STEFANIA  (Wnęk)  MAJGIER

The author was forcibly exiled to the Ural Mountains area with her family, on February 10, 1940.  After the ‘amnesty’, they travelled with the Polish Army under the command of Gen. Anders through central Asia, across the Caspian Sea to Persia (Iran), and on to Africa. On December 14, 1947, she returned to Poland and was reunited with family living in Poland. She began to write her memoir of exile to the Ural region in 1980. After she had described the preparations for departure from the Urals, she stopped. She decided that the memories were too difficult and painful, and that she did not wish to relive them. She gave up on writing any more of her memoires.

 

Stefania Majgier’s nephew Marceli Wnęk, son of Karol Wnęk, copied and edited the following account from the manuscript, in May 2001.

Translated by Barbara Charuba

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Intrusion by Night and Removal from Home

Early in the morning of Saturday, February 10, 1940, there came a banging at the door. Someone said in Polish “Open up!” Wicek got up and opened the door, a Russian corporal and two soldiers, along with two Ukrainian locals in civilian clothes, burst into the house. The soldiers dragged us out of bed and made my parents and me sit on a bench in the kitchen. They then carried out a careful search of the inside of the house and attic, the stable, the barn, and the cellar. They took me to lead them, in my nightgown and panties. I put on Wicek’s fur jacket that lay close by, and a pair of my mother’s boots. Dressed like this, I had to walk in front them where they ordered me to go, with the soldiers with their bayonetted rifles right behind me. The search took a long time and they did not find what they were looking for. Then the Russian corporal read a document. According to this document, they had to resettle us somewhere else because we lived close to the border, which at that time was on the San River in Przemyśl. He did not say where we were going. He then ordered us to pack our things immediately and leave.

My brother Józek came in. He woke up because of the noise on the road. When he saw that the lights were on and that there was activity so early at our house, he got curious about what was happening, and came over. Then Celka, Aniela’s sister, also came over. They put Józek and Celka on the bench in the kitchen, next to the others.

They ordered me to collect everything I could pack within half an hour and ordered everyone else to leave the house. I was the only one who could walk around the house. I had to give their clothes to my mother and Wicek. Then I set to packing as many things as I could. In tears, I gathered what I could. When he saw that I was crying, the corporal said in Russian, “Why are you crying? You will see the world and get married!” Then he allowed my father, mother, and Wicek to get dressed, but they were not allowed to leave the house. Józek and Celka continued to sit where they were, with a soldier holding a rifle on them.

I packed what I could. I laid out bedsheets on the floor and pulled everything I could off of beds and out of cupboards. I put all these things, clothes, down quilts, shoes, some pots, stuff from the pantry (flour and lard). In this way, I made bundles. The Ukrainian locals (from Bojowice) helped to carry the bundles out to the sleigh waiting outside. However, the locals hid some of the bundles wherever they could, instead of putting them on the sleigh. They robbed us, taking the bundles for themselves.

Stachu, an 18-year-old boy and refugee from central Poland, was staying with us because the San River had become the border (between Poland and Russia) and he could not return home.

I went to the chicken coop and began to stuff chickens into a bag. Stachu followed me and I told him to wring the chickens’ necks and stuff the birds into bags. He caught the rooster by the neck and swung him around, and then let him go. The rooster made a lot of noise. The Russians came into the chicken coop and chased me out, but I did not let them take the bag with the chickens from me.

Some of our grain (wheat and rye) was at the mill in Medyka. Wicek had taken it for milling and was supposed to collect the flour on the following Saturday. The leavening starter for bread was made and, as usual, we were going to make bread on Saturday. Sunday would be the last Sunday of Ordinary time (before Lent) because Easter would fall on March 30-31, 1940. We had only half a loaf of bread. We had no rubles because, two days earlier, my father had refused to sell cattle to the Russians. I had six rubles.

The Russians were rushing us, in preparation for departure. I was still grabbing what I could when a young Russian burst in, started shouting that we were taking too long, and drove everyone out. Józek, sitting there, told me what else I should take: take the sewing machine, take mother’s trunk, etc. Therefore, I dragged it out. However, the Russian did not want to let me take it. I shouted that I was not moving and he relented. Everyone was outside and I, the last one out, shoved two towels in the tops of mama’s big boots that I wearing.

