LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A retired University of Kansas professor received Poland's Medal of Valor this weekend more than 75 years after he fought with the Polish resistance against the occupying forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.
Polish Air Force Major Gen. Cezary Wisniewski who is based at the Polish embassy in Washington D.C. visited Jarek Piekalkiewicz's home in Lawrence, Kansas, Saturday to give him Poland's second-highest combat honor on his 95th birthday.
Wisniewski said the honor was overlooked during the war and then the post-war communist government of Poland refused to honor the country's wartime resistance fighters. The recommendation that Piekalkiewicz receive the medal for his efforts was recently discovered in Poland's archives, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
Piekalkiewicz joined the Polish resistance at age 16. Two years later, he was promoted to platoon sergeant and commanded 1,000 men during the bloody uprising of 1944 when roughly 6,000 resistance soldiers were killed before the resistance surrendered in October when its forces ran short of ammunition and food.
Piekalkiewicz said he then became a prisoner of war at a German labor camp, and he tried to escape three separate times before he finally succeeded. Later he served with the U.S. Army and British military.
After the war, he earned his bachelor’s degree and met his wife at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, before coming to the United States and earning his doctorate. He went on to teach at KU from 1963 to 2000,
Wisniewski said Piekalkiewicz continued to serve Poland after he came to America by advocating for Poland to become a member of NATO.