Conscripted to the Russian Army,
Sent to Siberia,
Joined the Polish Air Force in the UK
Rudolf Falkowski was born in April 1919 in Czortków, Podolia. As a junior high school student in Stanisławów, he completed two summer gliding courses. In September 1939, he was to make his first flight at the Cadet School of Aviation in Stanislawow. Instead of school, the Bolsheviks conscripted him and his classmates into the Red Army in May 1941 and sent them to Siberia.
Like many other Poles, considered unworthy of frontline military service, he found himself in working battalions - sent to work in state farms and logging the forest. He managed to obtain a release, thanks to the Sikorski-Majski agreement, and made his way south to the forming Polish army. In April 1942 he was sent to the airmen's camp in Kermine, Uzbekistan, and in June 1942 to the Polish Air Force in Scotland via a sea trip around Africa.
The former Red Army soldier encountered a wall of suspicion, but after a few months he received a referral for further aviation training and found himself in a British squadron. He completed a year of training, flying on ten types of machines - e.g. Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mustangs, etc. - which he completed in June 1944. He served in four English squadrons and the famous Polish 303 Squadron, and he characterized this period as the best years of his life. He had little involvement in war events. He served in the Polish 303 Squadron until disbanding in December 1946.
Poland has lost the war again. They don't want Poles in England. Should we return to the bosom of the homeland "liberated" by the communists? No. At the end of his stay in England, he thinks about the future - what will he do? There was a course for draftsmen at the experimental station in Farnbourg, as part of the Polish Resettlement Corps - he took the opportunity and did well.
He emigrated to Canada in 1948 on a two-year work contract. He worked on a farm and in logging (in his own words, "the experience in Russia came in handy") and various other jobs, and finally, for 22 years, until his retirement, he was a draftsman in the port of Montreal.
From his childhood until his arrival in Canada, he kept records. They were all important - authentic, written on the spot, in Russia - very often in dangerous conditions. Compiled over seven years, in four thick volumes these notes are eyewitnesses to history. Many memoirs have been written about Russia and the war, but most of them were written after the fact, after the war. Falkowski's notes have the advantage over them that they are authentic records of the moment.
„Żużle na dłoni”, Rudolf Stanisław Falkowski's diary, is a fascinating record of the complicated Polish fate. His book was published in Polish in 2007 in Montreal. A huge work, almost 700 pages. The author began keeping a diary as a 10-year-old boy, and the entries cover the next 20 years.
First, there is information about family life, about school, about Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish neighbors. A teenager fascinated by aviation, he decided to become a pilot. In April 1939, he was admitted to the military Pilot School in Stanisławów and completed his first course. His flying career seemed to end there. For a year, at home, he observed life under Soviet occupation. Then he began his studies at the Pedagogical Institute in Krzemieniec, before being conscripted to the Red Armz and sent to Siberia. Then came his time as a pilot in the UK, and his eventual emigration to Canada.
The author of the diary grew up in the cult of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, but above all his political views were characterized by an aversion to National Democracy. He had spontaneously negative assessments of nationalities, Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Lithuanians, English and French, but sometimes he was also critical of the characteristics of Poles. He was open and tried to understand what was foreign. Apart from the description of interesting and often little-known realities, it is one of the important values of his diary.
The following are some excerpts from his diary (translated from Polish):
Circa 1935. Monday, May 13
In the afternoon Mother came back from town all in tears. (...) - What happened, Mama? – The Marshal has died. - What does "died" mean? my sister whispered. What does that mean?! Mother burst out. He died as all people die. Nobody lives forever. But why now? Good question. In the evening we were sitting at the table and Mother was still sobbing. – And what will Mościcki do now without him? she asked. Why are you looking at me like that? Father replied. I didn't kill him. What will he do? Same as before. You cry all the time. When Emperor Francis died, you cried too... – And how do you know? Mother interrupted him. You weren't here. - Mother glanced tenderly at the portrait of the imperial family and at the portrait of Archduke Rudolph, heir to the throne: He was a good man.
