various Bailey bridges built later in Italy

Jurek’s paternal grandparents lived in Vishny Volochek, 320 km NW of Moscow.
Pawel Gradosielski was a civil servant/Treasurer of local County Council Finance Department. 

He married Anna Moroshkin in 1875.

They raised 6 children, Aleksander being the youngest (schoolboy on top right of photo from 1902).

oil tanker Agamali Ogly 

Doctors on the frontline, 1918,  on right Dr Aleksander Gradosielski

​​​​The Polish flag was hoisted first on the ruins of the monastery

Joining centres in the Middle East March 1942

Cairo. Jurek kneeling 1st left

They also had to get used to working with mules which were essential for transporting supplies on steep mountain slopes.

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
Our only nightmare were the mules, but we couldn’t do without them in the mountains. They were very useful animals but so stupid and stubborn that they very often led us to despair.

Polish Forces in Russia Dec 1941

A Polish bugler from  3DSK plays the Hejnał Mariacki, announcing the victory 

click on photos to enlarge

Jurek's parents, Aleksandra Budohoska and Aleksander Gradosielski, met while studying medicine in Moscow where they were married in 1914.

There were four main battles at Monte Cassino: in January, February, March and May 1944.

The 2nd Polish Corps under the command of General Władysław Anders, carried out the fourth and last attack, from the north on the German positions at Monte Cassino. 

Jurek graduated in 1938. This was the last graduation of the old 8 class system. 

5 KDP camp Jalalabad 1942

Yuzha/Juża (red) 

and Vyazniki/Wiążniki 

Jurek's maternal grandfather, infantry Major Franciszek Budohoski, owned the Pawlowo Estate, near Gzhatsk, just west of Moscow and also property in the city of Tver, 182 km NW of Moscow. 
Franciszek married Aleksandra Emilia Wyszykowska in 1881. They had eight children together. 

Sappers at work - with mine detectors

The allies were fighting their way up from southern Italy towards Rome. The 1,400-year-old Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino stood at the strongest point of a powerful German defensive line, the Gustav Line, which was drawn along rivers backed by steep mountains and ravines - icy in winter and unbearably hot in summer.

Sea scout camp 1937

… at the end of May 1940, they were loaded into cattle cars and transported to the far north to  Komi-ASSR, at Ukhta-Pieczora. They arrived in Chibyu (renamed Ukhta in 1939) below the 64 parallel on 13 June 1940. It was always daytime here. 

Instead of snow and frost, they had rain and mud but at least it was warm. The soldiers trained at full steam.

The general maneuvers of the Division were visited by their Commander-in-chief, General Władysław Sikorski.

Many countries had joined the Allied Forces: as well as British and Americans, there were French from North Africa, Indians, Gurkhas, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Canadians and Poles.

On 15 Feb 1944 the ancient Monastery was heavily bombed by the Allied Army, in a series of American air raids.

Port Said. Jurek on right

The Monastery was rebuilt after the war and re-consecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964

Jurek attended public elementary school in Wilno and in September 1927 he passed his entrance examinations to the first class of the Jesuit Fathers Secondary School.

In 1930 he transferred to the King Zygmunt August National Secondary School, which was considerably less expensive. 

Jurek left the “Soviet Paradise” on 5 August 1942 by ship from Krasnovodsk across the Caspian Sea on one of the heavily over-loaded vessels and landed in Pahlevi (now Bandar-e Anzali, Iran).

During the Italian Campaign Jurek was
Commander of the 3rd Platoon of Sappers and Reconnaissance,

and Commander of the Assault Platoon,
of the 5th Sappers Company, 

Sappers HQ, 

5th Kresy Infantry Division (5KDP),
2nd Polish Corps.

Jurek 1931

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
During the course, Sundays and holidays were meant for sightseeing, so we went to Suez, Port Said, Cairo and Alexandria.

 Training in Habbaniya December 1942 on the Eufrates River

dug-outs on the steep mountain slopes of Monte Cassino

Since their divisions were quite small, the 5th and 6th become the 5th Kresy Infantry Division (5 KDP) with two brigades, the 5th Wilno and 6th Lwów.

