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Jan was born in 1923 to Nikolai and Paulina in Nowosiolki, eastern Poland. At age 16, Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia and Jan was deported to a work camp in Siberia.

He was taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. This included infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and seniors. Most of the adults and seniors were women. The cattle car had two shelves at either end, where people could sit or sleep – the rest had to make do with the floor. There was a cast iron stove, but they soon ran out of wood to fuel it. There was also a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.

They travelled like this for weeks, and were given some water, stale bread, and watery soup, only a few times. When someone died, their bodies were cast out next to the tracks and left there. Many infants and elders did not survive this journey.

When they reached the work camp in Siberia, they were told that this is where they would eventually die, but in the meantime, they had to work in order to earn their daily ration of bread. Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, they had to contend with hordes of mosquitoes and black flies, as well as infestations of bed bugs in the barracks. There were no medical facilities in these camps, and diseases ran rampant, leading to a high death toll.

After being released by the ‘amnesty’, Jan made the harrowing journey to the southern USSR to find the Polish army that was forming there.

Jan joined the Polish 2nd Corps under the command of General Anders, trained in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, before setting sail for Italy. He fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino and Battle of Bologna.

After the war, he secured passage to Canada on a two-year farm work contract in Ontario. He later moved to Winnipeg, where he worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City of Winnipeg until he retired in 1986.

He was a proud member and held an executive position with the Royal Canadian Polish Legion Branch #246.

Jan passed away in Winnipeg on March 11, 2018, at the age of 94 years.

Copyright: Piotrowski family

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