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By:  Teresa Radomska, Jan 2019

This is the story of my family, the Goral/Radomski’s, my mother Alicja - who was born in Lipnicki near Rowne in Wolyn, Eastern Poland in 1924, my Babcia Kazimiera, Dziadek Adam, Ciocia Janina and Wujek Janusz. Kazia’s brother Walery Radomski his wife Ziuta and their children Wlodek, Zbyszek and Marysia, all were to become victims of Stalin’s first deportation to Siberia on 10th February 1940.

The Red Army’s first target on entering Polish soil on 17th September 1939, was to crush the Eastern Borderland families in an act of revenge and retaliation. Stalin had not forgotten the defeat in the 1920 Polish-Bolshevik war and these Borderland settlers were ‘enemies of the state.’ Adam and his brother-in-law Walery, were two of these ‘enemies of the state’ who had fought the Bolsheviks, and who had settled in the Osada Krechowiecka with their wives Kazia and Ziuta in 1921-22.

Adam, Walery and their wives raised their families and worked the Osada’s with the other settlers. In the beginning it was very difficult as many servicemen had no idea how to cultivate the land and living conditions were extremely difficult. The land was overgrown and devastated by war, with no buildings and primitive agricultural tools. They however worked together and the settlement developed well. A Community Centre was built in 1929 and a School soon after. By the 1930’s the settlers had built a relationship with the many ethnic groups in the region and were able to co-exist with the local population of Ukrainians, Belarussians and Jews. The invasion of the Soviets into Polish territory in 1939 destroyed the Settlements of the Borderlands and with very few exceptions many thousands were deported

What happened next is a day etched in my Mother Alicja’s memory and briefly this is her story. She is now almost 95 and her fuller story is related in “Midnight Train to Siberia” by Goral/Radomska, co-authored some years earlier.

On 10th February 1940, Stalin began his deportation programme, of the eastern borderlands, sending Poles to labour camps across Russia and without warning in the early hours on that fateful night, a bitterly cold day, the family were awakened at gunpoint by the NKVD militia and told to gather warm clothes and food. ‘We shivered from the cold and the fear that almost overtook us’. They were taken to assembly points outside Rowne, where hundreds of settlers were huddled against the cold. After many hours they were loaded into cattle trucks ‘that stretched as far as the eye could see’. ‘Up to 200.000 settlers were similarly taken from the Osada’s across the region during the first deportation’. They travelled for over two weeks across the deep snows of Russia, up to 2000 km’s stopping only to take out of the wagons the bodies of the many who had died and to take on water and meagre rations.

Their journey came to an end at Sharya. From here they had to walk for several hours in very deep snow to the first labour camp Poldniewica. The first of three they were to be imprisoned in, the others were Derawalka and Duraszowo. There was no escape, surrounded by vast open lands bordered by deep forests and a climate so extreme, if you did escape you froze and were only then of interest to the wolves who roamed freely. Life in the camp was hell, there was little food and water. We were anemic, lethargic, dehydrated, our skin was becoming cracked and we were so fatigued ………’ ‘we had existed on raspberry twigs and wild mushrooms and what stale bread we could find …….’. ‘Mama somehow kept us going’, day after god awful day, oh how we relied on her’.

They were almost worked to death by the Russians and when the ‘amnesty’ was granted in 1941 [Polish-Russian pact] the long journey eastwards from Kotlas to Tashkent in Jan 1942 towards the Polish army began, over 3000 km’s. It was a journey greatly aggravated by the Ukrainians and NKVD to make life even more difficult and unpleasant. Their determination to join the Polish army over-rode any discomfort but very many perished from dysentery, typhus, malaria and starvation. But they journeyed on, through the Ural Mountains, Kirgizstan Steppes, Kazakhstan and into Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Here they were again forcibly set to work by the Uzbeks in their collective farms in Bukhara, picking cotton. They worked from sunrise to sunset for a handful of flour. My grandmother Kazia suffered a life-threatening heart attack and It wasn’t until her brother Walery found them some months later, that they were able to leave and rejoin the very many Poles heading south towards the Polish army.

Their journey from Tashkent to Pahlevi begins. 1942, another arduous journey of over 2000 km’s which very many didn’t survive. ……. ‘we left so many behind, it was heartbreaking ………’ They were all suffering from typhus and dysentery and barely able to stand, but reached their destination, although they had become separated. They search for each other through the Red Cross and are eventually reunited. They’re allocated tents to live in and they recuperate, find jobs and despite all the sadness and upheaval, and the memories they can’t yet bury, one of the family finds romance. They had been moved from Isfahan to Lebanon in 1944 and make another long journey of 1800 km’s. Alicja meets an English Airman, William, and they marry in Beirut in July 1946.  They sail to England in November 1946 regretfully leaving some of the family behind.

The end of the war bought the complete sell-out of Poland to Russian oppression. The matter of returning home suddenly ceased to be an option, Stalin was in charge and any returning ‘enemies of the state’ faced imprisonment or worse. ‘Unless you were a communist there was no future in Poland,’ Adam. After Alicja and William had sailed to England in 1946, the remainder of the family followed them, although it took 18 months before they were reunited. Alicja ‘we waited for what seemed like hours for the boat to dock in Southampton and then we see Janusz waving his scarf. The family have to go through Registration/Customs and eventually they meet. Alicja, ‘ ……. I cannot describe my emotions, it was so very intense that we could barely speak, we held each other so very tightly, oh how I had missed my family, my Mother … and I had something very special to show them, my daughter Tereska, 6 months old. A new beginning had opened for all of us’. And the Radomski and Goral families did indeed live their lives in safely and peace in England and only Alicja, at almost 95 remains of that family from the Osada Krechowiecka. Stalin did not destroy their spirit and the children of those Sybiraks will continue to keep their memory alive, their story will not be lost to history.



Alicja c1938 and 2015

Published books about the family history, and the Siberian Cross awarded to Alicja.

Copyright: Teresa Radomska

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