Polish Patriot and Outstanding Community Leader
Tadeusz Walkowski was born on October 6, 1898, in Gwoździec, in Pokucie region, Galicia. The Walkowski family was deeply patriotic and the children were brought up with respect for participants in the national insurrections against Russians in the nineteenth century. Tadeusz Walkowski’s grandfather took part in the Polish insurrection of 1863. In 1914, soon after the outbreak of the First World War, sixteen-year-old Tadeusz voluntarily joined Józef Pilsudski’s Polish Legion (the 2nd Brigade). Since then, he remained a great admirer of Marshal Józef Pilsudski. When Poland regained independence in 1918, Tadeusz Walkowski was transferred to the regular polish Army in which he served during the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920. He was decorated for valour. Later, he attended military collage and studied at the Foreign Trade College in Lwów and at the Technical University in Warsaw. In 1927-37 he served in a cavalry regiment in Lwów (14 Pułk Ułanów Jazłowieckich) in which he was promoted to the rank of Major. Subsequently he was transferred to the Military Control Corps. In September 1939, upon the defeat of Poland by the Germans and Soviets, Major Walkowski and his military control unit crossed the border to Romania and were interned. His brother Lt. Władysław Walkowski, was murdered by Soviets in 1940 in Katyń, along with nearly 5,000 other Polish officer prisoners of war. In the spring of 1940, Major Walkowski escaped and reached France where he joined the Polish Corps. Upon the defeat of France in June 1940, he was evacuated to England. In Scotland, in 1941, he completed a course in Self-Government and Administration in the Faculty of Law at the University at Edinburgh. He served as military controller in the Polish administration in Great Britain and was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel. After the war he studied for one more year at the Princeton School of Languages and Commerce in London.
Tadeusz Walkowski’s wife, Stanisława (Stella), their two sons and daughter remained in Poland during the war. They all belonged to underground ZWZ. In April 1943, they were all arrested by the Germans. Both sons, Lech and Jerzy, were killed by the Germans: Lech shortly after his arrest, escaped from a German prison in Radom, but was soon killed in action at Warsaw’s train station; Jerzy died in 1944 at Auschwitz. Mrs. Walkowska and her teenaged daugther, Bożena were also sent to Auschwitz where they spent eighteen months. Just before the liberation of this concentration camp, they were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. They both survived and were reunited with Colonel Walkowski in Great Britain in 1946. In 1955, the Walkowski family came to Canada and settled in Edmonton, where initially Tadeusz worked for The Edmonton Journal.
Almost since the day of this arrival in Edmonton, Colonel Walkowski has participated in several Canadian and Polish organizations. For example, he successfully arranged for a system of financial and legal assistance for poorer immigrants. In the 1950s he was instrumental in securing financial aid for victims of Nazi concentration camps who were unable to support themselves as a result of their mistreatment in the Germans camps. He prepared all the documentations vital to the successful outcome of this initiative. His efforts and dedication brought him wide recognition, including at the federal government level. In years 1957-1963 Tadeusz Walkowski was President of the Canadian Polish Congress, Alberta Branch, which he revitalized and reorganized. This helped to unite Polish immigrants and their social organizations. He cooperated with Polish immigrants of the earlier generations and visited remote polish pioneer communities in Alberta. He knew almost all of their inhabitants personally, interviewed many of them about their life stories, and encouraged and supported their efforts to uphold their Polish heritage. Tadeusz Walkowski once gave a historical sketch of Polish immigration to rural Alberta:
I paid much attention to contacts and cooperation with older “Polonia.” I tried to reach various remote Polish settlements and meet Poles from the previous immigration waves. Among those people there were former activists of the Polish Socialist Party. Two examples were Edward Biernacki and Czesław Fedożewski, who took part in the revolutionary struggle of 1904/1905 against the Russians in the lands of the then Russian Partition of Poland. I also met some former activists of the Peasant Movement, including Józef Tworek, and the Hamuła family. The influence of the Peasant Association and the Society of Peasant Schools of Galicia upon the Polish settlers in Alberta was pronounced and resulted in maintaining strong ties with the homeland and good Polish organizations in Alberta. The Polish national feelings among the settlers remained quite strong and become manifest in the Polish names they gave their settlements, such as Kopernik or Kraków, and in the retention of Polish language and tradition. I admired prominent individuals and great patriots such as Stefan Czołowski, who was from an 1863 insurgent family, Jan Liss (Pożarzycki), a community leader and the Hamuła, Fridel, and Hauptman families. I remember many emotional meetings I had with Polish pioneers in Sexsmith and Webster (the Peace River County), who settled there in homesteads in the 1920. In 1930, they build a church, a rectory, and a community hall. The latter still serves the Polish Alliance of the Peace River County and the community today, particularly for the annual church fair – [Odpust] – in late June. Unfortunately, the church burned down, but a beautiful Madonna’s grotto remains and so does the growing cemetery of Polish pioneers. These are sites at which Poles, some living hundreds of miles apart, gather together to uphold their ancestor’s faith and national customs.
