Heartwarming campaign makes war veteran's final wish come true

A heartwarming online campaign has raised the money needed to make an Aussie war veteran’s final wish come true.

Józef Kowalczyk, a 93-year-old World War II veteran originally from Poland, was living on his own in a nursing home and wished to return to his homeland which he left at the age of 16.

However, after a serious accident two years ago, he was put under the supervision of an unknown guardian who put him in a nursing home and restricted his ability to move freely.

In a heartwarming campaign, his two younger friends filmed a mini-documentary and started a GoFundMe page to return Mr Kowalcyzk to Poland.

Recently, Mr Kowalczyk’s dreams have come true. Due to the publicity the documentary garnered he was able to raise the money to return to the slavic state and now lives on a small farm surrounded by animals.

Mr Kowalczyk, who fought in Europe and Africa, has lived in Australia since 1965. He worked as a fruit picker and seasonal worker across Australia until the age of 86.

Melanie Payne, Jozef Kowalczyk and Mateusz Otrebiak (left to right). Source: Vimeo/Help Jozef Return to Poland
Jozef Kowalczyk (pictured left and right) moved to Australia in 1965. Source: Vimeo/Help Jozef Return to Poland

Two years ago he suffered a broken hip and head injury when he fell down in the street in Sydney, resulting in the “loss of some sight and hearing,” according to a GoFundMe page for Mr Kowalczyk.

When he was discharged from hospital, his social worker appointed an unknown guardian who managed his affairs and placed him in a nursing home.

In a touching campaign, Mr Kowalczyk’s friends Mateusz Otrebiak and Melanie Payne raised over $10,000 to take him back to Poland and fought for Mr Otrebiak to become his guardian.

On July 9, the pair travelled to Poland for a holiday and Mr Kowalczyk stayed on Mr Otrebiak’s family farm surrounded by animals.

Józef Kowalczyk (pictured) has returned to Poland. Source: Facebook

Their campaigning  led to full Polish citizenship for Mr Kowalczyk and full war veteran rights in Poland, after a long battle with the Australian public guardian.

“He is being well cared for and supported by Mateusz’s family who have embraced him.”

Jozef has gone from being alone and isolated in a nursing home to a whole family “adopting” him and showering him with love and support,” the Facebook page ‘Jozef’s Final Wish’ said. 

“During this time he was back in Poland, he has been honoured twice and personally visited by the Ministers of War Veterans and two other Ministers.

“He is a national hero and his story has been watched by millions of people in Poland.”

The fundraising page raised $14,185 of a $15,000 to make Mr Kowalczyk’s dream come true.

Jozef Kowalczyk in younger days (pictured left and right). Source: Vimeo/Help Jozef Return to Poland