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Thursday, April 24, 2014  

Poland’s WWI veteran Stanislaw passes away
WARSAW Poland's last surviving World War I veteran, Stanislaw Wycech, has died at the age of 105, his family announced on Friday.

Wycech passed away in his sleep last Saturday evening, his daughter-in-law Zofia Wycech  said.

Worldwide, there remain only two dozen veterans of World War I.

Wycech was born into a family of Polish independence activists in June 1902 near Warsaw, in what was then the western edge of the Russian empire which, along with Germany and Austria, had carved up Poland in the 1790s.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Poles were drafted by the three empires: more than two million served and 450,000 were killed.

Jozef Kos, who died last year aged 107, was the last confirmed imperial conscript from Poland, having been called up by Germany in mid-1918.

 Kos's death had left Wycech as the only remaining Pole to have seen service during the war, according to Polish military authorities.

Wycech had been too young for the draft, but in 1915 became a messenger with the Polska Organizacja Wojskowa (POW), or Polish Military Organisation, an underground movement seeking freedom for the country.

In February 1917, he was admitted to the POW's "adult" wing, which until July that year did not actively oppose the German forces that had driven out the Russian army.

"To be a soldier was an honour," Wycech recalled in an interview two months ago.

He was also like countless youngsters across Europe, in that his imagination was fired by tales of historical heroics.  In his case it was the Nobel Prize-winning Pole Henryk Sienkiewicz, whose "Trilogy" recounts Polish battles in the 17th century.

"In 1910, the Trilogy was serialised every week, and all those tales of warriors had an influence on young people," said Wycech.

Agence France-Presse
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