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Stanislawa (Jakubowska) PAWLIK


Stanislawa was born May 5th, 1935, in Bobrka, near Lwow.  The family subsequently moved to Jezupol, near Stanislawow, where they lived a quiet, uneventful life until the war broke out.


Stanislawa was 5 years old when she was forcibly deported by the Russians from Jezupol on February 10, 1940, along with her parents, and her siblings: Aleksandra, Zofia, Mieczysław, Jerzy/Jozef, Emilia, Marysia, and Zbigniew. One brother stayed behind in Lwow at the University and was not deported.

The family endured a 3-week journey in a packed cattle car, in temperatures reaching minus 40 Celsius, as the train made its way to Zytygara in the northern reaches of Kazakhstan.  Zytygara was a mining town where gold ore was mined, and everyone over the age of 15 was forced to work in the mine. 

Conditions on the train were beyond inhuman.  They had little food and water was provided only a few times, as was some watery soup.  There was a stove in the middle of the cattle car, but wood to fuel it soon ran out. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could have survived such a journey.

In Zytygara, the family was assigned to a very large barrack, packed with many other families.  There were double wooden bunks that lined the walls, and a stove for heating and cooking was in the center.  The fuel for the stove was made of a mixture of dried cow dung and straw that they had to use sparingly so that it would not run out before the end of winter.

The living quarters were a fair distance from the town and from the mine, so getting to either place in the winter months was hazardous. Stanislawa remembers two boys that she knew who got lost in a snowstorm and froze to death.

This is how the family lived for the next 20 months – subsisting on the meagre allowance of bread that was given to each working person, and the occasional bowl of watery soup.  Sanitary conditions were abysmal, and they all had to deal with the nightly invasion of masses of bedbugs.

In June 1941, Germany attacked their former ally, Russia. As a result of the German attack, an ‘amnesty’ for Polish deportees was negotiated by the Polish government-in-exile, and so the family left for the south of the USSR towards the end of October 1941.

This journey from Zytygara was much longer than the trip that had brought them there.  It took months.  Again, there were the cattle wagons, again people crammed together, but this time there were no guards.  The passengers were exhausted, starving, sick, dirty and lice-ridden, riding into the unknown.  Those who could walk, who were healthier, when the trains stopped, would gather frozen potatoes, often just peels, from which they made "soup".  Oil-seed-cakes, destined for animal feed, were a rarity.  Water was lacking.  There were no medicines. No wonder, that the death toll among the travellers was dreadfully high.

Stanislawa’s father was responsible for recruiting men for the Polish army that was being formed in the southern part of the USSR.  At one train stop, he was interrogated by a Russian soldier, and when he told him they were on their way to join the army that would help fight the Germans, the Russian soldier asked how many they were altogether.  Her father answered that they were 84 in total.  To their amazement, the soldier came back with 84 loaves of bread for them! This went a long way to keeping them alive.

In Kermine, which means "Valley of Death" in the Uzbek language, they camped under the trees near the train station for several days. The cemetery in Kermine contained thousands of Polish graves, which were virtually washed out by the wind-swept sand dunes.  After all, these graves were only a couple of months, weeks, or even just a few days old.

They eventually got onto a transport heading to Krasnowodsk.  This was the last instalment of their nightmarish journey through the inhuman land. In Krasnowodsk, they boarded a dilapidated cargo ship and crossed the Caspian Sea to the port of Pahlavi in Persia (Iran).  The family went through the disinfecting and delousing procedures, and stayed in a tent for a short time before heading to Tehran.

By the time they reached Tehran, Stanislawa’s parents and her brother Mieczyslaw were very ill. Her father Jan Jakubowski had joined the Polish 2nd Corps but died in Tehran in April 1942, as did her mother Maria (nee Kociumbas) Jakubowska and her brother Mieczysław. All three died in Tehran in April 1942. Stanislawa, aged 7, was at her mother’s side when she died.

Stanislawa’s sister Zofia was old enough to join the Women’s’ Auxiliary of the Polish 2nd Corps and became a driving instructor.  She met her husband in the Polish army (he was in an artillery unit) and they married in Italy.  Both participated in the Italian Campaign and both were at Monte Cassino. They spent some time in the UK after the war, and then moved to Argentina.

Stanislawa’s brother, Jerzy/Jozef, joined the cadets in Nazareth, while Stanislawa, Emilia and Marysia were sent to the orphanage at Isfahan, Persia (Iran), where they stayed until 1945.  They were then sent to Zouk Mickael in Lebanon, where they continued their studies.

They sailed to Liverpool, England in 1948.  Stanislawa was13 at the time, and she continued her education at Loutford Magna in Buckinghamshire from 1948 to 1951, and then at Stowell Park boarding school from 1951 to 1952. Stanislawa met her husband Stanislaw in England. 


After the war, Emilia married a Polish officer in England - he ended up working in a coal mine. Stanislawa’s sister Marysia became a nun after the war.

Stanislawa in 2013

Copyright: Pawlik family

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