Bozena (Sibinski) CHODAKOWSKI
Before the war, I lived with my family in Miasteczko Krainskie near Pila where my father worked in the Customs Office. My family was evacuated by the Polish government to Wolyn in south-eastern Poland before the war broke out. I was twelve. Though our train trip was interrupted by German Air Force bombing near Warsaw, we all survived by getting off the train to hide in the surrounding fields.
Upon my family’s arrival in a small town near Rowno, we found a place to live in a pharmacist’s house.
On September 17, 1939, the Soviets invaded the town. My family moved onto the land of some unknown individual in a different town. In December, the Germans arrived and it was possible to return to our original place of residence. My mother, however, refused to move back to German-occupied territory because she was afraid that her husband would be arrested and possibly executed by the Germans because of his political activities before the war.
In June 1940, a group of Soviet officers and soldiers came in the middle of the night and took the entire family to the train station. I remember two Ukrainian boys that I had seen some time earlier. I think that they informed the Russians of my family's whereabouts. The train took us, in cattle cars, deep into Siberia. My father was impressed into cutting lumber in the nearby forests.
My family lived with another displaced family in a single room. This was typical for displaced families living in this region. All of the children had to attend Russian-language schools; however, I found some way to avoid attendance.
The Polish people who were residing in Soviet Union labor camps and prisons were granted an “amnesty” in mid-1941 following an agreement between the Soviet Union and the Polish government in-exile in London. This agreement was made because the Polish government wanted to increase the size of the Polish army fighting Germany under British command. The Soviet Union, which was attacked by Germany in mid-1941 decided to join the three Allies in their fight to defeat Germany and of course defend their country. One of the conditions to join the allies was the Soviet Union’s agreement to free Polish people in Russian prisons and labor camps.
As soon as my parents found out that we were free to leave they made arrangements to travel by train to Southern Russia where the Polish army was being formed, one of the Polish – Russian agreement points.
Unfortunately, because of disease and lack of food many people died on their way or after they reached their destination.
We went to the Sergana Valley, near Tashkent. My mother fell sick with dysentery and passed away on Christmas Eve of 1941. My father came down with typhoid and was hospitalized in January 1942. Upon his return from the hospital, he brought with him a young man, Kazimierz Rybicki. Shortly after this, my father died, at the end of January. Kazimierz had promised my father to look after us three children. I was 14 at the time, my brother Witold was 13, and my youngest brother Boguslaw was 7. Then Boguslaw died in February 1942. I lost both my parents and my brother within less than three months.
Selling some of my parents' clothing, Kazimierz arranged passage on a train to another collection place, probably in Uzbekistan. He came back for us, and in March 1942, my brother and I, two orphaned children, left the Sergana Valley and made our way to where the Polish Army was forming, selling more extraneous clothing for passage on the train. Here Kazimierz put us in separate Russian orphanages (one for boys and one for girls), and then he left us to join the Polish army. I never saw him again, but did later exchange correspondence.
When the evacuation of Poles to Persia began, all the Polish orphans in the local Russian orphanages were put together on bus. So my brother and I went by bus to Mashhad, Persia.
During this time, the Polish authorities also organized an evacuation of orphans to India. My brother Witold and I were placed in a Polish children’s camp in Jamnagar, India. Since there was no educational program for older children, we were placed in British boarding schools. I went to St. Joseph’s Convent High School near Bombay (now Mumbai) that was affiliated with Cambridge University in England.
The orphanage was run under the direction of Reverend Pluta who had a brother in Cleveland and, thus, was able to make a connection to the Bernadine Sisters there. The Sisters agreed to take in 50 girls from the orphanage. It was a good opportunity for me to come to America, so in 1946 I traveled by ship to San Francisco and then by train to Stamford, Connecticut.
I knew that I would not have to take vows and enter the Sisters' order but that I would be strongly encouraged to do so. In the end, the Sisters agreed to pay for my college without having to enter the convent. I received my sociology bachelor’s degree from Villa Maria College and a Masters of Social Work degree from St. Louis University school of social work.
My brother had the opportunity to go to Montreal, but he chose to stay in India. When that camp was liquidated, he was transferred to Valevade, India to another Polish orphanage. He then went to Italy and then on to Canada. He needed to work on a farm for two years to repay the Canadian government for the cost of relocation.
While in Cleveland, I met my husband, of Polish-Lithuanian descent. He was a structural engineer by profession. We had two sons. In 1961, Boeing was recruiting heavily and offered him a job in Seattle as a stress engineer.
In 1973, my family and I visited Poland for the first time since the war. My husband died in 1975. I continued to live near Seattle, Washington.
1937 June - Sibinski family in Miasteczko Krainskie, Poland
1942 - Balachadi Polish Childrens' camp in India
1942 - Balachadi - girl scouts at the camp in India
Copyright: Chodakowski family