Jerzy (George): A Biography

Jerzy (George) Juźwiak was born in Zwierzyniec , Poland on July 1st 1920 and died on March 30th, 1993.  He was the son of Piotr Juźwiak and Lidia Jewłanow. He had a younger brother, Edward Juźwiak (1921-2013).

Early Years and Teens

Like his brother Edward, he spent his childhood in Zwierzyniec but completed middle school in Zamość, where he joined the Polish Scouting Organization.

While Edward went to do his secondary studies in the Gdynia Maritime School  after his mother’s death, Jerzy stayed in Zamość with his father.

The last time Jerzy saw his brother before the war was when  Edward visited him on a short summer break in Zamość in August 1939 before embarking on the Dar Pomorza never to return to his family home again.

Little is known about what happened to Jerzy between September 1939 and September 1944. From the scarce family narratives, he became a member of the Polish resistance and went to Warsaw when the war started. Among his papers there are documents that show he was in Warsaw during the Warsaw Uprising.

Jerzy in Lübeck 1946

There is a translation from Polish, German and English into French of a “Carte de Membre de l’Union Polonaise des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques des Prisons et Camps de Concentration Allemands” (n. 1491) delivered in Lubeck on December 13th 1946.  In addition to this place, date of birth and signature of authorities, the document mentions he was detained by German authorities on September 1st 1944 in Warsaw, taken to the Pruszków transit camp , deported to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. He was evacuated on 21st April 1945 and must have had join the death march northwards.  He was liberated by the American army in Schwerin on May 3rd 1945.

France – Paris

It was in the concentration camp that he met his wife-to-be, Jadwiga (Yada) Bassalik Gudacz (1912-1994).  She used to teach at a school when the German troops invaded Warsaw and she was taken to the camp. After the liberation,  Jadwiga started rewriting Polish school books which had been burned by the Germans and George ran the printing press.  Jadwiga’s older sister, who was married and living in France, helped them relocate to Paris, where Jerzy studied chemistry at the Sorbonne. The family story goes that during these years, his brother Edward, who was then already living in Brazil, would send him coffee so that he could sell it to make ends meet and finish his studies.

In 1947, Yada had a passport issued by the Polish Consulate in Dublin, Ireland at the time . What is interesting is that this Consulate operated even after the end of war as part of the Polish Government in Exile based in London and at the moment the passport was issued, France, the US and the UK  had withdrawn their recognition of the government-in-exile.

There is a translation from English and German into French of  a “Laissez-Passer”, emitted in Paris on December 6th 1947, which confirms Georges Juzwiak, trader, of Polish nationality, was liberated by the Allied Forces from the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (n. 95123).

 

Yada and George lived in France until late 40’s, when they decided to emigrate to Canada, where Jerzy.

Canada

The couple arrived in Halifax but then moved to Smithers, a town in British Columbia between Prince Rupert and Port Alice. Jerzy graduated in Chemistry from Mc Gill University. Later they lived in Vancouver, where they got married on January 4th 1956.

 Alaska

In 1960 Jerzy accepted the position of director of laboratory at the Alaska Pulp Corp mill in Sitka, Alaska, from where he retired in 1982. On that same year, in June, before moving to Alaska, he met his brother Edward, who had come on a trip to New York from Brazil with his family. They had not seen each other since that summer break in 1939. They all traveled together to Montreal.

The Juzwiaks enjoyed Sitka and quickly became part of the local community. They always owned a boat, first a small one, the Pussycat I, then the After II and finally, the Kim II. After his retirement, Jerzy bought a permit and started fishing commercially. His wife loved boating, beach combing and the beautiful scenery around Sitka. She was very interested in Native American art, the motives of which she transposed to ceramics. She was skilled in painting, drawing, beading eggs and gardening.

In 1970 Mr and Mrs Juzwiak became American citizens. That year they also hosted their niece, Barbara (Basia) from Brazil, who had come to spend the month of July with them at the end of her exchange program in the US.  From then onwards, the Brazilian family, Edward and Hanna would visit them regularly. Their sons, Mark, Jorge and Edward spent 6 months in Sitka, where they also attended high school,  and in 1987 Barbara’s 11-year son, Jean Marc, spent the summer there. In 1988 the couple came to Brazil to visit the family.

Sources

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates of Jerzy Juzwiak and Jadwiga Bassalik (Gudacz)

Jerzy’s Carte de Membre de l’Union Polonaise des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques des Prisons et Camps de Concentration Allemands (n. 1491)

Jerzy’s  Laissez-Passer –  Paris, December 6th 1947

Passport Jadwiga Gudacz delivered by the Polish Consulate in Dublin in 1947 and immigration landing card in Halifax, Canada (Pier 21)

Family Photographs

Memorial Service Set for George and Yada Juzwiak. (Tuesday, February 8, 1994). Daily Sitka Sentinel, p. 4. Sitka, Alaska

3 Comments

  1. I just happened to read this bio on Jerzy Juzwiak (we would call him Jurek or Yurek in the family when he’d visit France with his wife ). He was married to Yada the sister of my great uncle’s wife in Paris, both of which have been key in my formative years as a kid, later as a student and still today as a man of 64 !. Aside from my parents ( Father from Britany where I was born & grew up & mother from Paris) both YAda & Jurek have definetly made what became and what I am today. I have always dreamt to visit Sitka which I know will happen one day as I very often fly from Europe (I live in Paris, France & Tuscany, Italy) to the East Coast or NM for business for at least the past 35 years. I would every much appreciate if someone in Sitka could let me know if they have known Yada & Georges or if they still have relatives there. I got very much surprised when I read some 5 years ago the 1994 Memorial anouncement of the Daily Sentinel for Yada that she was very much involved in the North West Coast Indian Culture & preservation. When my great parents and aunties died as well as my parents, I gathered all the ceramic gifts Yada had made after North West Coast patterns she offered us one year she came to visit. I lived with “my” NW cup when a kid on one of my bookshelves and it surely anchored my love of North West Coast art & culture some of which artefacts (but very few unfortunatly) I have among my numerous collections of art works from all cultures. Any one not related to my family but sensitive or related to the museum in Sitka would be welcome to drop me a note as well. Thank you. Loïc ( Loïc means Louis or Lewis in Breton language of Gaelic lineage) Malle (is my name like the famous movie maker Louis Malle which I have known but wasn’t related closely).

    1. Bonjour Loïc,
      I am Jurek and Yada’s niece and I live in São Paulo, Brazil. Jurek was my godfather. I visited them in Sitka in my teens and so did my brothers. We had a fabulous time together. They came to Brazil to see us and also accompanied my parents and I on a trip to Europe, during which we visited your family in Paris. I was 13 at the time (66 now) so I just remember the occasion.
      I started this blog so as to record the family so my children and cousins would know a bit more about it, and also give them the possibility to connect to friends and family and go back in history.
      Like you, I have some of Yada’s work, which I have enjoyed since I was a kid. There is no family or relatives left in Sitka.
      Nice to have news from you and happy the blog has served its purpose 🙂 Let’s keep in touch!

  2. Hi,
    Some days ago during my research (working as historian), I got Polish passport of Jadwiga Gudacz, issued on 20/7/1947 in Dublin with Immigration Landing Card dated 19/4/1951 arrival to Halifax, Canada.

    I am not sure how I can send you scans because can not find any possibility of attachment. Any advice? If you are interested in scan let me know.
    Chris

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