Edward Juźwiak: A Biography

Edward Juźwiak was born Zwierzyniec, Poland on December 1st, 1921 and died at the age of 91 in Santos, Brazil on August 9th, 2013. He was the son of Piotr Juźwiak and Lidia Jewłanow. He had one older brother, Jerzy Juźwiak (1920-1993).

Early Years and Teens

The Juźwiak brothers spent their childhood in Zwierzyniec but completed middle school in Zamość, where they joined the Polish Scouting Organization. A school field trip to the Baltic Coast ignited Edward’s interest in the sea. At the age of 16, after the death of his mother he followed the advice of a family friend, left home and did his secondary studies at the Gdynia Maritime School.

In 1938 he made his first inter-continental trip on the full-rigged sailing frigate Dar Pomorza (Gift of Pomerania), or the “White Frigate”, as it was also known, which took her apprentices on a 6 and a half month training voyage southbound passing by Casablanca (Morocco), Las Palmas, St Vincent, Bridgetown (Barbados), Martinica, Cartagena (Colombia), Port Royal (Jamaica), Cuba and finally Kopenhagen.

World War II

Outbreak of the War

On August 18th 1939, Juźwiak embarked on another training cruise on the Dar Pomorza, this time around the Baltic Sea (GdánskLiepāja). On board there were 1st, 2nd and 3rd year-students of the Faculty of Navigation and junior sailors totalling 161 persons (including 21 crew). Little did they know that most would never return to their homeland or see their families again.

On August 24th 1939 as the Dar Pomorza was sailing back to Gdynia, captain Konstanty (Kot) Kowalski was advised by his superior, Captain Kosko to divert the course and take refuge in the nearest neutral port (Kadry Morskie, page LXII), which happened to be Oxelosund, in Sweden. On 1 September 1939 the crew and cadets of the Polish naval school were in Stockholm when they learnt about the outbreak of the war. They were the first foreign soldiers to arrive in Sweden during WWII .

On September 22nd they were warned to take a train to Gothemburg, not to attract the attention of the German embassy and officials in Stockholm. The men were divided in 5 groups and took over 5 Polish ships, whose original crew had partly deserted: s/s Wilno, s/s Kroman, s/s Narocz, s/s Robur IV and s/s Chorzów. Juźwiak embarked on s/s Wilno and on September 29th, the ships sailed out to Bergen, Norway under the escort of Swedish ships. From there, the 5 Polish merchant ships joined Convoy number HN 0 on October 14th 1939 escorted by the British Royal Navy to Methil, on the eastern coast of Scotland, where they arrived on October 16th. Juźwiak integrated the Polish Navy at the ORP Gdynia base in Portsmouth . (Polska Marynarka Handlowa, p.182)

France – UK

This period (The Phoney War) was characterised by an absence of important military operations and as nothing seemed to be happening, Juźwiak together with a group of other young cadets asked permission to join the Land Forces under General Sikorski in Coëtquidan , France. They arrived in December 1939 and on January 12th they were organized into a fighting formation which soon moved south to Mondragon and Bollène.

In June 1940, following the military collapse of France, the battalion received orders to disband and find their way to Bordeaux and then to Le Verdon- Bayonne, from where they were evacuated to GB in a naval operation. An interesting coincidence, only noticed many years later, was that on the day he left , there were only two Polish ships carrying Polish troops headed to the UK: the Batory and the Sobieski.  Juźwiak was on one and his future father-in-law, Bohdan Pawłowicz, was on the other.

From 18th September 1940 to 18th July 1941, Juźwiak attended the University College in Southampton (Department of Navigation) to finish his studies.  He ranked 2nd (out of 24 cadets) and 1st in English. He was awarded the diploma of Second Mate, joined the Polish Merchant Navy and fought at sea, taking part in the different Coastal Convoys carrying vital troops, food, fuel and equipment.  (Kadry Morskie, p.2). From 8th September 1941 to 7th October 1941, he sailed on s/s Kraków in the EC (European Coastal Convoys) from Southend-on-Sea to the Clyde;  from February 10th 1942 to April 6th 1943 he sailed on the s/s Lida in the North Atlantic Convoys ( Liverpool- Freetown- Takoradi); and from 27th July 1943 to 6th September 1944, already as Chief Mate, he served on the s/s Lublin in the Mediterranean and North African Coastal Convoys.