Year 1936. Friday, January 17
The reaction of my Ukrainian friends was the most interesting. That is, there was no reaction. We were a bit surprised. Finally, during the break, Zielińska asked: - Are you Poles better than Bohun and Nebaba? And your Lisowski, what is it? He went as far as Champagne, leaving ashes and corpses on the way... You, Poles, are true vipers. I must admit Zielińska is right, we are also better vipers.
Year 1939. Tuesday, November 7
If the Ukrainians had any hopes for self-government, the Russians have probably already got rid of them. Railroad workers, the only people who communicate with the world, report about mass executions of Ukrainian nationalists near Stanisławów or in the vicinity. According to their information, it was the local NKVD that sent probably 500 people to Abraham's bosom.
Year 1940. Monday, February 12
They deported all the settlers - Masurians from the village of Zaremba. They took several families, young Ukrainians. They were whispered about as nationalists. They did not touch the local "kulaks", Poles and Ukrainians. And what is most interesting, many Jews were deported from the city. The worst turned out to be not so much the NKVD-men as their captive local scum, of three nations – most were Ukrainians, Jews, and a lot of Poles.
Year 1941. Tuesday, June 24, Gorki
On Sunday, June 22, we were woken up by a trumpeter. At noon we heard loudspeakers with a warning that we would hear a major statement of the Presidium of the Soviet Union. We looked up from the potato sacks - what happened? We heard the high-pitched voice of Molotov. Comrade Stalin authorized him to inform the citizens that at four o'clock in the morning the German army had invaded the Soviet Union without any provocation. That Voronezh and Vyborg have already been bombed, and in Kiev more than 22 people have died from the first bombs... We, Poles, looked at each other in disbelief, completely stunned. The two Ukrainians blinked meaningfully and took it as good news. And the Russians? They continued cartoning. As if they didn't care at all. Now I understood their familiar and irreverent sayings - our part is small.
Friday, June 27
I admit that there is a growing emotional conflict in me towards the Russians. When I confront my feelings with the historical perspective, what can I say, only negatives - partitions, uprisings, the attitude of the Russians towards us, the war with the Bolsheviks, September 1939, arrests, shipments deep into Russia, prisons and so on, and here the people are almost the same as us.
Thursday, July 3, Gorki
For the first time since the outbreak of war, Stalin spoke to the peoples of the USSR. We couldn't believe it was him. He excused himself, he literally excused himself whiningly and complained that the Soviet Union had done nothing wrong; that Hitler attacked treacherously, without warning, like a bandit, and so on. Did he want Hitler to declare war on him six months in advance? How did he declare war on Poland? What did she do to him.
September 1, Marinaja Roszcza
There are basically four types of battalions. All of them were introduced after Marshal Timoshenko's announcement, when he took command and introduced strict discipline. So, the battalions - penal, disciplinary, formal battalions and labor battalions. Penal Battalion - the worst of all. Before the war, offenses that fell under this category normally ended in a labor camp in the north or execution, but a few weeks after the outbreak of the war, the NKVD gave the delinquents a choice - a penal battalion or a shooting. And now, according to the Uzbek's story, they are patching holes in the front with battalions. The disciplinary battalion is probably something like our Polish strict detention center. Punishment was and is aimed at instilling in the delinquent that an order is a law – Formal battalions were not punitive in the strict sense of the word. These were normal sapper units, to which undisciplined soldiers were attached and kept under close supervision. Labour battalions were a civilian band in uniform. They were created for people expelled from the army for drunkenness, "left-footed", i.e. losers, as well as for those who were suspicious because of their nationality or some unexplained matters. They were handed over to the care of the militants and were not taken care of anymore. We have a feeling that this is how we will end up.
Saturday, September 20, Marinaja Roszcza
Out of a group of about one hundred and fifty people, half of whom we had not seen before, each of us jumped three steps forward. He called all the Poles from the former special platoon from Gorki, all fifteen from the group of "three sergeants" together with Hryniewicz, Białokarpowicz and Zimiński, (local Poles from Leningrad and nine new ones, unknown to us). There were exactly forty of us altogether. The commander checked the names again, gave the list to the new commander, and left without a word. Working battalions - he said.
