Another memorable date has come around reminding me it’s time to post an update on progress. Today is my father’s birthday – Józef was born 110 years ago today!
Since my last post in June I have been continuing to work on the daily notes covering the period from Dec 1939 to Jan 1941 as he travelled from Budapest to Italy, France and Switzerland. I finished the first draft of the translation at the end of June and since then have been typing it up, correcting and editing it as I go and also working on the typed Polish version where there have been gaps or errors. I finished all this a few weeks ago, apart from a small number of missing words and phrases that have been impossible to read.
Józef was very fortunate that, once in Switzerland, he was one of approximately 700 internees who were encouraged to continue their studies at various institutions – in Józef’s case at Zurich University. In all some 10,000 to 12,000 Polish soldiers were interned in Switzerland. He writes in his diaries that he and his fellow students were welcomed warmly and with great generosity by the Swiss and that many families reached out to support them and befriend them.
Some while ago during a visit to the Sikorski Museum in London I was signposted to a Polish Museum in Rapperswil in Switzerland and late last year I emailed them to see if they had any information about his time in the country.
I was so pleased to receive a reply with information from their archives about the continuation of his medical studies at the University of Zurich. (I also recently found his record book from Zurich among some papers of my mother’s, detailing the modules he studied and the names of the doctors and professors who taught him).
But what was really special for me was receiving details of a book “Walka bez Oręża” (Fight without weapons) which was published in 1985 all about the educational camps established for interns in Switzerland between 1940 and 1946. The email from Switzerland told me that there were several references to my father in this book and also gave me an outline of some of the information. Once more a huge thank you to Ewa in Katowice, who within days managed to track down a copy of this book in a second-hand bookshop close to her and posted it to me.
Here’s a little of what the archivist summarised from the book, in her email:
In 1940 medical students in Winterthur [part of Zurich University and where the internees camp was based] set up a group for mutual help and support in studying, but also to give help to families and orphans in Poland and to Polish soldiers who were prisoners of war in Germany.
There is a long entry about this group, Koło Medyków [Circle of Medics] and the dedicated work they undertook to support their own and other families. It was wonderful to read this but especially that:
During this time Józef Czech held the position of chairman of this organization.
As one member of the circle said “he was the soul of our circle”
 Walka Bez Oręża, Władysław Drobny, p. 244