Polish artist who fled Nazis sues Ottawa police, 911 operator over arrest


Marian Andrzejewski is suing Ottawa police officers and a 911 operator.


OTTAWA — Marian Andrzejewski, a 77-year-old painter living in an Ottawa public housing unit, says he hasn’t been so afraid since fleeing the Nazis in occupied Poland, where for five years as a boy he lived in the woods.

The fear gripped him again on Oct. 23, 2010, when he was beaten by a pair of thugs in a home invasion on Rochester Street. And when he called 911, he got anything but help and ended up charged himself and jailed for 75 days before making bail, even though he had no criminal record, unlike the men who beat him up at the behest of a woman with a long criminal record and a 30-year crack habit.

Andrzejewski was acquitted by a jury in 2012 of sex assault and unlawful confinement charges pressed by the woman, who was once accused by police of trying to extort a parishioner by threatening to tell the church that he had raped her.

His 75 days at the old Innes Road jail, where he was housed with a killer and a child rapist, have left him traumatized, he alleges.

“It’s just been horrible. I’m still living with the horror and its after-effects,” he told the Citizen on Friday through a translator. “It’s been very difficult for me and I’m seeing a psychiatrist.”

Andrzejewski, who has since had two eye surgeries ­— he was beaten about the head at least 15 times with a weapon — and has been under constant medical attention ever since, is now suing a handful of Ottawa police officers and an impatient 911 operator for $500,000, alleging negligence, unlawful confinement, cruel and unusual punishment, and malicious prosecution. He also wants an apology.

In a statement of claimed filed in court this week, Andrzejewski alleges he was discriminated against based on his ethnic origin, age and mental disabilities.

The Ottawa police have not yet filed a statement of defence and none of the allegations has been proved in court.

The artist alleges he was denied medication, a Polish-English dictionary and eyeglasses. These days, Andrzejewski can barely see out of his left eye. He starts lots of paintings, but finishing them has been a problem.

The statement of claim also says that had the lengthy record of his accusers been revealed early on, he certainly would not have been jailed for so long before making bail. The statement of claim also says that Andrzejewski’s claim was rejected by the criminal injuries compensation board after it heard testimony from Ottawa police Det. Leanne Blais, who said Andrzejewski was guilty of the offences even though he had been acquitted a year earlier.

It all started around 3 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2010, when two men burst through the door of Andrzejewski’s public housing unit on the 14th floor of a building on Rochester Street. He begged for his life and they punched him repeatedly in the head, and left him bloodied on the floor.

The Polish-born painter whose work has been featured at the Canadian War Museum, managed to get to the telephone to call 911, telling the operator that he needed help, that two attackers had broken into his home and he was suffering from eye and nose injuries.

The 911 call, obtained by the Citizen, was to last 13 minutes, much of it an exercise in frustration for Andrzejewski, whose first language is Polish. The operator herself seemed to have sensed the frustration on the other end of the line, telling Andrzejewski at one point to “take a deep breath.”

Even so, it took the operator more than three minutes to ask Andrzejewski his first language, to which he immediately replied: Polish.

And even after that, the operator, for reasons unexplained, did not access the police department’s direct line to a round-the-clock translation service that kicks in within seconds.

Near the end of the call, the 911 operator asks Andrzejewski to stay on the line until police get there. Looking out from his apartment, he replied that he could see the police were already in front of the building.

But rather than go up to his apartment immediately, the officers remained outside talking to one of the attackers who, it was later revealed, had punched Andrzejewski at least 15 times. They were also interviewing the attacker’s mother, a longtime crack addict.

She told police that Andrzejewski had held her against her will and sexually assaulted her. She didn’t mention her six criminal convictions for forging cheques, theft and obstructing police. But she did accuse Andrzejewski of pulling out her hair and pulling back her fingernails.

Andrzejewski was arrested and questioned for four hours.

At trial, one of the attackers told court he broke down the door to rescue his mother, who claimed said she went up to Andrzejewski’s apartment to collect some dishes he was giving away, only to be confronted by his demands for sex.

The jury sided with Andrzejewski’s account, which began with a letter from Ottawa’s public housing authority asking him to clean up his seriously crammed apartment.

Court was told that because Andrzejewski had nothing growing up, as an adult he developed a habit of keeping everything, including a huge selection of painting frames. During the Nazi occupation, he lived for five years in hiding, mostly in an old barn and sometimes in a forest where he went without food for up to four days at a time.

In response to the housing authority’s order that he remove the clutter from his apartment, which it declared a fire hazard, Andrzejewski went down to the lobby and told the woman she should get a box and come up to get some things he needed to get rid of.

He says when she got inside his apartment, she demanded $10. He refused. And even if he’d had some extra money, he said he wouldn’t have given it to her because he knew she’d spend it on crack.

He grabbed her by the arm and escorted her out of his unit and locked the door.

Expert witness, Dr. Guy Genier, an Ottawa coroner for 40 years, told court that the police evidence photos of the alleged victim’s raised fingernails — a key piece of police evidence — had in fact been caused by a fungal infection and he also testified that police photos of the woman’s purported scalp injuries did not actually show any trauma.

Andrzejewski said the break-in revived the fear from his childhood.

“They (Nazis) would shoot and there were bodies everywhere. In this case, I thought these (home invaders) were going to kill me. It was the realization that you might die that scared me,” he told the Citizen.

“And when the police came, they arrested me. I told them that assailants don’t call 911 for help, victims do. And I was the victim. The most difficult part of all of this was thinking that I may go to jail for something I didn’t do.”

After conquering hardship in Poland, Andrzejewski said he chose Canada for two reasons: the stories of Anne of Green Gables that left him with the impression that Canada is filled with good people, and because of the common Polish expression, “If it’s well made, it must be made in Canada.”





More examples of the corrupt form of Justice from the Ottawa Police

and a Crown Attorney.


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