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Oral history interview with Wiesław "Wes" Orlowski

Oral History | Accession Number: 2018.384.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0980

Wiesław Orlowski, born May 17, 1935 in Góra Kalwaria, Poland, discusses his parents and how they met; his father's work as an accountant; his mother's work as a grammar school teacher and her role in the community; his first memories; his family's history in Poland; the beginning of the war in September 1939; the aerial bombing in Góra Kalwaria and the destruction of a neighbor's house; fleeing towards the Russian border after the initial attacks; being attacked during the journey; being ordered to return home; his mother's efforts to secretly continue educating the local children during the war; his mother's involvement with the underground movement, which included hosting trainings in their house and keeping a radio transmitter in their attic for communication with the Polish Government in Exile in London; Wes's role to keep an lookout for German soldiers who were driving around Góra Kalwaria in an attempt to locate the transmitter; listening in during the secret resistance movement trainings in his house; the ghetto in Góra Kalwaria; his mother's efforts to have food smuggled into the ghetto; his father's work in Warsaw, where he also lived during the first part of the war; his father's arrest and interrogation in Warsaw; his father's experiences in Auschwitz and on a forced march to Mauthausen, where he survived until liberation; witnessing a mass execution; having to leave their home in 1944 as Soviet troops approached; fleeing the city with his mother and their cat; returning home and finding it plundered; his father's return home after liberation and the changes he showed after his time in the camps; his parents' divorce in 1946; the mines left in the local fields after the war and the young people who were hired to find them (many of whom died); his mother's activities in the social movements; life under the Communists; excelling in school; attending the Politechnika Warszawska (Technical University of Warsaw); being kicked out of a communist youth group; earning his master's degree in 1959; working for several years in Warsaw before receiving a Fullbright scholarship to study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1970; meeting his wife in Madison and getting married after returning to Poland; returning to the US; working at Yale University; his research and his feelings that his work was being used for purposes he did not ethically agree with; moving to Massachusetts with his wife and son; and his thoughts on education and the importance of bridging the communication gap between generations.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Wiesław Orlowski
Nancy Cooey
interview:  2018 August 15
interview:  2019 May 23
creation: Massachusetts
3 digital files : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:39:49
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