Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt

He was born Tadeusz Chciuk on October 17th, 1916, in Drohobycz, in what was then still the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. When he was still a toddler, Poland finally regained its independence after over 120 years of being partitioned right off the map of Europe by Prussia, Russia and Austria. After World War II, Drohobycz became part of the Soviet Union, and after 1991 it became part of the Republic of the Ukraine. So his home town belonged to four different countries within the span of his lifetime, without moving an inch.

Tadeusz finished his regular secondary education at Jagiello High School in Drohobycz (Gimnazium im. Wladyslawa Jagielly) and went on to study law at the University in Lwow (Uniwersytet im. Jana Kazimierza) where he got his master's degree in 1939. He also got the Intermediate Diploma from the Conservatory there, and was a very proficient pianist. Even years later, when I was growing up, he could sit down at the piano and without so much a cracking his knuckles would flawlessly execute lovely pieces by Chopin.

The Germans and Russians put an end to his plans to marry his teenage girlfriend Ewa Lovell and be a peaceful small-town Polish lawyer with their brutal invasions of Poland in September of 1939. Tadeusz and all three of his brothers were very active in the Polish resistance and/or armed forces. At first, he was a courier, running missions over the border into Hungary; then he made his way to France and eventually to Great Britain, where he was trained in Scotland as a junior officer in the artillery before going on two extraordinary commando missions by parachute into occupied Poland. His code name (well, one of his numerous code names) was "Celt," which was a made-up anagram of his and Ewa's initials. For his extraordinary gallantry in action, he was awarded the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration for valor.

As soon as the war was over, Tadeusz returned to Poland and got back together with Ewa, who had survived the war in Hungary. They were married in Krakow on December 19th, 1945. Their daughter Aleksandra was born in Krakow the next year, after both Tadeusz and his pregnant wife had spent several months in the dreaded Secret Police's notorious prison on Koszykowa Street in Warsaw. They all lived peacefully in Krakow for a couple of years until it became clear that they (and everyone they knew) were about to be arrested again, and for good this time; Tadeusz called on his knowledge of clandestine border-crossing to spirit the family across the border to what was then Czechoslovakia, and on to Austria, where there were still some refugee camps set up by the United Nations (UNRRA). After some months in Austria, they all made their way to Paris, where they lived in authentic poverty for three years, and where their son Luc was born in 1950. In Paris he had the family surname officially changed to Chciuk-Celt.

Things improved in 1952 when the Americans started setting up a radio station called "Radio Free Europe" in Munich, Germany. Tadeusz and Ewa and their two kids moved to Munich, and that's where they stayed from then on. Their daughter Maria was born in Munich in 1954, and I (Jan) followed in 1955. My Dad worked for Radio Free Europe until he retired in the 1990s; my Mom worked there, too. He was an editor (eventually advancing to Deputy Director) and she was a research analyst (also eventually advancing to Deputy Director's position in that department). Once retired, he wrote several books of memoirs in Polish, dealing with the things he had done during World War II. The last of these dealt with his parachute mission with Dr. Joseph Retinger. I went ahead and translated it into English, and it was published by an academic press called McFarland Publishing in 2013 with the title Parachuting into Poland, 1944: memoir of a Secret Mission with Józef Retinger. You can order it at a modest discount on amazon.com.

Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt died in Munich on April 10th, 2001, and was buried with fullest military and civilian honors in Warsaw. It has now been ten years since his passing, and his memory lives on.

Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt, 1916-2001, was posthumously awarded the Commander's Cross and Star of the Order of Reborn Poland (Krzyz Komandorski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski z Gwiazda) on September 5th, 2008 in a ceremony at the Polish Consulate-General in Munich. The medal and award were presented by Madame Consul General Elzbieta Sobotka to the honoree's youngest son, Jan Chciuk-Celt. For a detailed account in Polish, please click here .

The photo at the top of this page shows what Tadeusz looked like back in the 1940s. He had just returned to London from his second parachute mission into occupied Poland -- the only man to survive two missions. That was the mission (Operation Wildhorn III) where they brought the major parts of an intact V-2 rocket to the Allies -- a vital intelligence coup. The flight that dropped him into Poland on the 4th of April, 1944 was Operation Salamander, named after one of the code names used for Dr. Joseph H. Retinger, who parachuted in at age 56 without even going to parachute training school. The return trip, on which Tadeusz and Dr. Retinger were picked up by an RAF plane, was called Operation Wildhorn III. Click here for a full account of the Wildhorn operations. Using the pen name Marek Celt, he wrote By Parachute to Warsaw , published in London in 1945 by Dorothy Crisp & Co. (Good luck finding a copy!)

Here are three excerpts from that book:

A much more detailed account of his second mission to Poland was published in January, 2007. (Z Retingerem do Warszawy i z Powrotem, LTW, 2006, ISBN 83887 36884.) It's only available in Polish right now, but I have personally completed a translation into English, and it's been published as Parachuting into Poland, 1944: Memoir of a Secret Mission with Józef Retinger by McFarland & Co. There's an excellent article about this project in the September 2010 issue of Reed College magazine, written by Angie Jabine. Click here to read the article. It's a book that deserved a wider audience, and that means the English-speaking world, which is why I'm so pleased that it's now available.

Click here to read about Operation "Jacket," Tadeusz's first parachute mission into German-occupied Poland.

Once again using the pen name Marek Celt, Tadeusz wrote three books in Polish about his wartime exploits. They are distributed by Flying Heart and can be seen in the Catalogue .

Tadeusz as a child barefooted with his sister and three brothers, Drohobycz, around 1920.

Take a look at a family portrait from 1923, with Tadeusz on the left.

"Dzidek" was a handsome teenager.

Tadeusz and Bela Varga in Budapest, 1942

Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt at his desk at Radio Free Europe around 1968

Read what Tadeusz Kisielewski had to say about Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt.

Read what Andrzej Pomian had to say about Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt.

Return to the Chciuk page

Polish language Flying Heart page

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updated April 17th, 2014 by Jan Chciuk-Celt