If it wasn't for grandfather's sacrifice, the Bogusławski siblings would not have survived the deportation to Siberia...
We recall the touching story that Henryka Bogusławska left us in her memories. Touching but shocking at the same time because early in the morning the Russians came... to capture the children of Edmund Bogusławski who were hiding from the Soviets. This is how 9-year-old Henryk remembered that time:
"Armed Soviets who came to pick up the children probably rushed grandmother, because she was in a hurry filling the sacks with clothes. Through the window I saw our grandfather Piotr Bogusławski and my three sisters: Irka, Honoratka and Lucynka. They were all sitting in a cart loaded with bags. I was not completely aware of the drama of the situation. I don’t remember who picked me up and put me on the cart next to my sisters. It was probably one of those armed Russians. I saw my baby brother being carried by grandmother and she put him on her big sister's lap.
Grandmother's cry "oh my god, my god, my God" spread throughout the village, and maybe even further. I was happy to be with my grandfather and sisters, as well as to see something brand new was happening. The horses were slowly moving forward. I couldn't turn around to see grandmother because I was so tightly surrounded. Nevertheless, I clearly heard a loud and slightly rattled voice calling out "oh my God, oh my God, my God".
The grandfather looked so sad. He was calm and quiet. Very unresponsive to our questions. Back then, when I was sitting on the cart with my siblings and grandfather, I had no idea that our beloved caretaker was traveling with us at his own request.
Only later, and it could have been in a train wagon or maybe already in Siberia, I heard the story from my older sister Irena about the circumstances regarding our deportation.
She made it clear that the Russians had no intention of taking grandfather, they only cared about the children. Our beloved grandfather voluntarily set himself a mission to take care of five orphaned grandchildren until the last days of his life. "
Polish Children’s Home in Mala Minusa ( Siberia 1942-1946)
Forced re-settlements of Polish citizens were the form of repression practised by the Soviet authorities which concerned the greatest numbers of people. During the Soviet occupation of the Eastern Polish territories, which lasted from September 1939 to June 1941, about 2 million Polish citizens were deported to Siberia. According to Polish sources in USSR the general number of Polish citizens deported throughout the years 1941-1942 is roughly 1 million 200 thousand.
There is no agreement concerning the exact number of Poles sent into the Soviet territory. The estimates provided previously by historians differ significantly. Work aimed at establishing and verifying the exact values is constantly under way. Among the deported, 380,000 were children (about 30% of the total number of the deported). According to the data provided by the Polish Embassy in Moscow there were over 160 thousand children who required immediate help.
The Polish Government in London, from the very beginning of its existence, put efforts to relieve the Polish community in Siberia. After prolonged pressure finally “...the Soviet Government permitted, with a decree of 12 December 1941, to create orphanages in bigger communities of Polish citizens in USSR....” which enabled the embassy in Kuybyshev to immediately begin the creation of specialist institutions that would help children, the elderly, and the sick. “...
The embassy undertook those actions in 1942, and at that time it created:
59 orphanages for 3000 children,
68 canteens providing meals for 3117 children,
12 nursing homes for 850 elderly people.
The orphanage of Mala Musina opened in 1942 in Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia. During that year there were on average 45 children in residence. When the orphanage left for Poland in 1946 there were 143 children.
The Children’s Home fully deserves to be named POLAND! It was here that patriotism, national and family traditions, good behaviour and respect for elders were taught. Before the morning meal prayers were said and the children sang Polish religious songs. During dinner various Polish patriotic and religious songs as well as some Polish scouts’ songs were sung. A secret scout team was organized.
Deep in the mind of those in the Children’s Home lay the hope that they shall survive this Siberian captivity and go back to Poland. Almost all the deported from Poland believed that sooner or later they would return home.”
Jerzy Lewicki recalls: “I cannot remember the first impression the Children’s Home made on me, but we both with my brother soon accepted our stay at the orphanage. We were among our people. Both the staff and the children there were Polish. The children spoke Russian and a little Polish. As we went to school together with Russian children we were taught in Russian; we had four hours of lessons in Russian and one hour of Polish.
