Heritage Photo: Anthony Puchalski

Corporal Puchalski in Russian uniform in 1902 (left); Anthony Puchalski 1969 (right)  The full text of this news clipping is reproduced below. Scroll down for the author’s notes about Puchalski.

In Barry’s Bay — A Day To Remember

Following the annual remembrance observance Sunday, November 9th, Branch 406 of the Canadian Legion, along with the Renfrew Scottish pipe band marched to the home of World War II veteran, Joseph Voldoch, to honor his father-in-law, 90-year-old Anthony Pulchalski, the oldest soldier in the Barry’s Bay area.

Born near Warsaw, Poland, it was his fate to be engulfed in the Russian occupied zone, due to the partition of 1772, and his fate to be drafted into the army infantry of Czar Nicholas II. His mandatory three-year term was extended another year due to Russia being embroiled in a war with Japan in 1904.

A torso (both legs amputated) and a clear mind are all that is left of him. He recalls with clarity the trip, first to Moscow by express and then by boxcar across 4000 miles of Russia, to the east coast travelling on a single track. The journey took a month.

Because of the slow troop transport, the Czar couldn’t muster even a tenth of his million trained soldiers to deal with Japan. History records that Japan won the war. The final battle was fought at Muckdum and Anthony remembers it well. He was promoted to the rank of corporal. Being a good soldier had its advantages like a raise in pay, from 47c a month to 6 roubles ($6.40). He was, of course, educated in Russian and can still repeat the commands.

On discharge, Anthony decided to abandon the Czar and his internal problems to chance his destiny across the seas. He set sight on America.

With $100 given by a priest uncle, and final farewell to five brothers and two sisters, he left with his faith and the ideals which were only a dream in his native land.

A ship from Danzig to England, thence to New York and on to Cleveland, where he got a job. However, this was not what he sought. His Russian education was of little value and the language he shed, without a tear. “I am a Pole and a man of the soil,” he reasoned, and in due course he learned of a Polish settlement in Wilno, Ont. Here, he could be understood. So, without delay, he made his way to this village. He arrived here in 1901. Land was within reach – but first a job to earn money. Craigmont mines provided the job and Bernard Cybulski sold him a farm out Paugh Lake way. Miss Annie Blank, of Wilno, consented to share her fortunes with him and they were married in 1910. Two sons and four daughters followed. His wife died in 1965.

Living with his daughter, Ann, he has been confined to a wheelchair for seven years and this is where we saw him last Sunday. The old soldier was steady as he acknowledged our tribute with a sustained salute.

We looked in awe at this veteran so removed from our era that he is in a class by himself. An impressive figure, he inspired our awe and respect. The corporal was serenaded and saluted in a manner usually reserved for retired generals on their birthdays and men and women of the Legion were eager to shake his hand.

With obvious emotion he watched as four little girls, colorfully attired in costumes from his native Poland, advanced to present flowers.

On hand were Reeves Alex Shulist and Hilary Jones, to pay respects on behalf of their municipalities, as well as Martin Shulist of Sherwood, Jones & Burns who expressed pride on having such an exemplary and unique citizen in his municipality for 60 years.

Veteran Paul Yakabuski, M.P.P., congratulated the Legion for this noble gesture and expressed admiration for the kind and steadfast care Mr. Puchalski enjoys from his family. Noting that the corporal’s military life was an enforced and unhappy one and that he suffers present physical handicaps, Mr. Yakabuski suggested that perhaps a gift of Canada’s Centennial medallion from the Province of Ontario would bring some measure of pleasure. He expressed the hope that he would live long to enjoy the memory of this occasion.

The day had its light moments. A clownish bandsman, on a pair of stilts, wobbled along and suddenly plummeted to the ground, barely missing the bass drum.

A final, lusty swirl of the bagpipes – and it was over. We went home feeling uplifted by our participation in the event.

Long live the ideals which Corporal Puchalski cherished in his adopted land. Long live Puchalski – F.J.R.



Note from the author:

I don’t believe that there are any local residents with the same surname anymore. This article probably appeared in the Barry’s Bay Review. I’m thinking this because the article was written by Frank Ritza (1912-1996) who was known as F.J.R. Art Ritza was the Review’s publisher.

I did some research and found that Anthony Puchalski (1879-1970), a son of Henry and Victoria Puchalski of Poland, married Annie Blank (1876-1965) in 1910. The couple had six children: Anastasia (1910-1996); Stanley (1912-1979) who married Susan Peplinski (1912-1980); Frances (1914); Peter (1916); Victoria (1918-1988) who married Joseph Gallant (1917-1999); Anna (1917-2005) who married Joseph Voldock.

It was nice to read in the newspaper of Anthony receiving such nice recognition, especially since he died a year later on December 15th. This newspaper article appeared exactly 50 years ago.


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