Posts Tagged With: Poles in South America


It often amazes me,  how long live people who went through the hell of the Second World War, seems like the horrors they had seen during the war, gave them the will to live. I met at the Sikorski Institute several 90-year-olds, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski lived 91 years, General Maczek 102 years, and Jan Karski “only” 86 years 🙂 Probably of great importance is the fact that they grew up in a much healthier environment. The air was cleaner, healthier food – not many of us will reach 90, I’m afraid.

The hero of today’s post lived 78 years, but it seems to me that he had a very successful life. But from the beginning…

Richard Białous - "George"

Richard Białous – “George”

Richard Mieczyslaw Białous (“George”, “Ram”) was born on April 4, 1914 in Warsaw (still in the Russian Empire). From the age of ten belonged to the Gen. Henryk Dabrowski’s Sixth Scout Team, where he went through all the stages from a youngster and from 1936 he served as commander of Troop “Powiśle”. He graduated from St. Stanislaus’s grammar school where he earned a matriculation certificate in 1932. He entered the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Warsaw and a year later he moved on Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology. In 1936 he obtained with good results an engineering degree. A year later he interrupted his studies and was appointed to the Engineers Training Centre in Modlin and in 1938 finished in second place the School Reserve Officers Engineers, with the rank of platoon sergeant of engineers. He went back to school, but already in March 1939 was called to active duty as an engineer in 8th Infantry Division in Modlin. In June he resigned at his own request, to obtain a discharge from the Warsaw Polytechnic and marry Christine Błońska. It wasn’t given to him to enjoy his wife for a long time, because on 1st August he returned to the 8th Infantry Division as an engineers platoon commander. In September 1939 using delaying action arrived with his unit in Warsaw, where he took part in the defense of Warsaw. On 19th September was wounded in both legs.

After recovering, he was involved in underground activities with Union of Retaliation (Zwiazek Odwetu), a separate body of Union of Armed Struggle (Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej). In the autumn of 1942 after Shock Troops and Kedyw (“Directorate for Subversion”) were created he became commander of a 300-people strong Special Unit “George”. His deputy was Tadeusz “Sophy” (Zoska) Zawadzki, commander of “Attack” group in Operation Arsenal, who was killed later on in the attack on the Grenzschutz’s watchtower and in his honor the battalion was called “Sophy” (01/09/1943).

"Sophy" Battalion Badge

“Sophy” Battalion Badge

During the Warsaw Uprising Battalion “Sophy” as part of the Sabotage Brigade “Beard 53” has passed the toughest trail of fighting in the Wola district, Old Town and Czerniaków. After Czerniaków’s fall “Sophy’s” soldiers (“zośkowcy”) infiltrated channels to Mokotów, and after the surrender of the district – to the city center.” George” with a small group of soldiers moved terrestrially to the Downtown South. The battalion lost about 350 soldiers during the Uprising. For his actions “George” was awarded three times the Cross of Valour and the War Order of Virtuti Militari fifth class.

Richard Białous in 1st Independent Parachute Brigade

Richard Białous in 1st Independent Parachute Brigade

After the Uprising he was sent to prison camps in the Bergen-Belsen, Gross-Born and Sandbostel. After his release he became the commander of the First Care Platoon at the Independent Parachute Brigade, he organized  Officer’s Club and a school for soldiers. He decided to stay in the West, after hearing how the Russians treat Home Army soldiers. He returned to Poland in 1946 together with the gifts’ transport and with the same convoy he exported from the country his wife and children and several comrades in arms. In 1947 he lived in London, but he was annoyed by the exalted British attitude towards Poles. At the urging of a friend he decided to move to Argentina.

Registration Card

Registration Card

On 9th July 1948 he landed in Buenos Aires, which under General Peron was the scene of strikes and street fighting. This was the reason for the move with his family to the west, to the town of Quillen in the province of Neuquen. Together with a friend from the Independent Parachute Brigade he had launched a house factory, which soon went bust. Undeterred by the failure he had used his knowledge and experience in the construction of roads and bridges. He designed and supervised the construction of the airport in Quillen. In 1961 they moved to the town Zapala to allow their children access to education. Two years later he got the government contract to design and build a resort in Caviahue, near the border with Chile. He was technical director of the Board of Tourism and Resorts, then Director of the Hydrological Service and Electricity. He was completely responsible for water supply, production and distribution of electricity. In the years 1966-1969 he was the director of projects on behalf of province of Neuquen’s Ministry of Construction. As the director of “Adelphia” over the next two years he built an electricity transmission line, the road in the mountains, the pipeline. Since 1976 he also was appointed director of the thermal spas. He was active in the Union of Poles in Argentina and in veterans’ organizations. In Patagonia he founded the first in Argentina biathlon club. He was an active skier and mountaineer. He climbed in the Andes, capturing several virgin peaks. He visited Poland only once for the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the Uprising. During this visit he visited his family, places where battalion “Sophy” fought and the graves of friends.

