I am of Polish-Jewish descent which is why that Marshal Pilsudski's law on state-assimilation is extremely important to me.
That is one reason why I am a Piłsudskiite, the other is I am a patriot.
(Piłsudski replaced the National Democrats' "ethnic-assimilation" with a "state-assimilation" policy: citizens were judged not by their ethnicity but by their loyalty to the state).
Unfortunately I do not know all the details, expecially part of the pre-war part, so I will add more details as soon as I know them.
My grandfather - Bernard (or Berish in Hebrew - his Jewish name) Gurwitz was born in Poland in 1914 (unfortunately I do not know where apart from near Warsaw, most likely beginning with L, maybe Lodz, Lublin or Lowitz). His name was in Hebrew - Berish (which is a dimunitive form meaning bear - here is some further information.
Dov and Ber both mean bear. Berish is a
diminutive form. Dov-Ber Kerler, 1958- wrote:
The origins of modern literary Yiddish. Oxford :
New York : Clarendon Press, 1999.
Also some more information on his Polish name Bernard - The name Bernard is a masculine first name. It is commonly used in English, French and Polish
. It is pronounced as bur-Nahrd in English, ber-Nar in French and Ber-nahrt in Polish. In all the three languages, namely English, French and Polish, the masculine first name Bernard is made up of two syllables.
The two syllables that make up
the name Bernard in English are the syllables bur and Nahrd, the two syllables that make up the name Bernard in French are the syllables ber and Nar and the two syllables that make up the name Bernard in Polish are the syllables Ber and nahrt. More emphasis is put on the second (and last) of the two syllables that make up the masculine first name Bernard in English and French, that is the syllable Nahrd in English and Nar in French. On the other hand, more emphasis is put on the first of the two syllables that make up the masculine first name Bernard in Polish, that is the syllable Ber in Polish.
The masculine first name Bernard is derived from the Germanic element of the word bern, which is defined as bear, combined with hard, which means brave or hardy.
Which by his name also has some simularity to Wojtek, as he was also a soldier bear.
He also had a brother and a sister, they were in a refugee column in WW1 (I am not sure what happened to his parents - his mother was maybe killed in the column and maybe his father had joined Pilsudski's Legions).
They were found later surviving on wild berries and mushrooms in a Polish field.
They were taken to a refugee camp and maybe arranged by the US war aid effort, they were put on a ship for America, probably docking at New York.
Then there were taken to an orphanage, unfortunately they were separated, his brother and sister were picked up by family relatives (unfortunately it does not sound as though they were happy because his sister tried to run away) my grandfather was chosen by a family called the Gittermans who lived in a village called Macnutt in Saskatchewan, Canada (I am not sure if they were relations of Yitzhak Gitterman).
He had a happy time with them, his adopted father was a international lawyer before he came to Canada where he ran a General Store in which my grandfather collected supplies from the local station and helped in. The indians traded furs with them for food. He kept in touch with his brother and sister.
He achieved very good grades at High School.
When war was declared in Canada he volunteered straight away, joining the local regiment which was a Canadian-Scottish regiment which he was keen to transfer out of because of the Kilt, which embarassed him so much that he didn't keep any photos from that time.
As he was so keen to see action, he turned down the offer to go to the Officer's training school at Dundern.
He was in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) in a Chevrolet lorry with a Canadian-German driver carrying food and mail (as he was the Quartermaster, he also was in charge of uniform and equiptment ).
He was in London at the time of the Blitz, his unit was regulary called upon to help the civillian services to dig people out of the rubble.
At the time of the Dieppe raid, he managed to get on the mission (which he thought was a training exercise) with a friend of his called Andy in a Churchill tank which was in the workshop for repairs (who was a lumberjack before the war). Luckily they were called back shortly before they landed.
He was sent to learn German at the start of the war (officially to confirm his driver's loyalties, but I think that there was more to it than that).
He also went to the Beaver Club in Canada House in London for Canadian servicemen (which I heard often in the back rooms, officers from SOE met up with volunteers for dangerous missions).
He learnt unarmed combat in Inverrary in Scotland, which was unusual as he was not a Commando or Paratrooper.
On the 6th of June, he sailed for Juno beach on board the Canadian destroyer Algonquin, before climbing down the nets down to a smaller landing craft.
He Landed on the 6th of June 1944 on Juno beach in the Nan White sector in one of the first waves by landing craft meeting up on the beach with his lorry which came on one of the bigger ones.
He saw the murder of the Officers of the British airborne at Merville battery.
I think that he might have known some of the Canadians murdered at the Abbaye Ardennes.
He fought through Caen and Falaise (ending in the Falaise pocket) next to the Polish units.
He went then to Holland, in a convoy delivering food to the Dutch civillians.
In December 1944, he was awarded a certificate by Field Marshal Montgomery (all he would ever say was it was for "some little jobs for Monty"), which helped his promotion chances as he ended the war as a Company Quatermaster Sargeant (CQMS).
Then he finished the war in Germany.
He was wounded in his lorry (I am not sure of the date), luckily he was wearing dispatch rider's breeches and boots as he was badly wounded in one leg. The medical corps men came to him and sent him back to the Main Canadian hospital in England. Luckily the Canadian doctors were able to save his leg by inserting a metal plate with screws and taking out most of the shrapnel (my grandmother tells me for years afterwards when he took a bath the shrapnel came out in the water).
He only had a slight limp afterwards.
After this he was given the choise of staying in or being demobbed in Canada. He chose to stay in the Army and volunteered for Guam after more training at the wireless school, luckily the Japanese surrendered before he went.
He drove back the movable equiptment to Didcot barracks. Then was demobbed in Canada.
He was married in 1947 to my grandmother.
He brought a German medal (Iron Cross) back with him as a souvenir which I think proves that he maybe went on a raid with the commandos on a German HQ, maybe as he spoke German to interogate the prisoners or to translate documents. As it would be one of the most prized souvernirs, I think he must have been in the front line at that time (usually his job would mean that this type of souvenir would be gone when he arrived). Also a paperweight which we think was from the same place from the officer's desk.
He then worked in a British store to learn about the British currency (after being used to Canadian dollars). Then in 1950, they bought a General store. In which he worked as long as he could (becoming well known and respected) before retiring.
One time his unarmed combat training came in useful was when he made a citizens arrest on a burglar in his shop, when it was closed.
He was one of the quietly strongest, kindest, friendliest and most patient men I have ever known, unfortunately he died about five years ago.
I have the pictures which refer to the specific parts in his story , I will upload them soon.