Siberian Cross medal recipient--Jeanne Rapp

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shandresha Mitchell
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Jeanne Rapp, formerly known as Eugenia Szaban, was awarded the Siberian Cross, Feb. 21, 2014, for the two years she spent as a prisoner in the Russian Gulags more than 70 years ago.

As an expression of gratitude for the national memory of Polish citizens who were deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Russia, the Siberian Cross was established upon the decision of the President of the Republic of Poland in 2003. The Polish government medal honors more than one million Polish citizens sent to Russia by Joseph Stalin after 1939.

Rapp's family secretly applied for the medal and organized the ceremony to recognize her childhood hardship.

The ceremony took place at Surf's Edge Club where Counselor Piotr Konowrocki of the Polish Embassy presented Rapp with the commendation and the Siberian Cross. Col. Andrzej Dylong, Polish LNO Chief United States Central Command, presided over the ceremony and presentation.

Dylong opened the ceremony by addressing all family members and special guests in attendance.

"The purpose of today's meeting is to award Mrs. Eugenia Rapp with the Siberian Cross commendation. I regret that due to the limited time, I won't be able to tell you the full Eugenia story," commented Dylong. "The Soviets' deported hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens. During that time, the Soviet's aim was not only to punish Polish citizens, but to also completely eliminate the Polish culture, Polish language and Polish nation. Thanks to people like Eugenia, they failed and the Polish state has survived."

Before presenting Rapp with the commendation, Konowrocki gave remarks.
"It is my great honor to decorate Mrs. Eugenia Rapp with Polish order, the Siberian Cross. In 1940 and 1941 the Soviets, conducted a mass deportation of Polish citizens to Siberia," stated Konowrocki. "The subjects of deportation were entire families, men, elders, women and children."

Konowrocki commented that with a total number of about 1.5 million deportees, many of the Polish citizens did not survive the travel to Siberia, much more the living conditions of cold, hunger and disease. Some of them managed to survive and live in a different land. However, they have never returned to Poland. Rapp is one of these people.

"Today on the behalf of the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Bronislaw Komorowski, I would like to give you the deepest respect and decorate you with the Siberian Cross," stated Konowrocki. "Congratulations."

As Konowrocki pinned on the Siberian Cross, family and special guests applauded. Rapp took to the podium to express her gratitude.

"Thank you all for coming; I really appreciate it," stated Rapp. "I appreciate the award, and I want to dedicate it to my parents and my three brothers who did not survive. I'm the lucky one. Thank you so much."

After the ceremony, Rapp revealed that she was surprised about the entire ceremony and presentation.

"I had no idea what was going on, but I'm so happy," expressed Rapp.