WestCorkLife

Prisoner No 708 was known simply as ‘Wally’ in West Cork

October 28th, 2020 11:55 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Walter Bujakowski, right, was in Aushwitz, on two occasions but made a daring escape on the second occasion. (Auschwitz photo: Shutterstock)

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A MAN who was not once, but twice, a prisoner at Auschwitz, died on October 11th, leaving behind his wife of 56 years, Drimoleague woman Kathleen Hurley.

Kathleen, who now resides in a West Cork nursing home, married Walter Bujakowski, in 1964, and their life in London was filled with Kathleen’s familial connections and their ties to West Cork.

No one was surprised when, after years of visiting West Cork during the holidays, they retired to Lahana in Drimoleague in September 1981.

Walter, or ‘Wally’ as he was known to his friends, was born in Biala Podlaska, Eastern Poland, on November 10th 1922 and was just two years old when his mother died.

As an accountant, he had followed in his father’s footsteps, but his entrepreneurial spirit might have been influenced by his grandmother, who had a bakery.

The family were devout Catholics but a tobacco run brought Walter to the attention of the Gestapo and, as Prisoner 708, he became one of the first people to be sent to Auschwitz in June 1940.

Wally’s father paid a lot of money to have him released and when he returned home he witnessed the horrific treatment of the Jewish people and responded by assisting their escape.

The Gestapo arrested Wally and sent him, for the second time, to the infamous death camp.

However, it was during a prison transfer that he and a friend made a daring escape.

Wally joined the Polish army in Italy, and then the British army, and was decorated with numerous medals, including the British Empire Award.

He trained as an accountant and worked at the international construction company Taylor Woodrow in London, where Kathleen was a bookkeeper.

Ballinacarriga man Kevin McCarthy described his friend as ‘difficult, but brilliant’. He was a very exact and precise man with an eye for detail, he said.

‘He was a very talented and skilful man. He could put his hand to many crafts, including wood turning, photography, stone work and cooking. He was proud too of his garden – it was beautiful and pristine.’

Life in West Cork for Wally and Kathleen was rich. They were very sociable. They loved going out for good meals and frequented some of its finest restaurants regularly.

Kevin said: ‘A night’s entertainment was a good game of cards with great friends and neighbours, and popping into the local pub, The Gaelic Bar, in Drinagh.

‘Incredibly kind and caring always, visiting friends, relatives, and those in hospital. Keeping graves neat and tidy and laying wreaths every Christmas – these were typical of the actions of both Wally and Kathleen.

‘Sunday drives included visits to the extended McCarthy families in Ballinacarriga, and never coming empty-handed.’

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