Dad arrived several hours early to board the train for Matera. While waiting, he heard a familiar voice among a group of fellow Polish soldiers also waiting to board. He approached the group and simply said to the stunned soldier, "hi Stefan." After recovering, Stefan grabbed his brother and they visited the nearest cafe to talk over a bottle of wine. I believe the station was Fermo/Porto San Giorgio, where this cafe sits just outside the station.
Unfortunately I'm unable to upload a photo of Stefan from my smartphone... His path to this unlikely reunion was most fascinating and daunting. Capture by the Russians, it took 6 days before they broke him to sign a false confession to being a spy against Russia, 6 year sentence in Siberia, amnestied to fight for the Red Army, instead he joined Anders Army in North Africa and was part of that liberation, before flying over the Mediterranean in a glider to help liberate Italy. His story leading to this reunion is paralleled in my book... He was recommended for the same officer training in Matera.
Dad and Stefan spent 6 months together in officer school, and would spend nearly a year together in Italy, some places I will capture in future posts. Following 6 years facing death and uncertainty, it was a most memorable and fun filled year. Together they explored Matera, the old town built into canyon walls, the Sassi. This is the oldest living city in the world, people still inhabit cave homes. The entire region is fascinating.
My B&B is at the top of the Sassi, my private entrance guarded by a most unexpected roommate. She will not leave me alone, making blog updates somewhat difficult. I left my tablet in Venice (will get it back) making updates even more challenging with only my smartphone, so I'll simply update pics here before creating a new post when I leave for Rome on Wednesday.
The region outside of Matera remains largely barren, olive trees and rock formations dotting the countryside. Perfect for artillery training... Dads team of four typically hit their target, up to 10 kilometers away, by the third attempt. They were preparing to liberate Poland while teaching Stalin's Red Army a serious lesson.
While in Matera, dad and his brother Stefan found a favorite cafe at the bottom of the Sassi. The cave entrance offered comfortable temperatures year round, and the setting was the perfect place to catch up and discuss family matters after six years of separation. I stopped for a meal and glass of wine at this cafe, located at the bottom of the Sassi. Straight ahead through the opening is the bar area.
Directly behind the dining area is another smaller room. Dad and Stefan met in the cafe often, purchasing wine and often pickled herring. They did not write home to communicate their status and news, in fear that Russian authorities would intercept the letters and impose punishment on family members.
Author - Andrew Bajda
I've been working on writing the story of my father for two years, his adventures during WW2. I will retrace his steps and use this blog to share stories and images of the places that make up his fascinating story.