Editor's note: The following excerpt titled "Filling In the Blanks," is from Rita Cosby's new book, "Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father's Past."
Filling In the Blanks
I left my dad’s house that week feeling positively charged. For the first time in my life I felt as if I were on the road to understanding, finally able to let go of a lifetime of unanswered questions. I felt empowered by so much new information, as if I had landed another exclusive news story. But there were still pieces of the puzzle to be filled in. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from my journalism experience is that there is always one more thing to find out. On the train back to New York City, I kicked into high gear.
I made a list of the names, dates, and locations my dad had mentioned, leads I could chase that could help add to his account. I checked phone numbers and databases worldwide. I ordered history books. I stayed up all hours of day and night surfing the net. I researched all of the places that might have records of events surrounding the Uprising and the POW camps in Germany.
I called the Polish consulate, the museums in Warsaw, and the now-decommissioned German POW camps, and then I made a serendipitous visit to an event at the Waldorf for the Kosciuszko Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting Polish-American culture and education. I met several members of the Polish Army Veterans Association of America. I told them my father was in the Resistance and their eyes lit up. They told me I had to stop by their New York City headquarters “right away” and visit their museum.
Soon after, I joined them for an afternoon at their offices near Union Square. The roomful of elderly Polish veterans of World War II greeted me with open arms and said they were excited to learn about my father’s past and my own personal interest in history.
At one point in the conversation, one of them said, “It’s a shame your father passed before being able to record his account for history.” That’s when I realized I hadn’t made clear the most important part of all. “Oh, my father is still alive,” I told them. This group of seasoned men turned to each other and cheered like young boys congratulating each other on a home run. “He’s alive! He’s alive!” they shouted in jubilation. I’ll forever remember how those men, all in their eighties, celebrated my dad’s being alive. Perhaps I had taken that fact for granted.
The veterans, none of whom had been in prison camps, explained that many prisoners of war had not lived long lives due to poor health and mental stress. “There are only a handful left,” one of the veterans said. Many of those who had endured the hardship and atrocities of World War II never talked about it, just like my father. Only now, I was getting the chance to hear his story before it was too late. I felt I was suddenly sitting on a piece of history, and felt a duty to tell the story on behalf of those who could not.
Only now, I was getting the chance to hear his story before it was too late. I felt I was suddenly sitting on a piece of history, and felt a duty to tell the story on behalf of those who could not.
Rita Cosby is an Emmy-award winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author and former Fox News Channel anchor.
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