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Dr. Maciej ZWIERZ
later Dr. Matthias Zeville, 1918 - 1988

Army Medical Academy....Szkola Podchorazych Sanitarnych, Warsaw - 10 July1935 to

1 September 1939: 


If I remember rightly, the matriculation exams finished on the 17th of June,1935. I went to Lowicz to see my father and of course, we had a serious conversation about my future. He was in a very poor state of health and bedridden. He told me almost without introduction: What would you like to do with your life. I answer-to become a chemical engineer or aerodynamical engineer. He answered a bit excited. You see what happened to me. I'll never, never permit you to have anything to do with chemistry. As for aerodynamical engineering- is simply ridiculous. You could do that only in Germany and your German is practically nil. Actually, I have no money for any higher studies of yours. As you know, I am dying but before my death, I want to be sure that you will finish, even after my death, a study giving you a good profession. I ask you to make me die happy and sure of your future to apply for admission to the Army Military of Medicine. This was of course a complete surprise for me. However, I knew that to be selected for admission by passing 4 days lasting examinations. It was in practice impossible.

The Academy was poshest in Warsaw admitting the "cream" of intelligent young men or rather teenagers from all over Poland giving automatically an entry to the highest society (you would say in England-The Establishment) in Warsaw and Poland. Competition for admission was unbelievable, exams very difficult and the aspirants were taking tutors for the whole last year of their high schools. As I found back in Warsaw, in 1935 some 2000 youngsters submitted applications with the names of two possibly the most influential referees. 300 were selected on the basis of their results of Matriculation exams and written references to take exams for 32 places. In Lowicz, not knowing the detailed figures but being sure that I'd never be admitted, without hesitation and to cause pleasure to my father/friend and the only person I truly loved at the time, I agreed without any hesitation.

From Jerzy Kaczinski :
"I chose something that was the compilation of both university studies and the army - sanitary officer cadet school known as "sanitarka." There I met Staszek Sosabowski for the first time because among friends coming from the Provence, we, residents of Warsaw, stayed together. Staszek joined us as a son of the later general Sosabowski, then the commander of the 21st regiment named after the Warsaw Children. He used to have a colonel rank when I first met him. Besides, I remember him as quite a harsh man.At the officer cadet school our life was typical to students of other schools of that kind: we were going to lectures and simultaneously we were undergoing military training. Obviously, all our leave time used to be spent on that. While our civilian friends had three months of holidays, we had just one month. The rest of the time we spent on training camps. I was doing quite well at the school. I reached the fifth year of medical studies at the rank of master sergeant cadet officer. Staszek and Maciek Zwierz achieved the same. In the last year of studies we were brought together. It was kind of a privilege because others were located in nine-person-rooms whereas we stayed in a three-person-room, which turned out to be very comfortable as those big ones were quite tiring."

The last 10-14 days when other applicants and their tutors worked days and nights in preparation for these four "cruel days", I, sure of failures, had a grand time with my various girlfriends (mainly from the gymnasium of Queen Jadwiga, not touching any book as that being a complete waste of time under the circumstances.

The exams for those 300 selected (which included my "Sosabowski") were proposed by a board of specialists under a psychologist-educator, authority on tests and colonel in one person.

First day - we were busy on a paper of some 500 questions (general knowledge). It was the first time I saw, very new then, multiple choice papers.

The second day (8 hours each of them) was a Polish essay. I confess that I cannot now after 47 years recall the subject, but it was one only, no choice, to swim or to drown.

The third day was difficult to me in the extreme: it was a day of "conquering" now and after 2nd World War, well known, typical commando course, dressed in an Army commando uniform with a knapsack with stones of 50 kg, blanket, steel helmet, rifle, bayonet, spade, military heavy boots etc. Looking first time at this course, I was dead sure that I'd never manage even the first quarter of these contraptions. Nevertheless, having read at the library of the Revd Jan Pozowski, many surahs (verses) of the Koran (half of the page in Arabic in Roman script, another translation into Polish (or French), I told myself:" Insh Allah- Allah akhbar!" Will of Allah-Allah is great. And indeed, the good Lord, the Allah and other saints must have helped me. I tackled the course though, I'm sure in rather poor time. It was seldom in my life that I was so much physically exhausted at the finish.