On December 2nd 1943, one day after his 22nd birthday, the s/s Lublin was about to enter the port of Bari. In a letter written to his friend Bolesław Pogorzelski after the war, Juźwiak gives a short account of what happened then:

(…) in your last letter you mentioned the s/s Kroman, Tadzio Sulatycki and the belly dancers in Port Said in 1943. Funny that I never talked to you about those times because I did not know you were there. I was in the Mediterranean then, on the s/s Lublin with captain Józef Starbałła. We were docked in Oran, where the French had left lots of ruined military vessels and where we found a good fishing catch. We then wrapped up to Malta, to Alexandria, to Port Said, and after the invasion of Sicily, further towards Italy. From our base in Taranto we navigated almost alone around Italy, moving further and further north.  One night we entered the port of Bari together with a big American ship. The port floodlights lit her way, and ours right behind her. All the crew together with the captain were on the bridge, when suddenly we heard the blasts of the bombed harbour and the explosion of the “midszipie” of the vessel before us. Our captain shouted to the helmsman to set the rudder to full starboard, and we jumped onto the Oerlikons on the gun deck and started shooting towards the invisible airplanes. We turned back to Brindisi for two days – and then sailed back to Bari. A scene of utter devastation awaited us: destroyed and burnt down vessels and corpses still floating in the water. We later learnt that our colleague Jerzy Pluciński (Plutos) had died on the s/s Puck… (Pogorzelski 2008 p.94)

Tadeusz Lewandowski managed to escape from the s/s Puck, destroyed during the raid, and wrote about the tragedy in Bari . He recounts how the s/s Lublin avoided having the same fate:

…To Taranto came the s/s Lublin, which had been about to enter Bari at the moment of the airplane raid. However, her old and experienced captain did not move further into the lit port. He dismissed the pilot, switched off the navigation lights of his ship and fled full speed towards the edges of Yugoslavia, to finally arrive in Taranto. (Pogorzelski 2008, p.93)

From 6th November 1944 to 1945,  Juźwiak stayed in London, where he completed the Master Marine course (page 14 Kady Morskie) and was placed on the reserve for GAL (Gdynia Amerika Lines) from 25th June 1945 to July 31st 1945. In August 1945, he became a lecturer  at the Polish Merchant Navy College in Landywood, Stafordshire, UK, where he trained officers until August 1946.

After the War – Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

After being officially released from the Polish Navy, Juźwiak decided not to return to communist-controlled Poland.  His mother, to whom he had been very much attached, had died, he knew his brother had left during the war and he had no further news from the family in Poland so he assumed all were dead.  With a friend, Staś Kwiatkowski,  he decided to  apply for a visa to the USA. As this was not possible, they chose to go to Brazil, from where they hoped to move to North America. They left London via Paris and in August 1946, boarded the French mixed cargo/passenger vessel Formose from Le Havre to Rio de Janeiro. They landed in Rio de Janeiro on August 30th 1946 and from there waited for a ship heading to the US.

From 1946 to 1947, they took a number of odd jobs at the Yacht Club in Rio while they hung around, like a stint on a Herreshoff yacht which had been bought by Jorge Bhering de Mattos in 1950 and renamed Atrevida.  The two friends agreed that if the possibility to leave on a ship for the US arose, Juźwiak would have the priority. One day, the occasion presented itself when a tanker heading towards the US docked in Rio. However, Juźwiak let Kwiatkowski go first as he himself had found a job that suited him better at the Brazil Herald.

In a letter written to Pogorzelksi on November 2nd 1949, Juźwiak says:

I came to the conclusion that it’s not worth looking for a career at sea because finding a job on a ship is almost impossible. Our former Commander, Kot Kowalski, who was here for a couple of days on an American vessel under a Panamenian flag, assured me of it.

He was very disappointed at the present situation in the merchant navy, which does not appear rosy. Kot, in spite of his long naval practice is only a “second mate”. His captain is Czesław Abramowski, and the second officer is his younger brother Bronisław. The ship apparently is awful. The crew is composed of the worst mongrels of eighteen different nationalities! But then, what to do? I decided not to listen to the call of the sea. I’m still sitting behind the desk in the editorial room of the Brazil Herald and make ends meet by giving English classes waiting for better times.

I learnt that Staś Jurkiewicz did a series of cruises on an Argentinian vessel and is now sitting “on the beach” in Buenos Aires. Henio Rukść is in the US and together with Wojtek Fornalski takes care of a business selling tableware from home to home in Buffalo… (Pogorzelski 2008, p.147)

In addition to this, Juźwiak had also contacted Bohdan Pawłowicz, who was at the time assistant to the Navy  military attaché at the Polish Legation in Rio and who would become his father-in-law. It was at his house, a hub for Polish émigrés and exiles, intellectuals and representatives of the Polish Government in Exile, that he met his future wife, Hanna Antonina, a stunning 18-year-old about to graduate from high school. They became good friends and Juźwiak introduced her to tennis, a sport he had learnt to practice well while in England. As her parents could not afford it, he paid for her tennis classes at the Rio de Janeiro Athletic Association so that she would become his partner. They played regularly and continued playing after they got married until they were well into their 70’s.

In the late evening, after leaving the newspaper, he would pick Hanna from parties and chaperone her back to her parents’ home. As soon as Hanna returned from her 3-year stay (July 1949- July 1952) in the USA, where she had completed her Liberal Arts studies on a full scholarship awarded by Wellesley college, Juźwiak proposed to her. They got married on September 6th 1952 and moved to a small apartment in the Laranjeiras neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro.

