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Bravery by Adam Bykowski


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At this writing, it is the eve of Memorial Day weekend.

This is a Polish soldier.
This is a man who has suffered greatly.
This is a man who has shown great courage.
This man fought in World War II.
This man is my father.

He was born in Poland and raised on a farm. His mother died when he was two. He was raised by his father and from what little I know, he was ruled by an iron fist of a father and had a hard life.

He never wanted to talk about the war. He only told me that he was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner of war for six years. When I was a kid, he just told me one graphic detail to leave an indelible mark on my mind. And that was that he saw “kiszki” hanging from a tree. Not sure if I spelled kiszki right. It’s a Polish word for a human body part like kidneys or something.

Once we were watching TV in my teenage years and I think we were watching a war movie or Hogan’s Heros or something and I asked him, “Why don’t you tell me a war story.” He said “No”. I asked him again saying, “Just tell me a little something about the war”. He replied, “No. I don’t want to talk about it”. I then, like an idiot, asked for a third time, “Not even a little bit about the war?” He leaned over in his chair and burst out screaming, "I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! I DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER THAT SHIT! I AM TRYING TO FORGET ABOUT IT, NOT TALK ABOUT IT!

He yelled at me so loud my heart was racing in fear.
That was the last time I ever brought up the war. I learned over the years, the guys that saw the heavy shit in a war never want to talk about it. It took me a long time to learn that.

Several years after my father passed away, my sister’s husband told me a story He said that he was sitting in the front room with my father and said that my father informed him that he was in the cavalry. He said the German tanks were charging on one end and my father and the rest of the cavalry in the Polish army were charging on horses. German tanks blazing on one side and my father charging with a sword on the other.

I will never know that kind of courage. To keep charging against insurmountable odds just amazes me. How he survived, I’ll never know. Once captured by Hitler’s army, he spent the next six years in a prisoner of war camp. I’m sure that was no picnic either.

I never knew how to show my respect for my father regarding the war since it was a very sensitive subject. I just want him to know, that if he is watching right now, that I respect him for fighting for his country and doing his best.

I will end this by saying that Polish people in World War II had a hard life. Probably not a lot to smile about in that era. I want to thank my father and all soldiers in every country that fought the good fight to keep freedom and safety in their country. We all should think of the soldier that fought for us so we can grill that hot dog or burger on Memorial Day and have the freedom to do so.

Next time you see a man in uniform in your town, just look at them and nod your head in respect. Don’t say anything. Just give them the nod and maybe a salute. Sometimes that is all they need at the time.

Thanks Dad. Here’s a nod and a salute.


memorial, soldier, polish, army, father, dad, memorium, memorial day

I enjoy photography of all kinds. If it was how I supported my family financially, it would be a dream come true.

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  • Richard Williams
    Richard Williamsover 4 years ago

    Thats a very touching story adam, and thank you for sharing it with us all. at first i wasnt sure what to type, other than thanks. my great grandfather served in WW2, and he passed away when i was 2 and i never had the chance to ask any of those questions. His wife, my great grandmother is still alive but now in a retirement home, and i really wish that i knew more about him and their life together. once in awhile id ask my dad or grandpa what he did in the military, but they never really said much (or i cant remember much anywho cause its been far too long since ive asked).
    on another note i have 3 very close friends that are currently serving in the army. one of which ive known since i was 7 (26 now) served in iraq 2 yrs ago was in the 82nd airborne / Light artillery. He is now scheduled to leave for afgahnistan July 28th for another year…. His brother just served a year in afgahnistan in Light artillery and just returned home. the 3rd is also one of my best friends that ive know since about 13 or 14. he however as much as i love him has had a bit easier, if i can call it that, path. He is a chopper mechanic currently stationed somewhere on a base in iraq. he should be in the states in a few months i believe. Tho he told me that he was accepted into a spec ops program that from the sounds of it will be a bit more dangerous…(if he graduates anywho).
    at anyrate it seems times change a bit, or maybe its because i am so close with those 3, that they do not have much of a problem talking to me about the things they’ve seen over there. i dont know but i imagine its not as bad as it was in WW2. But anywho Adam, thanks for sharing the info it made me think of alot of things and a bit sad of what could happen, but proud for what they have done, things that i dont know if i could do. Thanks
    My 3rd friend actually just got into photography around christmas and i introduced to redbubble, he has a few good photos on there, a few from iraq as well. you should give it a gander.
    peace, Richard