The last day was reserved for essays in as many as you know, foreign lanquage essays. I wrote three: French (on Maisons who ever choose such themes, Italian ( Instituto di Cultura Italiana helped, after all!) and in basic Russian. These, no doubt, helped with marks, lost on the damned commando Course.
I may add that marking multiple question paper, for the first and not the last time, I was deeply sorry, that I didn't take optional Greek in school, at least one third of questions included a greek - derivative (usually scientific) word.

Exams finished, I went happily to Lowicz to recuperate on the good dishes of " Auntie Maia ", specially prepared for “ Mak” (my family nick name - so I called myself when I starting talking, not knowing that it means .. poppy flower; nowadays only Janek is left to call me by this childhood

The reader of this "book" educated in English-North American school system will note that no mention of any sport, matches, cheer-girls etc. was made. This is because of the fact that Polish educational system aimed at academic excellence not sport university scholarship. The classes were 8 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday included. Whereas we had five hours a week of Polish, Math, Latin, Modern Language we had one hour of physical education- on a par with...religion. There were no school (or university for that matter) sport fields, soccer or baseball, just very small field across the street for calisthenics and basketball and netball (after school hours i.e., after 3 pm). I personally like most students considered sport a sheer waste of time, hated calisthenics. Later in the army, benefiting from my newly acquired medical knowledge, getting medical certificate absolving me from those "monkey businesses" by selection from books if necessary, finding diseases impossible to diagnose in a doctor's simple office like backache etc.

For those, athletically inclined, there were popular 2 organisations fully equipped with facilities for most of sports: YMCA and A.Z.S. (Sports Academic Association), both admitting not only university, but also high school students. For enthusiasts, like my Dr. Marysia Dabrowska, there was so called 4-year Academy of Physical Education, jointly financed by the Warsaw University and the Army, with in my time a colonel of Polish Army Medical corps, as director, giving university - equal degrees a diplomas.
I may here add, that one of my Adam Mickiewicz friends, living in the neighbouring block of flats was a table tennis maniac and he persuaded me to play with him. Apparently, I had a secret talent, for rather quickly, I not only came to like ping - pong, as it was then called, but advanced myself to be nominated to the school's representation, winning or losing inter-gymnasia matches. In fact I was so good, that I joined the champions group to improve my technique i.e. became a member of YMCA, where I met and played among others, the Warsaw and Poland champion, Mieczystaw Frick, later in Italy during the war, Lieut, Doctor Frick & my boss! It helped a lot, for we were, since YMCA times, on first name terms, normally in Poland extremely difficult to obtain with a senior (pre - war Poland was full of titles, scrupulously observed even in private conversations). Apart of the above, I, like most of my school classmates, used in spring, summer and autumn, a bicycle, purely as a means of transportation.
At ” Bigalkas “ I became accustomed to 6 hours non - stop tennis. Such was the limit of my physical education, prior to the commando course.

One day telegram arrived: " Accepted as cadet. officer report at Ujazdów for recruits course on the 10th of July at 8 a.m.). My father and Aunty were " in seventh heaven " (world of the then No.1 hit) I accepted it philosophically.

