It was a reunion 70 years in the making for a Second World War veteran and his army uniform.
The brown leather boots and green jacket, with pockets full of photographs and memories, had been given to the Ogniwo Polish Museum Society in Winnipeg earlier in 2018.
The donation led the museum’s archivist Marta Dabros on a quest to track down the man behind the uniform.
“I started looking through the photos that were in the pockets and it showed this really rich life,” Dabros said. “He moved to Boston and Washington and it turns out he was an amazing pediatrician, specializing in cystic fibrosis.”
She was able to identify the veteran, Lucas Kulczycki. He was a medical officer in the Polish army before becoming a doctor and moving to Swan River, Manitoba in the early 1950s. It was there that he left his uniform behind.
The army-issued items were tucked away by Kulczycki’s friend and later discovered by his distant relatives in the northern Manitoba community.
Dabros tracked him all the way to Virgina, in his retirement home.
“Of course the right thing was to send the uniforms back to him after all these years,” Dabros said.
Dabros got in touch with Kulczycki’s daughter, Dorthy Kulczycki Schilder, to return the items to the family.
“Of course I was amazed and surprised. It’s overwhelming that someone would have preserved his uniform for so long,” she said.
Kulczycki Schilder and her husband collected the items and brought them to her father.
“We sat down and told him we had a special surprise for him. We told him it was his uniform from being in the army,” she said. “It was really heartwarming.”
Her 106-year-old father tried on the uniform one more time.
“We put the jacket and the hat on him and it still kind of fit, it was a little snug fit,” she said. “He smiled and he seemed to have some recognition of some of the items and photos.”
Kulczycki passed away on Thursday, May 3, 2018, just weeks after being reunited with the items.
Kulczycki Schilder and her family decided to donate the items back to the Polish museum in Winnipeg.
“I think it would be much better to be displayed and his history along with it so we can share it with everyone and that’s what my father would like too, to share,” she said.
Kulczycki Schilder said it speaks to her father’s legacy. After moving away from Manitoba, Kulczycki became a world-renowned pediatrician.
“He went on to become one of the world experts at one time on cystic fibrosis, and a pioneer in the area of cystic fibrosis and brought that here to the United States working at the children’s hospital in Washington and then for another couple decades at Georgetown University,” Kulczycki Schilder said.
The Ogniwo Polish Museum Society at 1417 Main Street has Kulczycki’s photographs and uniform on display.