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Czwslaw was born February 13, 193, at the Teklowka military settlement in Wolyn province, in eastern Poland. As a young child, he was deported with his parents, Wojciech and Rozalia, and siblings Karol, Zdzislaw, and Genowefa, to Siberia.


The Germans had invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians had 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.

On 10 February. 1940, the family were forcibly taken from their home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. They had been given less than an hour to pack what they could, without knowing where they were being taken. They took what they could carry and had to leave the rest behind.

They were taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. This included infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and seniors. Most of the adults and seniors were women. 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 our 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. Many infants and elders did not survive this journey.

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. Children as young as 13 were set to work in the forests – cutting branches from the trees that had been cut down.

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. The women and children who followed later, encountered the same difficulties on their journey south. Czeslaw’s father and brothers, Karol and Zdzislaw, left the camp and journeyed south to join the Polish army.


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.

Anders insisted on taking as many of the civilians that had reached the army as possible. There were 2 mass evacuations: in March/April 1942, and in September 1942. Then Stalin changed his mind and closed the borders. Those who had not been evacuated were now stuck in the USSR.

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.

Czeslaw, his mother, and sister, eventually made it to the army staging area. Sadly his father died in 1942. His brothers Karol and Zdzislaw joined the Polish 2nd Corps while Czeslaw, along with his mother and sister, spent some time in the Middle East before being sent to the Polish refugee camp in Masindi, Uganda, where they remained for eight years.


After the war, Czeslaw, his mother and sister, joined Karol and Zdzislaw in Canada, where they had signed up for a 2-year work contract in Saskatchewan. He worked as a lumberjack in Saskatchewan and then the family settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


He served several years with the Queen's Own Rifle of Canada as a Rifleman, Second Battalion, 1957 to 1961. Chester was also proud of his many years bartending, both at the Polish Combats' Association Club 13 and The Northern Hotel.

Czeslaw was married to Olga and had five children: Paul, Marian, Robert, Monica, and Jennifer. His second wife was Maria, and they had three children: Stefanie, Thomas, and Adam. He was predeceased by his parents and siblings.

Czeslaw passed away on August 8, 2021, in Winnipeg.

Genowefa, mother, and Czeslaw in Masindi, Uganda

Karol and Zbyszek, August 1945

Copyright: Franczyk family

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