ELMA, N.Y. - Andrew Bienkowski has helped thousands of people to heal, emotionally and physically, over his 40-plus years as a psychologist. He has led a life dedicated to service to others, a calling that can be traced back to a life-changing tragedy that occurred when he was just 5 years old.
In 1939, Poland was invaded by two neighboring powers, the Nazi's from the west and the Russians from the east. Andy's family, like thousands of others, was rounded up by the Russians, packed into cattle cars and deported. They spent three weeks on that train, some survived, others did not. What laid at the end of the track was an even worse fate. They were dumped in the Russian wilderness of Siberia.
The point was to clear out the Polish people who might stand in the way of the communist takeover. The upper and middle class, the educated and influential were sent to Siberia to either freeze, or starve to death.
When their food ran out, Andy's grandfather, Vladislav Paluchowski made the decision to stop eating, so the children could. His family could only stand by and watch as Vladislav starved to death before their eyes.
Rather than letting grief or bitterness consume him, Andy instead chose to let sacrifice and selflessness inspire him. He and his family made their way to a refugee camp in Iran after the war. They then moved to Palestine, England and then to the United States. Andy joined the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, it was his way of fighting communism.
Andy used the G.I. Bill to get his degree in psychology and spent 40 years helping others here in Western New York. A mutual friend brought him together with author Mary Akers, they put his life story into book form. One Life To Give is now serving as inspiration for people around the world, published in seven countries and five languages.