Sosabowski     Virtuti  Orzel
commemorating the history of the family
General Stanisław Sosabowski

Captain Ludwik Stanisław Sosabowski

A Short Biography

I was born on the 19th. August 1916 in Kraków, then Austria, most likely in the St. Lazarus Hospital, when my parents had been evacuated from Delatyn because of the Russian invasion of that region, which had been occupied up till then by the Austrians (since the time of the Third Partition).

My father, Eugeniusz Walerian, was born in Stanislawów, in the province of Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the 1st. August 1884, the son of Karol and his wife Eugenia Adelsgruber von Heldenmuth.

My mother, Wanda Marcelina Smólska, was born on the 6th. April 1889 in Wola Luznianska, Gorlice, Silesia, Germany, daughter of Ludwik and his wife Zofia Zygmuntowicz.

From 1916 (or 1917), I lived in Delatyn, Nadwórna District in the County of Stanislawów, Galicia, Austria, where my father was the Municipal Judge and a very active in the local community. HE was Chairman of many Polish Organisations, such as 'Sokol', a sports and gymnastics Association, and of the Boards of Governors of the local Schools, and other organisations.

In November 1918, the Second Polish Republic was established, and the area in which we lived became a part of the new republic.

In November 1920, my brother Tadzik (Tadeusz, Dzulek), Eugeniusz, was born.

In April 1922, our mother died of tuberculosis.

In the summer of 1923, our father married Stephania Jankowska, a teacher at the local Primary School, a native of Stanislawów. 1922 - 1923 were very difficult years for Tadzik and myself.

I went to Delatyn Primary School from 1922 – 1926, and I started my secondary schooling in 1926, at the Josef Pilsudski Grammar School No.2. in Stanislawów. In my three year stay in Stanislawów, I stayed at the Archbishop Issakowicz House (pupils' hostel), popularly known as "Ormia?ska", because it was under the auspices of Greko-Catholic (‘Uniate’) Church.

In 1929, father was appointed Chief District Judge in Sokal, county of Lwów, where we lived for the next four years.

In Sokal, I was accepted into the 4th. Year of the A. Malczewski Grammar School, where I stayed until gaining my matriculation in 1934, and was officially recognised as 'mature to enter higher education'.

Matriculation consisted of two examinations: written and oral. Between the written and oral examinations, something happened which stopped all work at the Grammar School, especially for the Matriculation students. The Headmaster of the School, Urban Przyprawa was relieved of his duties without explanation. He personally lost nothing out of this episode, in fact, he gained, as he was made Headmaster of a very famous and valued, before the War, private Grammar School in Jordanów.

At this point, I must clear up a point regarding the schooling system. In Poland at the time, the Schooling system was run by the Central Government, and not as in England & Wales, where the Schools are run by the Local Education Authorities, which in turn are an integral part of Local Government, the two of which may be completely different politically.

Although there were many student organisations at school, I belonged to only one of these, the Scouts, from the fifth form, where I reached the rank of Harcerza Orlego (‘Eagle Scout’)

In 1934, in spite of warnings about potential political problems by the President of the Appeal Courts, 'Colonel' (sic) Audyt Zielinski, supported by the Vice-Presidents Zarski and Ojak, appointed my father ‘Director of the District Courts’ in Stryj, Lwów County. The entire family moved here and lived here until their displacement to Zabrze in the 'Recovered Territories' in 1945.

In the autumn of 1934, I was accepted into the Faculty of Law of the Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów.

In April 1936, our father died suddenly, of a heart attack. It naturally was a great shock to the entire family, impossible to describe. At the time, there were eight of us children.

At this point, I would like to quote a paragraph from the memoirs of Father Wojciech Golen, the Sokal Parish Administrator in 1930-31, 'I knew the Chief of the Courts, Eugeniusz Sosabowski extremely well - we sat together at the Committees of "T.S.L.", the Soko? Society and the pupils' hostels. He was an ideal father of fine children, a practising Catholic and a real patriot, not of the Sanacja Party."

From some of the money given to our mother from the Exchequer in association with the death of our father, mother bought a small house on the outskirts of Stryj. This was our first real, 'own' home since Delatyn. I wanted to go to work in order to help the family finances, but mother insisted that I do not break my studies.

