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Stanislaw SMOLENSKI Jr.

Translation of parts o an

interview by Prof. Patalas

Born to Felicia and Stanislaw in 1919 in Warsaw, the family later moved to Wilno and laterstill to Stanislawow. I was working in a sawmill when the war broke out. My father was mobilized, and I now had to look after the family. In April 1940, my mother, brothers, and I were forcibly taken from our home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. We had been given less than an hour to pack what we could, without knowing where we were being taken. We took what w could carry and had to leave the rest behind.


We were taken to the railway station and loaded into cattle cars with 50-60 other people. This included infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and seniors. Most of the adults and seniors were women. The cattle car had two shelves at either end, where people could sit or sleep – the rest had to make do with the floor. There was a cast iron stove, but they soon ran out of wood to fuel it. There was also a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.


We travelled like this for weeks, and were given some water, stale bread, and watery soup, only a few times. When someone died, their bodies were cast out next to the tracks and left there. Many infants and elders did not survive this journey.


When we reached the collective farm in Kazakhstan, we were told that this is where we would eventually die, but in the meantime, we had to work to earn our daily ration of bread.


Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, we had to contend with hordes of mosquitoes and black flies, as well as infestations of bed bugs in the barracks. There were no medical facilities, and diseases ran rampant, leading to a high death toll.


Our grandfather in Warsaw occasionally managed to send us parcels through the Red Cross, and we learned that our father was in a Russian POW camp in Kozelsk.   When the ‘amnesty’ was declared, we learned that father was in Tatichevo, where the Polish Army was being formed. With a great deal of difficulty, we finally managed to join him there.


Because of a lack of food, the army sent military families to collective farms in the south. We ended up on a collective farm in Kirgizstan. We ended up starving in this place, and father came and took up back to the military camp, and I volunteered for the Polish 2nd Corps - 4th Armoured Battalion.


I was sent to the officers’ college for armoured units. The training took two years, in the most primitive conditions. In March 1942, we went to Krasnowodsk and were evacuated to Persia (now Iran). The evacuation took place by ship over the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi in Persia. The ships that were used were oil tankers and coal ships, and other ships that were not equipped to handle passengers. They were filthy and lacked even the basic necessities, like water and latrines. The soldiers and civilians filled these ships to capacity for the 1–2-day trip. When there were storms, the situation got even worse – with most of the passengers suffering sea sickness.


I continued training in Palestine and Egypt, and then was sent to Africa and fought in the battle of Tobruk. My father was also serving in the Polish 2nd Corps, while my brothers Julian (1931-208) and Andrzej were with my mother in a Polish refugee camp in northern Rhodesia.


When we left for Italy, I was assigned to the 1st Squadron of the 6th Armoured Regiment in the rank of corporal. At one point, a shell exploded so close to our tank, that the shrapnel shot under the tank and wounded all of us. I got three of them: one in the knee, one in the thigh, and one in the groin, for which I was awarded the Cross if Valour. I was sent to the hospital in Casamassima, where I stayed for a month. I returned to my unit and was assigned to an ordinance supply unit, before being re-assigned to a tank.


In England, after the war, I signed up for the Polish Resettlement Corps. My father was also stationed in England, while my mother and brothers only joined us in 1948. We lived in England for a while before deciding to emigrate to Canada in 1955. My brothers and I chose to settle in Winnipeg and sponsored our parents to join us. I got a job with Pioneer Electric, and that is where I worked until I retired. I met and married Czeslawa Elzbieta, and we raised a daughter and two sons.


Stanislaw passed away in Saint Boniface on February 4, 2021, at the age of 101.

Copyright: Smolenski family

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