Service Details


No formal visitation


Friday, November 3, 2017
9:30 am
Bishop Drumm Retirement Center
5837 Winwood Drive
Johnston, Iowa


Friday, November 3, 2017
1:00 pm
Resurrection Cemetery
Justice, Illinois


Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa

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October 16, 1926 to November 2, 2017

I was born in a small town, Bialo Zorka, on the eastern border of what would become Poland and the Ukraine. After WWII started, Russia reabsorbed this area. My family owned a large property that my father received after WWI because he was a captain in the Polish army. We raised chickens, pigs, cows, horses, wheat and barley. There were no tractors. We sold what we could to the city. School was about 3 miles away, and we walked to and from school every day through the muddy fields and hills. If it was a muddy day, I had to take my shoes off because they would get stuck in the mud. It was hard work.

In 1939 when the war started, the Russians said that we needed to leave our land because it was now theirs. I was 13 then. They told us we had to leave our farm. My mother said she could claim the land because she was born in Bialo Zorka when it was Russia. They took the farm anyway but let us keep the home and horses so we could transport anything my father needed to. My father got odd jobs working for people in the town that was claimed by Russia. Also at that time, I had a cousin living in Warsaw. She joined the Polish Underground. In order to be active and carry on, they lived and worked in the forest.

In the meantime, my future husband, Zbigniew Sypniewski was part of the Underground communicating radio messages. When the Germans finally came to that area. He fled, and worked for a blacksmith at another village in Poland until he was captured. He was then taken and forced to work on the German railroads. The railroad tracks there were not the right size to fit the German trains. It was the captured laborers job to widen the tracks for German trains. As the Germans turned their effort to Russia, the railroad came very close to the place where a huge Russian massacre of Polish military, intellectuals, and politicians had taken place. There was a cover up by the Russians claiming the Germans had done it. It was called Katyn. My future husband was able to see where the massacre occurred and knew that the Russians had done it. There is a statue commemorating the massacre in Baltimore, Maryland where there is a large Polish community. An official document was produced in 1992 confirming that Stalin was behind the massacre.

On February 10, 1940 at 2:00AM the Russians told us that we should pack only what we could carry – we would need it. We were not told where we were going. My father was not at home at the time. He was 16 miles away moving coal for the city. He met us at the train station, and we were packed into a 2 level boxcar with 40 other people. There was only a hole in the bottom of the car and a blanket to use for privacy when we needed to go to the bathroom. We were four weeks on the train. A soldier would give us hot tea to drink but no food. The families shared what they had to eat. They stopped occasionally and gave us bread.

We arrived in a town in Russia where we were to be moved again, but the trucks weren’t ready for us. We were all jailed for three days and then taken by sleigh to a small village in Siberia. There were a few homes available and four families were assigned to each one. We were able to get water from a stream about a mile from the house. There was an outside bathroom about 12 yards from the house.

The men were put in barracks. They were sent to the forest to gather wood. They were allowed to come home one day per week. They were given 200 grams of flour for working. If they were unable to work, they only received 100 grams.

My mother worked in a bakery. She would steal flour to make bread at home. Periodically, when my brother or I went for water, we would walk by the bakery window and my mother would toss out bread if she was able. We also raised vegetables to help us through the winter months. All communication from Siberia to Poland was shut off and all mail checked. My mother was also trying to make money by selling bread and sausage to the Muslim soldiers. She was able to procure donkeys and butchered them to make the sausage. However, she told them it was beef so they wouldn’t question whether or not it was pork. She was caught once and severely beaten.

In 1942, Russia joined the war against Germany. This is when the Polish/Allied Army was formed in Russia. My father was ill due to 10 months of starvation in the new relocation village. That is why he wasn’t able to join the army right away. The Russians told them they were not going to feed them any more, so they would have to move on to Persia (present day Iran) to avoid starvation. They were transported by train and truck to a refugee camp. My father was sent to Palestine to be part of the Allied forces. My brother Leo was really emaciated. My mother told him to claim to be an orphan. He went to the orphanage to be able to get food. Later he was sent to Palestine to join a young military group.

I was in Persia for only a few months with my mother and sister. We were then shipped to India by train. We went to Bombay, and then were transported to a refugee camp outside of Kulhapur. It was an 18 hour trip. There were over 10,000 refugees there living in tents. The females were separated from the males. Over half of the 10,000 were orphaned children.

My future husband who had been forced to work for the Nazis was finally able to escape while in Romania. By night he and his friend worked their way to France where he joined the French Underground for one year. He then joined the Allied forces and went to Italy. He was able to eventually go to electrical school and became an instructor in England.

The war ended. In 1946, my father journeyed from Italy where he had been fighting, to England. My brother Leo was able to leave Palestine and join him there. In 1948, my mom, my sister Wanda and I were finally able to leave India, and we had a choice. We could either return to Poland (which was now a Communist country) or go to England. We chose England. It took two years for all of the refugees to get out of India.

While in England, the family was reunited. This is also where I met my husband and was married in 1948. We wanted to come to the United States, but were unable to due to the Quota System. So my husband and I went to Argentina in 1949. That’s where my son, Jorge was born. My mother and father went to Chicago sponsored by a cousin. My sister, Wanda married her husband, Edward in England and they were sponsored by his cousin and went to Chicago. A few years later the Revolution in Argentina made things difficult, but the laws in the United States were so strict that we could not emigrate as a family. So I took my son and came to the United States under the sponsorship of my sister, Wanda in 1958.

We settled in the Brighton Park neighborhood – the largest Polish community in the United States. I took classes in English to better my position in my job. Because of my language skills, I was able to get a job in a factory (Bagcraft) as a supervisor since, due to my travels, I had acquired a knowledge of so many languages and could speak to all the workers. My husband was able to come over 6 months to a year later and became a maker of beautiful chandeliers because of his knowledge of electricity.

Jadwiga moved to Iowa in 2003. She was able to sell her home in Chicago and buy a townhouse in Johnston. One of the first things she noticed was how quiet it was here. She managed on her own until she was 90. She lost circulation in her right leg which caused gangrene to set in and part of her foot had to be amputated. After two surgeries and an angiogram, she moved to Bishop Drumm in Johnston. Jadwiga accepted the fact that her health was failing, but she had no regrets. Hers was a full life.

She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, George and Cheryl Sypniewski; grandchildren, Quinn (Mia) Sypniewski; great-grandchildren, Kolt and Keira; and nephew, Andrew Jarzebski. Jadwiga was preceded in death by her loving husband, Zbigniew Sypniewsk; and her siblings, Wanda Kozik and Leo Jarzebski.

Services will be held Friday, November 3, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at the chapel at Bishop Drumm, 5837 Winwood Drive in Johnston, Iowa.

Memorial contributions may be directed to Mercy Hospice. Condolences may be expressed at