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Greatest Generation Guy
In new book, TV star describes father and daughter reunion

As a television journalist, Rita Cosby has interviewed international celebrities, politicians of every stripe, culture changers and movie stars, and even received a letter from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. But her most important assignment hit much closer to home, when she set out to discover the wartime identity and hidden heroism of her father, Richard Cosby.

“My dad was definitely one of the Greatest Generation guys – he didn’t talk about it,” she said in a Fathers for Good interview. “He was a POW, and I never knew his real name till much later.”

She tells the story of finding out about the early life of her father in a moving book, Quiet Hero – Secrets from My Father’s Past. One of the messages of the book is that it is never too late for children to connect with their parents, despite past hurts or abandonment, and to form loving relationships.

“I have been flooded with letters and calls,” Cosby said. “There has been a profound reaction to this book, more than I’ve gotten to anything else I’ve done in my life. People are telling me, ‘I want to reach out to my dad. I want to learn more about my father.’”

As a Polish teen during World War II, her father joined the underground Resistance movement against the invading Nazis, even lying about his age so he could risk his life on the frontlines of the struggle. As the Nazis tightened their stranglehold across the nation, he eventually fled with others through a city’s sewer system. After settling in America, and changing his name from Ryszard Kossobudzki, Richard Cosby would not visit Poland again until his daughter brought him on a nostalgic fact-finding tour last year.

The story is not always easy for the author to tell, though. When she was a teen, her father walked out on the family to start a new life with a new wife, leaving Rita with many questions about this strong yet strangely quiet man. The seedbed for the book came after her mother died. Rita was going through the family’s belongings and found a briefcase with some hidden items from her father’s wartime days, including a Polish Resistance armband and POW tags. She knew she had to use her reporting skills to find out about the father she had rarely seen since her teens. Now 84 years old, and living in Virginia after a career as a civil engineer, Richard Cosby was ready to receive his daughter back into his life.

She said he is remorseful and apologized for leaving the family. Rita thinks that the emotional scars from his wartime experiences made family life difficult for him, and he tried to find happiness elsewhere. “My father said he did the best he could,” she explained. “He was so emotionally damaged from the war.”

The Catholic faith plays a role in the story. Growing up in Poland, Rita’s dad received from his mother a medal of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, which he wore on a string around his neck. He kept the medal even during his time of captivity under the Nazis, and credits the image for preserving his health, despite his weight falling to 90 lbs.

About her own faith, Rita said, “The two greatest days of my life was when I met Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Being Polish, we always had a special feeling of connection to John Paul II.”

She added, “This is a book about standing up for what you believe in, standing on your principles, to fight for something bigger than yourself, as my father did during the Polish Resistance.”

It is also about love, forgiveness, reconciliation and courage – virtues that must be at the center of family life. As Rita Cosby found, it’s never too late to start.