In Loving Memory – John Ankutowicz (1919-2016)
John Ankutowicz slipped away from us peacefully at home on April 4, 2016 at the age of 96.
John was born in Poland Nov 27, 1919 in the village of Tuliglowy. In 1940 Russia took that part of Poland, and the Russian soldiers came to his home and ordered him to be at the train station. He was sent with thousands of others – young Poles of different ages – to labor camps in the Ural Mountains. Life was very hard. John saw many a fellow worker fall to their death, and at the end of the day the corpses were disposed of. John’s legs were swollen like barrels and when walking it felt like bouncing on rubber. Finally, he couldn’t take anymore and went to see the camp commander who was an older Pole. He changed John’s job to be watchman at the construction site, which saved his life.
In the meantime, the Polish government in exile (England) was working to get them out of Russia and establish the Polish army – Polish II Corps – to fight the Germans who invaded Russia. Going by train, they got to the Polish camp which was formed by the British Eighth Army. They received battle dress provisions and started training. They were provided much more food, but it took a long time to eat as their stomachs were shrunken. In June, 1942 they left Russia on a cargo ship – two thousand people with two single washrooms. They crossed the Caspian Sea sleeping on the bare deck. To move around they had to walk over each other, and many became very ill. John contracted malaria and spent six weeks in a quarantine camp upon landing. All the time in the Middle East they lived in tents.
They moved in trucks to Iraq, and in 1944 were then redeployed to Egypt for a month. After that to Italy, landing in Taranto. On May 21 they took part in the attack on the town of Piedimonte, which later became known as the battle of Monte Cassino. At 3:00 that day their tank was hit with a German anti-tank gun shell. Three of John’s crew died in the tank. John received third degree burns on his hands up to his elbows, and burns on his face and eyes and two bad wounds on his left leg. John spent six months in a Polish army hospital (Italy) where he also had a recurrence of malaria (his lips, finger and toe nails were blue).
In 1947, at the end of the war, John sailed on the Aquitania to England. After nine months he emigrated to Canada. In Oct 1948, John came to Fernie. He worked in the coal mine where he had a bad accident, the results of which plagued him throughout life. While he was on compensation he took a steam engineers course by correspondence. When he went back to work it was as a “fire man” in the powerhouse. While working in this position he studied for and passed the 3rd class steam engineers exam and then worked as a shift engineer in the powerhouse. After 14 years doing this he had a hard time climbing up into the boilers as his leg & knee were weakened. He looked for another job that was a bit less physically demanding, but more importantly was not shift work so he could spend more time with his family. He was very pleased to accept a job for the school board and worked as a custodian for 18 years. John retired in Nov. 1985.
Despite all the turmoil he experienced, John managed to have a positive outlook with a brilliant smile and a twinkle in his eye.
John will be forever loved and remembered by his wife of 66 years, Sophie. He is the loving father of Alan of Lethbridge, AB and Janet of Victoria, BC. He is the best Grandpa in the world to 3 grandchildren: Mindy, Jillian and Eric whom he loved dearly. And the best Big Grandpa to 2 great grandchildren, Aspen Marie and Hudson Reign.
In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Memories & condolences shared at www.cherishedmemoriefs.com Arrangements entrusted to Cherished Memories Funeral Services Ltd.