Zygmunt Slowinski

Zygmunt Slowinski moved to Australia after WWII to make a new life for himself as far away as possible from the war. He arrived in Fremantle on the Kanimbla in October 1948; with mixed feelings of adventure, anxiety and sadness about leaving Poland.

Mr Zygmunt Slowinski (1924 - 2006 )

Zygmunt arrived with 400 other young people, who had a two-year work contract, and was given a pick or a shovel (his choice), a suit, hat, tie, and shirt. Zygmunt was sent to a sawmill at Bailup to dig post holes for a new mill building. He lived in a small wooden shed and was given a bike, which he rode everywhere. There were no windows or lights, but he had a kerosene lamp plus 44-gallon drum of water for washing, bathing, and cooking. Zygmunt was paid £7.15.00 per week and relished the beginning of his true freedom and independence.

Zygmunt was born in February 1924 in Kostopol, Wolyn-Poland, one of 8 children born to Jan and Florentina. He had happy childhood memories working and living on the family farm, skiing, ice skating and walking in the forest with his brothers and sisters. Zygmunt started school at 7 and at 15 had passed all his grades and was looking forward to further studies, when in September 1939 Germany, then in the same year Soviet Russia, invaded Poland. Seeing many of his friends deported or taken as slave labour, he left home in 1942 with only the clothes on his back to join the Polish Underground and lived on the run always ready for combat. When the war ended in May 1945 Zygmunt had dreams of returning home but this was not to be. His family rejected and disowned him as they were afraid what might happen to them if they welcomed him back.

Move forward to 1949 and Zygmunt was enjoying his new life in Australia and becoming part of the community. He had a very good friendship with a man who came to work at the sawmill, joined Sawyers Valley Football Club, travelled by train to Perth to attend political rallies, studied English, and attended local dances. Zygmunt also finished his contract with the sawmill and obtained a job at the Midland Railway Workshops that he kept until his retirement.

In 1951 Zygmunt married a local girl, Maureen McCleneghan, he met at Mundaring church and they made their home in Glen Forrest on land owned by Maureen’s parents. Zygmunt kept his connection with Poland and sponsored his sister Jadzia to Australia in 1955 and was visited by two of his brothers, as well as visiting Poland 4 times. Zygmunt and Maureen had 4 daughters. He died in 2006, and is buried in the Midland Cemetery.

Zygmunt's Living Quarters in the 1950s in Sawyers Valley

Zygmunt Slowinski outside his living quarters in Sawyers Valley in the 1950s