Goodbye Eagle Scout, Heroic Soldier and Friend!

Memories of Leonard Jędrzejczak

"It's too soon..., not yet night..., maybe another month..., at least a week..., the camp is not over yet...", one wants to scream in order to stop the white specter of death that has knocked out of our ranks a friend, a scoutmaster of the Republic, Lieutenant Colonel of the communications forces of the 2nd Corps of Gen. W. Anders, the hero from Monte Cassino, Leonard Jędrzejczak.

Photo: Marcin Murawski

Today, it would be his hundredth birthday. Maybe 100 years is a decent age, but for us — his friends — it is still not enough. Images are shifting like in a kaleidoscope — important moments in his life and, at the same time, important moments in the life of Polish emigrants in Milwaukee and the United States.

His half-immigrant parents served two countries — the United States and Poland. They worked in the States and built their Polish identity in both places. As soon as Poland regained independence in 1918, they returned to the country. Leonard shaped his patriotism at home and in the scout team.

As a 17-year-old scout, on August 30, 1939, he was drafted into the Polish army and followed it, along the western combat route, through internment camps in Hungary, to Palestine, Tobruk, through the Monte Cassino hills, to Bologna. He swallowed bitter tears as they were excluded from the winners' parade. While waiting for the events to unfold, he studied at a Polytechnic, because he wanted to rebuild Poland as an engineer. This was not to be.

In 1951, he came to the USA and actively joined the life of Polish emigration. He ran the Polish Radio in Milwaukee, built the Polonia sports club, taught the English language to the emigrants, helped in official matters to obtain compensation for forced labor in Germany, and — above all — organized scouting in Wisconsin, in which young people were brought up in a patriotic spirit. He valued and nurtured friendships with military commanders, including General Kopański, General Duch, General Anders, Fr. Peszkowski, and the faithful companion of the 3rd Division and 2nd Corps — later, the President of the Republic of Poland in Exile — Ryszard Kaczorowski.

When I decided to record his fate in the pages of the book "Tearing Out History" (Wyorywanie historii), we spent long hours talking and reminiscing. His experiences documented the history of the 20th century. It seemed to me that he could never leave us, that his presence was needed by the Polish community like fresh air and breathing. We forgot about the words of the priest, the poet Jan Twardowski:

Let us hurry to love people, they leave so quickly. They will leave their shoes and the phone deaf.

We forgot that time goes by, we forgot the poet's warning:

Do not be sure that you have time, because uncertain certainty Takes away our sensitivity, and all happiness

We were sure we had time. Although we knew that some events are inevitable, we are never sufficiently prepared for their arrival and then we realize that:

We love always too little and ever too late.

Goodbye Eagle Scout, goodbye Friend. You stay in our memory until the end of our days, you stay in our hearts forever.

Translation from Polish by Andrew Woźniewicz.

For many of those who emigrated for independence, the Battle of Monte Cassino did not end in 1944. Their war lasted much longer and often ended tragically. Nevertheless, the legacy of the heroes survived and is still alive today,


In 2024, two important anniversaries for Poles coincide: 80 years since the victorious battle of the 2nd Polish Corps for Monte Cassino and the 50th anniversary of the death of the one thanks to whom the heroism of the soldiers of General Władysław Anders was recorded with journalistic reliability for future generations.


A delegation of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland from Washington and the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, came to Milwaukee on August 13 this year to honor the last surviving World War II veteran, Major Leonard Jędrzejczak.


On May 18, 1944, at dawn, the world heard the news, which — as Polish patriotic commentary — was accompanied by the song "Red Poppies at Monte Cassino". The author of the words was Feliks Konarski "Ref-Ren" — a poet and soldier of the 2nd Corps of General Władysław Anders — and the composer of music was Alfred Schütz — a conductor and member of the Polish Soldier Theater stationed in Compobasso, near Monte Cassino.


On January 25, 1988, the President of the Republic of Poland, Kazimierz Sabbat, on the basis of article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of April 23, 1935, appointed him in an order "the successor of the President of the Republic of Poland in the event of the vacancy of the office of the President of the Republic." After the sudden death of Kazimierz Sabbat on July 19, 1989, on the same day in the evening, pursuant to Art. 19 of the Polish Constitution, he took the oath and took the office of the President of the Republic of Poland in Exile.

Polish General in Milwaukee
Katarzyna Murawska

The 2nd and 3rd days of May are very important holidays in the life of the American Polonia, but also in the life of the entire global Polish diaspora. On May 2 we celebrate Flag Day and the Day of Polish Diaspora, andon May 3rd — the Constitution Day. This year, the Polish community in Milwaukee hosted representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C., the military attaché Major General Cezary Wiśniewski and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Karol Budniak.


That summer (1939) was important and a breakthrough for scout Leonard Jędrzejczak. He graduated from middle school and was about to start high school after the summer holidays. He performed the function of a camp guard at a scout camp near Kościerzyna. He had his first love and his first kiss. On August 6, together with a few colleagues from Bydgoszcz, he went to the Military Training Camp in Myszyniec.