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Mark Simonson

December 10, 2012

Three found gift of freedom in area in 1940s

Probably the greatest gift three area people could think of ever receiving in December 1947 was that of freedom, especially from Nazi slavery during World War II. Two men in Oneonta and one woman in Schenevus had relocated here recently, were doing well and finding this area much to their liking.

Wladyslav and Franciszek Turcza, also known as Walter and Francis, had arrived from Poland just a year earlier and were staying with their maternal uncle, Joseph B. Zarnesky, at 96 River St. The two were actually born in America, in a mining town called Uniontown, Pa., southeast of Pittsburgh.

Their father got word in 1924 that the family back in Poland was beset with ill health, so the boys’ parents took them to their grandfather’s farm near Krakow. Walter was age 6, Francis, 4.

When the Germans advanced into Poland, Walter and Francis Turcza refused to join the Nazi army. They were put into a concentration camp at Otsmark in Bavaria. An uncle in the Polish forces shot and killed a Nazi officer in open warfare. It took the Nazis a long time to learn the uncle’s identity, but four years later got their revenge, burning their grandparents’ home, and those who weren’t burned to death were shot and killed.

Walter and Francis, still in the concentration camp, were put into hard labor, merely by association with the family.

When American forces moved into Bavaria, the boys fled the camp and showed the Americans where the Germans were hiding and where gun placements were located, and gave other valuable information.

When arriving in America, their country of birth, it all seemed foreign to the brothers, as they couldn’t speak a word of English.

The Oneonta Star featured their arrival in December 1946, and followed up on their progress on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1947.

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Mark Simonson

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