Rita Cosby’s father who is featured with her on the cover of this month’s Pangea Magazine is one of the greatest heroes of Poland. Gregory Fryc interviewed Rita in the eve of her impending visit to Scotland this month.
Gregory Fryc: For those who don’t know him and his story, can you tell us a little bit about Second Lieutenant Ryszard Kossobudzki and his achievements?
Rita Cosby: My father was only thirteen when the Nazis invaded his beloved country, yet even at such an early age, he knew freedom was worth fighting for. As the war intensified, so did his will to survive in Old Town Warsaw, which we know from history, was reduced to sheer rubble. My father proudly joined the Home Army in the Gozdawa Battalion and crawled in darkness through the sewers. After being seriously injured by a mortar shell, he was thrown into Stalag 4b in Muhlberg, Germany. At 90 pounds and six feet tall, he escaped from that Nazi POW camp, and was saved by young American soldiers who told him his nightmare was over. My father received several commendations in his later years, such as the prestigious Order of Polonia Restituta. But his greatest award was that he survived and was able to finally share the story of his “brothers in battle” and their fearless hearts to stand against an overwhelming force. After the war, he came to Scotland, then England, and ultimately the U.S., where he became a successful civil engineer and accomplished athlete, running 33 marathons. His tremendous endurance enabled him to live through the unimaginable, and yet, at the end of his life, in June 2012, he steadfastly maintained that fighting for Poland was his finest hour and he absolutely would’ve done it again if he had the chance.
GF: Quiet Hero is a first book about the Warsaw Uprising that has hit The New York Times Best Seller list. Your large scale promotional efforts resulted in the largest awareness campaign about the Warsaw Uprising in the history of the United States. You have been named the biggest ambassador of Poland and the Warsaw Uprising in the American media. Thanks to you and your father’s story, America finally learned what the Warsaw Uprising is all about. Can you tell us a little bit about this journey and how were you able to make it all happen?
RC: When my father finally told me his story, I was overwhelmed, profoundly affected, and knew immediately that it was my duty to make sure that Americans and others around the globe were aware of the incredible sacrifice and unwavering dedication of the Uprisers and understood what the Polish people endured. It is a story of selfless actions, a strong sense of moral purpose and one that Poles can be proud of… and others around the world can learn from. I have done more than two hundred press interviews about this, and I promise to share this story until my last breath. The book has been praised by people such as Henry Kissinger and US Senator John McCain, but also by so many average Americans who are now discovering Poland through my father’s eyes. I remember being on a plane one time and seeing several people reading Quiet Hero as they wiped tears from their face. There were three women seated in the front cabin who had stick-ums posted all over their copies of the book, and when I asked them afterwards what that meant, they told me they had planned to travel to the Caribbean, but after reading this story, they cancelled their trip and planned to visit this powerful city called Warsaw, and see the places my father, Ryszard Kossobudzki, fought. I am very proud to be an ambassador in any way I can, and share the untold and inspiring story of Poles and their struggle for freedom.
GF: How did the discovery of your father’s past and the awareness of being a daughter of a Warsaw Upriser change and/or impact on your life? Does it make you proud to be a modern day Upriser and do you see your father’s strengths in yourself?
RC: Learning about my father’s past empowered me to do what I can to make sure freedom fighters from WWII and all generations are never forgotten. My father fought with bullets, I now fight with the pen and the microphone as a TV/radio host and author. Giving honour to Poland and those willing to die for it, is the most important mission of my life. While writing Quiet Hero, I discovered that I was named after my father’s cousin Rita, who was a sharpshooter in the Polish Home Army. If I can be a Modern Day Upriser and have even a small portion of the courage my namesake had, then I know my father will be smiling from Heaven.
GF: Do you think that the legacy and history of the Warsaw Uprising carries a Universal message for the world? What is it and How important is it to talk about the Uprising especially this year during its 70th anniversary?
RC: There is such a powerful message from the Uprising about standing on principle. Knowing the odds were very much against them, these young patriots, who had virtually no real weapons, had the guts to stand and fight some of the most brutal torturers and killers in history because they had truth and purpose on their side. It is also important that on this upcoming 70th anniversary that we learn as much as we can from these heroes still walking among us. We must get their stories now before it’s too late, for they are all true treasures of Poland.
GF: Are you excited about your visit to Scotland in June? Does this have any special significance for you? RC: I am so thrilled to be visiting Scotland, as it meant so much to my father and his comrades. When they were in the famous Polish 2nd Corps, they left Italy and came to Glasgow. So for them, Scotland meant the end of the war and freedom. He could not go back to Poland as it was taken over by Communists, so Scotland became the promise of a new beginning, and one of the happiest times of his life. He met my mom in the United Kingdom, and got his college degree. After so many years of capitulation and darkness, Scotland was alive, full of sunshine and hope. It will be very moving for me to be in beautiful Scotland to retrace my father’s steps and see other heroic Poles who also made this incredible journey.
GF: Just recently, news broke in many newspapers about your move as host to the biggest radio station in America, WABC, in addition to all your TV hosting duties. You have three Emmy Awards for your TV shows, and you have just been named one of the Most Influential Women in Radio. How do you juggle all of these important roles?
RC: I am lucky that I love what I do, or I think I would go crazy balancing so much! I am fortunate as I feel I can make a difference in the stories that I uncover and people that I showcase on air. The media is sometimes criticised, but when used correctly, it can also do great and life-changing work, especially when they expose corruption or honour those who’ve done extraordinary things. As an investigative journalist, I have always been deeply passionate about listening to and learning about the challenges of the underdog. That’s why I’ve always tried to share their stories and help them in any way possible. Indeed, that’s one of the many unforgettable lessons I learned from my father and his fellow Uprisers.