By: Diane Benjamin
If you still haven’t read the story of Dr. Witold Rybicki from the Federalist website, access it from this story: https://blnnews.com/2017/11/23/be-thankful-this-wasnt-you/
I sat down for around an hour with the doctor last Wednesday. He is 85 years old, still working part-time as an anesthesiologist in a Morton surgery center. He looks closer to 65 than 85. He attributes his good health to staying fit and not being overweight. He works surgeries for obese patients suffering organ failure. He credits staying thin to almost being starved to death when the Russians forced his family to move from Poland to Siberia.
Our discussion started with national politics. He thinks most politicians are crooked. He sees America on the decline due to creeping socialism. The doctor thinks we are very lucky Hillary Clinton is not the president because she would have been a disaster for the country. The doctor thinks she is everything bad in human beings. Trump was not his first choice, he preferred Ted Cruz or even Marco Rubio. He despised Jeb Bush. He does think Trump is on the right path to turning the country around however.
Dr. Rybicki thinks Bernie Sanders is an idiot. Where does the money come from for all the free stuff? He knows because he lived it in Poland. He had free education and free healthcare, he even received a stipend while in medical school. But instead of making $1000 a month as a doctor, he made $200. The rest went to pay for free stuff. Patients had to wait months for surgeries, many died waiting. People with money could get care by paying off hospital directors. He thinks America had a good system until ObamaCare, now it’s declining. Keep in mind, these are the words of a guy who lived socialized medicine.
I asked him what it takes to stop the slide into socialism/communism. He agrees with me that there isn’t much difference. He said it’s very hard to stop. It takes more than one person – it takes a team. Socialism collapsed in Poland in the 1980’s, he credits Ronald Reagan, the Pope, and the Solidarity Party.
One of his sisters ran away in Siberia, got caught by the Russians at the Iranian border, and was given an option for prison or to die a hero for Russia by joining the army. Since she would have died in prison, she opted to fight. She married and both of them escaped again to Germany. From there they received permission to immigrate to the United States. She had left a note in Siberia for her mother saying she couldn’t take socialism and communism anymore before she ran. The Red Cross helped the family locate her in Chicago after the WW II ended. Witold visited her in 1966. She is the one who talked him into staying, his intent was to return to Poland because he didn’t know English and did not have a medical license here. He had been an OB-GYN in Poland.
Dr. Rybicki’s sister was a nurse. She introduced him to an anesthesiologist who allowed him to assist at a hospital. Eventually he took 2-3 courses and studied for the medical boards with a dictionary in one hand and a textbook in the other. It took him a half an hour to read one page. Eventually he passed and got his doctor’s license.
His biggest regret is not talking to his sister about her two escapes before she died. He understands that if he doesn’t record his story, it too will be lost to history.
Surprisingly, his mother was born in the United States. That means he was an American citizen by birth, even though he was born in Poland. He did go through the naturalization process anyway and became an American. The story he knows is his grandfather worked in a mine in New York state. In those days the families lived on housing provided by the mine. His grandfather died, so his grandmother was forced to move with two small children. Since she couldn’t support the family, his mother was given up for adoption, he doesn’t know how old she was. She was raised by a wealthy family from Detroit who returned to Poland. Witold eventually found a church with records of her birth in New York.
I asked him how he felt about illegal immigration. He was adamant about it being a crime that should be punished by deportation. If the person returned, they should be incarcerated and then deported again. The US is a country of immigrants, but only those who follow the law.
We sat in the family room of a very nice middle class house in south Bloomington. I could picture a small child kidnapped by Stalin’s soldiers and locked in a box car for a month on the way to Siberia. I could picture his two-day walk through freezing cold woods on the way to the sparse barracks with only hard wood frames to sleep on. I could see the despair that made his sister flee twice as she longed for freedom. I imagined the family finally returning to Poland in 1946 to find all their possessions and their house now owned by somebody else.
The Federalist story was written by his step-grandson. It quickly became the third highest read story for 2017 on that site. Dr. Rybicki knows there aren’t many survivors left from that era. I think he will get around to writing his story. He claims it’s still going. He described himself as an old man but he still feels good. His wife kicks his behind all the time to stay healthy. (his words!)
Much to my dismay, the doctor is like many people not paying attention to local politics. He said he doesn’t care. Since it was early in your conversation when he mentioned it, I didn’t ask him where he thinks the national idiots come from? Answer: local politics. Not paying attention to local politics can’t be an option for anyone.