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Christine Nieduzak, 88, fled Poland at war's outbreak, survived Soviet labor camp

Nov. 8, 1928 – June 7, 2017

Krystyna (Christine) Nieduzak was forced to leave Poland in 1939 at the start of World War II, survived a Soviet labor camp in Siberia and went to a refugee resettlement camp  in Africa, but she always carried her native land and its traditions with her.

Ever since she arrived in Buffalo a dozen years later, she was especially active in groups that promoted Polish history and culture. Acclaimed as a singer, she performed at many Polish cultural and civic events.

She died Wednesday in Mercy Hospital after a long illness at the age of 88.

Born in Poniatowka, a village in eastern Poland, the former Krystyna Kozek and her family were deported to a harsh Soviet labor camp in Siberia, where one of her older brothers died during the two years they were imprisoned there.

She never forgot the suffering.

"In our house, it was a sin to throw away food, especially bread," said Dr. Thaddeus R. Nieduzak, a son. "To this day, I can't do it. I'll leave unused bread for the birds."

Nieduzak recalled how when he and his siblings were in disagreeable moods, their mother often would turn to them and say, "You need to spend one day in Siberia."

"She was like are you kidding me? What are you complaining about?" he said.

Her daughter, Isabelle C. Wozniak, also recalled how her mother was reluctant to throw away anything.

"Her attitude was always that you might need it for something," she said. "She was someone who almost starved to death."

After an amnesty was declared in 1942, Mrs. Nieduzak's father and another brother joined the Polish army, and the rest of the family was allowed to leave via Teheran, Iran. From there, she went to Africa with her mother and three younger children, where they lived in British refugee settlements in Tanganyika, now Tanzania.

In 1948, the family finally was reunited in Derby, England. There she met Janusz Nieduzak, a Polish war veteran, and they were married in 1950. The following year, thanks to a measure allowing former Polish soldiers to emigrate to the United States, they came to Buffalo and settled in Kaisertown.

Here Mrs. Nieduzak raised a family and attended college. In 1966, she found a job with Marine Midland Bank and advanced to become a head teller at a branch on Clinton Street. She retired in 1989.

She taught for many years in the Polish Saturday School at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, took part in the annual Pulaski Day Parade and was active in the Chopin Singing Society, the Paderewski Singing Society, the Kalina Singing Society and the choir at St. Casimir’s Catholic Church, where she was a parishioner. She also sang with her sister, Ludmila Skowronek, and Eugene Downar in the Romantic Trio.

She also was an accomplished seamstress and employed her artistic talents by decorating Pisanki Easter eggs and oil painting.

A cook notable for her soups, she also enjoyed gardening, traveling and telling stories of her life to her grandchildren.

She and her husband were members of Polish Veterans of World War II, Post 33, where she was secretary/treasurer, a member of the Ladies Auxiliary and helped coordinate many programs organized by the post. She also helped establish the Polish-American Veterans World War II Memorial at Buffalo and Erie County Navy and Military Park.

The General Pulaski Association honored her in 2001 as one of its Women Leaders of Western New York’s Polonia.

In addition to her husband, survivors include two sons, John R. and Dr. Thaddeus R.; a daughter, Isabelle C. Wozniak; two brothers, Leszek Kozek and Dr. Wieslaw Kozek; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was  offered Saturday in St. Casimir’s Church, 160 Cable St.

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