By then he had already started working at L. Figueiredo Navegação S.A, a shipping company that had just opened in Rio de Janeiro and represented the Polish Lines. In 1952, he got another job at Agência Marítima Intermares Ltda., a subsidiary of the Bunge y Born Group, which transferred him to Santos in September 1953, a month after their daughter Barbara was born.

Santos

This was the beginning of Juźwiak’s  career in the shipping business and where he established his reputation as a reliable and trustworthy professional.

The family first lived in a small apartment on Rua Colômbia and Juźwiak was the manager of Intermares from 1953 to 1961. During this period he represented a number of shipping companies, among which, the Scandinavian Torm Lines. He became a member of the Santos Athletic Club (the English Club), where he played tennis with Hanna and met a lively group of young expats who worked either in the shipping or in the coffee business, many of whom became life-long friends.

Every three and later two years, his family was given a free trip on one of the Torm Line ships so they traveled to the US, where Hanna’s parents had emigrated. In 1955, together with their two-year old daughter Barbara, Hanna and Edward went to see them in New York. At the time they thought of moving to the US and even applied for an immigrant visa but were soon discouraged by the prospect of unemployment.

Their first son, Mark Piotr Juzwiak, was born in Santos on May 31st 1957 and by then they had moved to a bigger apartment – first on Rua Embaixador Pedro de Toledo and later to another one on Rua Elói Fernandes.

In 1958 the whole family traveled to Buffalo, where Hanna’s parents were living then.

George and Edward meet in Buffalo
George and Edward meet in Buffalo

Finally in 1960, when they traveled again to New York and Buffalo,  Edward met his brother, Jerzy, whom he had not seen since the beginning of the war.

Jerzy had come especially for the occasion from Canada, where he had established himself after fighting the war in France and getting married.  To celebrate the reunion, the family drove to Montreal and on their way back visited the Niagara Falls.

Juźwiak’s two other sons, the twins Edward Paulo and Jorge Bohdan, were born on December 6th 1961 and soon the whole family moved to a bigger place, a house on Avenida Washington Luis (Canal 3).

In June 1962 Juźwiak became the manager and later director of Lloyd Real Belga S.A. (Compagnie Maritime Belge), where he worked until he retired in 1986. Again, every two years the family was given a free trip on one of the ships, so in 1964 and in 1968 they traveled to Europe.

On 13 April 1971, HM, King Baudoin of Belgium nominated him Honorary Consul of Belgium in Santos, a nomination confirmed by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1973. On August 2nd 1989, as a recognition for his service to Belgium, Juźwiak was knighted Chevalier de l’ Ordre de la Couronne (Knight of the Order of the Crown).

From November 1988 to July 1990, he worked as a consultant to the Board of Directors at Agência Marítima Dickinson.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease in 2006 and died on August 9th 2013, at the age of 91 from complications resulting from it.

Awards

British:

1939-1945 Star
Atlantic Star
The Italy Star
War Medal 1939-1945

Belgian:

Décoration: Medaille Civique de Première Classe – November 15th 1996 and April 25th 1997
Chevalier de l´Ordre de la Couronne (Knight of the Order of the Crown)- 25th April 1997

Primary Sources

Birth, marriage and death certificates.

Passport entrance to Brazil.

Work Permit and annotations.

Medals and official documents.

Secondary Sources

B. Pogorzelski (2008) – Przyszłość bez jutra: wojna i banicja chłopców “Białej Fregaty”
E. J. Hrywaniak Digital Bureau.com, Cape Town, South Africa.

List of Allied convoys during World War II by region (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18th, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Allied_convoys_during_World_War_II_by_region

Kadry Morskie Rzeczypospolitej Tom I
Polska Marynarka Handlowa – Absolwenci Szkól Morskich – 1922-1992 – Jan Kazimierz Sawicki – Gdynia 1994 – Wysza Szkola Morska – Gdynia pages

Polska Marynarka Handlowa 1939-45 – Biografie Oficerów Polskiej Marynarki Handlowej Z II Wojny Swiatowej 1939-1945 – Stanislaw Kozak Gdynia 1989 – Wyzsza Szkola Morska

Warszawksi Dziennik Narodowy – number 3 year V page 2 Dar Pomorza Zawinal do Gdyni April 3rd 1939 Warsaw University Digital. Accessed September 14th 2013 http://ebuw.uw.edu.pl/dlibra/plain-content?id=102607

3 Comments

  1. Hello, Thank you for this very interesting Biography on Edward Juźwiak. My Father was on the Dar Pomorza in 1938 and 1939 at the same time as Edward Juźwiak. He left Sweden on the ss Kroman and Narocz for the united Kingdom. I still have my Father’s log book for the Dar Pomorza as well as a few photos, one of some of the ship boys while sailing and also another of a few of the boys in Jamaica. If you are interested in copies let me know and I shall e-mail them to you.

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