Polish love story tells tale of Trumbull couple

A former longtime Trumbull couple has been honored in a new World War II memoir. Józef and Maria Buko immigrated to Connecticut in 1951, and were residents of Trumbull from 1964 to 1996.

The Bukos were active in the Polish American community organizations of St. Michael’s Church, White Eagle Society, Polish Falcons, and the Polish American Veterans, post 24.

The story of their wartime struggles and survival is told by their only daughter, Tereska, in the book titled The General’s Barber and the Seamstress.

The narrative begins shortly before Sept. 1, 1939.

Maria and Józef, both from peasant stock and living in Warsaw, were married less than two years when the war tore them apart. Józef honors the soldier’s code, and sets out to fight in the exiled army. Maria struggles to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Tereska retraces her father’s steps through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa as part of the Polish Third Rifle Brigade, and later the Second Polish Corps under British command.

Quite coincidentally, he became the designated barber for the Polish generals and officers in the field headquarters. When not cutting the “heads of heads” (as he called it), the author’s father is in charge of obtaining local food provisions to add to the army rations.

While Józef travels thousands of miles with the Polish army in exile, his wife is challenged with survival in a Nazi-occupied Poland where insanity and death govern every citizen’s move.

With almost daily assault on the citizens of Warsaw by the Germans, her mother’s life is in some ways more precarious than her father’s in the military. Maria faces Gestapo on the prowl in the capital city and is buried in rubble during a bombing raid. She smuggles food, is arrested, and becomes a sought-out dressmaker. She participates in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, only to be deported to a German forced labor camp.

The story unfolds in 44 heartwarming vignettes based on the oral history of Maria and Józef over the years. Each chapter is artfully illustrated with pen and ink sketches. Excerpts from letters written by Józef to Maria are included. A handful of well-selected family photographs tie the stories together.

An epilogue tells of important events after the couple immigrated to the United States to bring certain main themes of the story to a proper close.

The book has been endorsed by Vincent Knapczyk (of Trumbull), the present commander of the Polish American Veterans Association and Karol Mazur, Ph.D., the head of education at the Warsaw Museum, and is available through Amazon and the author’s website www.thegeneralsbarber.com.