Anyone who thinks they’ve got a family relationship that is beyond repair needs to consider the story Rita Cosby shares in her best-selling book, “Quiet Hero.” It was Christmas Eve, 1983, when the future Emmy Award-winning journalist and best-selling author heard her mother, Adda, and father, Richard, having an argument. Richard told them he was unhappy and was leaving the family.
The devastating news came out of nowhere for 19-year-old Rita, her brother and her Mom. To make it worse, Richard conveyed complete emotional detachment about his decision and basically cut himself off from his family from then on. Though Rita and her mother grew closer as a result, life was still difficult, especially when Adda Cosby was dying of cancer. Despite the unfairness of what was done to her, Adda continued to tell her daughter, “You must forgive your father. He went through some very difficult times.”
As Rita explained to me on Christopher Closeup, she had a feeling there was more to her father’s past after seeing many scars on his body during a camping trip when she was eight. Though she asked her mother about them, her response was simply, “We don’t talk about that.”
After Adda passed away, Rita and her brother were going through her belongings when they came across an old leather suitcase they’d never seen before. Inside, they found a rusty POW tag emblazoned with the words “Stalag IV B,” a red and white fighting armband covered with blood and dirt, and an identity card for a POW named Ryszard Kosobudzki. Rita’s investigative journalist instincts kicked in and she realized that these items belonged to her father, who had immigrated to the United States from Poland and Americanized his name many years before. She also decided that, as a Christian, she had to forgive him.
Rita discovered that her father was 13 when World War II started in Poland in 1939 with the Nazis dropping bombs on Warsaw. The family tried to flee across the Romanian border, but then discovered the Russians were approaching Poland from that direction. Having been subjected to Russian brutality in the past, the family opted to take their chances with the Nazis. Richard soon joined the Polish resistance. Though he had an opportunity to be smuggled out of the country, he said, “I would rather die with friends than live with strangers.”
Rita believes it was her father’s mother who instilled him with this courage, faith and love of country. She says, “You weren’t allowed to practice religion. The Nazis were prohibiting [people] from exhibiting religious tendencies. But my father’s mother had a hidden altar in every single apartment they lived in, and every day got up and prayed. She said, ‘The Lord is protecting us, the Lord is going to save Poland. We must stand up on principle.’ That was the kind of home my father grew up in, and I think that’s what gave him this courage to fight for something so much bigger than himself.”
What Rita discovered next would shed a lot of light on her father’s unemotional departure from his family when she was young. Click the podcast link below for the full story – and read Part 2 here: