Czeslawa (Jurek) KADELA
(Czeslawa's story was originally published on the Canadian Polish Historical Society of Edmonton, Alberta website
and is repeated here with their permission.
I was born on September 19, 1938 in Marianka, Tarnopol region, the fourth child in the family of Francis and Tekla Jurek. My siblings are Bronek my eldest brother, my sisters Stefania and Maria. I cannot remember the deportation because I was too young. From the stories told by my mom, I know that February 10, 1940, a sled drove up to our house early in the morning. Loud pounding at the door and an order to quickly pack. We had about ten minutes to pack and be ready to leave. To my mom's questions: where are we going and why are we being taken, the answer was "you will find out very soon." Not much can be packed into a small sled. Their entire life's work had to be abandoned. We were driven to the railway station, where there were already crowds of frightened people. After a while, a freight train came along and an order was given to quickly board it. We were a month in these dark and cold freight cars. Many elderly people and children died along the way and were simply thrown out, to become food for wild animals and scavengers.
Our train journey ended in Krasnoyarsk, where we switched to sleds, by which we travelled a whole week until we reached our destination - the endless Siberian taiga forests. When we arrived, we were housed in unheated, constructed out of planks, barracks. They were full of vermin and bedbugs that made sleeping impossible.
My parents worked at felling trees. They had to cut the trees into boards with blunt saws. After two years of this inhuman toil, people were allowed to leave. We collected what little baggage we had and left for the shores of the Jenisej River, where we waited a week for a barge. I do not know how long we were on this barge. Somewhere around the county of Daursk, in a small village of Popereczka, our journey ended.
Our life in the kolkhoz (collective farm) consisted of digging potatoes and harvesting and cleaning grain. My sisters were sent to the steppes to guard sheep, and I was sent to a nursery school. It is hard to call it a nursery – it was an empty room where we rested on the floor on rags. We rested after returning from the meadows, where we actually grazed on various sweet roots, wild garlic, sorrel and other edible grass. After this, "meal", on hot days we ran to a stream that was near by to satisfy our thirst and to wash up. I remember when I collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. I could not rest, because my diseased stomach could not digest food. I was tormented by constant vomiting and pain. In the winter, I stayed home, because I had no appropriate clothing. When I was five, I fell ill with pneumonia. I was exhausted and cold. For two weeks I was lying lifeless, and my mom would bring her ear to my chest to check if I was still breathing. Slowly the crisis passed, and miraculously I recovered. I looked awful. The constant feeling of hunger forced me to think of different ways to get food. This constant thinking about food was the worst.
I do not know the exact date when my father and brother, who was seventeen, were called up to the army. The whole duty of maintaining the family fell on my mother. After a full day of work on the collective farm, she cleaned the classrooms in the local school. In the summer, she took me with her to school. In the winter, I stayed home, because I still had no clothes. Instead of shoes, I wore old padded gloves. The howling of wolves broke the silence of the evenings. To this day, I'm traumatized by this sound.
There was a time when my mother did not have clothes to wear to go to work, because the ones she had and the bags she used to wrap her feet with simply disintegrated. We were threatened with starvation. After a few days without food, we just wanted to drink, and our bellies were becoming distended. In a moment of despair, my mother took my hand and together we ran to the shores of the river, to shorten the agony of starvation. Mom stopped at the edge of the river to pray and ask God for forgiveness for what she was about to do. Then something extraordinary happened. Mom felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice saying, "Go back". She turned her head, but except for us, no one was there. Frightened, still holding my hand, we returned. The next morning a messenger came with a message that a package, sent by Americans, had arrived. We knew then that a miracle had taken place and God had saved us. I have not written everything about my brave mother. One would need to write a book to do justice to the heroic deeds of my mother.
Emaciated and frostbitten, and having miraculously survived being eaten by wolves, my sisters returned for the winter to the collective farm, where they were taken to work. They too were still children. The oldest was fifteen years old and the younger was thirteen. Many of the situations we found ourselves in seemed almost impossible, but that was our reality.
It was not until the late summer of 1945 that news filtered to our region that Germany had lost the war. This news brought us hope that we would possibly be able to return to Poland. Hope and joy revived all the exiles. For her work on the collective farm, mom got a bag of ground wheat. She used this "wheat flour" to make pancakes, which she dried. Thanks to those dried biscuits, we were able to survive our return to Poland, which occurred in February 1946.
We knew that we could not return to our old place. We resettled in the so-called Recovered Territories. There, in Wroclaw province, district Bystrzyca Kłodzka, in the mountainous village of Stara Lomnica, my father was assigned to a farm, which we shared with other Poles who had settled there earlier and were well established. We had to start life in Poland from scratch. We only had a roof over our head.
In 1964, my father fell ill and could no longer work. My sisters married and moved away. My brother settled near Wroclaw on a State farm, where he worked as a vet. In 1962 I got married, and in 1963, our son, Boguslaw was born. In 1965, I gave birth to our daughter Beata. There was a lot of work on the farm, but my husband was not a farmer, and we could not make a go of it. Consequently, we sold the farm and moved to Ciepłowody in the county of Ząbkowiec, in Wroclaw province. There, in 1967 our son Christopher was born. We lived there until our departure for Canada.
Five days before the introduction of martial law, December 8,1981, at the invitation of his uncle, my husband went on a six-week visit to Edmonton, Alberta. Following the declaration of martial law, he decided not to return to Poland. After lengthy efforts, that lasted two years and three months, I received permission to join my husband under the program of family unification and on March 21, 1984, I with my children arrived in Canada. The eldest son Boguslaw was then 21 years old, daughter Beata 19 and Christopher 17.
My husband worked in an auto repair shop. We were able to send our children to school. Being a seamstress by trade, I found a job in a tailor shop. I was quite happy. But this happiness did not last long. Three months after I started work, I became ill and had to have an operation, after which, I was unable to recover fully. I spent the next few years as a caregiver to our uncle, who had an advanced case of diabetes and had had a stroke. Now life is easier, because the children are on their own and do not need our help.
Written by: Czesława Kadela Edmonton, July 12, 2010
Translated from Polish by: Helena Fita
Unfortunately, no descriptions were provided for these photos.