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Born on December 20, 1926, Janina was the oldest child when the Russians came in the middle of the night.  She remembers her mother holding her youngest brother and sitting on the bed and crying.  The soldier told her to dress the other children, so she did.  They ended up taking almost nothing with them, having been given just half an hour to pack, and their mother being too upset to think straight.

They were deported to Novosibirsk area – an area of wild forests.  The people there had to work cutting trees.  Her father was the only one of the family who worked, so the rest of them only had a ration of 200 grams of soggy bread per day.  Janina went to work at the age of 13, cutting branches, in order to get at higher ration for the family.

After Germany attacked their previous ally, Russia, they were freed by the ‘amnesty’ that was declared for Polish deportees.  The family made their was south where their father joined the Polish army that was being formed in the USSR.  They evacuated to Persia (Iran) with the army, crossing the Caspian Sea in a rusted tanker.  They disembarked in Pahlavi, where they went through a disinfecting process and were given new clothes that had been donated by the Americans.

After spending some time in Pahlavi, then Teheran and Ahwaz in Persia, Janina, her mother and siblings were sent to the Polish settlement Kidugala in East Africa.

Kidugala was one of the smallest camps in Africa – very high above sea level.  A river ran through the centre of the camp and there were resident huts on both sides of the river.  There were 3 transports of refugees to Kidugala.  The first residents were settled on the side of the river where the church, the school, and the original German Administrative buildings were located.  The latter transports were settled in the huts on the other side of the river. 


She arrived there in the first transport, along with the Siomkajlo sisters.  She lived almost next door to them and went to school with Stasia. Stasia directed the choir and had a beautiful voice.  She was one of four friends who were always together with Stasia, and when she left for the convent, they all cried.

Others that Janina remembered from Kidugala included:

  • Joanna and Julia Siomkajlo (Stasia’s sisters) who left after one year to join the Polish Air Force in England. 

  • Zosia Gryziak (later Madera) who also joined the Polish Air Force and left.

  • Stefania Sularz,

  • Mila Zwonicka,

  • Zosia Kruk,

  • Krystyna Klemensowicz, 

  • Wladyslawa Sybinska.


Kidugala was one of the best camps.  It contained less than 1,000 residents at its peak.  Everyone treated everyone else well, they all liked each other and got along.  The only problem was that it was so far from everything and everyone, and from the nearest city, so it was hard to get supplies, like materials for clothing, etc.

When they closed Kidugala, the remaining refugees were sent to Tengeru and Iffunda.  She went to Tengeru and did not like it at all. 


They were sponsored to Canada by an uncle, and he always believed that they must have done something wrong to have been deported.  He could not believe that people would be deported for nothing ! She was so thankful to hear about this website because they had not been allowed to speak, and when they did, no one believed them.

Janina passed away in Toronto on May 10, 2021, aged 94.

Copyright: Rowbicki / Gryziak family

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