Polish 2nd Corps Cadet
Deported from the Seńków settlement, pow. Brzeżany, woj. Tarnopol.
The following is a translation of an essay he wrote as a cadet in the Middle East. The original text is held at Hoover Institute in California:
On September 17, 1939, sad news came our way, that the Russians had crossed the Polish border. They arrived in our home district of Brzeżany on 20 September 1939. They came from Tarnopol, across our settlement and into Brzeżany.
The first thing they did on arrival, was to send out their military police, who searched through all the streets of the city, disarming the remaining Polish army, arresting the officers, and dismissing ordinary soldiers to their homes.
Next, the changes extended to the town’s registry offices – eg. at the local administrative offices there was a change of civil servants - Polish civil servants were removed and replaced with Ukrainians, who were known by very few in the community.
When we returned to our settlement, our house looked normal and untouched from far away, but inside it was just unrecognizable. All our furniture and equipment had been either smashed to pieces or stolen by the Ukrainian villagers, who exuded extreme hatred towards us. Our home was empty for two reasons. Firstly, due to the lack of furniture and belongings, and secondly, we were missing our father, who was hiding as he was afraid of falling into the hands of the Ukrainians.
When we started attending school again, and finally returned to our dormitory, instead of our Polish principal, we were met by a Ukrainian one who accepted us into the school with great reluctance, as our places were being quickly filled by Ukrainians and Jews. There were many more Ukrainians and Jews at school than usual.
At school, the language of instruction was changed from Polish to Ukrainian and we were made to praise Russian heroes and insult our own leaders.
City life also changed as a result of their arrival in our community, as everything in stores became very expensive and there was a severe lack of groceries. The Russian army began removing all the equipment they could find in state-owned buildings and then began to steal from the wealthiest private merchants. They loaded everything they could find onto trains, which then left our city.
The libraries were searched, the books confiscated and burnt. The community was threatened with arrest for the possession of Polish patriotic books.
On 10 February 1940, we were arrested in our homes and held at bayonet point until they came with carts, which took us to the train station. There, they loaded us onto a train – 70 persons per cattle car – and sent us to Siberia. Five days passed in the cattle cars before they began to feed us, and even then the food was miserable. The trip took 5 weeks altogether – 3 weeks on the train and 2 weeks by sled, which tired us out the most, as each day we travelled from 8 am until 1 am the next day, all in frosts which reached -40 degrees, wearing quite skimpy clothing. Many children died because of these extreme temperatures. They transported us all to a camp, where we settled into barracks. We lived in these until our departure.
Jan Michalczyszyn, Cadet in Grade 2C
Middle East, 1942