There was good reason that dad and other Polish recruits were sent to Ancona, Italy. A charismatic leader survived brutal imprisonment at the hands of Russia early in the war, and surfaced to lead large numbers of Polish troops in the liberation of Northern Africa and Italy. His victories are commemorated all across Italy today, and his band of Polish fighters were known then, and still today, as 'Anders Army'.
The region of Ancona is particularly proud of the contribution of Anders Army. He liberated the city and region from German occupation in fierce battles, and the history is preserved today through museums, immaculate cemeteries honoring fallen soldiers, statues, and beautifully written historical books.
My airbnb hostess Angie (left) has been amazing, making countless calls to learn of people who were part of the Polish liberation of Ancona. Her research has gotten me in contact with people from Rome to London. She arranged a visit with this amazing couple. Beata and Raimondo, who have authored two absolutely beautiful books on the subject; hundreds of pages of stunning photos and colorful stories. At the end of the evening they offered their books (which are in extreme limited supply) as gifts. These books are priceless. Dad, you are going to enjoy these!
Following German defeat and surrender, General Wladyslaw Anders plan was to grow and prepare a powerful Army to liberate Poland from Russian control, using the Ancona region as the base of his operations. This view from the top of Fermo has a birds eye view of many the Polish bases, and is typical of fertile rolling hills all along the Ancona region.
Dad and Artur were now separated. Dad was assigned to heavy artillery, where basic training took place in the coastal village of Porto San Elpidio, which was than a quiet fishing village. Artur trained in infantry. Today, this region along the Adriatic Sea is endless miles of beaches where lounge chairs with wide umbrellas dot the coastline.
Without question the most spectacular beach in the region is Portonova, where chalk white pebbles replace sand at the base of a rocky cliff which cuts into the Adriatic. I made it to this fabulous beach (seen in the distance from where this photo was taken) the day before leaving Ancona; was not easy to reach but well worth the effort.
From the day he arrived in Italy, dad would stop to visit the many military cemeteries that populate the country. Fallen soldiers were buried in sections by their nationality, so he always felt a sense of angst upon approaching the large section of Polish grave sites. Every visit ended the same, relief that his brother Stefan did not die on this battlefield, followed by continued uncertainty in the unknown of his whereabouts.
p.s. To dad: every November, surviving veterans meet with dignitaries to honor and celebrate fallen soldiers from Anders Army at one of the Polish military cemeteries. This year is in Matera, and Mr. Wojtech Narenski, who is 95 and still the organizer, personally asked me to extend to you an invitation. I have his contact info.
Author - Andrew Bajda
Since publication of my book in December of 2016, so many amazing things have happened on both a personal and professional level. As the journey continues to evolve, I'll update my travel adventures on this blog, and invite you to join me along the way.