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Amurat Gembicki

Amurat Gembicki, son of Maciej Gembicki and Zelida Koritska, was born in Lostaje, near Kąty, which until 1939 was part of the Wilno (Vilnius) administrative district of Poland, but is currently in Belarus. Although his official military records show his date of birth as 24 November 1924, he was actually born on 24 March 1924.

In 1939, the 15-year-old Amurat was lodging with a friend of his father’s in Wilno (Vilnius) in order to go to secondary school in the city. After the USSR invaded Poland as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, and partitioned off the city and surrounding area to Lithuania, Amurat, together with other Polish students, protested the change in school language from Polish to Lithuanian. As a non-resident, this act got him expelled from school and put over the border into territory the USSR had annexed. This caused him to be arrested, interrogated by the NKVD, and sent off to a gulag.

A year and a half later, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and soon after that the Soviets started soliciting volunteers from among the prisoners to fight the Germans. Amurat joined Anders’ Army, where his date of birth was erroneously entered as November instead of March, and travelled with them to join British forces in the middle east. After stops in Damascus, Beirut, British mandate Palestine (later Israel) and Egypt, Amurat volunteered for transfer to the Air Force. After a long boat trip through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Atlantic Ocean, Amurat finally arrived in Great Britain.

He was trained and assigned to 300 Squadron. He didn’t like to talk about his wartime experiences. When asked about the participation of 300 Squadron in Operation “Manna”, the dropping of mass amount of food packages in the Netherlands during what the Dutch call “Hongerwinter”, the famine during the first months of 1945, he stated that he could not participate because he was in hospital due to injuries incurred when his Lancaster crashlanded after a mission.

Amurat stayed in the RAF until 1948. After demobilization, he went to London, where he married an Englishwoman, anglified his name and lived in Maida Vale. He contacted the Red Cross to try to find surviving relatives behind what was then called “the Iron Curtain”. At the same time, the children of his father’s sister, who had immigrated to the US at the turn of the century, were also searching for surviving relatives. In 1956, the Red Cross brought the two together, and the cousins sponsored him, his English wife and son, to come to the US. They arrived in New York City on the S.S. Liberté in April 1957. Two years later, his wife gave birth to his second son.

Amurat, by this time going by the name of Arnold, settled in Brooklyn, New York. After retirement, he moved down to Broward County, in Florida, where he passed away on the 20th March 2008, roughly five years after his wife died.

Both now rest in the Star of David Memorial Gardens. Tranquility Section H, Florida, USA.

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• Last Modified: 17 February 2024, 18:21 •