Stanislaw & Antonina MARKUT

 

Both families were deported to Siberia.

On release, Stanislaw joined the Polish 2nd Corps and was later transferred to the 1st Polish Armoured Division.

Antonina joined the 317 Transport Company of the Women's Auxiliary of the Polish 2md Corps.

They met and married in England, and then emigrated to the US.

 

Stanislaw Markut was a veteran of both the Polish 2nd Corps under Gen. Anders as well as the 1st Polish Armoured Division with General Maczek.

 

Born in 1920 near Lublin, Stanislaw and his family moved east towards Bialystok when he was only nine years old. His mother and stepfather decided to start a new farm on a piece of land granted by the Polish government for veterans of the 1920 Russo-Polish war. In the years preceding WW2, Stanislaw was training to start a furniture production firm. The German invasion of September 1st changed all that.

 

After the fateful September Campaign and the division of Poland by the Germans and Russians, his area was occupied by the Soviets. Stanislaw planned to escape towards the west and link up with remaining relatives in Lublin but a heavy snowfall in December of 1939 prevented him from executing the plan. Then on February 10, 1940 at two in the morning, his family of five was turned out of their house by the NKVD and began their long journey into exile.

The Markut family was packed into cattle cars without food, water, heat or sanitary facilities, and were shipped north-east towards Finland near the White Sea. En route, Stanislaw suffered severe frost bite on his foot. By the time he arrived at the forced labor camp he was immediately put into the primitive camp hospital to recuperate. His sister, who was less than a year old, soon died frommalnutrition. During this time, the camp staff discovered his carpentry skills and assigned him to various woodworking duties.

The only source of meat was the fresh fish, which the internees caught in the local river. There was no milk or other luxuries. Each working person was provided 80 grams of bread per day (slightly more than 1/4 lb) and only 40 grams when not working. One-third of the internees of the camp died within the first six months and two-thirds had passed by the second half of 1941.

In August of 1941, Stalin agreed to ‘amnesty’ the Poles, but word did not reach the camp until much later. When it did, the remaining family and camp members were loaded into seven cattle cars and transported to an area near Tashkent in Kazakhstan. Stanislaw and his step-father joined the army immediately in January of 1942 and were recruited into the 24th Regiment of the 8th Division. His youngest brother joined the Polish Cadet Corps.  

 

By Easter, they evacuated to Persia and then on to Palestine. During this recuperation and training period, it was determined that Stanislaw needed more convalescent time and so he was shipped to the Union of South Africa with approximately 2,400 other soldiers. After three months there, he was reassigned to the Ist Polish Armoured Division in Scotland, while the rest of his family stayed with the Polish 2nd Corps.

 

By October of 1942, Stanislaw was in Kelso, Scotland. After initial training, he was sent to a wheeled driver's school in December of 1942. There he learned to drive Ford and Chevrolet vehicles. Then he was again reassigned to armour training, initially on Churchill and Valentine tanks. During this phase of training each individual was tested on the different positions within the tank. Stanislaw was a good driver and could load the main gun quickly, however his Morse skills required more honing. The loader acted as the radio operator and so this was not to be his primary job. Upon taking the gunner's position, it was found he had natural skill in determining distance and required lead on target. Thanks to this ability he was soon sent to NCO school and attained the rank of Master Corporal.  

After seven months of training he as officially transferred to the 16th Tank Battalion just as the Polish 1st Armoured Division was about to go through a reorganization, as well as training for the invasion of the continent.

Stanislaw participated in WW2 battles in France – Belgium – Holland – Germany

 

After the war, Stanislaw married Antonina Klimaszweska, who had also been deported and then joined the Women’s Auxiliary of the Polish 2nd Corps. 

Here is her story:

 

I was just one among thousands captured by the Soviets during the nightmarish time when Hitler and Stalin attacked Poland on opposite sides. The three-month journey that followed took my family by train across Russia to a Siberian labor camp. I was 14 years old in 1940, when this camp stole the lives of my mother and my youngest sister. I was left to fend for my younger sister and myself. All the while I clung to the hope that my father was, somewhere in this desolate tundra, alive.

 

I spent over a year in this existence until one night a Polish soldier arrived with official-looking papers for our immediate release. Only later did I learn that my cousin forged these documents. He was among the Polish captives released from Siberian prison camps by Stalin in order to join the Polish army being formed in the USSR.  This came after Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. This became my fate as I, too, wanted to serve for freedom. We headed south to Uzbekistan, to where my cousin was stationed. Although I was 16 and too young to serve, I lied about my age and enlisted in the Polish Army. This act guaranteed my sister's care under the sponsorship of the armed forces.

My first military assignment in 1942 was to care for sick children. We were transported across the Caspian Sea, finally leaving the Soviet Union and landing in Persia (Iran). It was there I had to say goodbye to my sister as she, along with the other children, were being sent to an orphanage in the Republic of South Africa. Although I knew she' would be safer where she was going, it was with a heavy heart I watched as yet another member of my family was led away. To this day, I cannot begin to describe my emotions at that moment.

Orders were issued to report to Palestine, where I completed boot camp and training at the School of Transportation. It was here that the 317 Transport Company of the Polish 2nd Corps under the British 8th Army was formed; an all female unit. This unit was totally self-sufficient, managed and maintained by women, complete with command levels and ranks. Through 1943, the 317th transported soldiers and supplies across Iran, Iraq and Egypt.  In 1944, we transferred to Italy, along with the rest of the Polish 2nd Corps.   We participated in the Italian Campaign, including the Battle of Monte Cassino.

I remained in Italy, attending Military School, until 1946 when the entire 2nd Corps was transferred to England. There I served in the Military Police until my honorable discharge in May 1949.

The Polish Resettlement Corps reunited me with what was left of my family; my father, sister and cousin. We remained in England, since our beloved homeland was behind the Iron Curtain and not free for us.

In 1954, I married Stanislaw Markut, whose experiences during the war were, sadly, similar to my own. We emigrated from England to America in 1956 and established our own family. In 1963, I became a citizen of the United States. In my adopted hometown of Buffalo, New York, I reminisce of these experiences with other Polish veterans; particularly with my platoon leader, former tent-mate, and an officer of the men’s 2nd Corps that I met when stationed in the Middle East. We share a kinship. Distance and place are no barriers for those of us who survived this ordeal.