So as not to delude my descendants to be under the impression, that they had a genius. ancestor, I hurry to stress in the strongest possible terms my advantages, not at all connected with intellect, over my” competitors ":

Being completely sure that I have no chance at all to be accepted, I was icy - cool - not nervous, like those who spent a year with tutors a lived like monks, for me the exams (except bloody Commando!) was like any other paper - Joseph Wysocki's problem to be solved in order to please dying Old Man.
You have that my referees included two Society of Active Fight (or was) friends since 1905.a) Marshal Pilsudski having died in May 1935 - since 1914 his Chief of staff, and in June 1935 highest ranking Army General in Poland, the aforesaid pg.38 Kazimierz Sosnkowski. b) an army VIP Lieut.General Fabrycy and also from his own will very influential – Col. Sosabowski, later of Arnhem fame, (= in England – old tie)
So - no genius and not present neurotic but a 17-year-old youngster, who couldn't care less, either way, Rather as our friends say wsio Durakom szczastie (stupids have luck or dumb luck)

One more thing and to show you how, academically speaking, excellent was my Adam Mickiewicz school: among 32 Cadet officers admitted - 5 (including me) were alumni of the school. (one died few weeks later at the Ujazdow Hospital, from an extremely rare cancer of lungs, not discovered during pre admission medical examination by all possible and eminent specialists - he had a multiple cancer derived from primitive cells, which were left undeveloped further, during first few weeks of his mother's pregnancy, I have never seen or head of another such most - unusual cancer, during my long medical life).

Graduating students from the 1935-1939 class :

1. CHODOROWSKI Aleksander - Doctor in England
2. DWORAK Zbigniew - Doctor in Poland
3. FIJALKOWSKI Wlodzimierz - Doctor in Poland
4. GARLINSKI Tadeusz - Glider pilot
5. IWANOWSKI Lecszek
6. JAKUBOWSKI Andrzej - Doctor in Poland
7. JANECZEK Tadeusz
9. JAWORSKI Ryszard - Doctor in Poland
10. KACZYNSKI Jerzy - Doctor in Poland
11. KOMAR Edward
12. KORDYS Jan - Doctor in Poland
15. KUJAWSKI Zygmunt
16. KURNATOWSKI Stanislaw .

17. NAKWASKI Wlodzimierz - Doctor in Poland

18. OZIEWICZ Witold - Surgeon in Poland

19. OZIEBLO Wojciech - Doctor in Poland

20. REISKE Jan

21. RIZEOZYKOWSKI witold - Doctor in Poland

22. SOSABOWSKI Stanislaw- Fizjotek.w Anglii

23. SRZEDNICKI Zbigniew

24. STANCZYK Jerzy - Doctor in Poland

25. SZAWLOWSKI Zbigniew - Doctor in Poland

26. TUROWSKI Romall

27. WALCZAK-Zdzislaw - Doctor in England - Glider pilot

28. WIERZUCHOWSKI Tadeusz - Doctor in England

29. WOJCICKI Henryk - Doctor in Canada

30. ZALUSKA Jerzy

31. ZAREMBA Romualal - Doctor in Poland

32. ZWIERZ Maciej - Doctor in India

Well to make my further story clearer, I try here to draft Ujazdow, or what was officially called Center of Army Medical Training-Ujazdow at 45 Gornoslaska St.

It consisted from the main army Spital Ujazdowski with all possible specialities and famous laboratories, dentistry etc. Royal (Hunting) Castle of Ujazdow built according to the plans of the chief engineer of Louis XIV de France, M. de Vauban, where higher classes (in medicine) of our Academy lived.

(It was convenient for authorities to check whether we were on time at evening and not accompanied by a girlfriend for de Vauban, famous for his fortifications and fortresses - alas – planned for one and only entrance door!) And in front of the castle, built much later, some 300 yards long barrack for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year of medicine cadet officer – in the shape of I____________I

The long barrack had also one entrance “guarded” by 2 duty colleagues. Between the Mess and 2 rooms with 6 cadet officers, there was a door, normally locked. During my last year Sosabowsk, Kaczynski and I, lived in one of those rooms. Roughly about once a month there was a dance in the Mess. We somehow managed to make a duplicate key in case of one of the girls (high Warsaw society) wanted “to see how we live”. So to be safe – before the dance – we took door signs from specially designated large rooms “Library”, “Microscopes Room”, ”Study Room”, or even “Duty Officer-No Entry” By unwritten agreement, our superior officer, majority-6 years older than us, honoured these “false signs”. For other cadet officers they meant “occupied”.