The Sappers formed the Sappers Command 5 KDP with three independent line companies and one stationary company.

The official name of the division was adopted on 7 March 1943.


click on photos to enlarge


The Budohoski family, being wealthy landowners, lost everything in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Jurek's grandmother and her daughters survived thanks to being hidden by servants. Jurek remained on the estate under the care of his nanny, who pretended that he was her son. It was only after several months that his mother was able to obtain a special permit from the Supreme Soviet in Moscow allowing her to remove him and their belongings from the estate. 

 Jurek's father was called up to become an army doctor and his mother became a nurse in the Red Cross (as she hadn't finished her doctor training), in order to be with her husband. 

Tragically, Aleksander came down with typhus and died in 1921. The family decided to return to Poland, but the Soviet authorities did not reply to their applications to leave the country. His mother’s younger brother Bronisław who had been imprisoned, was exchanged for a Soviet spy and sent to Wilno/Vilnius where the Provincial Prime Minister was Władysław Raczkiewicz, a friend of the family.

In 1921, with the help of Raczkiewicz, whose family estate was close to that of the Budohoski family in Tver, the whole family received Polish citizenship. With his support, in February 1926, they received the order to leave the U.S.S.R. within two weeks. 

Jurek, with his mother Aleksandra, her sister Leontyna and their mother, left for Wilno/Vilnius where his mother received the title Senior Medic (Starszy Felczer, ie two years of medical school) and she worked as the matron in a hospital in Nowe Troki near Wilno. 

Already a boy scout, having taken his oath in the 5th Wilno Scout Troop, he transferred to the sea scouts in 1932, the Romuald Traugutt Blue Sailing Unit (Blekitna Jedynka Zeglarska im. Romualda Traugutta) until the outbreak of WWII.

In October 1938, he was accepted to the Cadet School of the Reserve Sappers in Modlin[1], and after passing the examinations and taking a three-month course,  was transferred to the Officer Cadet School in Warsaw.

[1] Modlin Fortress is one of the biggest 19th-century fortresses in Poland. Built during Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812).  On the Narew River, some 50 km north of Warsaw.  After the First World War Modlin was modernized with modern bunkers, anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment. Its main purpose was to provide cover for Warsaw from enemy attacks from the North. The fortress also housed several military barracks and military colleges for NCOs, including the Engineers Training Centre and the Armoured Forces Officer Cadet School.    

1939 – the Germans attack Poland from the west …

On 1 September 1939, Germany attacked western Poland. On that day, Jurek was made a Corporal Cadet. So began the September Campaign: without any support from Britain and France, despite the Anglo-Polish alliance of March 1939,   Poland fought the German army for 36 days, never formally capitulating but continued to fight throughout the war – underground, as AK (Armia Krajowa) in Poland, and under British command on the western front.

On 4 September 1939, Jurek with five other cadets under the command of Lt. R Pajsker, was sent out from Fort No.4 in Modlin in three vehicles carrying 15 tons of explosive material to the fortifications at Dąbica near Dubno. After delivering their cargo, they started their return to Warsaw in one truck. In Garwolina, they were diverted to Puławy where they joined the 2nd Sappers Regiment. On 6 September the Regiment left towards Brześć, while the cadets were ordered to wait until 8 September but since the Germans were already only kilometres away on the bridge over the Vistula, they decided to evacuate to Brześć too. They took several barrels of petrol and a lot of food supplies from the Sappers' warehouses and were then sent from Brześć to the Hungarian border. 

… and the Soviets from the east  

On 17 September 1939, the Soviets in alliance with Germany invaded from the east as agreed in the secret protocol in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 

Unfortunately, on 18 September, a few km past Tarnopol, surrounded by Soviet panzer divisions, the Polish soldiers were taken prisoner. Lt Pajsker’s group shared the food they had brought in their vehicle with comrade prisoners which saved them all from starvation.

