At 91, Jon Dlusy vividly and painfully remembers his big brother, who went off to war and never returned.
Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Flight Sgt. Nathan Dlusy of Montreal was killed at age 23 on Aug. 15, 1944, when the patrol aircraft he was on crashed off the coast of Scotland.
The loss of his only sibling is all the more bitter, as Nathan Dlusy is not recognized as a Canadian citizen. He was officially a Polish citizen who volunteered to serve the country he was living in.
For the last decade, Dlusy has tried in vain to get the federal government to award his brother citizenship posthumously. However, he’s been told that there is no provision in the law for such a retroactive gesture.
The Dlusy brothers were born in Berlin to Polish-Jewish parents. The family fled the Nazis and found refuge in Montreal in 1938.
Nathan Dlusy, who was six years older than Jon, was determined to join the fight against Germany, but was refused when he tried to enlist in 1941.
But he persisted, and solicited letters of recommendation from lawyers, accountants and other prominent people to vouch for his suitability.
After passing rigorous entrance tests and jumping through numerous hoops, he was accepted into the Air Force in 1942. He trained in radar technology and went overseas the following year, where he joined a squadron patrolling the coast of Britain in search of U-boats.
He was in the process of obtaining the status of naturalized British subject, as Canadian citizenship was only enacted in 1947, just before he died, said Dlusy.
“All the paperwork had been done,” recalled Dlusy, who has accumulated “a huge file” on his brother’s dogged efforts to enlist and regularize his status.
Nathan Dlusy, a wireless gunner, was among 10 crew members who died returning from a surveillance mission aboard one of the famed Sunderland flying boats. They were winging their way back to base in a storm, in radio silence, when the huge aircraft hit a cliff.
The record lists Nathan Dlusy as a Polish citizen, even though he never set foot in the country. His parents, who had left Poland the year before he was born, did not have German citizenship, nor was it granted to their German-born children. His parents carried Polish passports, Dlusy said.
Ultimately, that probably clinched it, Dlusy believes, because if they were German nationals, Nathan would never have been eligible to serve in the Canadian Forces.
The young RCAF officer lies in a Jewish cemetery near Glasgow.
Dlusy has been assisted in his quest to get his brother the Canadian citizenship he so dearly wanted and deserved by his friend of 50 years, Gerald Rudick.
Rudick regards it as a matter of “righting a wrong” that’s persisted for 75 years. He was instrumental in obtaining some measure of recognition recently, not from Ottawa, but from Quebec.
In February, David Birnbaum – the MNA for the riding of D’Arcy McGee, where Dlusy lives – rose in the legislature to pay tribute to Nathan Dlusy and personally delivered an official copy of of his speech to Dlusy.
“It’s a poignant story, a compelling story,” said Birnbaum, who stressed that Nathan Dlusy, the son of Jewish parents who escaped Nazi Germany, died fighting for Canada.
“Nathan was determined to fight the Nazis and defend his adoptive home. He had taken every step at a young age to become a Canadian citizen, but died before it could happen. His brother Jon, now 91, and family friend Gerald Rudick have led a tireless campaign to have him declared posthumously a Canadian citizen. That, sadly, is impossible.”
Birnbaum went on to say that he is honoured to enter Dlusy’s “act of bravery and allegiance to his country” into the national assembly’s permanent record.
Birnbaum pointed out that the last line is key: “What is clear is that Nathan Dlusy, in our eyes, gave his life for his country.”
“What I hoped to emphasize is that ‘his country’ was Canada,” said Birnbaum.
Dlusy, who keeps a framed photo of his brother in uniform in his living room, was touched by the gesture. Rudick hopes it will coax the federal government to do something similar.
“Why should such a worthy individual, who gave his life for Canada, still be denied recognition as a Canadian citizen?” Rudick asked. “There is no pension to be paid. It would not cost the government a single penny.”
The answer from the succession of departments and elected officials he has implored over the years is that it is simply not done. “Even the Armed Forces didn’t want to touch it,” he said.
He has also suggested extending him honorary citizenship, which exists, but is granted extremely rarely.
Undeterred, Rudick believes there must be some way to rectify what he sees as a grave injustice. As Dlusy never married and has no children, and Nathan did not, either, there will soon be no relative left to continue this quest, Rudick pointed out.