They put me on the sleigh. I was only lightly clad, and it was very cold and snowing. My clothes were in the bundles thrown on the sleigh in disarray. I looked for some of my clothes to put on. To my frustration, the only things I could find were some of mama’s old, long skirts. I put on what I could and covered my head with one of mama’s old shawls. I looked like a gypsy. 

 

Transport to the Railway Station in Mościska

We drove out of the yard onto the road. It was already light. Before us and behind us, guarded by Russian soldiers, rode other Poles with their families. There were Old Moskal, Michał Moskal, Janek Moskal, the Charpulas, the Majkutas, the Wróbels, the Ołowieckis, the Nowaks, the Bartniks, the Czerwonkas, the Mazurs, the Jońcas, the Szpilas, the Jaszczas, Mrs. Nastala and others. Celka and Józek were also taken with our family.

They transported us through the village in this convoy, guarded by soldiers. Our Ukrainian neighbours ran in a swarm to our abandoned homes to plunder them. I do not know what happened, but everything was left behind. There were barns and stables full of cattle, horses and pigs; and homes full of clothes, shoes, furniture and dishes. There was grain, potatoes and agricultural equipment on the farms. In a word, the assets of successive hard-working generations were all left behind.

We travelled through Husaków, and stopped outside of Husaków, near Grego’s mill. Here, we waited for the expelled Poles from Horysławice. They let Celka Grobowiec go, since her name was not on the list of those to be exiled. The exiles from Horysławice arrived, and the convoy slowly began to move. We would hop off the sleigh to warm up a little and, when we got tired, we would jump back on again. Bronka Wrobel came and sat beside me, while Józek walked beside our sleigh - a young Russian soldier with a rifle walked next to him. As we moved through Myślatyce, Józek told us to “chat him up a little”. Therefore, both of us started to talk in Ukrainian; even in these difficult circumstances, we joked and laughed. The soldier jumped on the sleigh and sat beside us and we drove on in feigned cheerfulness. Meanwhile, Józek disappeared. No one noticed that he was gone, and no trouble came of this, since his name was not on the list of those to be deported.

We passed through the town of Mościska, and I saw my sister Tekla on the sidewalk. She looked at me and my mother and father, but did not come to us. The soldiers would grab anyone who approached and take them along with those who were being deported.

 

The Railway Station at Mościski

We arrived at the Mościski railway station. Freight cars waited for us on the sidings. Each car had wooden shelves, a small stove in the centre and a hole in the floor in the corner to serve as a toilet. The toilet was out in the open with no covering. There was one small window with bars. As with all freight cars, there was a sliding door with a bolt. They brought us to the freight cars and ordered us to carry our bundles into them. The night was drawing nigh and they ordered us to carry in firewood. They then called the roll based on the list of names that they had. One was missing! Wicek Wnęk was gone; he had run away. All hell broke loose. They quickly drove us into the cars and locked them.

Night came. There was no place to sleep. While some slept on the shelves, others sat crouched nearby and dozed. We spent all of Sunday and Monday locked in the freight cars at the Mościski railway station. During that time, the occupiers brought in other deportees from other parts of the county. Mama, papa and I, were in one freight car with the whole Moskal family and the Wróbels, with some family from Mościski. Bronka Wróbel would often come to chat with me, which made time pass more quickly. The train, which was very long, was already full of exiles. It was called an eshelon in Russian.

 

Departure from Mościski to the Unknown

Late on the evening of February 12, 1940, the train left the Mościski railway station. We were travelling to we knew not where, or why. As we passed various railway stations, Poles would ask us where we were going.  We began to realize that we were headed for the heart of Russia, probably Siberia. The first longer stop was at Podwołoczysk, where we left the borders of Poland behind.

During this forced journey, we ate what we had. We cooked chicken, or whatever else anyone had, on the one little stove. The wood burned in the little stove day and night. Every one of us was constantly cooking something.

We received fuel for the stoves and water at the railway stations. They let one member of each family out of the railway cars to get these items. We had a bag for the coal and pail for the water.  Sometimes we got a piece of bread. When we ran out of water in the railway car, we reached out of the small window, pulled snow off the roof, and melted it. We answered the call of nature in the corner of the car, using the hole in the floor, having hung a blanket around it for some privacy.

Hundreds of such trains travelled in front of us and behind us. The excrement all over the railway tracks told the story. At one of the stations in the U.S.S.R., two such trains stopped side by side. As it happened, the train on the other track stood so that the window of our car was exactly opposite the window of the car in the other train, where the Chmiel family of Boratycewere. We exchanged a few words with them through the window. That transport left shortly thereafter.