The prisoners crossed the Polish-Soviet border in Podwołoczyska and came to the camp at Tetkino, Ukraine on 20 September 1939. After a month, they were off-loaded in Krzywy Róg at an iron-ore mine. The work was difficult and dangerous, but the propaganda proclaimed “U nas nuzno sprawdaca rabotoj” (“Here, work is necessary to justify oneself.”) - then you will go home after a month. They worked for a month at 120% effort, but when they were refused passes to go home, they rebelled - and were locked up in solitary confinement. Here they were very crowded and very hungry. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
We played many funny practical jokes on the Bolsheviks ……we fooled them in every possible situation, especially regarding food. For example, for voucher N5 in one canteen you could get tea, and in another – a cutlet. So we bought 5 teas in the first one and ate 5 cutlets in the other, etc.

Once I came back beaten like a dog with my head smashed. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for three days …. but it passed. And I got that beating because I still had a little eagle on my cap and I didn’t want to take it off.

Eventually, the Soviets began to avoid our room because our electrician invented such a switch that whenever an undesired visitor came in, the light went out immediately and every possible piece of clothing, including heavy Polish boots and mess tins, dropped onto the visitor’s head. Of course, the perpetrators were never found and it was really difficult to put 80 people into a 3x3 m. punishment cell. Our idyll lasted until March without any serious problems from the Soviets. Apparently, our gang got on their nerves and they couldn’t take it anymore. So ....



There were approximately 15,000 prisoners who were distributed throughout the Gulag system. Jurek's kołona/sub-camp was No.13/SZDL*-Siewierneje Zelazno-Darozneje Lagiera. They worked on the construction of the Kniaz-Pogost Railway to Ukhta. 

*Sevzheldorlag was a penal labour camp of the GULAG system in the USSR. The full name was Northern Railway Corrective Labour Camp of NKVD. Established on May 10, 1938. Prisoners-of-war were employed in the construction of Kotlas-Vorkuta Railway.

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
We used to get watery soup from the cauldron and 30 grams of bread. But as the saying goes the portion was: ‘too small to keep you alive; but too big to let you die’. Here at last we could wash ourselves, because the nearby stream provided us with water and so we began a bloody battle with the lice. At the first delousing after our journey, I scored 66 lice, but I was not the record-holder; there were people who had more than a hundred.


The isolation cell was really tough, minus 40 degrees Celsius, the slits in the walls were two fingers wide, we had no firewood and were starving hungry. We got 300 grams of bread and some water. We gritted our teeth …..but sitting around idly and slowly freezing to death didn’t make sense so we started to think about how to get out of there. Eventually, we realised out that the space along the chimney was quite big and we could climb out through it. So we waited until dusk and got out. We supplied ourselves with wood, and taking advantage of the chaos at the camp, we collected bread from the bakery, and happy that we were not going to die of hunger or freeze to death, we had a good night’s sleep.  Of course, we hid the bread in the camp and only took a part of it with us. Three days passed and we were in good spirits which our oppressors just could not understand. But soon we were betrayed and our hole was blocked with iron bars.

The very poor rations, 12-hour work shifts, dysentery and other diseases quickly reduced the population of the camps. Of 1,500 prisoners at camp No. 13, only 900 were left after a year. 

“Amnesty” and Formation of the Polish Army

Although they had been allies at the beginning of the war, the Germans attacked the Soviets in June 1941.  

The Sikorski-Majski Treaty was signed on 30 July 1941 granting “Amnesty” to all imprisoned Polish citizens. The soldiers in the northern camps were released somewhat earlier, in mid-July. Still at the points of Soviet bayonets, they were transported by ship, train and on foot and quartered in Wiążniki camp,  Juża, Iwanowska, an NKVD holding/transit camp for Polish ex-POWs, (approx 12 000 soldiers).  Col. Nikodem Sulik, known in the camp as Private Sarnecki, representing General Władysław Anders, commander of the Polish Army in the U.S.S.R., presided over the repetition of the swearing of oaths by the soldiers, and they were soldiers of the Polish Republic once more. From that day forward, the Polish troops took control of the camp. 

The pilots and sailors were separated from the rest and sent to England. The remainder was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division (which later became 5KDP).