Throughout my entire studies at University, I was involved with the Scouting Movement. Together with a small group of colleagues, Jan Ziebicki, Wladek Dabrowski, Wladek Rzucidlo, Edzio Bojarek and Cesia Nowakowska, we reactivated and reorganised the Stryj Academic Association. In addition, I was involved in other Associations in the Stryj area, and I took part in much academic life in Lwów. I was a member of the Mlodziezy Wszechpolskie (Student Union) and the Cresovia Leopoliensis Association. Both these associations were characterised by their limited political activities, but all their activities were concentrated on educational and communal interests. Under the aegis of Stryj Academic Association we organised educational and exchange excursions to nearby settlements which were generally within the Ukrainian spheres of influence.

In 1935, the Girls' and Boys' Scouts took part in the Jubilee Jamboree in Spale. I took part as well. The trip to Zlot was organised thanks to the efforts of a new and energetic Scout Master in Stryj, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, Witold Lis-Olszewski.

In 1936, we camped on the shores of the beautiful Lake Narocz, na rodzimej dha. Olszewskiego Wilenszczyznie. Likewise, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Witold, in spite of the long tradition of the Stryj scouts, from 1912, the scouts from now on went to camp in Slawsko. In the summer of 1937, the camp was organised in Kaszuba, on the shores of Lake Zarnowieki. There we met up with a camp of Hungarian scouts. I have few memories of this today. There was a camp there too, of Romanian scouts, from Zelaznej Gwardii. On the way home from these camps, we would take time to sightsee Poland. This way, we managed to visit Warsaw, Wilno, Pozna?, Katowice, Jasna Góra, Krynica, Gdynia, the Baltic coast and Kraków.

In June 1938, I passed my Finals' examinations at University, and received the title 'Master of Law'. (M.A. Law, equivalent)

In the autumn of that year, I started my one-year Military Service at the Military Academy, Reserve Artillery, in Wlodzimierz Wolyski..

In the spring of 1939, I became engaged to Miss Zofia Sluka, who was, at that time, in the final year of her studies at the 'LUX' private Grammar School. We've been together ever since. After graduating, Zosia started studying Law at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów until the outbreak of the War.

In June 1939, after finishing at the Military Academy, I was assigned to the 12th. Regiment of the Light Artillery in Zloczów. In another group travelling to Zloczów was Vic From. We met at the railway station in Wlodzimierz, and immediately became firm friends, a friendship that lasts to today. A few weeks after reporting to the Regiment, I was transferred to a unit under the command of the Regimental aide-de-camp.

On the 1st. September 1939, the Second World War broke out. The Regiment had been mobilised the day before, and on the 3rd. September, we travelled to the Front. The 12th. Infantry Division, together with our Regiment, entered into the grouping known as the 'Prussian Army'. We joined the 'Prussian Army' in the region of Skarzysko-Kamienna. A few hours after the regiment had set up camp, the German Luftwaffe bombarded the railway station.

After a couple of night marches in the forests of Starachewice - Skarzysko-Kamienna, after the Battle of Ilza, the 'Prussian Army', and with it, the 12th. Division, ceased to exist from the 9th. September 1939. The next day, together with hundreds, if not thousands of Polish soldiers, we became Prisoners of War.

After a short stay at and Oflag (Officers' Camp) near Prenzlau, we were moved to various Stalags. I, together with a small group, amongst whom was my new friend Vic From, found ourselves assigned to Stalag IIc near NeuBrandenburg in Mecklenburg.

At the beginning of December 1939, Vik From decided to report for work on the prison farm, whilst I stayed in the camp.

On the 15th. December, together with a group of young prisoners, at least, under 18's, theoretically members of the Cadet Corps, we were commandeered to a camp near Grossborn-Westfallenhof (now Borno-Sulinowo), near Schneidermülle (now Pi?a), not far from the pre-war Polish-German border. Apparently it had been previously, a Concentration Camp for Czech prisoners. At this time, the camps were being divided into Oflags, Stalags and Civilian Camps. A few days before Christmas, they moved a group of six of us who came from the Soviet occupied territories to a civilian camp, and then, suddenly, released us. And so, after a very complicated journey, including crossing the German-Soviet border, I returned to Stryj, to my family and Zosia, on Christmas Eve 1939 at 5 o'clock in the evening, to everyone's surprise, as no-one knew either were I was or whether I was still alive!

