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(nee Domszy)

Information provided

by the family

The second youngest of five (three sisters and a brother), Karolina Wiktorowicz (nee Domszy) was born to Piotr and Franciszka in 1928 in Ostrow Rzeszow, Poland. The family resettled on the eastern borderland of Poland in 1935, on a farm in Klodno Wielkie.

In February 1940, at the age of 12, she was deported with her family to Siberia. The family were forcibly taken from their home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. They had been given less than an hour to pack what they could, without knowing where they were being taken. They took what they could carry and had to leave the rest behind.

They were 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. Children as young as 13 were set to work in the forests – cutting branches from the trees that had been cut down.

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.

Karolina survived and when Amnesty was declared in June 1941, following the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement between Poland and the USSR. she and her family travelled southward, in search of the Polish Army that was being formed in the USSR. Due to starvation and a severe illness, her mother placed her and her younger sister, Zofia, in a Polish orphanage in Uzbekistan. Karolina and her sister were sent to the orphanage in Masindi, Uganda and were later reunited with their mother.

In 1948, Karolina, her mother and sister were sent to England to be reunited with her family, then immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada to join her father's sister. In Winnipeg, she worked in a garment factory and soon met Henryk, a Polish soldier who immigrated to Canada after contributing to the Allied victory in Monte Casino serving with the Polish 2nd Corps. Married in 1951, they began a new life together, surrounded by her extended family and a thriving Polish community. In 1962 they moved to Transcona, and she worked part-time in her husband's upholstery business.

Karolina gave generously to her community by volunteering at St. Joseph the Worker and St. Andrew Bobola parishes, the Polish Veteran's Association #13, and the Tache Nursing Home.

Karolina passed away in Winnipeg on July 8, 2014, at the age of 86.

Copyright: Wiktorowicz family

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