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Eleonora Kuczkowska (nee Galezowska) was born on December 26, 1926, in New York City, USA. In 1929, her family immigrated back to Poland and settled in the town of Edwardowka, northeast of Lwow, Poland (now Ukraine).

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.

In 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 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. 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. Eleonora’s mother Henryka, grandmother Katarzyna, and older brother Alexander, perished in Siberia.

After six years in Siberia, Eleonora was repatriated to Poland, where she was able to locate her father, Filip Galezowski, a soldier in the Polish Army in Silesia, Poland.  In 1970, Eleonora along with her children Jadwiga and Lech immigrated to Canada and joined her father Filip and wife Marianna who immigrated to Winnipeg four years earlier.

Eleonora passed away in Winnipeg on September 8, 2020, at the age of 93.

Copyright: Kuczkowski family

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