  • Thanks Garth. Longest comment from you that I have seen. Having three close friends in the military must be hard and weird all at the same time. It’s a very different type of war than WWII. But then again, death and fear is on a soldier’s mind regardless of the era. Hope your friends return safe and in one piece.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Richard Williams
    Richard Williamsover 4 years ago

    Heres a Clickable link lol, i hope anyways

  • Linda Jackson
    Linda Jacksonover 4 years ago

    Thank you Adam! We may never know the horrors of such wars personally, but we know we are here because of their bravery.
    Since we live near an air force base we see a lot of soldiers in the area. I try to remember to go out of my way to say thank you to them, and most of the time they are truly grateful and humble.
    So a big thank you to them and all their loved ones.
    Take care, Linda
    ps, I am sure your dad is watching!

  • You’re a good woman Linda. I think they look at you with the same respect you show them. Thanks for your comments. I’m sure he’s watching too.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Akkra
    Akkraover 4 years ago

    Your dad sounded like an amazing man who had an unbelievable, sometimes horrific life. Most of our lives are relatively free and cushy compared to what people have gone through in war time. I can’t imagine living through the things soldiers have, I can’t imagine how I’d even be able to face those things in the first place. The prospect is nightmarish to me. I can completely understand why your dad would refuse to talk about it, it was probably the best way he knew of keeping his mind together when the memories became too much. While I have the utmost comtempt for governments throughout history that have sent their own people to fight their battles for them, after all it’s never the politicians on the front line, I have complete respect and awe for the people who do the real work. The world’s never short of a war and it’s almost daily that I hear of troops dying out in the middle east. We can only hope that ends eventually and also that we never see anything on the scale of World Wars one and two ever again. Respect to your dad. Respect to all the people braver than me.

  • Well written words Zoe. Thank you for showing respect. It would mean a lot to my dad if he were here.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Krys Bailey
    Krys Baileyover 4 years ago

    A noble portrait Adam, and I feel I share a little of your upbringing. My father, who was also Polish, also fought in WW2, in the Polish Airforce. Unlike your father, my dad planned one day to tell me about his life, but when I left home, he never got the opportunity. Instead he started to write a book about his life during the war (this was when he was in his late seventies). I was the proof reader of his writings, and was fascintated with what I read, seeing so much of my own character in him! Unfortunately, my dad passed away in 1999 before the book was finished……

  • That’s sad. I wonder if you could finish the book for him. It would make for a very different twist on a book. A father writes of his life in the war and elsewhere, then his daughter picks up the writing starting with his death and continues the book, but with an entirely different spin by expressing her views and experiences with her father. Hmmm … need an intriguing title.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Ellen Cotton
    Ellen Cottonover 4 years ago

    This is a wonderful tribute to your father, Adam. My deepest respects to you and your father’s memory.

  • Thanks. So very appreciated.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • mttmaliha
    mttmalihaover 4 years ago

    I am so touched by this. Your father, whether talked about the war and what happened or not, had no doubt instilled in you things that you will never forget because of his courage and his experiences. God Bless You and thank you for posting this.. and God Bless your Dad

  • Thanks Maureen. Lovely words and sentiment.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Krys Bailey
    Krys Baileyover 4 years ago

    Unfortunately Adam, I don’t KNOW the rest of his story. Still, what I do know now means the world…. ;o)))

  • I was thinking more on the lines of you finishing his story because the middle to the end of his story is his family life with you and life after the war.
    If he wrote a lot of pages, then I think you could finish the book. If he only wrote a couple of pages, then you would have to do a lot of research calling military comrades or his division. Just a thought. I think it would make for a fascinating story. JMO.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Bill Coughlin
    Bill Coughlinover 4 years ago

    Well Done, my friend.Bill

  • Thanks Bill. You’re a great American.

    – Adam Bykowski

  • Miles Moody
    Miles Moodyabout 4 years ago

    Your gritty honesty is much appreciated, Adam. I’ve never had to rise to such courage so I can’t say with real integrity that I can relate to such experiences as these. But I can do all I can to honor such sacrifice. The Ken Burns documentary on WWII does a good job personifying the experience of war for those of us like me who want to get some idea of what it took for men and women to give so much to preserve what so many take for granted in free countries like the USA.

  • Thanks for commenting on this one Miles. It means a lot to me. Too bad I don’t know to much about my father’s war life and younger life. If I did, I could write a book on it.

    – Adam Bykowski

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