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Edward Moczulski was born in Brest, Poland on 26 July 1925, the third child of Wincenty and Kazimira (nee Gadejkis). His siblings were: Bronislaw, Jadwiga, and Jan.

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. It is estimated that 1.5 million Poles were deported to Siberia in this way.

The family lived in the Soviet zone of occupation and 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 Kokczetawska oblast, in Kazakhstan, 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 kilometers 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.

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 not 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.

The teenaged Edward was able to enlist, and he spent the next 2 years training in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. Edward was part of the 7th Anti Tank Regiment of the Second Polish Corps.  He was a signalman in the regiment, and it was his job to keep the lines of communication open.  In 1944, the Polish 2nd Corps set sail for Italy from Alexandria and joined the Allies in the Italian Campaign. Edward saw intense action in and around Monte Cassino, Loreto, and Bologna, where he provided valuable support to the frontline troops. 

When the war ended, Edward spent a few years in England, and in 1949 he chose to emigrate to Canada, where he fell into the rhythms of postwar life, marrying and raising a family, making his home in Kitchener. 

What happened to Edward’s family:

Wincenty: was born in 1986 –– He worked for the railway – Spent the war years in Beirut, Lebanon – Reunited with his children in UK in 1945 – moved back to Poland in 1963.


Kazimira: Born 1889 - Died in 25 November 1946 in Beirut, Lebanon.

Bronislaw: was born in 1913 in Brest - He was not deported with the family - he returned home from the September Campaign and was soon interrogated by the NKVD. To avoid further interrogations and possible imprisonment, he escaped to the German-occupied part of Poland, where he was for the remainder of the war and beyond. He moved to Kitchener with his wife and 3 children in 1959 but returned to Poland in 1963.


Jadwiga: was born in 1920 in Wilno – Joined the Women’s Auxiliary Service of the 2nd Corps - Served as a nurse in the Middle East and Italy – After the war, she settled in England.


Jan: 30 October 1930 – from 1942 to 1947 he attended the Officer Cadet School in the Middle East. After the war, he settled in England, and eventually moved to Kitchener in Canada.

Source: Interviews with Edward and Jan in Kitchener.

Copyright: Moczulski family

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