum dedicated to the estimated 150,000 Poles who lost their lives trying to free the city from Nazi occupation.

Before he even joined the doomed resistance, his family saved numerous Jewish families from the gas chambers, giving them fake papers to slip past patrols into the countryside.

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