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German forced labourer, then Italy, England and Canada

Anna Usowicz was born in 1927 on a farm some 3 kilometers from the town of Dzisna in northeastern Poland, on the Soviet border. At the outbreak of World War Two on the 1st of September, two of her older brothers went off to fight the Germans. Unfortunately, on the 17th, the Soviets invaded from the east. The eldest brother was captured and shipped off to Siberia. A long occupation by the communist Soviets began.


Anna and her younger brother now had to learn Russian in school. The only textbook available was written by Joseph Stalin. The two middle brothers evaded capture by sleeping in the forest.

The family attempted to resist the collectivization of their farm but was kicked off their land by the Soviets and given a poorer quality plot for their own use. They were allowed to stay in the farmhouse. In the summer of 1941, Hitler attacked his Russian ally and a period of German occupation began.

The family continued to be harassed and eventually partisans (simple criminals really) burned down their house in the middle of the night. The family moved into a vacant home in town.

The Soviet Red Army finally got its act together and began to recapture lost territory from the Germans. As they advanced into Poland in the spring of 1944, the retreating Germans evacuated many families with them. They were all headed into slavery.

Their first stop on the road west was in Prussia. That summer they laboured in the farm fields then were evacuated further west. Father (formerly a soldier in the Tsar's army) died en route to Gdynia (b. 1877 d. April 10, 1944). The family was allowed to bury him in the town of Tczew.

A train took them to Gdynia where they were shaven, deloused, cleaned up and issued prison clothes decorated with the letter "P."  Their final destination was the city of Chemnitz in Germany (near Dresden) where they toiled in a plant manufacturing aircraft parts and lived on 200gm of bread and a cup of soup per day.

Fellow prisoners included girls involved in the Warsaw uprising and Russian soldiers and civilians.

Younger brother Andrew endured a beating for attempting to sneak off with potato peels from the garbage can. Mother fell ill and was taken to the infirmary. She was never seen again. The family was told only that she had died (born 1885, died 14 December 1944).

An Allied bombing raid in the spring of 1945 sent guards and prisoners running for their lives. The three siblings, poorly fed and always near death, headed south through Czechoslovakia. Andrew fell into a coma but woke up to see his sister weeping over him as she had assumed that he was dying. They continued their journey and managed to escape to Austria eventually making their way to Italy where they were reunited with the eldest brother who had managed to slip out of the Soviet Union and join the Polish Army in Palestine.

Once in Italy, Andrew joined the Polish army (under British Command). He was officially in the service from the 25th of July, 1945 until the 29th of December, 1948. He began training with the cadet armoured (tank) unit but was soon shipped off to England.

Staying in Italy until 1946, the family shipped off to England where they were reunited with the fourth brother.

High school studies were completed in 1949 at Stowell Park Hostel near Cheltenham, Gloucester, under headmistress Felinska. The Polish name for the school was "Liceum i Gimnazjum Zenskie Im. I. Paderewskiego w Wielkiej Britanii." 

January 3, 1950 to February 18, 1953 - training at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on Southgate Street in Gloucester.

April 2, 1953 - registered nurse designation received followed by employment at the hospital as a staff nurse until the 7th of February, 1954.   

From February 22, 1954 until January 6, 1955 Anna worked as an operating sister at Polish Hospital No. 3 at Penley, near Wrexham in Wales under the O/C of the Surgical Division, Col. Dr. A. Kielbinski.

For recreation she toured England and Wales with a Polish folk dance ensemble.

Anna then emigrated to Canada, settling in the city of Toronto where she began a career at the Toronto General Hospital. 

Anna's three sisters settled in Latvia.

Click here to read her husband Bronislaw's story

Copyright: Sokolowski family

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