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Translation of parts of an

interview by Prof. Patalas

I was born in 1919 near Brasław, in the Wilno region. After the Russians invaded Poland in September 1939, I was forcibly conscripted into the Red Army on May 5, 1940. The recruits were soon shipped to Russia, where we got our first taste of true Soviet discipline. The rigour was inhuman, slowly choking to death any independent mind or body.


When the news of the war with Germany reached us, many Poles sang for joy. Officially, we said that we were happy because now we could finally pay the Germans back for the lost war of 1939; but in our hearts we were thinking how we could get across the battle lines to the other side, as far away from the Red Army as possible. We were loaded into cattle cars equipped with hastily constructed bunk beds and sent us in the direction of the front line in Orlov. inland. We spent a month on that train, moving aimlessly in various directions.


In Sverdlovsk, a senior officer came to us and said, “Until now you have been our prisoners, but now you are free citizens.” But the Soviets kept delaying our actual release and kept us for the next four months, building an airstrip. When we were finally released from that slave labour, we went by train straight to Krasnowodsk, where we boarded ships bound for Persia (now Iran), arriving in Pahlavi on April 4, 1942.


I came down with typhoid and lay unconscious in a hospital tent for some time. When I had fully recovered, I was sent to Palestine and assigned to the 8th Battalion of the 3rd Regiment; we were stationed in Kastino. My health took a sudden turn for the worse when I came down with acute appendicitis. After emergency surgery, I was given six weeks of convalescent leave in Natanya. I ate well and finally regained my strength.


I ended up in a transportation company and, after a six-week driving course, I was put behind the wheel of an ambulance and dispatched to Italy. I went through—or rather behind—all the major battles of the Italian campaign. I say “behind” because our task was to collect the wounded and take them to field hospitals, but I never fought on the front line.


During one of the last major offensives of the war, the battle for Bologna, I ended up in the hospital for the third time. It turned out my kidney stones were seriously rattled by my military diet; fortunately, I recovered without any surgery.


In November 1946, I was in the first contingent of Polish veterans leaving Italy for Canada. We arrived in Winnipeg on November 15th. On the third day we were taken to a farm in Beausejour. The farmer immediately sent us into the forest to cut lumber near Seven Sisters and haul it to a sawmill. We were soon transferred to a Polish farmer in East Selkirk.


I did not complete my two years of the contract on a farm. After much persuasion, I managed to convince the Employment Office to issue me an insurance booklet, a necessary condition for any city job, and hired myself out as a carpenter. I worked at various construction sites for four years and learned a great deal about carpentry. In 1951, I got a more stable job at CPR, mostly repairing and maintaining railway cars, but in the evenings I continued to do some freelance carpentry. I was a loyal CPR employee for twenty-nine years.


I met my wife, Eugenia, in 1949 in Winnipeg. At the age of eleven, she had been deported to Siberia with her parents, and she came to Winnipeg in 1948. We were married in 1950, and set to raising two sons.


Both my wife and I were active in Polish organizations in Winnipeg. I helped with the expansion of the PCA clubhouse, and in subsequent years served on the Auditing Committee. My wife was president of the Women’s Auxiliary.


Piotr passed away in Winnipeg prior to 2014.

Copyright: Orlukiewicz family

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