Through the entire building on the castle side, ran the corridor with large windows, if not for the desk of the duty cadet officer, we could (as we often wished) returning from no need to mention alcoholic part, try our skills with rifles or revolvers.

On the main street side of the corridor there was a row of dormitories (10 per room) and various utility and scientific rooms, as per the signs above stolen for dance nights. Altogether I spent four years in this building

I hope that the draft plan and descriptions of Ujazdow with facilitate the understanding of our life and adventures, pleasant or unpleasant in the years 1935-1939.

Thus on the morning of the 10th July, 1935, I started 13 years of military life (prisons and concentration camps being included into my military career by the British War Office on their official “Record of Service” forms, since, finding myself standing in 2 military rows amongst the 31 other recruits, on the street face to the castle. Maciej was 17 years old.

By incident or bad omen, the first hours were very unpleasant as Tina sings “the other reindeers laughed at me and called me names”, for we all were in full army uniforms except me: I do not know whether my nose or cheeks were red, but the fact was that the sergeant in charge of stores could not, even for the sake of saving his alcoholic soul, find my size 7 army boots, and here was I, only a one, in uniform but in shiny yellow civilian shoes. Both he and I got few “army” words from our commanding officer for above yellow shoes.

Some of my duties as a duty cadet office had funny incidents:
Once when I was sitting behind the duty cadet- officer's desk, there appeared in the corridor a person dressed in full uniform of a general. On his closer approach, I recognized him as the bishop (later archbishop) of the Polish Armed Forces, the Reverend Gawlina. The school (and military) regulations required that I should report myself, giving rank & name.

I did report, as prescribed by the regulations, addressing him, as ... Mr. General.
He gave me his hand. Now - I was in the dilemma what to do to shake a hand (I was wearing gloves) as of any office I had reported to, or to follow etiquette and the customs of the Roman Catholic Church i.e. kissing the bishops ring which under the stone had to contain the relics (piece of bone) of a saint. This came quickly through my head.

I decided that, as he was wearing the uniform of a general and I, of a cadet officer the proper procedure, would be to shake a hand. He was a tall, well built man and my hand was very much smaller than his. Perhaps because of my being nervous and/or his big hand, we shook hands very vigorously, up and down, pumping several times - very unusually so.

The entourage of bishop Gawlina, and many of cadet - officers present, started to laugh - Gawlina joining them. I was terribly embarrassed, and started to search, what etiquette books say about such situation, including a famous (last century) book of Buziewicz, dealing with honour cases, causes requiring duel, preparation, and execution of duels, and such, forgotten, subjects. I came to the conclusion, that I was right - nevertheless, the incident remained in the minds of my colleagues and became one of the anecdotes of and about our Academy.

Several times I had much less pleasant encounters with the famous General Sławoj - Składkowski, Minister for the Interior, and known disciplinarian. You ask why famous - the answer was simple - being himself a doctor.

With the start of hostilities in September 1939, studies of the Army Medical School were interrupted. Eighty-seven high school students were nominated to the rank of second lieutenant. They were students of "promotion" from 13 to 15. Eighteen "promotion" but admitted to schools had not started learning.

During my last year Sosabowski, Kaczynski and I lived in one of those rooms
My best friends were Sosabowski Jr and Kaczynski.

Late on Sept 22 1939, we, officers and cadet-officers, were called before the commanding officer in chief for Lvov and told that the next morning Lvov is to surrender to the Red Army. We had to give orders to our men (and women) to disperse, and ourselves to present with arms at the square in front of the Major’s office. You can easily imagine our shock and despair. The Red Army under the command of the chief of the Military district of Kiev, Marshal Timoszenko, promised inter alia, to get ready trains and free passage for the officers and cadet officers to… allied Roumania. And thus, the prospect of going through Yugoslavia, northern Italy to France where Gen. Sikorski began forming a new Polish Army under French command.

