Congratulations on a great piece of detective work, Zdzis, and thanks for taking the time to share your success with the group. I, for one, really enjoy hearing about such experiences and it heartens me in my own quest for more information.
And I will add my voice of thanks to the many members of this group who have helped along the way. This is an unbelievable resource and has also led me to make friends and find family members in Poland.
Sault Ste. Marie, Canada
----- Original Message ----
From: Zdzislaw Nowicki <znowicki@...
Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2008 9:30:29 AM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Family history can be two coincidental
Once again I have to give a big thank you to the group. In my last
exciting news (well, it's exciting for me, at least) I mentioned that
Ciocia Halina said that Mum's brother had been taken into the Red Army
and had 'zginal'(cedilla under the a and barred l). Now, zginal, in
Polish makes perfect sense, but try to put it into English and you
have a bit of a conundrum. Did the person actually die or disappeared
and is missing, presumed dead? But I digress...
After reading my 'exciting news' a group member, Henry Sokolowski from
Canada, asked me for further details about my uncle. After letting
him know that, by coincidence, his name was Henryk Firko and that as
far as I knew, he was born in Horodniki about 1922 or 1923, I received
the following information:
Firko, Henryk, son of Kazimierz, born 1923 at Kolczan, county Wilno,
corporal, 9th infantry regiment, died 18.03.45 at Kolobrzeg, buried in
the war cemetery at Kolobrzeg.
Not much to go on so I started with the map of Oszmiana. Another
member of the group, Zbigniew Styrna suggested where I could find this
map, thanks Zbyszek... Ciocia Halina had confirmed that my Mum had
lived in the Swiety Duch area of Oszmiana, specifically in the Morgi
area. Halina also said that she was pretty certain that Horodniki was
a place strongly associated with Mum either where she had lived or
where she had been born as my grandparents held a 'gospodarstwo' in
that area. Horodniki is a small place, but on the map, there is a
slightly smaller village about 2km to the north called Kolczuny. It
doesn't take a great leap of logic to say that Kolczan is most
probably Kolczuny and that the Henryk Firko in question is most
probably my uncle.
The sad part is that he didn't survive the war. Every cloud has a
silver lining though. I know where he is buried and I now know one of
my grandparents' names, Kazimierz Firko, only three other grandparents
Coincidence number two: Kolobrzeg, 100km from Szczecin. I did a bit
of digging around about Kolobrzeg on Google. The usual sites about
hotels, festivals and maps were displayed but one attracted my
attention, it was Festung Kolberg. I know a little German, Festung
means citadel or fortified town and Kolberg was probably the German
form of Kolobrzeg so I had to look and I hit the jackpot.
On 24 February 1945, the Soviets initiated the East Pomeranian
Offensive and managed to encircle Kolobrzeg and trapped elements of
the Third Panzer Army, the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS
Charlemagne (1st French) and the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the
SS (1st Latvian). The germans had about 60 pieces of artillery, an
armoured train and some 18 tanks. The pocket battleships Lützow and
Admiral Scheer also provided artillery bombardment. The 1st and 2nd
Belorussian Fronts of the Soviet Army attacked the city on 4 March but
were beaten off.
The Soviet High Command handed over responsibility for the battle to
the Polish First Army on 6 March. My uncle's unit, 9 Zaodrzanski
Pulk Piechoty from 3 Pomorska Dywizja Piechoty im. Romualda Traugutta,
appears to have been in the worst position. The unit had to advance
along the railway line and, needless to say, it was chewed up pretty
badly.. Their first assault was from 8 to 12 March, the second from 13
to early 14 March and the final one from 15 to 16 March. The unit
captured half the railway station on 15 March and the armoured train
was fianlly destroyed on 16 March. Overall Polish losses in the
10-day battle were over 1000 killed and over 3000 wounded. Uncle
Henryk is buried in the war cemetery there. The records show him as
having been killed on 18 March but I reckon that's the day he was
either listed as killed in action or the day his remains were
identified, not his actual date of having fallen.
So what's the second coincidence? My aunt Chewronia (Dad's sister)
and her son Jerzy settled in Police, just outside Sczecin when they
were repatriated from Siberia after the war. Jerzy's daughter,
Jozefa, still lives there and I'll be visiting her next year. To me,
as an Australian Pole, 100km is 'just up the road' so I'll definitely
be making a trip to lay a few poppies on his grave and let him know
that things turned out OK for his sister, my Mum.
Well, that's my news for this week. A great big thank you to the group
for your collective knowledge. I guess it just proves that if you
don't let people know what they can do for you, you'll never get any
answers. So post your questions or your post your knowledge, you just
never know who wants that little piece of seemingly insignificant
(where it's finally raining after six weeks of clear blue sky)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]