In 1956 and 1957 Tadeusz Walkowski organized exhibitions of arts and handcrafts created by newcomers to Alberta. For many years he paid attention to the issue of cooperation and mutual respect between the Polish and the Ukrainian communities in Alberta. Colonel Walkowski also served on the Edmonton Citizenship Council and secured the participation of Polish ethnic organizations. He assisted Polish and other immigrants in their dealings with immigration authorities and in their efforts to become established in the community. He cooperated with the Canadian Legion, YMCA, and the Edmonton United Nations Association. In 1957, as President of the Canadian Polish Congress, Alberta Branch, he welcomed to Edmonton and assisted Hungarian refugees who fled their country in the aftermath of the bloody crushing by the Soviet of the Hungarian Uprising of October 1956. His close cooperation and friendship with the Hungarian community in Edmonton continued for a long time. In years 1958-1980 Colonel Tadeusz Walkowski was the Alberta delegate of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. In this capacity he kept the issue of Poland’s subjugation by the Soviet Union very much alive. He organized a number of Polish demonstrations against the communist system in Poland. Tadeusz Walkowski put on record names of many Polish community activists:
In May 1958 we organized a gathering to demonstrate our anti-communist attitude. Approximately 2,000 Poles came to Edmonton from all over Alberta for Third of May Celebration. Even former pioneers from remote parts of the province arrived. For instance, from Grande Prairie came activists Antoni Woźniak, Leonard Ostaszewski, and Władysław Konowecki together with other pioneers. From southern Alberta came Jan Staszewski and Władysław Chuchła. This Polish convention in Edmonton was chaired by distinguished Polish activists of the older generation: Czeslaw Fedozewski, Roman Hauptman, Józef Lang, Mikołaj Leszczyński, Jan Liss-Pożarzycki, Andy Solikoski, Franciszek Tomusiak, and Józef Tworek. From the post-war immigrants Tadeusz Borowiecki, Wanda Buska, Irena Domecka, Michał Jędrasik, Tadeusz Kiryczuk, Robert Krzysik, and Kossian Koskowski contributed significantly. There were, of course, many priests as well led by Fr. Adam Przysiężniak.
Tadeusz Walkowski was active in the Polish-Canadian Society, Polish Combatants’ Association, and Polish Veterns’ Society. He founded in Edmonton, and for many years chaired, The Alliance of Polish Eastern Provinces. In 1950 he was also instrumental in stablishing the Polish Students’ Association at the University of Alberta and special scholarship fund, as well as in starting evening courses in the Polish Language – the first such courses at the University of Alberta. In 1978 Tadeusz Walkowski was honoured with the Recognition Award by the Edmonton Historical Board, and in 1979 with the Alberta Achievement Award by the Alberta government. Tadeusz Walkowski was also a man of letters. Despite his very means he had been collecting Polish and English books on topics related to Poland and Polish history. In 1959 he found only five books in Polish in the University of Alberta Library. Subsequently, over the years (the last time in 1982), he donated several hundred books to the University of Alberta Library and convinced the Canadian Polish Congress to make similar donations. In 1959, he actually started a Polish collection at the Library. Many years later these books are still being used by students and scholars. Recently, the author borrowed a book on the Warsaw Uprising from the University of Alberta Library. It bore the signature “T. Walkowski” – a lasting memorial for a great Polish patriot.
Colonel Tadeusz Walkowski died in Edmonton on January 4, 1983. He had always dreamed that one day he would return to a free and democratic Poland to serve his homeland again. He died not live to see the freedom of Poland materialize. A memorial plaque dedicated to him and his sons is embedded in a wall of Stanisław-Kostka church in Warsaw.
Andrzej M. Kobos.
Source: Polonia in Alberta 1985-1995