We arrived at the station around five in the evening. We have seen a lot of poverty in this country, but our jaws dropped at the sight of what we have seen now. The whole huge station - restaurants, on the platforms - people in rags, hairy, barely able to stand, as if half drunk or awake. They called each other by name and in addition... in Polish. They simply did not want to believe us that we were Poles. How is it? Poles in the uniforms of Soviet soldiers? What's going on in this world? It was only when we began to share tobacco and biscuits with them, because we had nothing else, that we managed to explain to them what was happening in this divine world. They, in turn, began to tell their story. Before me stood a man, about fifty, with a swollen upper lip and no front teeth. His name was Michal Gorniak. "It's a memorial to the Sikorski-Mayski Pact," he whistled with difficulty. “I was on night shift at the time. My NKVD investigator talked about this pact and added that it had to be celebrated in some way to be remembered well... and he punched me in the teeth until I fell off my chair. And he didn't question me anymore. The next day they released me. His companion was standing next to him. He listened attentively and hummed under his breath, with humor. How to understand? We were about to cry, and they were laughing at their misery.
They were prisoners from the labor camps, from Arkhangelsk, Kotlas, Pechora and almost all other parts of the north, but it turned out that half of them had come from the Gorki camp, the same one that loomed over the horizon of our training meadow in Marinena Roszczi.
Saturday, November 22, Gorki
Today, after a night's work, having the day off again, we decided to visit our delegate. We were received by Captain Liktorowicz. He said that we have no idea under what conditions our army organizes itself. Prisoners of war are not the worst yet, but the prisoners and the mass of men of all ages leaving the state farms with their wives and children - and all those on their way to join our army - is truly an indescribable thing.
Thursday, February 5, Gorki
We arrived in Gorki at five in the morning. From the station we went directly to the Legation. Inside, behind the table stood a captain in a slightly tattered uniform. He spoke to us in Polish, a little surprised. I immediately sensed that it was the Red Army uniform: - Who are you? – Poles. We want to join the Polish army... - Poles? In the Red Army? “Yes, sir. There are thousands of us.
Sunday, February 22, Kuibyshev
We arrived in Kuibyshev last Friday afternoon. On the second day (February 21), in the morning, immediately after breakfast, the commander of the outpost gave an order to stay in place, because educational officers from the Embassy would arrive to collect formal information. He explained to us that more and more Poles were showing up in Red Army uniforms on their way to the Polish army. They knew about the mobilization, but they didn't really realize how many of us there were. The information will help them understand the situation. It was understandable. It was also understandable that we were later called by name - they already had our names in Gorki. But when the educators, after collecting formal data from each of us, began to inquire about the political affiliations of our fathers, then it seemed to us that it had nothing to do with education. – Doubles? asked the lieutenant. I nodded without saying a word.
Thursday, March 5, Kermine, Uzbekistan
Two officers, two elderly civilians, three women and three toddlers died. There are already about eighty graves and new ones are added every day. Typhus does not forgive anyone, but it must be admitted that it does not tire for a long time.
Sunday, March 8, Kermine
There are many civilians here, mainly mobilized families. Children are the most conspicuous. Over age serious. Faces without a smile. I want to cry. We receive 750 grams of bread and two liters of pea soup a day. And we share this, and we don't complain because we know that we'll get out of here eventually, and what will happen to them when we're not here anymore? After the mass, I was returning to the tent with my friend. On the way, another airman from our tent passed us, accompanied by two women. They looked like mother and daughter. They passed by and suddenly turned significantly, measured us with a contemptuous, defiant look: - And what are these hangovers doing here? the older one asked. "At our Mass?" It's not hangovers, their companion admonished them. – These are Poles who have been mobilized into the Red Army. - Polish people? It's not true. Volunteers for sure.