They left the Wiążniki camp on 2 September 1941 and after several days' journey, arrived in Tatishchevo near Saratov on the Volga River. This was the summer training camp of the Soviet Army, made up of a lot of tents and a few administrative buildings. The Commander of the Division was Brigadier Mieczysław Boruta-Spiechowicz, an energetic and good organizer, popular with the soldiers. 

15 September 1941 saw the creation of the 5th Infantry Division with three regiments: Infantry, Artillery, the Communications Battalion and the 5th Battalion of Sappers, to which Jurek was assigned. After being vetted by Lt. Grobicki he was appointed Platoon Ensign and became the deputy commander of Platoon 3.

British uniforms and Soviet arms began to arrive within a month, but as the winter was approaching they had to find a way to survive the cold, which would go down to -40°C. They therefore began to dig shelters 2 m deep, covered them with boards and earth and erected tents over them. On 15 November Jurek was confirmed as an officer cadet and was promoted to Lance Sergeant.

On 15 January 1942 the Division was moved from the south of Russia to the Fergana Valley to the city of Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
Our journey was very enjoyable, we drank at all major railway stations, and we even managed to steal a few bags of sugar and tobacco from the military repository in Tashkent, which made us very happy. Sugar and tobacco were real treasures in Russia at the time.


Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
The area was nice and fertile, but the awful mud and the constant rain made our work at the camp very difficult. The Uzbek and the Kyrgyz people were very friendly to us and we were often invited to their houses. We sat on the ground according to their tradition and ate thick rice with mutton with our fingers.

March and April came. It was boiling hot - up to 60°C and our only joy was a large swimming pool beside the camp where we used to sit all day. Military training was between 6 and 10 in the morning and between 6 and 8 in the evening. We organised a swimming competition for the championship of the Battalion and put our companies under great stress. I won the championship of the Battalion in the crawl and breaststroke, which I got a 3-day pass for, but I just sat in the camp because I had nowhere to go.

Evacuation to Persia

Now they had to make a complete change to the British way of doing things. That meant a new organizational structure, new arms and new rules. Most of the soldiers were part of the estimated 1,7 million people that had been deported from the eastern borderlands of Poland (Kresy) into the USSR and were in very bad shape after several years of forced labour in forests, sawmills, mines, as well as building roads and railways, etc. Many thousands died of malnutrition, exhaustion, and diseases (typhoid was rampant), often on the doorstep to freedom, waiting to be transported to Persia. Only about 116,000 (soldiers and civilians) were evacuated during 1942 across the Caspian Sea with Anders Army.

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
Our next camp was in the desert and we began preparations to receive the entire Division. I became transport manager and drove all day with a Hindu unit to get materials such as bricks, wood, coconut mats, and other things. It was as hot as hell, reaching 70-75°C, and the hot wind from the continent made us unable to breathe. Training was only until 10 am, and later on there was a tropical break until 4 pm. So we sat naked in our tents, poured water over ourselves and sweated. Malaria began to spread, knocking out whole sections. We saved ourselves with quinine, and most of all, with whisky and gin in the evenings. 

In June of 1943 Jurek completed the course for Command of Assault Division at the Infantry Training Centre in Khanaqin, where they got them used to fire and to think and act quickly.  

Jurek was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 1 July 1943 – he received his stars and was happy to be ‘someone’ at last. He was transferred to the 6th Sapper Company. At that time, the main division moved to Mosul-Kirkuk to protect the oil fields of Iraq. Meanwhile, the sappers trained for battle in the mountains of Lebanon near Tripoli, a special application course run by the English. They learned things that were completely new to them, such as Bailey bridges, ropeways and sappers’ work in the mountains.

Toward the end of that year, the whole division moved to Egypt to the city of Qassasin, to prepare for their departure to the Italian Front.

On 17 February 1944, Jurek as the commander led the Heavy Attack Unit of the 18th GMC (probably General Motors Company vehicles) Battalion through Cairo and Mena to Alexandria.

