Walter Mazurkewich fonds. — [ca. 1941-1945]. — 15 photographs.
Walter Mazurkewich moved to the Codesa area (between Wanham and Eaglesham) with his father and step-mother when he was about 12 years old. He was just barely 18 when war broke out, and when he enlisted, did so with the Free Polish army. Perhaps this was because he had been born in Poland and was not yet a Canadian citizen.
In World War II, as a member of the Polish army, Walter marched across Poland and through Italy. This was through the high mountains (Alps) and many men died due to frigid temperatures or from falls. The Polish Army took the treacherous high mountain route to avoid Mussolini’s troupes and civilian sympathizers in the valleys. He and many of his comrades were also exposed to toxic gases. Walter was wounded in battle and lived with a steel plate in his head afterwards.
He spent some time in a concentration camp, from which he managed to escape. This was most likely in the early part of the war, when the Germans first invaded Poland. After Germany and the Soviet Union conquered Poland in 1939, Polish servicemen escaped to England, France, and later Russia, and formed “Free Polish Army” units which fought alongside the Allied armies. They also served with Canadians after D-Day in the First Canadian Army. The Battle of Monte Cassino, in 1944, was the greatest victory won by the Polish Free Army in World War II. Polish soldiers who fought there received a special victory medal, a Polish Cross.
After the war, Walter returned to the Peace Country and began working in oil camps as a cook’s assistant. In the late 1940’s he married Lena Podarunok, who was also cooking in an oilfield camp. They settled in Grande Prairie, but later bought a farm in the Wanham area, where they worked the farm together. Walter was an active life member of the Legion, and a member of the Masons and Elks Club. He loved to play the horses in Grande Prairie and whenever he went to Edmonton. He loved family and enjoyed playing cards and dancing at Legion events. His hobbies included reading history and rug hooking. He passed away in 1983.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of 15 photographs of Walter during WW II, when he was fighting for the Polish army.