Genevieve Czyzewski's life was shaped by grand geopolitical forces.
They pushed her from her native Poland to the Soviet Union to the Middle East, then to Italy, England, Argentina and, finally, Tacoma and Seattle. She was a deportee and a soldier, a shopkeeper and a teacher.
She had many stories to tell, and listeners always were spellbound by them, said her daughter Cristina Zahajko
Mrs. Czyzewski died July 1 from complications of Parkinson's disease. She was 86.
When Mrs. Czyzewski was 17, in the late 1930s, Soviet troops occupied the part of Poland where she and her family lived. They deported first her father, then the entire family in cattle wagons to what is now Kazakhstan.
Several years later, with World War II under way and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union looming, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was persuaded by his allies to recognize a Polish government in exile and allow its army to recruit from among the Poles he held in camps.
Mrs. Czyzewski suffered from malaria and dysentery, Zahajko said, "but they had to pretend they were not sick." She hid her condition and persuaded recruiters she was healthy enough to serve.
She traveled by train and ship to Baghdad, where she met Ludwik Czyzewski, who was to become her husband. Also a Pole, he had been held in a Soviet
prisoner-of- war camp in Uzbekistan; later, Zahajko said, they realized they must have been on the same transports to Iraq.
With other women soldiers, Mrs. Czyzewski put up tents, handled supplies, and did anything else that was needed to support men preparing for combat, her daughter said.
While her future husband was sent to Italy to fight, she remained in the Middle East, first in Iraq, then Palestine.
The couple lost contact, then reunited in Rome, where they married in 1945, weeks after the Nazis surrendered. Their first child, a son, Tadeusz, was born in Italy.
Unwilling to return to a Poland under Soviet domination after the war, the couple settled first in England, where a daughter, Eleonora, was born, and then in Argentina, where three more children, Cristina, Alicia and Richard, were born. When they left England, Zahajko said, the couple had wanted to immigrate to the U.S., but the wait was too long.
In Argentina, Mrs. Czyzewski operated a store in a Polish neighborhood in Cordoba that sold clothing, toys and other merchandise while her husband worked in a factory. Economic chaos in that country prompted them to make another bid to enter the U.S., and they finally succeeded in 1964.
The family lived at first with Mr. Czyzewski's brother in Milton, Pierce County. They soon bought a house in Tacoma, where Mrs. Czyzewski worked for a uniform company.
In 1970 she visited Poland and saw her relatives there for the first time in 28 years. When she returned, the Tacoma School District hired her to teach English to Polish refugees.
"The parents of the students would come to meet her because she was 'A Living History,' "
her daughter said in an e-mail. "They had studied about Polish people like her in their books."
In 1992 she traveled to England for the World War II Polish Army's 50th reunion. "She was so happy," Zahajko said. "Those were the dearest friends for her."
Both her parents believed a person's true nature came out when under duress, she said.
Mrs. Czyzewski's survivors include two sisters, Yula Czwartacka and Marysia Klim, both of Rudna, Poland; two sons, Tadeusz Czyzewski of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Richard Czyzewski of Fox Island, Pierce County; three daughters, Eleonora Czyzewski Miller and Cristina Zahajko of Seattle, and Alicia Czyzewski of Los Angeles; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren .
Her husband died in 1985.
Mrs. Czyzewski loved flowers and cooking and wrote poetry, including some works reflecting on her life experiences. Some of her poems will be read at a celebration of her life at 4
p.m. Saturday at the Polish Home Association, 1714 18th Ave., Seattle.