Kathie Lund never met her father, Capt. Edward Victor Baranski. She has only a few of his possessions, including his Army-issue first-aid kit. However, Baranski, a gifted amateur singer, left behind a song for his daughter about a rose garden. Over the years, Lund has listened to that song again and again. That is why she would like to see a bronze plaque bearing a rose bouquet at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, where her father and 33 other Americans were executed during World War II.
Victor Baranski was a mess sergeant in 1944 when he volunteered for a special assignment to Slovenia. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) accepted him for the operation and promoted him to captain. Baranski's mother was of Slovak descent, and he was fluent in both Slovak and German. Baranski's linguistic skills put him at the front with the OSS mission almost immediately.
In this case, the front was Slovenia, where an uprising against the Germans was about to take place on Aug. 29, 1944. At some point, Baranski and his radioman, Daniel Paveletich, had to go underground. The Hubner family of Piest hid them. While the Hubners knew that their "guests" were partisans of some kind, for their protection, Baranski told them that he and Paveletich were German lumber merchants.
Sometime in the early fall of 1944, both men were captured and taken to a German prison. OSS records of Baranski's interrogation there show that his translated "answers" to Nazi questions were really prayers. Lund says this evidence of faith is the greatest gift her father could have given her.
Before he was captured, far from home and his wife, daughter, and son, Baranski would often sing to the Hubners' granddaughter, Maria. Last August, Kathie Lund and more than 30 members of her family met Maria Lacatova in the town of Piest. "Maria threw her arms around me," Lund said. "She told me she knew that my father was really singing to me."
Photo: Participants in an OSS demolition class, Milton Hall, England, circa 1944. (Credit: National Archives)
Mauthausen Camp Memorial information
Slovak uprising (55th anniversary site)