The Italian Campaign
On 26 February 1944 the Sappers left Egypt and landed in Taranto, Italy on 5 March 1944. Jurek was then transferred back to his home 5th Company, whose commander was Capt. Władysław Kryk, and took up command of Platoon 3 to the end of the war. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
We spent the evenings in Taranto, where we went to the Officers’ Navy Club or to the theatre. Two weeks of final preparations for military combat passed quickly. We had already been prepared for every possibility and we were eager to get back at the Germans for 1939. We moved closer to the front-line and settled down in the beautiful mountain village of Cercepicollo, where our quartermasters with Captain Kryk at the head, had already settled. The headquarters had already been prepared, the army occupied public buildings such as schools, any available rooms, and we received beautifully furnished rooms with Mr and Mrs Lombardi. The company was in perfect shape and everything was working.

Sappers (engineers) lived dangerously: they blew up bridges or built bridges - as necessary, disarmed mines and blew up German bunkers, etc.  The following eye-witness description was written by another Polish soldier:

“A sapper's job was very often very dangerous; one could say suicidal. At Monte Cassino they played a vital role by cleaning the road for the tanks. They did it at night, under fire, crawling under tanks that were slowly advancing. They worked with complete disregard for their safety. That was an act of heroism of the highest degree. Many, many of them were killed. But they did their job; our tanks got through and once they got on Mass Albaneta they started to destroy German bunkers one by one. Later on, when we were on the Adriatic Coast, Germans mined every place that would be suitable to cross a river (every bridge was either mined or destroyed). Again, sappers had the job of clearing the mines. And it was not easy. Germans tried every trick in the book; they put one mine on top of another, so that when a sapper pulled one the other detonated, they used wooden and plastic boxes so that a mine detector could not find it and so on. Again, they were many times under fire. It takes nerves of steel to carefully disarm a mine under such conditions. I take my hat off to sappers - they did their job!”
Romuald Lipinski, The 12 Podolski Lancers.

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
On 28th April I was given a specific task. We were supposed to go with the 15th Infantry Battalion as an assault platoon to Monte Cassino and the neighbouring hills such as 575, San Angelo, Passo Corno and the Monte Cassino monastery itself. The preparations were very thorough and everybody knew that our task was very difficult. The monastery had already been defended for six months and the three attacks by the Americans, the English, the Hindi and the French had cost thousands of lives. Therefore, everything had to be done with the greatest secrecy and under strict supervision. We studied aerial photographs, discussed everything at a sand table, we conducted reconnaissance. I wasn’t given any dates, and all orders were based on the ‘D’ day and the ‘H’ hour.

We were aware that the task was very difficult and that we were going to suffer great losses, but we were in good spirits, as general Sulik said: ‘we are not fighting for Monte Cassino, but for Poland’.

The infantry went to the starting point and hid in the gorges by the sappers’ road, the so called ‘Cavendish Road’. It was cut into the rock on the side of the mountain by New Zealanders and our sappers, and was masked with nets from the top and was completely undetected by the Germans. That was totally unforeseen and a beautiful surprise for the Germans. They didn’t expect an attack by armoured vehicles from that direction, and they were to encounter the entire brigade of M4 Sherman tanks there. At last we received a detailed plan of the attack; everything was on time. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
I had one more task to do, to eliminate the right bunker, which was firing along Phantom Ridge injuring our soldiers, who were trying to cross the Ridge. But that wasn’t easy. According to the testimony of prisoners, an officer crew was defending it. …..But my observation finished quickly. I got shot in the back and fell to the ground, but without losing consciousness. I started bleeding heavily and strangely enough my head became heavy, but I was able to think clearly and I asked them to send me a field medic. I was aware that I was wounded but at the same time I regretted not being able to destroy those officers. My second golden thought was that ‘it was good that I got shot in the centre of my body, and for sure, if I recovered, I wouldn’t become a cripple for the rest of my life’. Finally, the field medic arrived, made me a strong dressing and gave a morphine injection. I felt better at that point and even decided to smoke a cigarette. …..