A resort in Caviahue

A resort in Caviahue

He died on 24th March 1992 and was buried in the cemetery in Neuquen. I will try to find his grave when I’m in Argentina. Although he wasn’t exiled as Bronislaw Pilsudski but Richard Białous also turned to anthropology (beautiful continuation of nineteenth-century Polish academic traditions). He moved with his family on land belonging to the tribe of Araucanians (they call themselves Mapuche – People of the Earth). Białous was the founder of the Araucanian Society. He studied their customs, language, and traditions and had become an expert on Mapuche culture and had a large collection of artifacts. I think he was impressed by the fact that the Mapuche were not conquered neither by the Incas nor by the Spanish and only Chilean troops managed to do that. Maybe their resilience reminded him of citizens of Warsaw?

The Mapuche tribe

The Mapuche tribe


Davies, Norman. Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw, London, Macmillan, 2003.

Utracka, Katarzyna. Poległym chwała, wolność żywym. Oddziały Walczącej Warszawy, Warszawa 2005

Categories: Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great City of Amsterdam

As promised, here it is – post about Amsterdam. Last time I briefly described the whole journey so now it’s time for some details.

The first stage was Megabus from London to Amsterdam. It’s a really good way of going to Amsterdam if you don’t mind coaches. It was £15 one way, much cheaper than flying. Up until Brussels I was sitting alone, so I actually got a good few hours of sleep. Only a few as we had to take a ferry across the English Channel. Our coach was one of the last vehicles to get onboard and as a result there was no place to sit – people lying everywhere. Fortunately I found a place on the floor. It’s an amazing experience to stand in the middle of the night on the top deck of a ferry leaving the port. You’re leaving all the lights behind you and you enter the darkness – it was kind of fascinating and scary at the same time, so I quickly left the top deck 🙂

The second thing disrupting my sleep were two American girls sitting behind me. As they couldn’t sleep they’d decided to chat, not caring about the rest of us. Thank you God for MP3 players 🙂

We arrived in Amsterdam around 9am. There’s a direct tram to city centre from the car park where Megabus finishes. Luckily I had some change so I could buy a ticket. I was surprised to see on the tram a small booth with a guy selling tickets. Maybe that’s how Dutch deal with unemployment? Because anywhere else there’s only a ticket machine.

Museum and "Amsterdam"

Museum and “Amsterdam”

East Indiaman "Amsterdam"

East Indiaman “Amsterdam”

For €5.95 you can leave your bag at the Central Station in one of the lockers for 24 hours. You can pay with your card. After leaving the bag I walked to the National Maritime Museum (15-20 minute walk) where after buying the ticket (€15) I had a quick breakfast.

Before getting to the Museum first thing you see from the distance is the replica of East Indiaman “Amsterdam”, a vessel that sank in 1749 in English Channel during its maiden voyage to Batavia (today’s Jakarta) and the Museum building (the main land store of the Amsterdam Admiralty dating from 1656).

The Museum is very spacious, modern and… disappointing. Maybe I spend too much time at the Sikorski Museum in London, which is a bit cluttered, but in Amsterdam there’s just too much unused space. I mean, we’re talking about the museum dedicated to the Dutch Navy, the most powerful navy in 17th century and most of the rooms at the museum were half empty (or half full) at best. There are a few really good rooms. I spent more than 30 minutes admiring globes from 15th and 16th century. I even found Poland on couple of them, unfortunately it was too dark to take a good picture. The Ship Decorations and Navigational Instruments were also pretty good. The ship was the best, you can easily spend an hour looking into every corner. After reading so many travel reports and Conrad’s books my imagination almost teleported me into 16th century 🙂 But if I compared this museum to the Maritime Museum in Madrid, Madrid would take the first place, no doubts. I was a bit disappointed with the Museum and I wouldn’t recommend going to Amsterdam only to see that. But the city itself has a lot to offer 🙂 But I definitely had fun traveling to Poland for 40 hours instead of two.



The ship decorations

The ship decorations

Hand-held measuring probe

Hand-held measuring probe

After the museum I still had time for some sightseeing, a pint of Heineken and a nice chat with two Norwegian guys in one of the bars. At 7pm I boarded the Jan Kiepura train and had begun another overnight part of my journey, to Poznan, where I arrived in the morning and found everything under snow. I quickly grabbed some breakfast and took the train to my beloved Wroclaw.

