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A Lesson in Failure from a WWII Polish Resistance Fighter

Everyone has bad days we complain about and wish didn’t exist, but what ultimately matters is the end result of the story. This is a lesson in failure from a Polish Resistance Fighter named Piotr Holub whose entire life might seem like a long list of shortcomings.

lesson in failure polish resistance

Piotr Holub the Polish Resistance Fighter

Piotr (Peter) Holub was born into a small, poor family. Peter’s father was both farmer and mayor in a secluded, Polish village. Peter worked on his family’s farm, but everything changed when WWII began. He joined the Polish resistance in his early adulthood years, became deeply involved in the movement, and embarked on missions to harass the Nazi army.

One winter day impacted Peter’s life more than any other. While he and some of his friends were preparing to blow up a bridge to prevent enemy tanks from crossing the river, Nazi scouts took Peter and his comrades into custody. They were loaded onto trains and sent to German ‘work’ camps. The long train ride was unlike anything any of the prisoners had ever experienced. The majority of the people froze to death, while the unlucky few reached their destination. A woman named Josephine Andracki was transported in the same train car as Peter and his fellow soldiers, but Josephine was unloaded at a different stop than Peter.

Peter Holub Polish Resistance

At the Work Farm

When Peter finally arrived at his assigned work farm he couldn’t keep his thoughts about Josephine to himself. Within just a few days he had spoken to the man in charge of his camp and successfully located her. After a short time, Peter earned the trust of the camp’s guards, who allowed him to leave the camp on bicycle on the condition that he ran errands for the soldiers. Every now and then Peter would find his way to Josephine’s camp. They spent as much of their time together as they could, separated and imprisoned. This continued until American forces liberated their camps.

The Turn Around

Peter’s first thought after his release was of Josephine. The two got married, before they even left German territory, in 1946. After a several years and a few children, Peter and Josephine Holub traveled to Ellis Island. They were brought to Michigan by a sponsoring Catholic group. For the first few months they lived in a school building, along with many other immigrants. Soon Peter had a stable job and was able to firmly establish his family with three children. Peter and Josephine were married for 63 years when he passed away. While his wife passed away in 2011, he is remembered by his children; and their children; and their children’s children.

What Failure is not

A quick Google search defines failure as a “lack of success.” While Peter did not succeed in completing his sabotage mission as a Polish Resistance Fighter, he succeeded in other ways. Peter put himself in the position in which he thought he could do the most good. He sought to protect the people and land he loved. Even after watching friends freeze to death Peter still found reasons to live. Based on the definition of what failure is, it can be argued that Peter did not fail at all.

Do the most good

Peter’s imprisonment led to something more than a dead end. It began the series of events that led to a long, happy marriage and peaceful life. Peter was my great-grandfather, and although I never had the ability to get to know him, his life still impacts me. There are many things that can be learned from his story. This is the polar opposite of failure.

A Patriotic Understanding of Family

Peter initially got involved in the Polish Resistance to protect his friends, his neighbors, and ultimately his family. Family is the building block of society; without it, no nation can stand. Peter was the protective leader of his family and was with them until the very end of his days. Too often families are torn apart by petty matters and minor inconveniences. A lack of forgiveness makes a family like a desert, dry, dead, and unable to do anything. The respectable thing, the genuine thing to do is stick it out and continue fighting the good fight, just as the Polish Resistance and Peter Holub did.

A Puritan Work-Ethic

While he had no American blood, Peter expressed something that is similar to what is referred to as the Puritan Work Ethic. We have discussed the Puritans in the past. Put simply, the Puritan work ethic is working to the best of your ability, and taking pride in your labor. In early American colonies those who took on this mindset were the ones who succeeded, and benefited society. Peter was willing to work. At one time he worked at Pepsi, a local bakery, and as a janitor at a local school. Rather than becoming a thorn to society, Peter worked to establish a comfortable life.

A Sense of Remembrance

Peter Holub did some amazing things, even outside of war. The way his history lives on is a lesson in and of itself. People will continue to think about you when you’re gone. They may remember your blunders for a short time, but with those failures comes success. I knew Peter just a bit more than ten years. While I may not have understood it back then, I believe we are very similar.

We are both willing to fight for family, but in the end, all we truly want is a peaceful life. We are both hard workers, and we are definitely both patriotic. Peter Holub was given a 21-gun-salute and during his funeral service he was given the honors of both the American and Polish armies. I find it funny that as I write this, Day That I Die by the Zac Brown Band, is playing from my music library. We tend to think about life when we think about ourselves, but what about death? How will you die, and what will you leave behind?

What’s standing between you and building a lasting legacy?

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5 Responses to A Lesson in Failure from a WWII Polish Resistance Fighter

  1. Anna Matuszczyk May 3, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Matthew
    My heart is filled with pride on your amazing article about my father
    You did an amazing job
    What a talented & intelligent young man you are
    So proud of you
    Your great-Ciocia

    • Matthew Kasinec May 4, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Ciocia. Peter’s actions were in-fact heroic, and his great story is worth sharing.

  2. Stephanie Button May 4, 2017 at 2:55 am #

    What a fascinating article! It is so interesting and I want to learn more!

  3. Teresa May 7, 2017 at 12:33 am #

    Matthew, I have read every article you have written. This is a powerful story. I enjoyed reading it and wanted more. In this crazy world, you are an inspiration and a wonderful example for our youth. Thank you and don’t stop writing.

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