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Julian was born in Huta-Zlomy, eastern Poland in 1919. He was the second youngest of four brothers and three sisters. He grew up on a farm where everyone pitched in to help. At age 20, he was an apprentice blacksmith when the Second World War broke out and he fought in the September Campaign in Poland.

The Germans had invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians had invaded from the east on 17 September 1939. They divided Poland between them. In the Russian-controlled area, the plan to ethnically-cleanse the area soon took effect with the first of four mass deportations to Siberia that were carried out in 1940 and 1941.

Julian was arrested by the Russians in 1939 and taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. 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.

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.

In June 1941, Germany turned on its ally, Russia. Stalin then quickly changed tactics and allied himself with the west so that the allies could help him defeat the Germans. This led to the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that called for the freeing of Poles imprisoned in POW camps and labour camps in the USSR, and the formation of a Polish Army in the southern USSR.

The news of this ‘amnesty’ did not reach every camp, but where it did become known, the men and boys soon made plans to make their way south to join the army. For most, this meant walking thousands of kilometers and only occasionally getting on a train for part of the journey.  Many did not make it, and those who did were emaciated skeletons by the time they got there.

General Anders was in charge of the army, and he tried hard to get the Russians to provide the food and equipment they had promised. When this became more and more impossible, he negotiated the right to evacuate the army to Persia, where the British would provide what was needed.

There were 2 mass evacuations: in March/April 1942, and in September 1942. Then Stalin changed his mind and closed the borders. Those who had not been evacuated were now stuck in the USSR.

The evacuation took place by ship over the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi in Persia (now Iran). The ships that were used were oil tankers and coal ships, and other ships that were not equipped to handle passengers. They were filthy and lacked even the basic necessities, like water and latrines. The soldiers and civilians filled these ships to capacity for the 1–2-day trip. When there were storms, the situation got even worse – with most of the passengers suffering sea sickness.

Julian joined the Polish 2nd Corps, trained in the Middle East, then set sail for Italy where he fought in the Italian Campaign. He was a tow truck operator in the Mechanical Maintenance and Vehicle Recovery Unit.

Not being able to return to Poland after the war, Julian joined the Polish Resettlement Corps in England in early 1946. He worked in an engine manufacturing plant for two years before deciding to emigrate to Canada in 1948, as he had relatives residing in Selkirk, Manitoba. Julian’s first job in Canada was working on the construction of the Seven Sisters Generating Station.

In 1950, he married Dorothy Furlic, moved to his permanent residence of 51 years in St. Andrews, and began a new career with the Manitoba Rolling Mills in Selkirk, where he worked until his retirement in 1981. A few years later, his two sons were born.

Julian passed away in Winnipeg on April 18, 2001, at age 81.

Copyright: Molinski family

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