Excerpts from his daughter's write-up
Feliks was bom in 1915 at Birzula, Czerson, Poland. It was Polish territory ruled by Russia at the time. His parents were Polish, and all his other relatives lived there. His father was a train diver conscripted during the Russian revolution to drive trains during the fighting. He bad to obey or he would have been shot.
After the First World War and the Polish-Russian war of 1920, Poland was once more a free country.
Felik„ his sister Greczia, his parents Aniela, and her husband, and Halena their daughter, all ended up living within the new Polish borders. The rest of the family remained in Russia.
His Father went round Poland looking for work and eventually found a job on the Wolkowisk railway. He bought a railway carriage for accommodation and the family moved there.
The carriage was not good enough for public use, but OK for the family to live in. Feliks would often come home from school and find that his home had moved. He had to ask the station master where they had gone.
In 1923, his parents bought a plot of land and built their home. They used doors and seats from the carriage in the new house. They lived in that house until 1939.
From 1937 to 1939, Feliks was a political science student at the University of Wilno, in Poland. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Germany attacked Poland from the west, and two weeks later, Russia attacked Poland from the east. The area where the family lived came under Russian occupation.
Feliks tried to escape to Romania. He was not successful and was caught by the Russians, sentenced to 5 years hard labour, and sent to the Charkow transit camp. From there he was sent to the White Sea near Murmansk.
Germany attacked Russian-controlled territories on 22 June 1941. Cut off from the world, Feliks was unaware of this turn of events. He was part of a work gang that was building a railway line from Onega to Belomonska. Conditions were so bad that only 600 of the 1500 men survived the period from September 1940 to June 1941.
The living conditions were terrible. The barracks had no beds, only logs from the floor to sleep on, no bedding, no change of clothes, no plates, bowls or cutlery. The only food they got was some watery soup and a meager piece of bread.
Their clothes were infested with fleas and lice. Feliks would turn his coat inside out in order to get some relief, but the vermin soon made it to the other side.
Feliks was there for two years. During that time, he was blind for three weeks due to a lack of vitamins. They gave him cod liver oil, three timas a day for three weeks before he regained his sight. He was 6'2" and weighed six stones.
The Russians had deported Feliks’ parents to Siberia. They were taken by cattle train to western Siberia – the Tuymen Tobolak area of th Ob River. It is believed that they worked in a salt mine. They were freed in late 1941.
The Polish government-in-exile negotiated an ‘amnesty’ for the Poles that were in work camps in the USSR. They were free to make their way south to join the Polish army that was being formed there. Feliks made his way south, stealing a tomato or an apple from a market stall on the way, and running away. He was very moved by the kindness of ordinary Russians in the villages as he made his way south.
Feliks’ parents also headed south, and they looked for Feliks in Tashkent. They were there at the same time but did not meet. Feliks did not know they had been deported, and thought they were still in Poland. He never saw his father again.
His parents evacuated to Persia (Iran) from the USSR with the army, crossing the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi. From there they were sent to Karachi, India, and then on to the Polish settlement at Bwana Mockubwa in Northern Rhodesia. His father was a teacher there. He died of sunstroke on 1 November 1947 at the age of 63 or 64. He4 was popular and well-respected. Three thousand people attended his funeral.
Feliks enlisted in the Polish army in Russia and evacuated to Persia (Iran) across the Caspian Sea. He trained with the Polish 2nd Corps in Syria and Palestine. By now he had regained his appetite and his strength and could eat 15 eggs a day for breakfast, 18 oranges a day, etc.
Feliks was a lieutenant in the Polish 2nd Corps. In Egypt, he could have been posted to fight under Montgomery, but in 1942, his company was detailed to escort prisoners from Rommel’s army to England. They sailed from Port Said, via Durban and Cape Town, zigzagging across the Atlantic to avoid U-boats. Alter 35 days at sea, they docked at Liverpool. On board were 2,000 German and Italian prisoners, and only 200 soldiers. The prisoners could have overpowered them, but they did not because they were glad to be freed from the fighting.
Feliks was posted to Dalkeith in Scotland, then joined the Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery. From Scotland, he was sent to France with the 1st Polish Armoured Division under General Maczek. He participated in battles at Caen in France, through Belgium, to Holland where he was granted the freedom of Breda.
While in Holland he tried to commit suicide and nearly succeeded. He was given the last rites, but regained consciousness.
The war ended in May 1945, and Feliks returned to the UK ion June. Poland was still under Russian control, so it had all been for nothing.
Through the Red Cross, he found his mother and applied for her to come to England from Northern Rhodesia. She arrived in May 1948, bringing all of Feliks’ certificates with her. She stayed three months, then returned to Poland, saying she wanted to put her bones in Polish soil. She visited again a few years later. She died in 1970.
Feliks was demobilized in 1949, and eventually found work in a coal mine, where he worked until he retired due to ill health at age 56.
He died of cancer on 8 November 1988.
Written by: Christine Ursula Marczynska