A Polish Air Force bomber gunner who survived being shot down at the outbreak of World War II and forced into slave labor by Hitler’s secret police before settling in Dayton has died.
Czeslaw “Chet” Makiewicz, who raised eight children in Dayton, was 98.
“We really realize how good a man he was as we got older and watching him and hearing his stories about all he went through,” said Hanka Brown of Euclid, Makiewicz’s oldest child. “There wasn’t a whole lot of flash or noise about him. He did what he thought he needed to do and took care of us.”
Makiewicz was born in Poland in 1919 and graduated from the Polish Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer School in 1938. In 1939, his plane was shot down. Locals kept him hidden and helped Makiewicz recover from severe burns to both hands and face, but the Gestapo found and arrested him in 1942. Before Makiewicz was put in a prison camp where he was used as slave labor on various farms, he was interrogated for any Polish Air Force intelligence, Brown said.
When initially placed in solitary confinement, Makiewicz was able to pass time with a prisoner in the next cell playing a game that was always important in his life, Brown said.
“They played chess by tapping on the wall and kept the pieces in their heads,” she said. “He played chess basically in his mind with the other guy.”
After laboring on one of the farms, Makiewicz met his future wife Martha Morl and worked for an American Army contractor.
In May 1949, Makiewicz, his wife and two daughters immigrated to the U.S., first moving to Nebraska. While there, he learned the plumbing trade, and they then moved to Dayton in 1956, signing up with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 162.
Martha Makiewicz died in 2015.
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“I remember him working a lot. He was always looking for ways to support us,” said daughter Sylvia Makiewicz of Dayton. “Sometimes he had two jobs.”
At times he would sometimes carry three jobs, the daughters said, including one at the now-shuttered Defense Electronics Supply in Kettering.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of money then,” Sylvia said. “He was good father and grounded in responsibility.”
Though English was his fourth language after Polish, German and Russian, Makiewicz and Martha, who was born in Czechoslovakia, headed an English-only American household, Brown said.
“When they came over here, their intent was to learn English. So we really never had another language other than English in our home,” Brown said. “They wanted to get assimilated. And they especially wanted us to grow up assimilated into the American culture.”
Brown said her father always stressed the importance of education and showed his children unwavering support.
“I always thought he was proud of us all. He was happy in our accomplishments,” Brown said. “He would always kind of push us to get there. He was always very supportive in our education and to go on to higher education.”
Though always working, Makiewicz set aside time to enjoy life and take part in the community, his daughters said.
“He made sure that we still had fun,” Brown said. “With eight kids, he didn’t have a whole lot of room as far as expenses were concerned. But he did what he could.”
Family favorites included picnics, the annual Easter egg hunt at the Polish Club, Christmas parties, outings to the state parks and summer drives topped with ice cream cones.
He gave his children access to a strong educational system where they learned the tools for successful lives. He was an enthusiastic member of the Polish National Alliance, and in his later life handled the insurance sales and accounting for the local branch.
Away from work, Makiewicz also enjoyed fishing and gardening. He was a fixture at the Polish National Alliance lodge.
In about 1973, Makiewicz returned to Poland to visit relatives. By then, he could do so without fear of capture.
There was one relative he never saw again after 1939: his mother Bronislawa Makiewicz. The Iron Curtain prevented him from learning of her 1956 death. He didn’t get the news until about 10 years later.
Makiewicz is survived by eight children: Hanka (James) Brown, Sylvia Makiewicz, Liza Makiewicz, Alice (Geri Cox) Makiewicz, Susan (James) Lemon, Mark Makiewicz, Timothy (Cher Clark) Makiewicz, and Andrew (Marilyn) Makiewicz. He also leaves behind 15 grandchildren with 10 spouses and 20 great grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Friday at St. Adalbert Church, 1212 St. Adalbert Ave, Dayton. The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. until time of services. Interment to follow at Calvary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Our Lady of the Rosary, 22 Notre Dame Dayton, OH 45404; 937-228-8802 or to the Miami Valley School.