John Plaskota taught his family to learn how to make a future from the past, said his grandson, Matt Plaskota.
“There always seemed to be some sort of theme or sticking point in the conversations I’ve had with him,” he said. “Perhaps this was an appropriate sentiment for not only that last conversation we shared but also for the conversations and memories that we will all share today.”
John Plaskota, 88, of St. John and formerly of Lowell and Hammond, died Jan. 25. He was born in Poland and lived there until 1950, when he immigrated to the United States.
He was the former owner of Brilliant Television and Appliance and Woodmar Liquors in Hammond. He also had been a real estate developer in Northwest Indiana and Cook County, Illinois.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Dolores Plaskota.
Plaskota was born in Poland, and in 1940, at age 15, he joined Armia Krojowa, the Polish underground resistance movement. During that time, he assisted in rescuing airmen, secretly marked the locations of German soldiers and sabotaged trains and German supply lines. He also saw towns destroyed and Jews killed.
“The details of those years are scattered and difficult to pin down, and there are many more stories,” Matt Plaskota said. “These experiences would have a formative and lasting impact on his life.”
In 1943, he was kidnapped from Poland and placed in a German re-education center.
“He spoke of being handcuffed to a desk while he and other children were taught the German language and customs in an effort to ‘Germanize’ them,” he said.
He ultimately escaped and returned to Poland, but in 1945, he escaped from Poland to Germany to avoid Russian troops. He met up with American troops, and was conscripted into The Polish Guard and served at the Rhein-Main airbase in Frankfurt, Germany.
“Not only was this a great source of pride for him as he was finally able to serve openly on the side of the allies, but was a source of great opportunity,” Matt Plaskota said.