We were, however, sure, that this cannot be the end and sometime in the future, the arms will be again be needed for further fights. Most of us, before dispersing the troops, ordered the soldiers to grease the rifles, ammunition etc., cover it with clothes, linen etc. and to hide them under the soil of the many parks and gardens of beautiful Lvov.

On the 23 Sept, 1939 I duly reported to the designated square full of Polish officers and the Red Army units, fully armed including machine guns. Looking at this scene, suddenly I felt like somebody's invisible hand touching my shoulder and very slowly I said to my companions in Russian (I distinctly remember and till today know why): "Wy znajetie - mienia eto wsio oczen waniajet" (do you know - to me all of this just stinks very much) They agreed. So, we decided to disappear from this square to (in Polish slang) "dai noge" which means to give leg-to run away. We immediately hid for a few minutes in order to remove our insignia of the rank from the overcoats (we wore steel helmets without rank painted) and we started first slowly, then to run, to the Colonel Soltysik hospital at the Technical University.

If I ever had a premonition, that was it: all the others who surrendered including the chief of staff of the V Military District, Stanislaw Zemanek, husband of your Babcia and father of Iga, Sophie and Dzidka and his brother Major Adam Zemanek, many of my friends from Ujazdow, many doctors, professors of university and so called by Soviets, intelligentsia, who according to their rules could and were able to organize a guerilla warfare against them, all finished their life being shot through the back of their head, in the infamous forest of Katyn in Russia. The fate of other two groups of 10,000 Polish Officers, nor their graves are til today, unknown.

Thus reaching the Technical University Hospital, meeting young girls-voluntary workers, who quickly brought us civilian suits of their fathers, brothers or boyfriends, I and the others started to live and are living on the borrowed time, for in accordance with rules and regulations of the unmerciful history, since April 1940 our place should be under the beech trees planted by the Russians over the trenches full of the corpses of the Polish Officers in the Katyn Forest.

Talking about us survivors “Durakom- szczastie" (luck of the stupids) Dumb luck!

October 17, 1939: On this day, Maciej and two friends, Mitus and Wantuch, reached a mountain stream and on the other side, at the top of a long slope was the Hungarian frontier. They had managed to reach Worochta passing through several check points. and had met the guides and started the upward climb towards the frontier. The two guides stood beside them and pointed vaguely in one direction: "That's where the frontier is, about fifteen miles away. When the fog clears you will see in the distance a cone shaped mountain. (this may be Mt. Hoverla, the highest mountain of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mtns) It is very distinct, easily stands out among all others. You cannot miss it. Keep to the right, or westerly side of it. Do not blunder to the other side, that's where the Tartar Pass is and Russians in force. When you see the cone behind you the frontier will be very near." As the guide spoke and pointed with his arm not a single feature of the terrain could be seen anywhere due to fog. They had decided not to take Maciej and friends right to the border.

In 1939 the weather, that October was awfully bad, lots of deep snow. The guide, worried about the tracks in the snow and had left them with no map. During the past night they had seen the lights of Zaroslyak(Zaroslak) in the distance and went towards them.

Mitus tells us that Maciej was in the lead. “He was the senior of our group, a senior medical student about to graduate as a physician. His name Zwierz, or Animal, belied his personality, but nonetheless "the Beast" he was named. Well in front, bespectacled and studious he walked steadily, head bent down, shoulders sloped, arms dangling loose at his sides, more in a posture of studying and reading than marching, even in this God forsaken, or God given wilderness.

