There are many important and famous war museums in the world. The Imperial War Museum in London and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans are just two of the many. However, our story unfolds in one of the most culturally significant war museums in the world. The Ogniwo Polish Museum Society in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is one of the museums dedicated to honoring Polish men and women who sacrificed everything for those they loved.
Marta Dabros is the museum archivist at Ogniwo, and her job is to preserve this monument to Polish bravery. She is tasked with assessing the donations the museum receives and sorting them out to be displayed for the public to enjoy. There are a lot of things that need to happen in order for a museum to run as effectively as possible, and people like Marta play such a big part in this. She is instrumental in this story, and her great work mustn’t be overlooked.
Archiving is such an integral part of running a museum, and this is even more the case when documenting and archiving war memorabilia. There are plenty of sensitive materials that are going to be coming into the museum, and we imagine it must be quite emotionally draining for Marta to be dealing with all these things that relate to such a deadly and difficult time. It can’t be an easy job archiving everything. Plus, it must be very time consuming, but it is essential for preserving the things that matter.
A striking uniform
When Marta came into work one day to find that a smart looking uniform had been donated, she must have assumed it was a normal day at the office! How wrong she would be. The striking green uniform was an authentic World War II piece that Marta discovered was worn by soldiers who had served in the Polish Army. It was certainly an historic piece and one that would have gone wonderfully well in the museum.
At first glance, this seemed to be nothing more than a regular Army uniform, albeit an important and wonderfully preserved one. Marta probably gave it a glance and figured this would be a pretty straightforward archive. Well, upon closer inspection it seems that everything changed. It was then the most jaw-dropping and unusual of discoveries was made. There, nestled in the top pocket, as though they’d been put there only yesterday, was a selection of black and white photos from the 1900s.
Man of mystery
These seemed to be photos that were of great importance to the person who owned the uniform, and they must have forgotten to remove them. Looking more closely at the pictures, Dabros saw that one man appeared in many of these pictures and began to wonder who he might be. It looked as though the guy served as a soldier in the war, and that these were his photos. Could it be his uniform? If not, who was this black and white man of mystery?
With her curiosity piqued, Marta decided to spring into action and play detective. She needed to find out who this man was, as much to satisfy her own curiosities as anything else. However, she also must have been filled with an urge to contact this man’s family and let them know she had his photos. It is always important for the families to have memories of their loved ones, especially to have pictures to look back over, and this would have been a great find for them.
Tracing the Uniform
The first step in the process was going to be to trace the uniform. This was the easiest thing to date at this point and was most likely going to open a few more doors for other discoveries. Examining the badges and the material, as well as the manufacturing company, Dabros was able to determine that the uniform was indeed the same type as worn in the photographs and that the soldier himself must have served in the Polish Army.
After this, it became a case of digging deeper and looking more intently at the photographs to try to uncover the mystery man’s identity. It was clear that the man had experienced a very long and rich military career, and he seemed to be a figure of some authority. After enlisting the help of a few colleagues, she decided to research online about the Polish Army and any records they might have kept of their soldiers.
Marta’s curiosity and inquisitive nature paid off, and she finally discovered the identity of the man. All of her hard work and research had finally come to fruition, and the bodiless uniform finally had an owner. The black and white photos documenting the life and career of an unknown soldier finally had a name to put to the face. The discovery revealing that the man in the pictures, the owner of the uniform, was a Polish medical officer named Lucas Kulczycki.
Who was Lucas Kulczycki?
So, who was Lucas Kulczycki? Well, it turned out he served as a medical officer in the Polish Army during the time of the Second World War. Born in Poland in 1911, Lucas was a well-educated man who achieved doctorates and became an expert in the field of cystic fibrosis, as well as a successful veterinarian. After the war, he moved to Canada and settled in Manitoba, and it seems he left his uniform behind in the process.
The lost soldier
Indeed, it seems that Kulczycki led a rich and varied life, and after leaving Manitoba, he went to live in the United States. It was here that he became a renowned pediatrician and continued to help others. His medical career in the Army was also pretty impressive, and he is also known to have served in the Polish Medical Corps for a seven-year period, between 1940 and 1947, in the positions of Liaison Medical Officer, as well as Lieutenant.
Now that Marta knew who the soldier was, she needed to set about tracking him down. Taking into account his accomplishments in the field of medicine, Dabros was able to trace his family and reach out to his daughter Dorothy Kulczycki Schiller. What a surprise this must have been for Dorothy to get this news about the discovery of her father’s pictures, and that his 70-year-old uniform had been found and examined. We bet she must have been completely overwhelmed by the news!
However, the most amazing thing about this whole entire story was yet to come. After traveling to meet, and visiting with Schiller, Marta discovered that her father, Lucas Kulczycki, was still alive! Yes, incredibly the 106-year-old former Army medic was still alive, and in contact with his daughter. It was then that Dabros knew the museum couldn’t possibly keep hold of the uniform, and that it should be given back to the veteran as soon as possible.
Reunion (of sorts)
This wonderful act of kindness from Marta allowed for one of the most touching post-war reunions – that of a man and his uniform. We bet Kulczycki was absolutely blown away by the discovery, and that he was eternally grateful to be reunited with the uniform. He even tried the threads back on and must have felt 70 years younger again. The best bit? It still seems to fit him pretty well after all these years.
A chance to reflect
The amazing thing about this, from Lucas’ perspective, is that it would have given him a chance to reflect. We’re sure that the Second World War wasn’t exactly a pleasant time, and there are bound to have been some difficult memories for Lucas. However, it was also an important stage in his life that would have helped to shape and define the man he became. We think that’s something he’d want to remember. He’s also likely to have made more than a few friends as well.
His last actions
Unfortunately, tragedy struck, and just a couple of weeks after his uniform was returned to him, Lucas Kulczycki sadly passed away. It seems as though he had been waiting around subconsciously knowing that one day his uniform would be returned to him. Once he had the big reunion, he could make peace with his younger years and go out on his own terms. It’s sad that he didn’t get longer with his uniform, but it’s great that he did finally get to have this reunion.
Returning the uniform
Following her father’s passing, Dorothy wrestled over what she should do with the uniform. It would have been perfectly natural and understandable for her to have wanted to keep hold of it as a memory of her father and his distinguished career. Instead, she made the decision that the whole world should get to enjoy this remarkable uniform as well, and she chose to return the uniform back to the Ogniwo Polish Museum Society.
Keeping the memory alive
Things like this are so important for posterity purposes, and the world should be made aware of them. By giving the uniform back to the museum Kulczycki’s daughter ensured that the story would live on, and her father’s memory would be kept alive as a result. It is likely that this is what her father would have wanted in order to make sure the world knew all about it. The uniform takes pride of place in the museum just as it should have done.
Pride of place
If you head to the Ogniwo Polish Museum in Winnipeg, you will be able to see this slice of history for yourself first hand. Who would have imagined, when this uniform was casually picked up on by Marta Dabros in the museum that it could have led to this moment? We bet Lucas Kulczycki didn’t expect to be reunited with his old war uniform ever in his life, and the fact he got to do it so soon before passing is pretty amazing.
The world will remember
We owe Lucas Kulczycki a great debt for his work in the medical field, as well as for his service in World War II where he fought to keep the world safe. The great thing about this story is that it has the heartwarming reunion, and then, in the end, the world gets to remember this man in the best possible way. If you are wanting to take a peak at the uniform that brought on a reunion 70 years in the making, head to 1417 Main Street, Winnipeg, and see for yourself.