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Translation of parts of an

interview by Prof. Patalas

Born in 1928 in Stanislawow province, in Podole. We lived in a village called Polska Wola. My father was a veteran of the Polish-Soviet war of 1920. I was eleven years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Then the Soviets invaded on September 17, and within days had overrun the entire region. They came for us on February 10, 1940 and gave us half an hour to pack but did not let us take any clothes except what we wore. Then we were ordered onto a sleigh and driven to Tlumacz, the closest train station. Our entire village was in that transport, with only a few families missing. They packed us into freight cars, those used for moving cattle. At Kotlas, they transferred us onto large barges drawn by tractors. Several days later, and six weeks after leaving Polska Wola, we finally arrived at Camp #3 north of Kotlas and east of Arkhangelsk, in Komi. The life I experienced there was exactly what Solzhenitsyn described in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”.

News of the amnesty, giving us back our freedom, reached our camp in October 1941. My father, one of the most energetic and venturesome people in the camp, immediately gathered our belongings and prepared backpacks for all of us, that is, himself, my mother, my two younger sisters, one younger brother, and me. My youngest brother was not with us: born on the way to Siberia, he had not survived the hardships of the camp.

We caught a ride on a coal barge returning empty to Kotlas. The passage took several days in hunger and cold and choking coal dust. At From Kotlas, our train rides lasted from October till the end of December 1941. Assured that the government would now look after us at the collective farm, my father joined the Polish army in Kermine and was assigned to the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 5th Division.

My younger sister, Jasia, and my younger brother, Alojzy died from starvation and dysentery and scarlet and typhoid fevers. Soon after my brother’s death, my mother fell sick with typhoid fever and was admitted to the sovkhoz hospital. One day, when I came to see my mother, I discovered that Mother, not quite dead yet but already unconscious, had been moved to the morgue and covered with a white sheet. I was so shaken by that sight that, back in our shack, I became violently ill. I developed a high fever and went into a coma. I recovered my senses only seventeen days later—a miracle, no doubt. When I opened my eyes, I saw Mother standing above me. I discovered that the collective farm’s commander’s wife had managed to convince the doctor to take my mother back into the hospital. He did, and she survived. A short time later, my grandmother died, and then we were informed that Father had died in the army, not from an enemy bullet but from disease.

On August 15, 1942, the three of us survivors—my mother, my sister, and myself—boarded a train bound for Krasnowodsk. From Pahlavi we were sent to Tehran, then Ahwaz, then Karachi, before sailing for Africa. My mother became very ill again and was sent to the hospital at Mombasa, while my sister and I were sent to Tengeru in Tanzania.

Just as the wat came to an end, I joined the Cadet Corps and was assigned to the 56th Independent Communications Platoon in AI Qassasin, engaged by the security forces to guard various military objects against Arab attacks. We left Egypt, bound for England, in 1947. Shortly after arriving there, I arranged for Mother and my sister to join me. me. I was formally discharged from the army and joined the Resettlement Corps, and emigrated to Canada in 1949.

As a member of the Polish Combatants Association, I organized variety shows every Sunday in the Holy Ghost Parish hall. The shows ended with ever-popular dances. We also organized amateur theatre and staged several plays. We complemented our artistic ventures with a series of politically invigorating talks by such guest speakers as General Tokarzewski, former ambassador and minister Tadeusz Romer, generals Duch, Kopański, Anders, Sosnkowski, and many others.

Both my wife and I joined the choir of the Polish Gymnastics Association Sokół. Eventually I became the artistic director of that choir, serving until 1966. At the same time, I founded a dance ensemble under the patronage of Sokół, which marked the beginning of my lifelong involvement with our Polish youth in Canada. In 1967 I founded a similar ensemble, called Iskry, for the PCA and led it for seventeen years.

The highest honour I received in my cultural, social, and political career was being named a representative of the Polish government in London for the province of Manitoba.

My wife Janina was always by my side. We met in the Wheaton-Ashton camp in Britain, where she was staying with her mother. We got engaged in 1949, before I left for Canada, and were married after she joined me on this side of the ocean. We have two children, son Krzysztof and daughter Bozena.

Henryk passed away in Winnipeg prior to 2014.

Copyright: Lorenc family

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