Half empty rucksacks hang low on his back. We had divided our supplies. The other three carried food, I, the only non smoker among the quartet, carried tobacco, cigarettes and matches in my pockets, not a heavy load, and dished them out only at rest stops. At noon we chewed some stale bread, dug into a can of cold meat, and held a 'council of war'. Maciej, the leader looked serious. But he always did: He said "I am darned if I know where we are, or where this damned cone shape mountain is. It's all fogged out... especially in my own brain! We had better be careful... better late than never." Primum non nocere? Caution was his second name. The artillery captain calculated that we had covered about five miles. Another fifteen to go if he is right... and if we move in the right direction.”

The terrain got flatter, bushes, and trees less dense. Skies were still gray, but below one could see a fair distance. Suddenly from afar came a distinct bark of a dog, not vicious or offensive, but playful, like the peal of child's laughter. It certainly was not in response to our scent, not as yet. Stagnant air does not carry well. We stopped and stayed low. I was sent to reconnoiter.

Creeping through the undergrowth I came to an open field. At its far end, some half a mile away, surrounded by trees stood a two-storey wooden house. What I saw next sent thousands ants marching up and down my spine: telephone lines leading right into it! I withdrew quickly and reported my observations and my fears to the group. Maciej went to look for himself. A minute later he was back, a worried look on his face. Like the physician he was to be, he always worried a lot: "Not an ordinary house. Telephone lines in this wilderness? This is ominous... a Soviet post most likely, a base for patrolling this segment of the frontier. Their patrols would radiate from here in fan shaped fashion towards the frontier. We have to be very careful now..."

"Could this be the Hungarian side, a Hungarian post?" "Highly unlikely, we haven't gone far enough yet."

Tenseness and nervousness took over. As quietly as possible we withdrew and gave the house and the field around it a very wide berth of a mile or so and that slowed down our progress even further.

It was mid-afternoon when our foursome, still walking single file, entered a small elongated valley. Its grassy sides sloped down towards the middle where fissure-like meagreness of streams trickled along its floor. The slopes had only a few bushes on them. Woods were higher up, fifty or more yards away. We were traversing one side of the valley on a narrow footpath that cut across the slope at about a quarter of the way up. It led to a bend. As we neared it a wooden signpost came unexpectedly into view. A signpost in the middle of nowhere?

"Stop, caution! This could be anything, even a trap! But if it is a real sign then it's a Godsend!" Maciej was in command.

"Could this be the frontier?" We did not know where we were. The signpost was still about a hundred yards distant, too far to read. Adam volunteered to go ahead and investigate. We sat dawn on the grass and waited. He was now about halfway to the bend, ambling in his usual manner. Suddenly the wounded artilleryman jumped up and whispered in terror: "Russian patrol!" Maciej also stood up and both of them began to retrace their footsteps. Shouts came from the other direction, from the signpost side.

"Stavay! Stavay!" "Stop! Stop!"

As Maciej entered the freezing cold creek he heard gun shots and saw a patrol of NKVD soldiers in white overalls. One of the Alsatian dogs with the patrol attacked him knocking him into the water. In such a way, a dog made him a soviet prisoner for the next two and a half years.

On Sunday, 22nd June 1941, at about 11 am, (Maciej Zwierz known as Matwiej Pawłowicz Zwierz (z- like giraffe) was in his first camp of forced labour in Kandalaksza near Murmansk (northern most port of Russia)

He writes “We were all called to the eating hall (by now finished) and ... we have heard by radio and through the several loudspeakers the earth shattering for us, the famous speech of Molotov.

The action of the NKDV was quick and to the point. All those who occupied some posts say in medical service, offices, stores etc. were immediately given shovels and pick axes and sent toward nearby Finnish frontier, to build in the tundra trenches, bunkers and other defensive strong points as quickly, as the cement could have been brought from Central Russia to this God forsaken place. When working or walking, almost and all the time, we were being bombed by German (and Finnish) planes. The zeks were too valuable to be taken by Germans, and evacuation of us in good old cattle cars, was ordered.

Goodbye Kandalaksza we left her to the sounds of artillery guns and falling bombs.

