A POLISH soldier who fought the Nazis before settling in Ilkeston has died aged 92.
Widower Toni Walusinski was liberated from a transit camp when US troops arrived at the end of World War Two.
When the Germans began to over-run his homeland, he enlisted in the Polish Army and had become a corporal by the end of hostilities.
“He was always a perfect gentleman and you always got a cheery smile,” said Bill New, 65, a distant relative.
“He said he never wanted to go back to Poland but, like a lot of old soldiers, he didn’t talk about it.
“When Toni was found in the transit camp, he was allowed to wear American uniform, probably because he had no other clothes and they knew he was on their side.”
Mr Walusinski came to Britain and initially had to report to Chesterfield police before he moved into a Nottingham flat with his wife Zena.
They later moved to West Terrace in Ilkeston – a home he kept because of his long-running battle with highways officials who tried to force the purchase of the house to build Ilkeston’s relief road there 20 years ago.
Refusing to be beaten, he fought the move in front of a Government inspector and won the day.
Mr Walusinski was found dead at his home on June 24, after not being seen for several days. An inquest has been opened and adjourned indefinitely.
His funeral will be held at Bramcote Crematorium on August 3 at 2pm. He was a widower with no children and all friends are invited.
Speaking following he death, some of those friends paid tribute to the veteran, who had become such a familiar face in town.
Mr Walusinski spent many years at the Stanton Works, near Ilkeston, where he met Andy Bostock who said: “He was a right character and was the old school sort of gentleman.”
Mr Bostock’s wife Anne-Marie added: “He didn’t look 92. He was smartly dressed and still had dark hair. He seemed to be very fit.”
Mr Walusinski was regularly seen walking in Bath Street, collecting his pension from the sub-post office and doing his shopping.
Mr New’s former wife Sue kept in touch by telephone and said he always cooked a good meal daily. During the snowy winter, he still managed to get to the shops.
She added: “He was a private person, rather quiet and didn’t like a fuss. He was a lovely gardener and loved animals. He was devoted to his Alsatian Kim, who died several years ago.”
Local councillor Glennice Birkin also paid tribute and said: “He was a very friendly and independent man. He was still cutting his hedges to keep them tidy.”
And another councillor John Frudd, who later became Mr Walusinski’s barber, added: “We worked together at Stanton 40 years ago. He was a very prominent character on Bath Street where he could often be seen walking up and down.
“He was an amiable man who had time for everybody.”