The Polish Mission Mourns the Loss of a Hero…
March 6th, 1925 – February 3rd, 2012
LITWINOWICZ, Zbigniew “Red”, 86, of Rochester Hills, formerly of Warren, died February 3, 2012. He is survived by Martha Jean (Stiller), his wife of 54 years; son, Raymond (Cindy Hampel); daughter, Tina Teper (Ronald); and grandsons: Luke, John and Noah. Born to Stanley and Maria (Klekot) Litwinczuk in Bialystok, Poland, brother of the late Stanislaw. Twice awarded the Cross of Valor while serving with the First Polish Armored Division during World War II; He was an engineer known as “Speedy” to his colleagues at Jervis B. Webb Co., where he worked for 38 years.
Zbigniew was born to parents Maria and Stanley in Bialystok, Poland. He was set to enter high school when World War II broke out. His older brother Stanley joined the Polish Resistance, was arrested by the NKVD (the Soviet secret police), and sent to a prison camp in the Ural Mountains. (He eventually escaped, returned to Poland and was killed fighting against the Nazi occupation.) Now considered “enemies of the state,” Zbigniew and his parents were seized by the NKVD and deported via cattle train to a collective farm in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Polish deportees were granted a so-called “amnesty” and allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Along the way, Maria died of typhoid. Zbigniew and his dad continued on, reaching and then crossing the Caspian Sea. Zbigniew became sick on the boat and learned to ask for water, his first word of English. Next they traveled across modern-day Iraq to Palestine.
From there, they parted ways. Stanley joined with the Second Polish Corps and went on to Italy. Zbigniew traveled by boat around the southern tip of Africa and on to Scotland where he trained with the First Polish Armored Division. There he also learned to speak English (from the Scottish women, as he always liked to point out). While fighting with the combined Canadian and Polish forces in France, Holland and Germany, he was twice awarded the Cross of Valor…one for rescuing wounded comrades and the other for participating in a surprise attack that forced the enemy to retreat. After the war, he and his father were reunited in England, where Zbigniew worked as a bartender at the Café de Paris in London. Both came to America and settled in Detroit, Michigan. Zbigniew’s first job was painting steelwork. He studied at night school and worked his way up from draftsman to project engineer. At Jervis B Webb Co, where he worked for 38 years, he earned the nickname “Speedy” because he completed his work quickly, and because his boss said that “Zbigniew” was “too hard to pronounce.”
While on an out-of-town assignment, he met his future wife, Martha Jean Stiller, at a ballroom in Louisville, Kentucky. The two made their home in Warren, Michigan, and were joined by a son, Raymond, and a daughter, Tina. Zbigniew returned to visit Poland twice, once with the whole family.
He and Martha moved to a new home in Rochester Hills, Michigan shortly before his “alleged” retirement during which he periodically traveled to consult on engineering projects in Venezuela, Germany and Nigeria. He also found time to bowl with the company team and golf with his fellow retirees.
He was a loving, generous husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather who was always ready to help others.