In those cattle cars our way went through Leningrad, Wologda (where, for unknown to us reasons, we spent few days) to Kotlas, then the terminal of Russian State Railways. Now I do invite the reader to have a look at the modern map of this region and Komi ASSR (A stands for ... Autonomous). He/ she will notice a line of railway for these Kotlas to Wologda. I look with pride on the Soviet Government showpiece, the railway ", built by us, the zeks!

At that time, I never heard of Komi, of Autonomous-the region was known as NKVD Wologda camps, part of Gulag Archipelago. At the time of my arrival, the newly built railway track stretched to Wychegda river. Behind it north to the Arctic ocean it was a country of NKVD nothing but tundra and several rivers, best know to the zeks being Peczora.

To exploit the coal and oil deposits, one had to reach them over hundreds of miles of tundra, which in summer, turned into swamp. Obvious solution for the Government was to turn the job to a sub government, who disposed of millions of slave labour, and was called Gułag (gaławnyje Upravlenie Łagiezej) = Central Office of concentration camps (Łagier) - the domaine of N.K.V.D). Their first job was to build a " road " to bring labour and necessary material. Problem of the swampy ground was solved simply by lying the tree logs, one closest possible to the next, all the way to Workuta. In the trucks, I made an " excursion to the North on this bumpy" road ", passing trough many camps, and finishing in a temporary camp, located on the spot where the future railroad was crossing the Arctic Circle and that was the name given by us to our camp.

The camps, with the exception of a few, were temporary, for they had to be moved to the north to follow the progress in building the railroad. So was mine, As the NKVD had (and has ] its own army, again the solution was easy, there was no wood, so they brought tents. In large tents, say for about 40 zeks, on the army cots, I had a doubtful and unique pleasure of spending a cold to 40 ° (- 50 C) An only heating, was a gasoline empty drum, with opening for wood and chimney, taking smoke out of the tent.

Maciej Zwierz was 24 years old in April of 1942. He had had 5 years of medical and military studies at Szkola Podchorazych Sanitarnych or SPS - Ujazdow, Warsaw. He had been arrested for the second time on the German frontier and sent to Russia: Prisons in Cherson, Nikolajevsk, Charkow, sentenced to 8 years, Kandalaksza plus Workuta.

Released from the Gulag he tried to reach Buzuluk and the Polish Army.

By train to a few miles of Moscow-Trans Siberian Railroad to Swierdlowsk (Yekaterinburg) west Siberia and down the Asiatic side of Urals to Chelyabinsk and Orsk

In search of the 7th Division by train to Karagandy, Tashkient, Samarkhand, Bukhara

He writes “Amnesty and searching for the Polish Army, journey to Buzuluka suddenly halted in Orsku: we were directed towards the 7th Division in Samarkhand. during this time (October 1941) unfortunately, no one had heard of the 7th Division. And so, picking cotton, digging beets, occasional stealing food from the Red Army, hunger, fleas, typhoid, and snow.”

His first critical situation was a huge swelling in his groin with a high fever. Nothing else to do but perform an operation on himself using an old bayonet point sterilized in a fire.

The second week of Dec 1941 brought an epidemic of typhus. The last thing he remembers was losing consciousness on Dec 31st and opening his eyes three weeks later.

“In January 1942 at long last a telegram sending me to CWS Wrewskoje (Vrevskoye)”

“It's impossible to say, how without any treatment, I survived this typhus. After a week or so of convalescence, two fellows had to take me to the train. I was too weak to walk and they had to carry me up the steps of the train. In this way I reached Wrewskoje and my posting. First, after a bath and delousing, was a medical exam board for the second time. I was a skeleton, and the good doctors couldn’t understand how come that I am still alive. I had no duties except some refresher lectures to the many nurses. The oldish ladies must have received some quiet instructions to take care of me. I was eating, eating, and eating. The problem was to find a uniform for a skeleton, but the good ladies did what they could.”

