Polish Hero Honoured

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by pbfoot, Mar 25, 2011.

  1. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    It was Sept. 1, 1939. Twenty-year-old Mitch Lutczyk was enjoying a swim on a day off with his Polish army buddies.

    When planes suddenly appeared overhead, Lutczyk thought it was just an air force exercise. Then he saw the German insignia as bombs started falling on Krakow.

    World War II had begun.

    Five years later, Lutczyk lay in hospital with a shattered face and broken arm after his tank was hit by a rocket near the Belgian-Dutch border. His role in the war had ended.

    What happened in between has just caught up with Lutczyk, much to the Oshawa resident’s delight. Sixty-six years after the end of the war, the Polish government has awarded him the prestigious Polonia Restituta medal for military achievement.

    “I was astonished that things happened after so many years,” the 91-year-old says with a smile, face revealing his wartime scars. “I’m proud of it.”

    Lutczyk’s in good company. Previous recipients include Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lech Walesa and Simon Wiesenthal. He believes he’s the only Canadian to be honoured in the award’s 90-year history.

    With prompts from his son Robert, a former Oshawa councillor, Lutczyk modestly recalls his heroic deeds: ducking “bullets like wasps” behind enemy lines; saving the life of a brigade commander; putting himself in harm’s way to stop the friendly fire of partisans.

    One time, he says matter-of-factly, “I caught 120 Germans in France.” They were on foot; he was in a tank, he explains. Another time he cleared a path through a minefield so Allied forces could advance.

    He was caught twice and escaped both times, once jumping from the window of a medieval castle in Hungary where he was imprisoned.

    His unit, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, was attached to the Canadian 2nd Corps and landed on Juno Beach in the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944.

    He describes his reconnaissance unit as a “cork in the bottle,” under pressure from tens of thousands of German soldiers inside.

    “All of this,” Lutczyk says, summing up five years of battles and bravery, contributed to Poland’s decision to award him one of its highest orders at the Polish consulate in Toronto earlier this month. There’s barely room for the medal on two navy blazers lined with others from France, Belgium, Holland and the U.K.

    It was during an attack on the Germans in the fall of 1944 that Lutczyk, then 25, was injured and forced to quit the war. He still has the bloodstained map of Belgium he was using at the time.

    In 1953 the veteran immigrated to Montreal, working as a factory driver. In 1970, he moved to Oshawa, where he opened a “forgotten” store — “for when you forgot to buy milk or cigarettes in Loblaws,” he laughs.

    Life in Canada brought other treasured mementoes, like the picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper meeting with Polish veterans in 2009 and the photo of then prime minister Paul Martin with his arm around Lutczyk as they flew to events commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004.

    But it’s his homeland’s gesture that means so much now.

    “I’m proud,” he says, “that the Polish government didn’t forget about me.”
     
  2. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Sixty-six years after the end of World War II, 91-year-old Oshawa resident Mitch Lutczyk has been honoured with the prestigious Polonia Restituta medal from the Polish government.
     

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  3. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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  4. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Excellent news!
     
  5. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  6. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    That's awesome!

    :salute:
     
  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    :salute:

    Dang...the stories that man could tell...
     
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