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reed magazine logoSeptember 2010

Found In Translation

Jan Chciuk-Celt ’76


Jan Chciuk-Celt

Jan Chciuk-Celt in Munich in 2008 with the Commander’s Cross posthumously awarded to his father, Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt.

The memoirs of Polish war hero Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt have long been best-sellers in his native land. Now his son Jan Chciuk-Celt ’76 has translated them into English, making available a gripping account of the diplomatic and military struggle for Poland at the height of World War II.

Chciuk-Celt accomplished two historic parachute missions from London, home of the Polish government in exile, into German-occupied Poland, where he delivered critical intelligence to the Polish Home Army. His first mission in 1941 earned him Poland’s highest military honor, the Virtuti Militari. But it was his second mission, undertaken in 1944, that earned him lasting fame.

Chciuk-Celt was entrusted with the care of Dr. Jozef Retinger, a diplomatic operator whose skills were urgently needed in Poland. At age 56, the tiny but redoubtable Retinger agreed to the unthinkable: he would fly into occupied Poland, and, with Chciuk-Celt at his side, conduct his first-ever parachute jump from a Halifax bomber, landing in the forests outside Warsaw in the dead of night.

Jozef Retinger

LEFT: Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt (pen name Marek Celt) as a young man.

RIGHT: Jozef Retinger, photographed by Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt in a hospital bed in London, recovering from being poisoned in Poland.


Further hazards lay ahead. Mistakenly believing that Retinger was a double agent, Polish army officers had him poisoned. Paralyzed, in a hospital bed, he was in constant danger. Chciuk-Celt literally carried him to the plane that airlifted them both to safety.

Jan’s father’s war exploits—and his later efforts on behalf of the Solidarity movement—earned him a lifetime of honors. President Lech Walesa gave him the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Reborn Poland. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Reborn Poland by President Lech Kaczynski (who died in April in a plane crash en route to commemorate the 1940 massacre of Polish officers by Russian secret police).

Jan, now a Portland librarian and record producer, traveled to the Polish consulate in Munich in September 2008 to accept the Commander’s Cross on his late father’s behalf. Now he has translated his father’s nerve-wracking, at times hilarious tales of derring-do in hopes of securing a U.S. publisher. “I want the world to read this story,” he says.

—Angie Jabine ’79

reed magazine logoSeptember 2010