Emil Kleban

1921–2014

Emil Kleban was born to WWI veteran Michel Kleban and his wife Anastasia on February 27, 1921 in Hodyna, Poland. Emil and his brother Bronak attended the local school, worked on the family farm and in their small grocery store. He loved the horses, dogs and working outside. Russia occupied Poland in the fall of 1939 and began removing citizens who were deemed a threat and so Emil, his father and his brother were taken in the middle of the night in April of 1940 and sent by train from Lviv to Kustanjaksa where they were assigned to labour camps. After the Sikorski-Stalin agreement in July of 1941 approximately half a million Poles were released from camps as Russia was losing ground to Germany and needed Polish military support.

Emil walked from the camp to Kustanaj and joined “Anders Army” organized by General Wladyslaw Anders. Over the next six months he traveled by boat across the Caspian Sea, to Persia (now Iraq), then overland through Iran and Palestine eventually to Durban, South Africa by boat. As Emil was young and fearless, he chose to join the paratroopers who were sent to Fife in Scotland for training. He arrived in the UK on April 4, 1942. Stationed in Elie, Fife, Emil trained as a paratrooper and completed a course as a communications NCO.

On September 21, 1944 Emil jumped from aircraft #37 at Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden which was a disastrous failure—only two thousand of the ten thousand paratroopers and soldiers involved made it to the gathering point at Driel. Survivors were awarded the Polish Medal of Honour. The paratroopers were moved to RAF Spittlegate until the end of the war when they were assigned to the international occupying force in Germany. At that time, Emil was able to contact his father and brother who had returned to Hodyna after the war. Anders’ Army was formed based on a British Military promise that once trained, they would attack Poland and take back their homeland like “Swooping Eagles”. Military pride and politics intervened and the attack was never realized. Despite Poland’s best assurances that demobbed military would be welcomed home, any soldiers that Emil knew who went home were imprisioned and killed.

In the Spring of 1947, the paratroopers were sent back to England and demobilized near Nottingham. Emil found work at Beeston Boiler Company in Nottingham and met Zofia Butrymowicz. She had spent 1942 to 1947 in a Red Cross camp in Uganda and had been taken to a Polish Resettlement Camp near Nottingham where she found work as a seamstress. They married on Boxing Day of 1949, six months after meeting. Their son Richard was born in Nottingham on August 4, 1954. Emil decided that he wanted a better life for his son and the family immigrated to Winnipeg in April of 1959. He and Zofia welcomed Krystyna Helena on February 28, 1960 and the family lived in Windsor Park and later Southdale. Emil became a Red Seal plumber and worked for many years at St. Vital Plumbing and later the University of Manitoba. Through hard work and determination, Emil lived a successful life and loved being Dziadzia to his two grandchildren. Emil passed away on May 31, 2014 at Meadowood Manor.

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