Tadeusz Halpert-Scanderbeg was born in Warsaw in 1886 in what was then part of the Russian Empire.
He studied Agriculture in Leipzig before returning to the family estate in Szczekociny.
Tadeusz began his diplomatic career as Ignacy Paderewski’s private secretary during the Paris Peace talks at Versailles in 1919-1920. His next assignment was as First Secretary at the Polish Embassy in London. He followed this by being the Director of firstly the Gdansk and later the American Desk for the Polish Ministry of Foreign affairs. During this time, he made many friends in the diplomatic community including Hugh Gibson and Arthur Bliss Lane. He left the service in 1926 to run the family estate in Szczekociny.
In 1932, Tadeusz sold Szczekociny and moved to his wife’s (Countess Maria Stefania Wielopolska) estate “Jeleniec” near Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski. He remained here until the end of the war when the property was nationalized.
During the war, he worked for the Polish Underground State and taught clandestine courses in Polish, French, German, Russian and History. This is when he discovered that he had a gift for teaching, a gift that he was later able to use at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
One of his students in this underground school was Edmund Niziurski, who would go on to write many popular works of juvenile fiction. Mr. Niziurski credited Tadeusz with saving his life by intervening when he was arrested by the Gestapo.
In the summer of 1944, Tadeusz also risked his life sheltering many people including Jews and a British Airman whose plane was shot down delivering supplies to the Warsaw Uprising. For this he received the British “Teddor” Medal.
When the Communists occupied the country Tadeusz and his wife were evicted from their home and went to live with friends. He was arrested several times by the Security Forces (UB) and was only freed by the intervention of his friend the U.S. Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane. He fled Poland for his own safety. He acquired false papers identifying him as a German National and was repatriated to the West.
Journey to North Vancouver
After a short stay in England, he moved to Canada in 1948 with his two youngest sons Jerzy and Tadeusz Jr. Jerzy was part of the Polish Parachute Brigade and was decorated with the Polish Cross of Valour for his heroism during Operation Market Garden.
The family settled in North Vancouver and in 1949 bought a house at 323 East 24th Street. The house is still standing and was the subject of an article on Eve Lazarus’s blog ‘Every Place Has a Story’ entitled ‘The Story of 323 East 24th Street’ posted on September 1, 2013.
He continued to live with his youngest son Tadeusz Jr. at 360 West 17th Street and later at 227 West Keith Road. Jerzy spent many years residing at 2637 Standish Drive in Blueridge.
Jerzy married Rubena Norton who was born in North Vancouver on August 25, 1922. Her father was Reuben Norton who served as North Vancouver’s Police Commissioner for a time in the 1920s. Reuben also served as a District of North Vancouver Counsellor for a time.
An Academic And Composer
Tadeusz worked as a Special Lecturer at University of British Columbia teaching Polish Language and Literature. In addition to this he took an active part in the University’s musical life as well as that of Vancouver as both a composer and promoter of musical culture.
Having been an amateur composer and music critic in his native Poland and Tadeusz continued these pursuits in his new home becoming a member of The Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada Ltd.”. His “Adagio for Strings” was performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Irwin Hoffman and was recorded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Many of Tadeusz’s earlier compositions are stored at the Warsaw University Music Library. Among his close friends at the University were the Canadian virtuoso violinist, academic and radio broadcaster Harry Adaskin, Doctor Giese, Professor of Italian Studies, and W.J Rose the noted Canadian Slavist and historian whom Tadeusz met when Professor Rose was working in Poland.
Tadeusz also taught UBC English as a Second Language (ESL) students as he felt himself to be in a favourable position to do this given the fact that as a foreigner himself he could understand the language difficulties of the foreign born. He carpooled to UBC with a group of students that included Romney Copping, a long-time member of the North Shore Optimists Club and a local Notary. He regaled these students with tales of his war time experiences and they convinced him to write his memoirs “The First 72 Years of My Life”.
After his death in November 1963, a Scholarship was created in his honour at UBC and is still being awarded to students studying Eastern Europe. He is buried in the North Vancouver Cemetery.
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