Remembrances: Ed Beam--A Wish of a Lifetime Fulfilled
Stanley Trochonowicz and his wife, 2002 Reunion
While on vacation in Florida, winter of 2000, George Vandre and Stanley Trochonowicz began discussing their war experiences and discovered they had both served in the 355th Infantry. Stanley spoke of his long-standing desire to make contact with former members of his company. George suggested a letter to the editor of 'The Rolling W" and even assisted Stanley in writing it. (For those who did not know George, he was one of our fallen comrades honored at the recent Reunion.) Following is a portion of Stanley's letter published in the August 2001 issue.
"At the time of the German occupation of Poland, I became a displaced person sent as a farm laborer to the eastern part of Germany. Toward the end of WWII, I was liberated by C (actually E), 355th Infantry. Captain Lowe, Company Commander, took me under his wing as an interpreter and treated me as just another GI. After the Division left our area, I joined the Polish Army, guarding POW's and then at the age of 26 moved to England, eventually moving to Canada where I am now a citizen. If any members of C or E Company remembers me, I would appreciate hearing from them."
Stanley was born in Ostrowski, a village in east central Poland. At age 19, he was put on a train by the occupying Germans and taken to Unterbodnitz, Germany. For the next four years he worked there as a farm laborer along with other displaced persons and POW's. Days on the farm were spent in the fields. Nights were spent in a house. If caught elsewhere, police said he would be sent to a concentration camp. Food was meager and sometimes "crawling with worms". Even though Stanley's farm stay was a trying one, he made the best of it.
Through contacts with local German people, as well as with French and Russian POW's, he learned to speak each of these language Late in the war, E Company, 355th Inf. occupied Unterbodnitz.. He met and spoke in French with Captain Lowe.(Captain Lowe retired from the Army as a Colonel. He died in August 1997). Stanley did not speak English at that time and Captain Lowe did not speak either German or Russian. Stanley states sincerely "that man changed my life that day". As a result of that meeting, Stanley joined, was absorbed into or just became of part of E Company without any paperwork to identify him or why he was there. He served as an interpreter, but also as a regular platoon member, even to the extent of at least one patrol. He was given a uniform, a rifle and army food but not pay. Ted Gutkowski, a Polish American in the company, became his friend and even paid for his PX needs. Ted also aided Stanley in communicating with other company personnel.
Stanley was left behind when the war ended and the 89th moved back to France. He wandered around with some other American units for a while. Then, he joined a Polish Army group being formed and was assigned as a guard for German POW's and some military facilities. He took advantage of the opportunity in 1948 to emigrate to England where he enjoyed his work and the many friends he made. Yet, after six years in England, Stanley and some friends moved to Canada. He met and later married his lovely wife, Johanna. She had moved to Canada from her native country of Holland. They live in Brampton, Ontario,(near Toronto), but they usually vacation for a few winter months in Panama City, Florida.
While browsing through the August 2001 issue of TRW, I noticed Stanley's letter to the editor, recognizing him immediately, as the Polish refugee that became a quasi member of E Co, 355th Inf. late in the war. I sent a letter to him acknowledging my memory of him, included a few pictures and names of addresses of several former E Co. members. Subsequently other letters and phone contacts were made, including the subject of Stanley and Johanna possibly attending the Indianapolis Reunion.
On Thursday, August 22, Stanley and Johanna arrived in Indianapolis and were welcomed by five former E Co Comrades and their wives. Unfortunately Ted Gutkowski was not one of us due to recent by-pass surgery. Thanks to Dick and Laurel Halsch, Bill and Norma Odegard, Bob and Eleanor Shumway, Stan and June Swan, my wife, Evelyn, and others they met during the Reunion. They had a great time. Stanley was heard several times to say, "This is the most I have felt at home in many, many years." Stan Swan gave him a cap with the inscription E Co. 355th, 89th Div. WWII on it. This brought tears to our Polish friend's eyes as well as more expressions of gratitude for "allowing" him to be a part of the Reunion.
During the General Session, the Society By-laws were amended to add a category of Friends of the Society of the 89th Division, WWII. This action opened the door that Stanley had asked about several times ...membership or some form of official relationship that would permit him to attend reunions and receive The Rolling W. Bill Odegard and I took Stanley to see Larry Berg about paying dues. Marge Berg assisted him in doing so. Before leaving, Stanley expressed thanks to "Mr. Berg". Larry's response was, "My name is not Mr., it is Larry." As we left the room Stanley was overjoyed. "Did you hear what he said? He said to call me Larry."
Later at the Reunion Banquet and again afterward, Stanley said, "This has been the wish of my lifetime fulfilled."