Thursday April 16, Ahvaz, Iran
We spent the Easter holidays here. We gathered in one large tent and shared with our guests - a Polish colonel and two captains and two English officers. Poles from England, of course. And here we noticed the difference between compatriots and Englishmen. We got the impression that our officers did not forget for a moment that they were officers, received by ordinary soldiers. Yes, they were polite, smiled, thanked, but that's the end of it. None of them took an interest in us, didn't ask where we came from, what we'd seen so far - there was still a sense of coldness and distance between us. As if they were doing us a great favour. The English were very direct, as if we had known each other for years and there was no end to the questions.
Saturday, July 4. Stopping place, Scotland
This time the "educational" answered clearly, without excuses. He looked us straight in the eyes, almost defiantly: “All those who volunteered in the Red Army and those who were colored red during their stay in Russia, in elite units such as the Air Force, may not serve under any circumstances. We jumped hard on him; does the "educational" gentleman know that over two hundred thousand Polish citizens of the Eastern Borderlands were taken to the Red Army a month before the German attack? Were they all volunteers?
Wednesday, July 8. Stopover place [visit of General Sikorski]
The chief raised his right hand. He stepped back and said loudly: - Those who served voluntarily in the Red Army cannot serve in the air force. "Who is accusing us of this?" "No one," replied the general emphatically. - No one is accusing you of anything... - If no one, then why... - No one - the chief interrupted, clearly annoyed. We stood frozen. I felt my knees buckle under me. - General Sikorski turned to one of the generals, his surname seems to be Klimecki - please settle the matter.
We suffered the most because of our disappointed love for our leader. After all, he was there, he saw it with his own eyes, he has his spies - don't they know what was going on under the Soviet occupation; or in the spring of 1941?
Saturday, August 15
I have received orders from the Inspectorate to transfer to Blackpool Air Station. We were silent. We were really surprised. Maybe it's a joke? 'No, no,' guessed the captain, 'I'm not joking. We were silent. "You're right," the captain said as an afterthought. “In your case, transferring you to the servicee you wanted to serve from the beginning is not tantamount to acquittal. As long as you don't have the accuser's name in your file with a note of punishment imposed on him, it will hang over you. It will affect promotions, and after returning to free Poland, if you survive, someone will claim you during the first carrion search.
Friday September 10, Blackpool
They let us know that they know who we are in their eyes and that they can get rid of us at any time. This is how our interview works. Even the Russians didn't do that.
Year 1943, Monday, February 23, Brighton
Captain Bossowski called me into his office this afternoon. - People like you and me, who come from Równe, from Wołyń, we know that we will probably never see our Kresy again. - Your career and that of a few of your colleagues, such as Antoni Z. from Oszmiana, if you returned to free and National Democracy Poland, would be a big question mark. Our government is full of people who specialize in digging up citizens' backgrounds.
Sunday, December 5, Newton
Are we fighting a common enemy? Yes, with a common enemy, but for England! We have already lost the war.
Year 1944, Sunday, April 30, Newton
My colleague Z.P. claims that our situation resembles a vulgar Russian proverb. If the Poles make a move, they cannot count on Stalin's help, and the Germans in the rear of the front have enough strength to crush any uprising. On the other hand, if the Home Army lays its arms down, then our whole shitty world will scream along with Stalin: Well, here you go, so much noise about this Home Army, and now, when we are approaching the heart of Poland, instead of helping us..
Wednesday, June 22, Newton
We graduated from pilot school. We've been waiting for this day like the messiah. A gloomy station, a gloomy atmosphere and our gloomy leaders. After reflection, we concluded that there is nothing to be surprised about. What are they supposed to tell us? Congratulations and wish you luck in the fight for Poland?! What Poland, what homeland? What am I fighting for? I keep repeating the words of Witos - as much homeland as acres of land behind the barn. I will not see my acres - Podolia and the entire Kresy region.