... I dragged myself from Phantom Ridge and joined Kostek, he was very disturbed by my appearance, as I was all covered in blood with a dressing on my neck and chest where I also was hit by a small piece of shrapnel. They packed both of us up onto stretchers and we set off towards the road. But the artillery continued to attack, so only Divine Providence could save us. Then half-way along the road, we were hit by an artillery and mortar assault fire. I ordered the stretchers put down and hid behind the scarp. I was lying down and waiting to get shot. I felt quite weak and dizzy. Suddenly a shell fell down a couple of metres away from me, I got completely deafened, covered with soil, but untouched.....

..... Finally, we arrived at the gorge, but there again the mortars were falling and it was difficult to pass. I couldn’t jeopardize my boys so I decided to walk there on my own feet. So I stood up and walked down blindly. There were only 300 m to the first-aid station, but I felt that I wasn’t going to make it. So I pulled myself together and was determined to get there. I was only 50 m away and fainted, but I was already taken care of by the field medics and regained consciousness quite fast. After an hour I was taken to the Main First Aid Station in the Inferno Gorge. I got onto the operating table immediately, where they took the shrapnel out quite easily and then I was sent further on to the Casualty Clearing Station nr 5 in Venafro. On the second day, I received some more morphine, so it wasn’t too bad, but the next three days I howled with pain and it was very difficult for me to breathe. No wonder as I got wounded in my left lung. After eight days I went on to the 2nd field hospital in Campobasso. After three days I was put onto a hospital train and travelled to the 1st  Military Hospital in Casamassima. 

Jurek was wounded at Monte Cassino (Phantom Ridge/Widmo) during the first attack, the night of 11-12 May 1944. The Citation for the British Military Cross summarises Jurek’s heroic actions during the battle.

The Polish army suffered huge losses but the last attack was successful and the monastery was taken on 18 May 1944, opening the road to Rome for the Allied forces. A patrol of the Polish 12th Podolian Cavalry Regiment finally made it to the heights and raised a Polish flag over the ruins at 10.20.  



To be continued ......

Link to Jurek’s detailed description of his participation in the Battle of Monte Casino – for military enthusiasts

Links to other descriptions of the Battle of Monte Cassino:
The famous song Czerwone Maki na Monte Casssino Red Poppies on Monte Cassino

Romuald Lipinski's memoir

Hania's poem

​Jerzy was born in Moscow on 24 December  1916.

Both Polish and British flags hoisted

The Polish Army, now part of the British Eighth Army, travelled to Tehran, Irak, Egypt and Lebanon for intensive training although it took time for the emaciated soldiers to recuperate. 

Jurek's division journeyed through Tehran and Hamadan to Iraq, to the city of Khanaqin. 

In November 1942, Jurek was sent to the British Sappers Centre in Ismailia, Egypt for a five-month engineering course. They trained with British and American equipment, learned how to build pontoon and truss bridges, about detonators used by the British sappers and their work systems. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
On 1st September, we were in Modlin as the 3rd Sapper Reserve Company for the Modlin Garrison. Our zeal and the will to fight were overpowering. Everybody was pushing their way to volunteer, not even asking what their task was and where. Whatever …. as long as it was something specific for Poland, to fight, not just to sit passively behind the walls of Modlin Fortress.

Tatishchevo Christmas 1941 – they even had a Christmas tree

Soon I received a warm ‘fufajka’ – a kind of a quilted jacket, trousers of the same kind, rubber boots and gloves.

But I didn’t build the ‘Sojuz’ (the Soviet Union) as a ‘łopatorznik’ (a spade operator) for too long, as I wormed my way into a more intelligent, better-paid and lighter job for a ‘top group’. It was a measuring-controlling group. So I was given a leveller and worked as a levelling technician. I didn’t have the faintest idea how to do this but I learned quickly and managed just fine. 

Aleks and Ola  (middle) 1918

sea-scout 1938

The Polish Corps paid dearly for its victory. 

860 soldiers were killed, including 72 officers. 2,822 people were injured, among them 72 officers. In addition, 97 soldiers were missing. 1,072 Poles are buried in the Polish Cemetery.

various pontoon bridges (built later)

Link to KF Facebook

Kresy Family