Krzysztof Arciszewski

Krzysztof Arciszewski

So it’s time for Polish trace 🙂 I’m going to tell about first Polish cartographer and ethnographer in South America. Krzysztof (Christopher) Arciszewski, of Prawdzic Coat of Arms, was born on 9th December 1592 in Rogalin, near Poznan. After studying in Arian schools he served under Krzysztof Radziwill. He would’ve probably stayed in Poland but he was condemned to infamy and exile after killing Kacper Brzeznicki, a lawyer who allegedly illegally took over Arciszewskis’ lands. He left in 1623 and went to Holland, where with support of Krzysztof Radziwill he studied artillery, military engineering and navigation. He took part in the Thirty Years’ War fighting inter alia in France in Cardinal Richelieu’s army. In 1629 he joined Dutch West India Company and was sent to Brazil to fight the Spanish and Portuguese. If you ever wondered why people speak Portuguese only in Brazil, I’m here to give you an explanation 🙂 It’s all because of the Treaty of Tordesillas signed in 1494 and dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. The lands to the east would belonged to Portugal and the lands to the west to Spain. As you may know Brazil was discovered by Pedro Cabral in 1500. Et voila, mystery solved 🙂 I mentioned before the Maritime Museum in Madrid – this is the place to see the front page of the Treaty of Tordesillas!

Arciszewski returned to Brazil two more times, he became vice governor of Brazil, chief commander of Dutch army and navy in Brazil. Unfortunately quarrels with governor Count de Nassau forced Arciszewski to resign. Despite being very busy while commanding the Dutch forces, he found time to draw one of the first maps in Brazil. He also collected artefacts and stories of Indians Tupi. He always treated Indians well even those who were forced by Portuguese to fight against Dutch. Arciszewski was going to publish the notes taken in Brazil, but he didn’t unfortunately. He was first of many Poles discovering South America.

In 1646 he returned to Poland where he accepted from king Wladyslaw IV the position of General of the Royal Artillery. He fought with Cossacks and Tartars. He was defending Lviv and was in charge of Royal Artillery during the relief of Zbarazh. He’s mentioned in With Fire and Sword, the first part of Trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

He resigned in 1650 and on 7th April 1656 died and was buried in Leszno.

A wee update regarding this year’s holiday plans which have developed a bit. I’m going to Lithuania in June and Morocco in July. I also bought ticket to Cancun, Mexico, and am flying on New Year’s Day! That will be beginning of the Journey. Cheerio!

Categories: Misc, RTW trip, Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Save the bison

I’m sure you remember my post from 28th October about Konstanty Jelski. The Zoological Department of Warsaw University Museum benefited so much from Jelski’s work that when he ceased the cooperation, the Department quickly decided to send another scientist to South America. I’m going to write a few words about that scientist.

Jan Sztolcman

Jan Stanislaw Sztolcman was born on 19th November 1854 in Warsaw. After middle school (gimnazjum in Polish) Sztolcman started studying zoology at the Warsaw University. That was year 1872. In the same year he joined the Zoological Department and became an assistant to Wladyslaw Taczanowski (zoologist). His main task was helping Taczanowski with preparation of birds skins sent from South America by Jelski. The Department was financed by counts Aleksander and Konstanty Branickis (the latter was financing Jelski’s expeditions).

In 1875 Sztolcman went to Peru to continue Jelski’s work. He chose Lima as his HQ. His expeditions covered Peru and Equador. He discovered four new bird species, described Indian tribes and as one of the first ornithologists described hummingbirds.

After 6 years, in 1881 Sztolcman returned to Warsaw only to go back next year. This time he went to Equador and set up his base in a city of Guayaquil. During his expeditions he was accompanied by Jozef Siemiradzki (geologist and palaeontologist), whose written coverage of those expeditions is the only available source of information.  In the same year they met Ernest Malinowski (Peru’s national hero and the designer of Ferrocarril Central Andino – the central railway of Peru) with whom they spent Christmas. People who at least once spent Christmas away from home know how depressing it can be, so I’m sure it was a joyful time for all three of them. I’m going to dedicate at least one post to Ernest Malinowski. I’m also planning to take a ride across the Andes to see this marvel of engineering.

Sztolcman (sitting) and Siemiradzki with Sztolcman’s dog Jok (Dżok). Photograph taken in Equador in 1883

In 1884 Jan Sztolcman came back to Warsaw where three years later he became a director of  the Branicki’s Zoological Museum which in 1919 became the very first National Zoological Museum in Poland. While working there he became docent and then a professor of geology and palaeontology.