Tuesday, October 3, Westonzoyland
We only have one question: who is responsible for this madness? [i.e., the Warsaw Uprising, which has just collapse]. Didn't these people realize that half of Poland was already under Soviet occupation; that Poles, especially Home Army members, were arrested under any pretext; that the Soviets had already recognized the Lublin Committee as the future Polish government?! After all this, they still expected help from Stalin?! Blindness, deafness or provocation? And if none of these reasons, if they acted sincerely, it is hardly surprising that the world calls us suicidal!
Year 1945. Sunday, November 11, Kirton-in-Lindsa
We talked all night about a topic that was still current for us - the natives' dislike, if not outright hatred, for us. Tadzik R. pointed out that now we have the opportunity to feel what Jews and Ukrainians experienced in Poland.
Year 1946. Sunday, February 3, Wick
Last Thursday, January 31, we were visited by Generals Kopański and Maczek. General Kopański immediately made a review and made a short speech about returning to Poland. What surprised us was the fact that the general expressed unequivocal optimism about the future elections in Poland. He is sure that they will finally put an independent Poland back on its feet. And we only return to such a Poland.
Sunday, February 22, Wick
Most of us, with the veil of delusion on our eyes, despite all the press, despite the witch-hunt, still think that we are needed by England, because the war with Russia is still hanging by a thread. You can't explain it to them. They are convinced that the English like us very much, and only their press is so hideous.
Sunday, May 26, Hethel
In the evening in the bar, while drinking beer, a "bomb" exploded - Kazik is getting married to an Englishwoman! Well, he explained, times have changed. He has no intention of working in some factory or washing dishes in a restaurant; he met a nice woman, an only child, her father and mother are rich, they have a big shop, so he will settle in with them.
Sunday, August 25, Hethel
Yesterday morning, the squadron commander, Captain Budzik, who has been looking at me a little differently for some time now, told me to report to the major's office. – In a few months we will be on green grass. I will not eat any more bread from the pilotage. When I'm out of uniform and out in three-quarter pants, at least I'll know where to start looking for a job. There will be no war with Russia, Major. "And how do you know that, from the newspapers?" - Yes, from the newspapers. "And you believe everything you read?" “Only what agrees with my observation and conclusions. If the Major gives me his word of honor that in a few months we will be fighting with Russia for Poland, I guarantee you that you will have no trouble with me.
Sunday, November 17
Last Friday at three o'clock in the afternoon an extraordinary assembly of the entire squadron, including the ground crew, was called. The squadron commander announced briefly and dryly that this was the end of our winged hussars.
Sunday, December 1
On Thursday, November 27, in the afternoon, the squadron commander removed from the fuselage of a "Mustang" the badge of the 303 Squadron - a shield with the American flag, with Kosciuszko's scythes crossed. In the evening, the mechanics stripped the rest of the machines of their badges.
1947. Sunday, February 16, Framlingham
A young lieutenant sat at the table. – What would you like to do in the future? - He asked. – Do you really want to know what profession suits me best? Journalism. He spread his hands with a smile. - Translator? Russian, English, Polish – I asked seeing the reaction. “We have enough of them, and with higher education. – If you think that I should choose a profession corresponding to the needs of service in the corps, then maybe photography? – For professionals only. "Is it airport service?" Flight control? – This is only for those who will be accepted by the RAF as professional. "Then perhaps you can suggest something." It's not much either - he spread his hands again, clearly embarrassed. "There's work in iron foundries, farming, and —" "Coal mines," I finished for him. "That's what it looks like," he nodded. - I'm very sorry.
1948. Sunday, February 22, Framlingham
Last week I received a stateless passport based on a letter from Canada House. On Tuesday, February 17, I underwent a medical examination by the Canadian authorities and in the afternoon, I received a Canada Immigrant Visa for displaced persons. We arrived in Halifax on April 8 in the morning. But here one story ends and a completely different one begins.
Mr. Rudolf S. Falkowski died in 2012.
SOURCE: Original Polish text located at:
Rudolf Stanislaw Falkowski