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Roman Hauptman: Polish Patriot and Community Leader

by Romuald (Ray) Hauptman and Andrzej M. Kobos

Roman Hauptman was bom on August 9, 1897 in Brody, Galicia. He completed a commercial craft school (Szkola Handlowo-Przemyslowa) and apprenticed to obtain butcher's qualifications. In 1909, he joined the Polish paramilitary organization, Riflemen's Association [Druzyny Strzeleckie] within the reborn Polish independence movement. In 1914, upon the outbreak of the First World War, he was conscripted by the Austrian army and served with a detachment of horse-drawn artillery on the Russian, and later, Italian fronts, until the disintegration of the Austrian Empire in 1918. He fought in the Polish defence of Lwów against the Ukrainian forces in November, 1918. Subsequently, Roman was transferred to an artillery unit of the Polish Army. In 1919, he married Joanna Nowak and was sent to participate in the Polish-Soviet war three days later. In 1921, after the Polish-Soviet war, he was decommissioned and settled with his wife in Lwów, where he worked as a butcher. They had three sons, Edward, Stanislaw (Stanley), and Romuald (Ray).

In early 1927, seeking to improve his family's material condition, Roman Hauptman came to Canada, like many other Polish immigrants of the time. He first worked at logging camps in Manitoba and then with the Grand Trunk Railway in Alberta as a labourer laying railway ties near Wildwood and Chip Lake. He then became a butcher in Mundare. His wife and three sons joined him from Poland in June 1928. Roman soon obtained other employment at the Bums & Company Packing Plant in north Edmonton. He had to hold two part-time jobs to survive-as a butcher during daytime hours and as a night watchman. Roman and Joanna found an older house and a small acreage in north Edmonton, across the street from the present Coliseum. The family resided there for only four years, because the house and most of their belongings were destroyed by fire. In the meantime, their fourth son, Teddy, was born. Roman tried, unsuccessfully, to run his own meat shop, and finally was hired by Capital Packers and remained there as a meat cutter and then manager of the employee's meat market until his retirement in the 1960s.

Roman and Joanna strove to adjust to the Canadian way of life, and helped the Polish community establish itself in Alberta. Roman became an active member of the Polish Canadian Society, the oldest Polish organization in Edmonton, founded in 1927. After Nazi Germany annexed the Czech Sudetenland, Roman Hauptman, Ludwik Szczebak, Jan Bajek, Józef Kizior, and Wladyslaw Rajs (Rice) formed and registered a new organization in Edmonton on April 11, 1938, called the Polish Veterans' Society, also known by its Polish name "Stowarzyszenie Polskich Obronców Ojczyzny" [The Society of Polish Defenders of the Fatherland]. The main goal of the Society was to raise funds in order to contribute to Poland's war preparations and, later, her war effort. This fund-raising action continued throughout the war for the Polish Defence Fund in London, England, and for material aid, such as medicine, clothing, and food, for Polish exiles and soldiers released from the Soviet Union's labour camps and prisons. Roman Hauptman was the Treasurer and a key person in this endeavour. He was also a member of the Canadian War Service Council and the Canadian Red Cross. Mailing parcels was Joanna's and the other ladies' task as members of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Polish Veterans' Society. General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, the former Commander-in-Chief of Polish Forces, was a guest at Roman and Joanna's small home in Edmonton's Norwood during his journey to Alberta in early May 1945. He and his entourage enjoyed a genuine Polish dinner prepared for them by Joanna and served with the help of the family.

A number of members of the Polish Veterans' Society voluntarily joined the Canadian or Polish forces and fought in Europe. Among them were two of Roman Hauptman's sons. Beginning in 1939, Edward served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and went through the North African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns. He was wounded twice and finally killed in action on May 25, 1944 near Monte Cassino. He was twenty-four years old. Ray served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Flying Officer, Navigator.

In 1946, after the war, when the ex-soldiers of Polish Forces in the West started arriving in Alberta, mainly to work on farms, Roman Hauptman extended his help and advice to many of them to make it easier for them to adapt to their new country. He also served as an interpreter in their official matters. In Edmonton, he was instrumental in establishing a Polish weekend school in 1947, in building the new Holy Rosary Polish Church in 1953-1954 and the Polish Hall in 1960. In 1972, he provided leadership in the building of the Polish Veterans' Hall and the retirement home "Villa Maria," later renamed "Villa Chopin," for elderly Polish Canadians in the community (the home was expanded in 1976-1977.) He guaranteed the mortgage for the Polish Veterans' Hall with his own house. For many years, Roman Hauptman was active in the life of the Polish community in Edmonton, particularly the Polish Veterans' Society, which remained an object of his concern and generous support. His favourite pastimes in his retirement were fishing and hunting. Roman died on April 12, 1976, and Joanna passed away on December 17, 1981. Roman and Joanna faced life with integrity, hard work, determination, community involvement, kindness, generosity, and a good sense of humour, and will be well remembered by the Polish community in Alberta.

T. Walkowski, "Roman Hauptman-Wspomnienie posmiertne" [obituary], Czas, Winnipeg 1976; S. Podraza, 50 lat Towarzystwa Poliskich Weteranów w Edmontonie [Fifty years of Polish Veterans' Society in Edmonton] (Edmonton: Polish Veterans' Society of Edmonton, 1992); Joanna Matejko, ed. Polish Settlers in Alberta,  (Toronto: Polish Alliance Press, 1979).

Reprinted from Polonia in Alberta 1895 -1995: The Polish Centennial in Alberta (Edmonton: Polish Centennial Society, 1995) eds. Andrzej M. Kobos and Jolanta T. Pekacz, with permission of the Canadian Polish Congress Alberta Branch.
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