Zygmunt & Helena Weyna
Zygmunt and Helena Weyna, Santa Barbara residents of the San Roque area, were born in Poland in 1920 and 1925, respectively. They both left their native homes at the beginning of WWII. Zygmunt, who had joined the Polish Air Force in 1939, walked over the mountains to Romania, where he was interned and escaped, going via Beirut, Lebanon to Lyon, France where he continued his training. When the Germans attacked France, he walked all the way to Paris, then hitched a ride to Dunkirk and was evacuated to England. He became a bomber pilot and flew raids on the submarine pens at Ostend, on the dams at Essen, on Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden, on Monte Cassino, Italy, and on the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. He received the highest Polish decoration for bravery, the Virtuti Militari medal, and was one of the pallbearers at General Sikorski’s funeral. He ended the war with the rank of Captain (Flight Lieutenant) in the Royal Air Force.
Helena was taken by the Soviet invaders of her home town Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), together with her mother, and was forced to work as a slave laborer in agriculture, living in a cattle car, from the Urals to Siberia and Mongolia. When Russia was attacked by Hitler in 1941, they were released as relatives of Allied soldiers and made the long trek to England with stops at Teheran (Iran), Tanganyika (East Africa) and Durban (South Africa) along the way.
Zygmunt and Helena met and were married in 1947, and their marriage endured for 68 years. In 1952, they came to the United States as “Displaced Persons,” along with their first son. Though Zygmunt tried to find a job flying for one of the American airlines, and was recruited by both TWA and Flying Tiger, the McCarthyite rules kept him from being hired until he was a citizen. When he gained citizenship a few years later, he was told he was too old to be hired.
They lived in Los Angeles, where they raised two sons. While there, they often hosted visiting Polish athletes, opera stars, professors and folk dance performers, taking them to such places as Yosemite, the Southern California beaches and mountains and, of course, their dream city, Santa Barbara.
Helena was endlessly creative. She did commercial embroidery and was well known for her folk art of paper cutting, for which she won several awards. Among her friends, she was a legendary cook and baker, and invitations to their home for Easter or Christmas were cherished by all. In 1981, Helena and Zygmunt achieved their dream of settling in Santa Barbara, and made several local friends there.
Zygmunt, who suffered from PTSD all his adult life, took up tennis to release stress and became very adept, often beating much younger players. He was passionate about opera, his garden and home. As he lost his eyesight due to macular degeneration, he most regretted not being able to read.
Zygmunt and Helena maintained a close relationship with their sons and grandchildren, visiting with them several times a year. Both suffered from various ailments but kept up the old person’s mantra of “I’m fine,” long past the time they could have used some help. Helena died in May 2015 from heart problems, and Zygmunt died in May 2016 from natural causes. He had become a great-grandfather in March of this year and was proud of it. They were both long-standing members of the San Roque Catholic Church.
They are survived by two sons, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild, plus Zygmunt’s brother in New York, the last of Zygmunt’s eight siblings.
In lieu of flowers or other memorials, the family requests donations to the Braille Institute.