Henryka Boguslawska recalls: “Over there in Minusa we were children whom no one loved, no one cherished, and no one hugged; there was no one to cater for our needs. We were expected to show perfect obedience and humility. For breakfast, we were given one tiny slice of bread with a hint of scrambled egg, that was made out of American powdered eggs. Additionally, we were given a mug of something which they called tea! For dinner we were given tin bowl of some liquid they dubbed soup. From time to time, though, we had tasty lentils or pearl barley.
All this was swallowed within moments, and the hunger became even more difficult to bear.The girls whose turn it was to help in the kitchen could lick the soup kettle clean. It was for each one of us a great joy and distinction. We used a metal rod to tilt the kettle, so that one could crawl inside and lick the walls clean. The best of times was when the kettle had been used for preparing semolina.
I also remember some nice things, of course. Among those I would have to count all the ceremonies and celebrations during which we sang patriotic songs, recited poetry, and danced. We even prepared our own attire for those occasions, making it out of the steppe grass, kovyl. I always participated in those things together with my sisters. We even performed in Minusinsk staging our plays. These were always elevated and joyful moments for us.
In 1946, when I was in the 6th grade, my classmates prepared for us, the Poles leaving for Poland, a farewell party. We were given little gifts by all the children of Little Minusa that evening. We were crying when parting with our friends with whom we had spent around five years.”
There is nothing tragic in the way the stories of the young deported are told. They often remembered small details concerning hunger or other experiences which have nonetheless gone deep into their minds. Since those days described here over sixty years have passed and some of the scarce pleasant memories have been blurred and erased. They hardly ever recall beautiful landscapes or interesting natural phenomena. Siberia, however, taught them independence, respect for work, responsibility for themselves and for others, the ability to overcome life’s hardships. They now live lives no different from those of the rest of the society. They live in average conditions, without complaining, and they enjoy what they have.
The deportation of the Boguslawski children was drawn by artist Alina Maliszewska many years later. Drawing was a way for her to deal with her own trauma in Siberia, but she wasn't limited to illustrating her own experiences, she also researched the memories of other Siberians. A selection of her drawings were published in the volume "Siberia by the pencil of Alina Maliszewska".
Alina was born on 21 May 1926 in Bielsk Podlaski, to the family of Julia and Alojzy Maliszewski. Her parents ran a shop. His father, who was awarded the Cross of Valou for his service in the Russian-Polish war of 1920r, was a legionnaire and the commander of the Social and Educational Organization "Strzelec". He was arrested in 1939, at the beginning of the war, and held in a prison in Białystok. After his release, he became involved in the activities of the Home Army, for which he was later shot by the Germans.
At the age of 13, Alina Maliszewska, together with her mother and older half-brother Stefan, were deported to the USSR on 13 April 1940. In the kolkhoz, she was forced to work on the construction of bridges on the Akmolinsk-Kartaly route. Her brother left the USSR with General Anders' army, while Alina Maliszewska and her mother returned to Poland at the end of 1944. They settled in Bielsk Podlaski, where Alina Maliszewska attended school and was active in scouting.
After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. She then moved to Falenica and graduated from art studies in Warsaw in 1954. She was involved in graphic arts, painting, and artistic ceramics. For 30 years she cooperated with the Studio of Film Miniatures. She has directed 40 animated films, including animated series for children like "The Strange Adventures of Matołek the Billy Goat". Her films have received numerous awards like "Adventure in Stripes" at the National Short Film Festival in Krakow, or nominated "On One Stool" at the festival in Grenoble. She was awarded the Gloria Artis medal for her contribution to Polish culture.
Her prints, illustrating her own experiences of exile and those she heard from other Siberians, can be found in the Józef Piłsudski Institute in New York and in the Museum of Independence in Warsaw, and in 2019 they were published by the Sybir Memorial Museum in an album entitled "Siberia in pencil by Alina Maliszewska".
She died on 12 September 2020.
Pavel Stolyarov, MA, a PhD student at the Institute of Social Pedagogy and Andragogy of the Jagiellonian University
Axis History Forum
Copyright: Boguslawski family