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Edward was born March 20, 1915, in Wilno in Eastern Poland.


The Germans invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians invaded from the east on 17 September 1939. They divided Poland between them. In the Russian-controlled area, the plan to ethnically-cleanse the area soon took effect with the first of four mass deportations to Siberia that were carried out in 1940 and 1941.


Edward was among those who were deported. He was taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. The cattle car had two shelves at either end, where people could sit or sleep – the rest had to make do with the floor. There was a cast iron stove, but they soon ran out of wood to fuel it. There was also a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.

They travelled like this for weeks, and were given some water, stale bread, and watery soup, only a few times. When someone died, their bodies were cast out next to the tracks and left there.

When they reached the work camp in Siberia, they were told that this is where they would eventually die, but in the meantime, they had to work in order to earn their daily ration of bread.

Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, they had to contend with hordes of mosquitoes and black flies, as well as infestations of bed bugs in the barracks. There were no medical facilities in these camps, and diseases ran rampant, leading to a high death toll.

In June 1941, Germany turned on its ally, Russia. Stalin then quickly changed tactics and allied himself with the west so that the allies could help him defeat the Germans. This led to the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that called for the freeing of Poles imprisoned in POW camps and labour camps in the USSR, and the formation of a Polish Army in the southern USSR.

The news of this ‘amnesty’ did not reach every camp, but where it did become known, the men and boys soon made plans to make their way south to join the army. For most, this meant walking thousands of kilometres and only occasionally getting on a train for part of the journey.  Many did not make it, and those who did were emaciated skeletons by the time they got there.

General Anders was in charge of the army, and he tried hard to get the Russians to provide the food and equipment they had promised. When this became more and more impossible, he negotiated the right to evacuate the army to Persia, where the British would provide what was needed.

The evacuation took place by ship over the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi in Persia (now Iran). The ships that were used were oil tankers and coal ships, and other ships that were not equipped to handle passengers. They were filthy and lacked even the basic necessities, like water and latrines. The soldiers and civilians filled these ships to capacity for the 1-2 day trip. When there were storms, the situation got even worse – with most of the passengers suffering sea sickness.

Edward was among those who were evacuated, and he joined the Polish Army. He served in the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade of the Polish 2nd Corps in the Second World War. He was a rifleman in the 8th Battalion, training in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt) before setting sail for Italy in 1944 and fighting in the Italian Campaign, including the battle of Monte Cassino.

Edward emigrated to Canada in 1946 on a 2-year work contract, and married Stanislawa on December 20, 1949, and together they raised a family in Winnipeg.

He was a lifelong parishioner of Holy Ghost Church, and member of the Holy Ghost Fraternal Society and of Legion 246. He worked for CP Rail, Reimer Express and the University of Manitoba, retiring March of 1980.

Edward passed away in Winnipeg on November 30, 1999 at the age of 84 years.

Copyright: Wojciechowski family

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