K.J. (Kasimir) Sawicki
Kasimir John Sawicki was born into a military family in the town of Sejny, Poland on August 29, 1927.
His father was a professional officer in the Polish army, which meant that the family was always on the move. By the time of Germany’s invasion of Poland in September of 1939, Kasimir had been enrolled in four different schools.
Germany’s and Russia’s occupation of Poland was a difficult and challenging time for the Sawicki family. Kasimir was the oldest of two sons and was given the responsibility of providing for the family. His father was away in the army and his brother, Taduesz, was too young to contribute. Kasimir was put to work on farms, in forests and on a dairy. He enjoyed working at the dairy as he could smuggle an odd bit of cheese or butter from time to time. There was a risk in this practice as the penalty for smuggling food was severe.
Kasimir’s father took part in the liberation of Holland and Western Europe and, in 1948, the family was reunited in Poland. In the meantime, Kasimir became a teacher and taught for a year before attending the Faculty of Engineering at the Gdansk Polytechnic Institute. From 1949 to 1951, he studied mechanical engineering and it was here that Kasimir and two of his friends developed a plan to escape to freedom. The plan was simple but the execution difficult. The plan was to travel to the border, swim the Oder River to East Germany and make their way to Berlin. The plan was risky because Berlin, at the time, was divided into four zones of occupation and the trick was not to land in the Russian zone. It was at the height of the Cold War and Poland was in the grip of the oppressive regime. There was the risk of being shot swimming the river or being captured and serving a long term in prison. They knew they would require some help near the border as no one was allowed within the restricted zone without a pass. One night in the execution of the plan, they approached a local farmer near the restricted zone and asked if they could stay overnight. The farmer caught on quickly to what they were contemplating and offered food and lodging and wished them good luck.
Shortly before dawn on October 12, 1951 with frost on the ground, Kasimir and his friends swam the river. They encountered a local German resident on a bicycle who gave them an inquisitive look and pointed toward Poland. They nodded their heads and were given instructions which houses to avoid and directed them to a safe place. There they received some food and advice from a family whose son was still a prisoner of war in Russia. From then on, Kasimir and his friends stuck to side roads, slept in the forests during the day and walked during the night. Several days into their plan, Kasimir and his friends entered the British Zone of Berlin. The British intelligence were somewhat skeptical to see them but provided them with accommodation and debriefed them extensively over the next few weeks.
In December 1951, Kasimir and his friends left for Canada where they spent five months in Quebec City, and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan arriving in Edmonton in late autumn 1952. Shortly before celebrating his first Christmas, Kasimir appeared at the Polish Hall in Edmonton where the Nativity Pageant was being presented. With his refined manner, poise and eloquent command of the Polish language, he managed to make quite an impression on an angel in the pageant. The angel turned out to be Emma who later became his wife in 1955. The couple was blessed with a son Andrew in 1956 and, six years later, a daughter, Greta.
At times, Kasimir would reflect that he was blessed with luck throughout his life, considering the war, his escape to freedom and meeting Emma. Early in his life, Kasimir studied in a small town about forty kilometres from where Emma resided until 1940. They were not aware of each other but, eleven years later, Kasimir traveled thousands of kilometres to the west and Emma traveled east through Siberia, Kazakhstan, Iran, India, Kenya and Uganda.
While in Edmonton, Kasimir worked on construction jobs and on various jobs at the Hotel Macdonald. On his return from working on the DEW line in the high Arctic, Kasimir found employment with the Surveys Branch, Department of Highways on April 21, 1958. He was employed as an assistant surveyor under Roman Skierkowski, ALS, surveying highways and roads west of Edmonton.
Kasimir transferred to the office in Edmonton with the Surveys Branch on April 1, 1960 under M. Tarczynski, ALS and later under D.C. (Dave) Holmberg, ALS and R.F. (Bob) Baker, ALS. His duties were to examine plans of surveys prior to being registered in the Land Titles Offices.
Kasimir continued employment with the Surveys Branch working on examining the various types of survey plans that were submitted for review. In May 1967, Kasimir decided that an Alberta Land Surveyor’s commission would be good advancement in his career and articled to Bob Baker until April 1973. In order to complete his articles, it was necessary to do some field work. Making some adjustments with the family, Kasimir went into the field to further his articles with D.C.J. (Clayton) Bruce, ALS. Clayton kept Kasimir busy in the finer arts of field surveying from April 1973 to January 1975. Kasimir often expressed that this was one of the most enjoyable times of his life. He was not shy in remarking on the beauty of the lands, the wildlife they encountered and the experience gained while working with Clayton.
Kasimir transferred his articles to Bob Baker in the Plan Examination Section on January 2, 1975. He completed the examinations and registered as an ALS on September 12, 1975. From 1975 to 1981, Kasimir managed the Right-of-Way Section where he had the responsibility for the examination of rights-of-way and well location plans. In June 1981, he moved up the ladder to assistant director, computations. In this capacity, he was involved in the activities for obtaining survey ties from the township system to the Alberta Survey Control System.
After twenty-eight years of service with the province, Kasimir retired on April 30, 1986 to pursue his hobbies and enjoy travelling. Kasimir read extensively with his greatest interest on the subjects of philosophy, history and religion. Kasimir belonged to several organizations including the Polish Combatants Branch No. 6. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Polish Alliance Credit Union Ltd.
Kasimir Sawicki passed away June 6, 2004.
Kasimir was always thoughtful of others, a gentleman and well respected by his peers. He will be remembered as a person who would accept a challenge and carry it forward to completion. Above all, Kasimir will always be remembered as a good friend and colleague.
R.F. Baker, ALS (Hon. Life)