Kalman was the oldest of ten children born to poor, devout Jewish parents in a small village in south central Poland. His father supported the family by buying chickens, eggs and vegetables from the peasants and selling them at the Kolbuszowa market a few miles away. Kalman walked to Kolbuszowa each day to attend public school in the morning and religious school in the afternoon.
1933-39: In 1933 Kalman was accepted to study at a renowned rabbinical institute in Lublin. When there was time, he taught himself English from an old grammar book. English became his passion; he asked people to call him "Charlie" instead of Kalman. He focused his sights on immigrating to America and wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt telling her of his wish. She wrote him back an encouraging response. He carried the letter with him for good luck.
1940-44: Kalman escaped with 16 others from the Glogow labor camp, where they had been slave laborers building roads for the Germans. Kalman returned to Kupno. There, he hid in a barn and ventured out each week to get food from a peasant he knew in the village. One night, he was visited by two Jewish friends who had escaped from the Kolbuszowa labor camp and were hiding in the forest. Kalman decided to join them. He spent several months hiding in the forest, and made regular trips into his village for food.
On a trip into Kupno, Kalman was ambushed by some Poles--his former neighbors. A friend from the forest found him with a pitchfork in his chest. Kalman died the next day.