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Translation of parts of an

interview by Prof. Patalas

I was on active service in the 16th Infantry Regiment in Tarnów when WW2 broke out. Our regiment trained soldiers who supplied the ranks of the Border Guard Corps [KOP]. doing. On September 8, I was on my assigned post when two German airplanes appeared above the horizon. One of them was heading straight for our site. I kept my sights trained on that aircraft until it came so close that it was almost begging to be shot down. We had been ordered to hold fire, but I could not resist the temptation and popped off a short round in its direction. The plane staggered, then fired at us and circled back towards the German line. I was publicly commended for my marksmanship, for it turned out that I had brought that plane down.


After the Russians invaded Poland, my unit engaged them repeatedly, until we were captured. The Soviets marched us to Kowel. It was already night when we got there, so we settled down in a fenced square, sleeping wherever we could. Later, our captors announced that all Polish officers would be detained, but privates would be allowed to go home. They marched us to the railway station. On the platform, they pointed out to us which cars were bound for which districts or cities in Poland, and we took our seats according to our destinations. The train pulled out of the station but, to our consternation, it began moving east, not west. Slowly we realized that the Soviets had played a cruel practical joke on us: we were all bound for Shepetovka and labour camps, not for Poland. Eventually we were dispatched as a group to build the road from Lwów to Kiev.


We worked there for a whole year, until December 1940; then 1,200 of us were transferred near Tarnopol, where a new airfield was being constructed, and set to work digging ditches, levelling the terrain, and so on. This lasted until June 21, 1941. Some time later, we formed a marching column and set out for a twenty-one-day trek across Ukraine. After seven days, we reached Zolotonosha.


From all that walking, I developed ulcers on one foot, and it swelled so much that I could not wear a shoe. I kept marching, with a shoe in hand, but fever was draining all my strength. I heard a Soviet colonel announce that an agreement had been signed between the Polish and Soviet governments and that we were now allies, but I was not sure that I was not hallucinating. Several kilometres later my strength gave out completely, and I had to lie down by the side of the road. When the supply wagons came close, they picked me up and placed me in one of them. Several others, too weak to walk, were already riding in it. At some point they transferred us into trucks, which kept moving steadily in the direction of Starobilsk.  A Polish army was forming in Starobilsk. Immediately on arrival we went through registration and verification formalities to determine our assignments to various services. I found myself again in a machine gun unit, part of the 18th Infantry Regiment of the 6th Division.


From Starobilsk we were transported to Totskoye, where in February we suffered terrible hardships in -63 °C weather. The firewood we brought from the forest was not enough even to thaw the frozen shirts on our backs. We left Totskoye to train with new English equipment in chakacha, Uzbekistan. In this warmer climate, I quickly succumbed to both malaria and dysentery. After a month of suffering in a tent, I was taken to the hospital. One woke up in the morning to see patients on nearby beds already covered with white sheets. Then came the orderlies who carried the corpses away. I stayed in that hospital, clinging to life, for about a month. Then the whole place was evacuated to Krasnowodsk, but I was too weak to be allowed aboard a ship. I weighed no more than thirty-four kilograms.


I was taken to a Russian hospital from which I eventually escaped. The hospital at Ashgobad, which was well supplied with medicine from England, was where I began a slow process of convalescence. When I was deemed strong enough, I was loaded with others onto Canadian trucks and driven to Persia. When I was sufficiently recovered, I was assigned to the 35th Workshop Company of the Polish 2nd Corps. When we landed in Taranto, Italy, I was in the rescue platoon, which removed shattered or broken vehicles from the roads.


We were stationed in Semigallia when the war came to an end, and we remained there until our departure for England in the fall of 1946. I sailed to Canada on a two-year work contract, I arrived in Canada by ship and then made it across half the continent by train, to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The group I was in, contracted by a sugar company, was sent to work in the fields, thinning sugar beets. Once back in Winnipeg, I worked making cement blocks in West Kildonan, and sewing shoes in a shoe factory, until I got a permanent job at the CPR shop in 1949. There I worked for thirty years, until my retirement.


I was married in 1948 and started raising a family. I was drawn into various activities of the Polish Combatants Association #13 and served as President of the Credit Union.

Copyright: Plewa faamily

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