Freedom did not last long: on the 13th. April 1940, I, together with my fiancee and her mother, was transported, courtesy of the Soviet N.K.W.D. (= K.G.B.) to Khazhachstan, to the Sovchoz Sokolówka, near Kustanaj. In the first phase, together with Mr. Till, our old friend from Stryj, who had been transported there together with his wife and daughter, I worked according to instructions from the authorities, collecting scrap-iron from the steppes. For transport, we were given a small cart together with a sickly pony. After a few months, I was given permission by the N.K.W.D. to work as a bookkeeper and statistician at the agricultural station in Amangield, 7kms from the county town of Kustanaj. Materially, the new work did not improve our situation much; we still had to barter for food. We stayed in the U.S.S.R. until the spring of 1942.

On the basis of talks between General Sikorsky and Stalin, the Polish Government in Exile was given permission to organise a Polish Army in the U.S.S.R. in 1941. In the autumn of that year, with the agreement of the K.G.B., we left for southern Russia to look for our Army. Our journey took us through many Republics in the southern Soviet Union, of course without regular provisions. Eventually we ended up in Osz, in the Pamir Mountains. In February 1942, a group of conscripts left to join up with the Army, and on the 28th. February I reported to the 9th. Artillery Regiment in Gorczakow. As soon as I had become attached to the Army, I sent a telegram to Zosia and her mother, which seemingly was held up at the Post Office in Osz. Only two months later, did Zosia and her mother join the last transport to the refugee centres in Kermine (where typhoid was rife).

I left the U.S.S.R. on the 1st. April 1942, on the second transport of the 9th. Division of the Polish Army, from Kasnowodsk, across the Black Sea to Pahlevi in Persia. Zosia and her mother travelled the same way, reaching Tehran on the 10th. August 1942.

In Pahlevi, after burning all our uniforms together with our underwear, and happy that we had managed to get rid of all of the most popular insects of the U.S.S.R., British Army transport moved us to Beirut. Here we joined the Independent Carpathian Brigade, which had just returned from action in the Libyan Desert. Their most important achievement to date had been the defence of Tobruk.

On the 3rd. May 1942, the 3rd. Division Carpathian Infantry was founded, under the leadership of General Kopanski, who had been up till now Brigade Commander. I now received an assignment to the 2nd. Regiment of the Light Artillery, with them, I served through the entire Italian Campaign (13th. December 1943 – 2nd. May 1945), to the dissolution of the 2nd. Corps, part of which was the 3rd. Division, Carpathian Infantry.

A synopsis of my service with the 2nd. Carpathian Battalion in P.A.L., 2nd. Polish Corps and the British 8th Army follows:

1st. June 1943: Promotion to 2nd. Lieutenant
1st. December 1944: Appointed Commander of the 1st. Battery
1st. January 1945: Promotion to Lieutenant
10th. November 1990: Promotion to Captain
10th. November 1990: Transfer to pospolitego Ruszenia

I was awarded the following decorations:

  • Polish :
    • Combat Cross 1944
    • Silver Cross Virtuti Militari 1945
    • Monte Cassino Cross 1945
    • Army Medal (3 bars) 1947
    • September 1939 Campaign Medal 1990
    • Polish Defence Forces in the West, Active Campaign Medal 1993
    • 'For the Defence of the Realm - 1939' Medal 1993
  • British :
    • 1939 - 45 Star
    • Italy Star
    • Defence Medal

In November 1942, I was given leave to Tehran where, from the time of the evacuation from the U.S.S.R., my fiancee and her mother had been staying. On the 7th. November 1942, in the Garrison Chapel, the chaplain, Father Achtabowski, after receiving permission from Archdiocesan Archbishop Marina, Apostolic Delegate in Tehran, blessed our marriage.

