Ryszard Kossobudzki
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Ryszard Kossobudzki

If you’ve heard of Rita Cosby, you know her as an American journalist who famously interviewed Yasser Arafat, Michael Jackson, and Guantanamo inmates. But all of these stories pale in comparison to the Pulitzer-worthy conversation she had with an unlikely subject.

As it turns out, the interviews that launched Rita Cosby into worldwide fame as a journalist were nothing next to the “interview” she conducted with her own father, Ryszard Kossobudzki.

For the first 30 years of her life, Rita didn’t know the whole truth about her dad. She began to suspect that her father had been hiding the truth about his previous life when she discovered a dog tag and a blood-stained white-and-red armband from the Warsaw Uprising. When she eventually convinced him to open up about his past, she discovered an extraordinary story.

Rita published her lengthy and candid conversations with her father in her memoir, titled Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father’s Past.

Ryszard Kossobudzki was born August 4, 1925, in Brześć, Poland. When Germany overran Poland in 1939, Ryszard joined the Home Army, the largest underground resistance movement in World War II. As a clandestine soldier, Ryszard took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. After the collapse of the uprising, he was imprisoned in the German P.O.W. camp Stalag IV-B in Mühlberg. It was there that he was given the dogtag Rita had found. In 1945, Ryszard managed to escape the P.O.W. camp. He hid in the woods, not knowing if he would run into German soldiers or escape to safety, as he had no news about the events of war. After a few days in hiding, fortune smiled upon him, and help arrived. An American plane dropped a bar of chocolate nearby, containing a note that read: “Welcome. You are safe to walk now during daytime. There are no troops between you and our lines. You have fifteen miles to walk and you’re free.” Ryszard made it to the Allied lines, where he regained his freedom and his hope. After a brief stay in the U.K. after the war, he moved to the United States and changed his name to Richard Cosby. It would be another 35 years before he could muster the courage to tell his daughter about his past. Another 30 years would pass before he could visit his former homeland: Poland.

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