top of page


Walter was born in 1917 in eastern Poland (now Ukraine). Before the Second World War, he joined the Polish Army and fought in the September Campaign in Poland.


He was subsequently captured by the Russians.He was taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 others. 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 they reached the POW 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. He endured this intolerable hardship for nearly two years.


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.

Walter and the other soldiers who evacuated, joined the Polish 2nd Corps. They trained in the Middle East (in Persia, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt) before setting sail for Italy in 1944, where they fought in the Italian Campaign, including the battle of Monte Cassino.

When the war ended, Walter came to Winnipeg in 1948 with his wife Stanislawa and son Eugeniusz.Walter worked as a Master bricklayer and mason until retiring at age 65. When work was scarce in Winnipeg, he travelled throughout Canada to work, always supporting his family.

Walter passed away in Winnipeg on February 11, 2012, aged 95 years.

Copyright: Gubernaczuk family

bottom of page