Because of his poor health he was included into first evacuation of soldiers Army to Persia. “By boat from Krasnowodsk, through an unbelievable storm on the Caspian Sea, I arrived on 27 February to the Persian port of Pahlevi. Gloria tibi Domine or Slawa Bogu! For I never expected to get alive from USSR “

Note: Dad made a mistake on the date as it apparently was March 27, 1942 The boat was the Turkmenistan, a converted "hospital ship".


“The Senior Polish officer, major Dr. Wasilewski, had to establish an evacuation office in a villa close to the harbour, where Polish soldiers, civilians with children (all suffering from mal-nutrition, mainly pellagra) were being brought – all were skeletons - by boats from Krasnovodsk. Major Wasilewski most a pleasant man, with middle age spread, jovial but v. efficient, confronted with thousands of Poles sick with pellagra and malaria, had quickly to choose his staff. He nominated me, as his Aide de Camp, mainly with administrative & liaison duties.

The British officers were preoccupied at this time with the evacuees on the beaches, including baths, delousing, to prevent the spread of typhus into Persia, This, of course, included shaving of all the hair ( till now I do not know who Zemanki,(my mother and her sister) not knowing a word of English, persuaded the British soldiers in charge, not to cut their hair)”

“The biggest surprise to us -skeletons, was plentiful cheap food. Apart of caviar, which I ate by pounds of weight, I'll never forget a small boy with baskets, stopping us on foot or on trucks, with a call, I'll never forget “ Yayca waronnuje” = hard boiled eggs.

Soon the urgent problem presented itself: the urgent, absolutely necessary, evacuation of sick, to the hospitals in Tehran. Perhaps because of my knowledge of Polish, Russian and a wee bit of English (from the prisons), I was put in charge of North Indian Ambulance Column (up to 20 Ambulances, probably withdrawn from the dessert, as the body was built from canvas, no doors, and desert camouflage) with the order to cruise through the high mountains, to Tehran & back”.

Dr. Maciej Zwierz participated in the Italian Campaign. Hw was the medical officer in charge of the main dressing station and with the 3rd Carpathian field ambulance.

In November of 1946, my father Dr.Maciej Zwierz says in his memoirs that the time was approaching for withdrawal to England from Italy. He didn’t return to his 6th Carpathian Battalion. He had had previous experience with the mentally ill and was nominated Medical Officer of a British Hospital ship taking with him all the patients. The hospital ship left from Naples but no name or where they went to. From landing they took trains to Iscoyd Park near Whitchurch, Shropshire where in American built Quonset (or Nielsen) huts, the No.4 Polish General Hospital (his old Polish Red Cross Hospital from Teheran) was located. He says he arrived there on Dec 12, 1946.

As for my mother, Zosia Zwierz, she was in Ancona. Preparations were started for the evacuation of No.7 Polish General Hospital to England. Many nurses had beloved pets. Only the Matron, married to an A.D.R. of Anders, Romanowski, got from the British permission to bring legally her 2 dogs to Dover. As the hospital was to travel by rail through Alps, Austria, Germany and France to Calais, the ladies started training their pets how to spend hours without barking etc in the traveling bags. Zosia didn’t but in Calais she gave GiGi huge dose of barbiturates. The damned bitch must have had some resistance for on a very bumpy Channel crossing, she left the bag and like a drunk started walking over the ferry. Zosia was sea sick but nurses that were feeling better, caught her and put her in the bag. During customs in dover, bag covered with blankets, Zosia passed without a hitch mainly because of customs’ trained Alsation was discovering other dogs. The hospital went to Alford, Lincolnshire during one of the worst winters 1946/47 full of snow and no coal for heating.

After the war, Dr. Maciej Zwierz and his wife Zosia (nee Zemanek) made their home in Canada, and became Dr. Matthias Zeville and Mrs. Sophie Zeville.


Source: Daughter Marta Morton

Copyright: Marta Morton

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