Antoni Fedorowicz

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ANTONI FEDOROWICZ, who has died aged 86, was with the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade when it was involved in the disastrous battle of Arnhem, September, 1944.

Later, having settled in Leeds, he became chairman – a position he held until his death – of the Leeds Branch of the of Polish Ex-Paratroopers’ Association, where his support and energy helped establish it as the association’s most influential branch.

As chairman, he organised events commemorating the 30th, 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Battle of Arnhem which were attended by diplomats, civic dignitaries and senior figures in the British, Dutch and Polish military establishments.

Mr Fedorowicz was born in Tarnopol, Polas, now part of the Ukraine. When he was 14, the Red Army invaded, transporting his family, along with a great proportion of the Polish population, in cattle trucks to concentration camps in the Soviet Union.

The one Mr Fedorowicz was brought to operated, as the others did, as slave camps, the starving internees forced to fell trees in the surrounding forests.

Following Operation Barbarossa when Hitler turned on his Soviet ally, Stalin invited Poles held in his concentration camps to assist the war effort.

Mr Fedorowicz opted to fight under British command, and after a journey which took him from Iraq to Palestine, Egypt, South Africa and Argentina, he landed at Glasgow and joined the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade.

With the brigade, he was dropped on the southern bank of the Nederrijin, opposite the part of Arnhem where British paratroopers were trapped and being destroyed by elements of the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.

Using canvas boats, and under relentless enemy fire, the Polish Brigade ferried those who could reach the river to relative safety.

Mr Fedorowicz lost many friends, his best friend killed right beside him.

Later he was with the British Army of the Rhine, and with it, helped to liberate many fellow Poles who had been transported by the Germans to Germany after the Soviet-German pact to divide up Poland between them.

A great many of them were put to work as forced labour on the land – and one of those people was a 16-year old girl called Danuta.

She and her 19-year-old rescuer fell in love, and after marrying were settled in a refugee camp near Beverley.

They moved to Leeds after Mr Fedorowicz found the work there in the textile industry. In 1953 he got a job at the William Paul Tannery, Kirkstall Road, and later he worked for Mintex at Cleckheaton, remaining there until his retirement.

Meanwhile, he was increasingly active in supporting the Polish community in Leeds, energetically helping to raise funds to buy the wrecked premises in Chapeltown which he and other enthusiasts refurbished so as to serve as a Polish community centre.

In additional to his work with the Polish Ex-Paratroopers’ Association, of which he was a founder member, he organised dinners and dances to raise funds for the Polish Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, a Polish dance group, and the Polish Saturday School at the Polish Catholic Centre in Chapel Allerton.

As a result of his work for the ex-paratroopers, he was eventually invited to be chairman of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, and in later years, he helped to liaise with those arriving in the new wave of Polish immigrants.

Mr Fedorowicz is survived by his wife Danuta, their sons Zbigniew, Charles and Christopher, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at 11am on Friday, October 28, at the Polish Church, Chapel Allerton, Leeds.