'Quiet Hero' ... my father
Working as an award-winning broadcast journalist for some of the top news organizations in the country, Rita Cosby has traveled the far reaches of the world for a story, covering every type of headline event from wars to interviews with newsmakers like the pope.
But her personal best interview and story involve someone much closer to home: her father.
The relationship wasn't always that close, because her father's departure from the family and subsequent divorce created a very detached relationship. It wasn't until several years after her mother's death that Rita began uncovering secrets about her father's past in World War 2 that led to their bonding forever as father and daughter.
It led to the writing of 'Quiet Hero', which the Emmy-award winning journalist considers her greatest achievement. She isn't the only one that feels that way since the book now has a place on The New York Times best-seller list.
The path to Rita's life-changing experience with her father began in the fall of 2008 as she was going through an old suitcase of personal items that her mother, who had passed away a few years earlier, had kept.
The items she found included an armband from the Polish Resistance and an identity card of an ex-POW named Ryszard Kossobudzki, which was her father's Polish name before he changed it to Richard Cosby after becoming an American citizen. The items would prove key to unlocking her dad's vault of secrets, which he never shared with anyone.
As a teenager for the Polish underground fighting the invading Germans for his homeland, "Rys", as he was known, endured warfare on a scale few lived to talk about. The scars, both mental and physical, were so deep that he kept them hidden for more than six decades before sharing them with Rita.
"As a 13-year-old he saw his hometown of Warsaw get decimated by Nazi bombs," Rita said in a recent interview for the TIMES NEWS.
But that was just the beginning.
He joined the Polish Resistance movement and began retaliating by writing anti-Nazi slogans near the Warsaw Ghetto walls, something that infuriated the invaders. He quickly matured into a full-blown freedom fighter, during which he suffered three battle wounds and finally, a trip to a German POW camp.
At 6-feet but only 90 pounds, Rys sold the ragged suit on his back for a loaf of bread in the POW camp so he and his comrades would have the energy to escape the camp, and eventually work their way back to Allied lines.
After learning of her father's incredible past and secrets that led to a new life for both of them, Rita and her father traveled to Poland where they celebrated their first Thanksgiving together in decades. It was an emotional time for Rys, who was reunited with several old comrades in arms. He even visited the sewer that he and other resistance fighters used to escape the Germans.
Since the book 'Quiet Hero' (Simon and Shuster), Rita has heard of other survivors of the Warsaw Uprising sharing similar stories of reconnecting with family members. Rita experienced the impact of her story at last month's World War 2 Weekend at the Reading Mid-Atlantic Air Museum. At least a dozen who heard her share the story came to her and said they would go home to share their own hidden wartime secrets with a loved one for the first time.
"Helping other families reunite has made this journey all worthwhile," Rita said. "The pain of war that veterans may have kept hidden from their family members can be turned into a great moment. Many POWs were able to compartmentalize the pain. I hope the book inspires others to break through and connect."
Rita hopes relatives of other World War 2 veterans reach out and encourage them to record their personal stories.
"It's not only critical for history, but for families as well," she said.
She said her book was not only to recognize her father's story, but to encourage the other "quiet heroes" still living among us to their stories. The feeling of wholeness as such an experience brings is difficult to describe, but she wishes all families can discover a completeness after finding they too have heroes.
"I'm so proud of what my father did," she said. "I hope this book encourages others to find that they too have heroes. It's wonderful to share for the first time and bond with loved ones."
Rita said her father, now 85, remains grateful every day for his life in America. Rita has also chosen to give back to this country, which helped to save her father as a war-weary Polish POW, and then offered the opportunity for him to have a home and raise his family in a free country. The proceeds of the book help wounded troops and their families via a USO program called Operation Enduring Care.
On July 2, the Daughters of the American Revolution will return that sentiment when Rita's father receives the prestigious Americanism Award in Washington, D.C. Joseph Baddick, a Tamaqua native and author of a book about his son, A. J. Baddick, who died in Iraq at the age of 26 in 2003, will be at the ceremony with his wife, Sheila.
Rita feels the title of her book 'Quiet Hero' fits her father perfectly. After giving him a transcript of the book to read before publication, she said he stayed up all night reading it. The one problem he had was with the title.
"My father felt he was just doing his job, and doesn't consider himself a hero," she said. "If you ask him, the honors should go to his comrades and to the U.S. troops."
In fact, Rys and his fellow POWS even made a pact that they would never talk about the past ... only the future.