The forgotten story of a Polish immigrant who saved the lives of his colleagues after an underground accident
In 1950, CIM president-elect A.O. Dufresne handed the CIM Medal for Bravery to Father Titus Wiktor of Val-d’Or, Quebec. “This particular ceremony,” it was reported in the CIM Bulletin from the time, “was this year more significant than usual due to the fact that the Medal had been awarded posthumously and for an extraordinarily brave deed.”
Wiktor received the award on behalf of his countryman and friend Watsik Koltan, who had valiantly sacrificed himself to save the lives of his coworkers in an accident at the East Sullivan mine in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
Koltan, who also went by Waclaw, grew up in Poland during the tumultuous years of the early-20th century. In 1939 he fought for his country in the Second World War and was imprisoned by the Russians for several months. He was later captured again by the Germans and held from 1943 to 1945.
He arrived in Nova Scotia in late 1948, immigrating to Canada perhaps in hope of a new beginning. He was one of approximately 64,000 Polish refugees who came to came to Canada between the end of the Second World War and 1956, and one of hundreds of refugees who came to work in the mines of the Abitibi region.