In 1889 he established a “Polish Hunter” (Łowiec Polski) magazine which he had edited till his death. He also established a Cynological Association.

Edition of “Polish Hunter” (Łowiec Polski)

To break the routine, in 1901 Sztolcman took a part in the expedition to Sudan.

In 1923 he was sent to Paris as Polish representative for the First International Congress for the Protection of Nature. He presented there his project of saving the European Bison (he based that on similar project that was very successful in USA). At that time there were only around 50 European Bison alive around the world, all of them in captivity (the last “free” European Bison was killed in 1919). At the moment there are around 3000 European Bison living.

European Bison. Sztolcman saved these majestic animals from extinction

Even though he was a very busy man he found time to give hunting lectures at Agricultural University. In 1926 he became a member of the State Council for Nature Conservation.

Jan Sztolcman died on 29th April 1928 and was buried in Wilanow.

Apart from saving the European Bison from extinction Sztolcman left almost 370 scientific publications. They were published in Poland, France, UK, Germany and Russia. Many species of animals were named after him. He was one of the most merited explorers of South America.

Categories: Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A spider-man :)

If you’re not very much interested in zoology, you probably haven’t heard about Konstanty Jelski, a Polish zoologist and explorer, but he’s well worth mentioning.

Konstanty Roman Jelski was born on 17th February 1837 in a small village called Lada, in today’s Belarus. His parents, Michal and Klotylda (sister of Stanislaw Moniuszko – a Polish composer), were prosperous, which allowed young Konstanty to get well educated.

Konstanty Jelski

After finishing secondary school in Minsk, for 3 years Konstanty studied medicine in Moscow, from where he moved to Kiev to study at Science and Environmental Department. Unfortunately, in 19th century’s Poland, a way to a scientific career led through one of the occupant’s university (Russian, Prussian or Austrian). It wasn’t easy to resist the forceful imposition of German or Russian culture and language, when anything related to Poland was banned. But as you know, Poles managed to live and keep their identity through 123 years of partitions. But we have great examples of how hard it is in today’s world. According to International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 50% of Tibetans are analphabets and Chinese educational policy is called “assimilating”. We, Poles, have heard that before…

In 1858 Konstanty submitted a dissertation about birds’ tracheae and obtained a gold medal and master’s degree. He spent a few years working at Zoology Department as a keeper and in 1863 was offered a teacher position at the university, but he refused saying he wasn’t capable of such an honour. He wanted to continue his education in Germany, but he landed in… Turkey, where he made his living by colouring maps for schools.

In 1865 he went to Paris and in July on board of “Amazon” he sailed for French Guiana. You can find Konstanty’s stories from 1865-1871 in his book, which unfortunately is hard to get and it was published in Polish. But when reading it you can find out how dedicated to his work he was. I think we can easily say his work was his passion. He went through hell when he thought he would have to stay aboard while in Madeira, because “some snails’ and insects’ species are not present outside Madeira” and it was such a great opportunity to see them.

19th century postcard from French Guiana

After four years in Guiana he went to Peru, where he stayed for ten more years. From 1868 he was supported by count Konstanty Branicki from Poland (explorer and naturalist himself) who wanted Jelski to go deeper into South America to collect specimen and then send them to Poland. Thanks to this cooperation many examples of South American fauna and flora were sent to Poland and tens if not hundreds of dissertations were based on them. To give you a sample – 300 species of spiders were collected and posted by Jelski, only from Peru…

Birds’ specimen sent to Poland by Jelski

But it’s not that he concentrated only on work, apparently he wanted to marry a Peruvian woman, but I guess none of them was interested 😀 After coming back to Poland he married his cousin, Helena Korsakowna and became the curator of the Natural History Department of Academy of Learning in Krakow. The salary must have been low as he went very often to Dalmatia (today’s Croatia) or France to collect specimen and sell them afterwards to support the family budget. Apparently, if he didn’t have to waste time to earn more money he would have become even a greater scientist. He was making Chinese ink that was as good as the original one. His fruit wines were so good that people weren’t able to guess what fruits they were made of.

Many orchids were collected and sent to Poland

Konstanty was 58 at the time of his death, so still quite young. Ha had a stroke and was told by the doctor to rest in bed, but Konstanty was not the resting type, he’d always had so much to do. He had another stroke and on 26th November 1896 Konstanty Jelski died.

Konstanty Jelski was a typical 19th century’s Polish scientist – educated at foreign university, dedicated his life to science. Many young scientists (not only Polish ones) made use of specimen collected and discovered and studies conducted by Jelski in South America and he still is an acclaimed ornithologist and zoologist.

Categories: Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: