NSW Shooters Party leader’s father interned in concentration camps

September 25, 2022 by Features Desk
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In 2013, NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party leader Robert Borsak MP shocked participants on a NSW Jewish Board of Deputies-supported trip to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem when he told fellow parliamentarians that his late-father Czeslaw “Chester” Borsak was interned in Majdanek and Buchenwald concentration camps.

Robert Borsak at the Kotel

Mr Borsak, 69, an accountant by profession and a successful businessman involved in a range of companies, is not Jewish.

He is the son of a Polish refugee to Australia – and is also one of the Jewish community’s strongest supporters in the NSW State Parliament.

In January 2022, Mr Borsak and his party expelled a former candidate in the state’s Central West who publicly opposed the plan to ban the Nazi flag in NSW.

At the time, Mr Borsak said:  “The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party will not be associated in any way with pro-Nazi propaganda.”

Mr Borsak leads one of the cross-bench political parties that hold the balance of power in the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council.

Admittedly, a colourful character and an “honest talker”, he has visited Israel twice – once in January 2013 and again in January 2020. On his second visit, he was joined by his colleague Shooters MP, Mark Banasiak of the Illawarra.

Chester Borsak painted sketched by a fellow prisoner at Mittelbau-Dora, a subcamp of  Buchenwald  in the town of Ellrich

While the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies provided local assistance such as buses for these trips within Israel, all flights and accommodation were paid for by the NSW Parliamentarians themselves.

Robert Borsak’s father, Chester, was born in the regional town of Biala Podlaska in 1918 in then-eastern Poland. He apprenticed as a tailor, and by 21, he had his own business in Warsaw.

Chester Borsak was also active in the local resistance movement (The Home Army) against the Nazis.

Robert Borsak told J-Wire: “My father was a smart man and spoke German, Russian and Polish as well as English, which he picked up at night school.

He was arrested in October 1942 by the Gestapo and charged with being a Communist. He was interrogated and shipped to Majdanek on January 1943. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

He was shipped by rail and was without food and water for four days.

It is not something I talk about often, and neither did my father, but it is part of my family’s history, and I am proud of my father’s stand against Nazism,” Mr Borsak said.

He added: “All he would say was that being in the concentration camps was like a descent into Dante’s description of hell.

My father’s number was 15376, and he wore a `P’ on his chest, which indicated he was a political prisoner.

I don’t know how he survived, but when the Allied forces rolled eastward, he escaped into the Weimar forest in October 1945, where he hid for three days and eventually encountered an American patrol.

His birth name was Czeslaw Mojsiejuk, but when the Americans found him asleep in the woods, they asked him a question, he uttered the word `Borsuk’, which meant badger in Polish. The Americans took this to be his surname. He felt it was better to hide his Communist links and so his surname became Borsak. For the next two years, he was part of the Polish brigade of the American army in occupied Germany.”

In 1947, Borsak was de-mobilised from the military and “told to go home” by the Americans. Not wanting to live in  Poland under communism, he left to search for work in Holland.

Robert continues: “My father left for Amsterdam where he met my mother, Tini, a trainee nurse who trained in the same building where my father roomed, she was born in Zwolle. They were married in November 1948.”

Fearing a further outbreak of war in Europe as the Cold War intensified, his father applied to migrate to South Africa, Argentina and Australia. “Australia came through first and my parents arrived in Sydney in January 1949.”

Robert Borsak’s father found it hard to settle in Australia and they moved 11 times. In 1963, he decided to return to Poland.

Robert explains: “This was at the height of the Cold War. Even at the age of ten, I remember almost everything. But it only took me six months to say to my parents that as soon as I was old enough I was going back to Sydney as I couldn’t get good chewing gum in Poland.”

In July 1966, the Borsaks were back in NSW and have remained here ever since with their three children.

Robert Borsak’s father’s colourful life history was immortalised in a 1995 memoir titled – Into the Light.

Born in Sydney, the father of three – two twin sons and a daughter, Robert Borsak has been married to Cheryl Anne for 46 years. He lives in Sydney’s inner-West and has five grandchildren. Robert and Cheryl met while involved in the scouting movement in which she is still involved.

A keen hunter since he was 15, he has hunted all over the world.

At the University of Technology, Sydney,   he obtained a degree in business studies, majoring in accounting.

After “flirting” with semi-retirement in 2002, Mr Borsak became involved in the creation of the Game Council of NSW and eventually became its chairman. Since then, he has been associated with supporting responsible hunting and professional shooting. The council sets standards for conservation hunting in NSW.

In September 2010, Mr Borsak was selected to fill a vacancy in his political party.

Today, he leads the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which has two members in the Legislative Council and two members in the Legislative Assembly – the Member for Orange in the Central West and the Member for Barwon in far western NSW.

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