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Maria Marzec as born to Piotr and Anna on 3 August 1923 in the military settlement of Burdykowszczyzna, in Nowogrod province, Poland (now Belarus)

Maria’s father was a Polish soldier, who had fought in the 1920 Polish-Russian war and therefore became a military settler in the eastern borderlands of Poland. The settlement was called Burdykovshchyzna.


On 10 February 1940, the Marzec family was forcibly deported by the Russians to Siberia. They were awoken in the middle of the night and were given 30 minutes to pack their things. They were then taken to Baranowicz, where they were loaded into freight wagons. They travelled like this for over two weeks without food or water until they reached the end of the railway line. When the train finally stopped, they had to continue their journey on foot and sled for another 100 kilometres through snowdrifts. They reached the work camp in the Archangel region of Siberia on 28 February 1940.


Hard work, hunger and disease were everyday life. Maria felt terminally ill and was unconscious for a long time. They were afraid she would not recover. With medicine that had been stealthily smuggled into the camp, she finally opened her eyes and came back to life.

On 11 September 1941, a year and a half after their deportation, the gates of the camp opened up for the Marzec family. Not knowing how long the ‘amnesty’ would last, all the deportees left as soon as possible. The Marzec family got an old horse and cart from the stables and went on the frozen river, because there were no roads in the forest. The family members took turns pushing the cart to help the horse because he was too old to manage. In total, they travelled for two months in that cart and by train and ship to reach the Polish army. They evacuated to Persia with the army, sailing across the Caspian Sea.

In Pahelevi, Persia, they were cleaned, fed and dressed. The Sheikh made his gardens in Teheran available for a refugee camp. Here Maria worked as a volunteer, and then in May 1943 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary of the Polish 2nd Corps. She worked as a nurse in the hospital, taking care of very sick victims of the Soviet deportations.

Her mother, brothers and sisters, were sent to the Polish refugee camp in Tengeru, Tanzania, Africa. Her father and eldest brother also joined the Polish 2nd Corps.

In 1944, members of the Women’s Auxiliary joined the 2nd Corps in Italy. Maria joined the 316 Transport Company, serving the battlefield from Monte Cassino to Bologna, by driving heavy trucks. She delivered food, ammunition and other equipment needed to fight to the troops on the front line.

She was awarded the following medals:

Polish : Monte Cassino Cross

British: 1939-1945 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945


After World War II, Maria and an overwhelming majority of Polish soldiers remained in exile. The members of the Polish 2nd Corps were transported to Witley camp in the UK. There Maria met Antoni Soboczyński – the love of her life. They married in 1948. On the same day, her mother and siblings arrived in Southampton by ship frm Africa. After years of separation, Maria and her husband joined her family in a displaced persons camp in England. It was the beginning of a difficult, new journey: a new camp, a new culture and still rationed food. Eventually, the camp was closed, and the family moved to an apartment in Redditch in England.

In July 1957. Maria, along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth and Adam, emigrated to Canada to start a new life in Brantford, Ontario. Soon after, on 18 December 1960, Antoni Soboczyński died of a heart attack. Maria then moved to London, Ontario, to be closer to her sister. Maria became a Canadian citizen in 1963. In 1964, she met Tadeusz Tabaczek and re-married. They were married for 18 years until his  death on 6 June 1981.

In 1964. Maria joined the PWSK organization, which merged with the Polish Veterans Association (SPK) in 1999. In 1990, Maria married Marian Chojnowski. After several years of heart disease, she died of a massive heart attack on April 1, 2003.

Maria passed away in London, Ontario on 1 April 2003, at the age of  years. She is buried at the St. Louis Peter’s Cemetery, in London.


Source:  Book of Remembrance by the Assoc. of Polish Veterans, Branch No. 2, London, Ontario.

Copyright: Marzec family

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