After the end of the Italian Campaign in 1947, the 2nd. Polish Corps was evacuated to Great Britain. Just before their departure from Italy to Great Britain, I was granted leave to go on holiday to Beirut, where my wife with her mother, had been living since 20th. September 1945. Once there, I was officially reassigned to the Commander of Polish Forces in the Middle East, in Quassasin in Egypt.

In association with the planned evacuation of the Polish military families living in the Middle East to Great Britain, the Command of the Polish Army in the Middle East in agreement with the Polish Mission in Beirut, still acknowledged at the time by the British and Lebanese Governments, organised an Evacuation Outpost, called the ' Beirut Command Outpost, comprising of : Rtm. Poborecki - manager, with J. Zascinski, Lieutenant Ludwik Sosabowski and Quartermaster-Sergeant. The main task of the Outpost was the organisation and removal of our soldiers from the Lebanon, through Palestine, to the Commander of the Polish Forces in the Middle East in Quassasin, in Egypt. From there, they would be conveyed to Great Britain. One such transport, which I was commanding, was fired upon by terrorists in Haifa, whilst travelling through the Arab Quarter, in spite of the covering protection of the British paratroops. As a result of two bursts of submachine gun fire from the terrorists, a fifteen-year-old boy was killed.

My stay in the Lebanon lasted from June 1947 to 20th. February 1948. It was one of the most pleasant periods of my life. Zosia, her mother and I reluctantly left Beirut, which was at the time a very beautiful city, unaffected by the War. In Port Said in Egypt, we were loaded onto the H.M.S. Scythia, and on the 29th. February 1948, set sail for Great Britain.

On the 16th. March 1948, we were met in Liverpool by our old friend from Stryj, Leon Suchanek, in typical English weather - wind, rain, bitterly cold, and fog. After years of Middle Eastern climate! The first camp to which we were taken was in Blacksballmoor in Staffordshire. After a few weeks, part of our group was moved to an Officers' Camp in North Wales, in Pwllheli. There we met up with a few of the younger officers from our Regiment (in spite of the fact that the Camp was intended for older Officers).

After the demobilisation of the Polish Army under British Command, all ex-servicemen had the right to join the Polish rehabilitation and Quartering Corps for a period of two years from 1947. As I had arrived a year late, I was accepted for only one year, from 24th. April 1948 – 30th. September 1949.

Thus started civilian life, so desired whilst in Military Service.

My first job was in a Company called 'Policraft', which belonged to my uncle, the famous General Stanisław F. Sosabowski. In the meantime, I had been accepted onto a one-year business course, run by a Pole, at the School of Overseas Business and Port Administration. At the end of the course, I passed the London Chamber of Commerce examinations, and afterwards went to work for the Post Office Savings Bank, where I worked until 1962.

In 1949, we bought our first house in Shepherds Bush, West London. In 1953, we moved to Ealing, West London.

In March 1953, Zosia's mother, Karolina Sluka (neé Szustaczynska), died of a heart attack, at the age of 68. A few weeks later, on the 5th. April, our son, Piotr Ludwik Karol, was born. Thus started a new chapter of our lives.

In 1955, I received British Citizenship.

In 1955, the University of London accepted me into the Faculty of Law. Due to personal circumstances at the time, I did not take up the offer.

In 1961, I started looking at work in teaching. Obtaining work as a teacher was relatively easy at the time. The basic requirements were proof of finishing academic studies and a Teaching Certificate. Thanks to the efforts of the British Foreign Office and the cooperation of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, I managed to obtain copies of my Diplomas from the Archives in Kiev. On the basis of this, I was able to obtain permission to teach in Primary and Secondary Schools in England and Wales. After finishing the relevant introductory course, I was given an assignment to a school, and stood in front of a classful of pupils for the first time - something that is not easy, especially for a foreigner!

I taught at the following schools :

  • Long Acre Junior Mixed School, Clapham, South London
  • Belleville Junior Boys School, Clapham, South London
  • St. Mary's Roman Catholic Junior Mixed School, Chiswick, West London
  • St. Bede's Roman Catholic Junior School for Boys, Streatham, South London

From April 1969, I became a Deputy Headmaster in the last mentioned school, where for many later years I was Acting Headmaster until my retirement in 1982.

