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Stefan was born October 21, 1918, in Zambrow, in eastern Poland, Stefan’s life was changed forever by the Second World War.

The Germans invaded Poland from the west on 1 September 1939, and the Russians invaded from the east on 17 September 1939. They divided Poland between them. In the Russian-controlled area, the plan to ethnically-cleanse the area soon took effect with the first of four mass deportations to Siberia that were carried out in 1940 and 1941. The Russians also forcibly conscripted Poles into the Russian army.

Stefan was drafted into the Russian Army, where he served for eighteen months before being sent to a labour camp in Siberia. Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, prisoners at the camp 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 in these camps, and diseases ran rampant, leading to a high death toll.

In June 1941, Germany turned on its ally, Russia. Stalin then quickly changed tactics and allied himself with the west so that the allies could help him defeat the Germans. This led to the signing of the Sikorski-Majewski agreement that called for the freeing of Poles imprisoned in POW camps and labour camps in the USSR, and the formation of a Polish Army in the southern USSR.

The news of this ‘amnesty’ did not reach every camp, but where it did become known, the men and boys soon made plans to make their way south to join the army. For most, this meant walking thousands of kilometers and only occasionally getting on a train for part of the journey.  Many did not make it, and those who did were emaciated skeletons by the time they got there. The women and children who followed later, encountered the same difficulties on their journey south

General Anders was in charge of the army, and he tried hard to get the Russians to provide the food and equipment they had promised. When this became more and more impossible, he negotiated the right to evacuate the army to Persia, where the British would provide what was needed.

Anders insisted on taking as many of the civilians that had reached the army as possible. There were 2 mass evacuations: in March/April 1942, and in September 1942. Then Stalin changed his mind and closed the borders. Those who had not been evacuated were now stuck in the USSR.

The evacuation took place by ship over the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi in Persia (now Iran). 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.

Stefan evacuated to Persia (now Iran) with the Polish Army, then was sent to Scotland for training as a paratrooper. He participated in 21 jumps as part of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, including Operation Market Garden over Arnhem, Holland.

After the war, Stefan settled in Lincolnshire, England,  resuming his trade as a blacksmith. He moved once more to settle permanently in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1956.

He married Aline, and had 3 children: Edward, Helen, and Sheila; and stepchildren:  Barbara, Gloria, Ben, and Arthur.

Stefan was very proud of his career with Dominion Bridge, where he worked for over 20 years as a fitter-welder and then as an inspector until his retirement.

He was a member of the Legion Branch 34, the Polish Combatants Association, and the Polish Fraternal Aid Society of St. John Cantius.

Stefan passed away in Winnipeg on Monday, May 3, 2004, at the age of 85 years.

Copyright: Buraczewski family

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