Ted the Survivor
You might have seen Ted (Tadeusz) Stepniewski walking to the shops in Mulgoa, from his house on Allan Road.
Despite looking frail, he was determined to be as independent as long as possible. He moved into Newmarch House in Caddens last year and has been fortunate to avoid the Coronavirus outbreak. He is still cheerful and is grateful to be able to see his family through organised closed window visits.
Born in 1923 in Berestechko, Ukraine (now part of Poland), Ted is a real survivor. In 1940, 16-year-old Ted and his family answered a knock at the door at 12am. It was the Russian secret Police and the family was given two hours to pack their bags. Ted, his older sister Lusia, and their parents were taken to Siberia on a crowded cattle train, where they were given food in a bucket and used a hole in the floor as a toilet. For over two years, Ted and his family endured starvation and terrible conditions working on the Siberian railway and local farms.
In 1942, Ted managed to join a Polish Air Force unit to fight for the Russians against Germany. He was sent to train in Iran and then Canada, and eventually ended up in England. He spoke hardly any English and was told not to contact his family, who had survived the Siberian war camp, to ensure their safety. Ted joined the Royal Air Force in Bomber Command as a navigator and flew many missions, often at night. The Polish Squadrons were recognised as a major factor in winning the war but the government, under pressure from Stalin, did not invite them to the Victory Parade in London on 8 June 1946.
After the war, Ted stayed in the RAF in England and married Anne. They both loved ballroom dancing. They had two boys, Richard and Peter. It wasn’t until 1979 that Ted saw his sister, Lusia, again. Her husband was one of the 22,000 Polish officers murdered during the massacre of Katyn. In 1980, Ted was reunited with his parents. He returned to Ukraine and Poland with his son, Richard and his grandsons in 2005 to visit extended family and has visited again several times since.
Ted’s wife, Anne, passed away in 1999 and his son, Peter, passed away in 2000. Ted moved to Mulgoa in 2001 to be closer to Richard and their family and continued his ballroom dancing for many years. Ted has 6 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren, who all hope he will survive for a few more years.