After turning to teaching, I spent much time in further education, especially in Pedagogical and practical (educational) subjects. I undertook the following courses :

  • Pedagogical Course
  • Three Year Part-Time Course in the Froebel Teaching methods
  • Basic Psychology Course
  • One Year course in Modern Teaching Methods

In addition, I took many courses in my other interests, including : Antiques, Photography, Picture Mounting & Framing, repair of porcelain and glass, and upholstery.

My hobbies include upholstery, philately (speciality - Poland), swimming, gardening, and working on the Family History and Genealogical Tree.

I would like to add a few words about my immediate family : my wife Zofia, and son, Piotr.

Throughout our whole ordeal in the U.S.S.R., we were together - Zosia, her mother and I. We were only separated near Osz in December 1941, when I had to travel to join the Army. As a result of deliberately delayed telegram (by the Soviet Authorities), which I had sent immediately after I had reported in Gorczakow, Zosia and her mother only eventually joined me when I was stationed in Kermine. From here we were evacuated to Persia on the 10th. August 1942. In Tehran, my wife finished a Nursing Course organised by the Polish Red Cross, and afterwards worked as a Ward Sister, first in a Polish Hospital in Tehran, and later in Ahwaz, southern Persia. In 1945, she left with her mother and travelled to the Lebanon, where she settled in Beirut. Up to the birth of Piotr, she worked sporadically, and afterwards she dedicated herself to looking after the house and us.

This has reminded me of a little story, apparently true -
At the birthday party of a little boy, one of the snobby little youngsters started a conversation on the subject of the best parents. They started with the careers of their mothers -
'A' with pride stated that, in order to impress his friends, his mother worked as a Stewardess with one of the Airlines,
'B' could not be worse. His mother was the secretary of the local Bank Manager,
'C' 's mother was a nurse at the local hospital, working with, of course, the chief surgeon,
&tc., &tc., &tc....
Until it came to the turn of the birthday boy. "Where does your Mummy work?" Slightly offput, he replied, "Nowhere".
The next day, his mother asked him about her work:
"Who wakes you up in the morning and gets you ready for school? - Mama".
"Who prepares breakfast for you and your father? - Mama".
"Who does the washing, ironing and shopping? - Mama".
"Who prepares your meals for you? - Mama".
"And you say that your Mother doesn't work?"
"Ah, yes, Mummy works, but it isn't real work".

My only son, Piotr, was born in Hammersmith, West London, on the 5th. April 1953. He was a student at Ealing Grammar School for Boys from 1964 - 1972. From 1972 he studied Geology at the Sir John Cass College of Science & Technology, whence he graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of London. He has worked for over 20 years as a Consultant Petroleum Geologist all around the world, and is currently involved in a major gas exploration and development project in North West Poland. Piotr has many and varied interests. Swimming was his beloved sport from the age of 5 years and he won many distinctions. During his undergraduate and some postgraduate years he was Swimmer/Coach for the University of London Swimming Squad, Captain of the Team, taking part in many National and International competitions, both with the University and his private swimming squads (Willesden and Brent). He finished his active part in this sport as Honorary Vice-President of the University of London Swimming Club.

We moved to our present house in Surrey, in 1976. A huge garden, house and hobbies take up all of my time, so much so, that I constantly wonder how I managed to fit in working!

After settling in Great Britain, I took part in some community work. I have been and am a member of the following organisations :

  • The Polish Community in Ealing, London : 1953 - 1976
  • The Polish Parish in Putney, London : 1976 - today
  • 3rd. Carpathian Division ex-Servicemens' Association
  • Cavalry Association of the Military Order of Virtuti Militari
  • The Stryj Association - member of the Revisionary Committee
  • British Conservative Party, Long Ditton/Esher/N.W. Surrey constituency
  • Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton, Surrey
  • Retired Member of the Schoolmasters and Women Teachers Association of Great Britain

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Authors: Hal Sosabowski & Stan Sosabowski
Pictures of the Virtuti Militari and Orzel by kind permission of Prof. Z. Wesolowski. All other content copyright, all rights reserved.