The days and nights passed monotonously in the freight cars. Finally, after 15 days of travel into the unknown (17 days from the time we left home) on February 27 at 12:00, the transport stopped at what turned out to be the final destination. The station was called Uśwa or Uśfa, This was in the Ural Mountains region.

 

Transport to the Camp and Assignment of Quarters

We left the train at the station, and placed our baggage on a small one-horse sleigh that was provided. We left at 4:00 PM, heading for a place called Kluczanka. Children and old people rode on sleighs piled high with bundles and hay. The youth and the middle aged had to walk behind the sleigh.

Russian women drove the sleighs. I walked behind the sleigh with our bundles. Boards stuck out from the back of the sleigh. When we travelled downhill, the driver allowed us to stand on these boards and hold onto the rope tied around our bundles. We had to walk uphill and on flat terrain. At first, the woman driver did not want to talk. She pushed me off the sleigh when we started up a hill. When we were far away from the other sleighs, she let me sit on the sleigh and we chatted a little. I knew how to speak and write in Ukrainian because we learned Ukrainian, in addition to Polish, at school in Husaków.

While I rode on the sleigh, a young man joined us. He had been visiting the Kawałek family in Mościski and was exiled with them. He sometimes stood on the boards sticking out of the back of the sleigh, but the woman driver forbade it, screamed at him to get off, and even hit him with her whip. He did not give in to her. He would hide behind the sleigh and then get back in.

This was the mountainous region of the Urals. The road rose and fell, and there were many sharp turns. The horse sped downhill as fast as it could, and then pulled the sleigh slowly uphill. There was a lot of snow - around three metres. The snow was powdery and when you fell out of the sleigh, you sank into it. The snow on the roadway was packed. At one of the turns, the horse turned suddenly, and we fell off head first into the snow. The horse sped on by itself. The young man fell onto to the packed snow of the roadway. He helped us clamber out of the snow. The horse stopped at the bottom of the hill and waited for us. We walked down to the horse and climbed back onto the sleigh. This time, the woman driver did not forbid him to sit with us at the back of the sleigh.

We arrived at our assigned destination, on February 28, 1940 around 6:00 AM. This was a village called Kluczanka. Mother and Father, the Wróbels and other exiles, joined us a short time later. It was around 40 Km from the station at Uśwa to Kluczanka. Our address in exile was Perm Oblast, Dobrianskiy Rayon, Krasnowskiy Sielsoviet, Posiołok Kluczanka, Udarnaya Street No. 25.

We were assigned one room in the house at No. 25 Udarnaya Street. We were quartered with Franciszek Wróbel’s family. Albina Wróbel, nee Wnęk, was my older sister. Nine people lived in this room. In the next room, a very large, very poor family, of three generations were quartered: a couple with many children and the grandparents. The husband was sick and the wife was rather inept. One could hear everything they said and did through the thin wall. Bedbugs and other insects moved through the wall both ways.

They gave us a few days off to rest and settle in. When we arrived, the houses in which we lived were heated and clean, and there was some firewood. In our house, there was a stove for cooking and heat. In some houses there were only bread ovens made of clay and wood. Not everyone knew how to use these stoves and when they started to use them, fires often broke out. There was lot of confusion in dealing with the blazes.

Initially, one of the more significant concerns was the gathering of firewood. Our camp was in the woods. Surrounding us were massive Ural forests. We went into the woods looking for dry wood. It turned out that there were many dried out trees. We cut down one dry tree, cut off the branches and, using ropes, we dragged the wood home.

The locals came to visit us in secret that first night, since they were officially forbidden to have contact with us. The locals wanted to buy some things from us, since they knew we would be selling things in order to get money for necessities. That is what happened. Mr. Wróbel sold some trousers and got some oil and onions, as well as a few rubles for them. After that, they came more frequently.

Throughout our stay in Kluczanka, an NKVD agent visited us every day. He would march from the door to the window and back again and ask, “kak wasza familia?, skolko u was dusz? (“How is your family? How many showers do you take?” He would  check his notebook and leave. In time, when the children saw him coming they would start shouting “kak familia!” and we knew that the NKVD agent was coming.

 

Our first Tasks in the Forest

After a few days when we had settled in, they gathered all those able to work (men, women, and youth from the ages of 15 to 60). They provided us with kufajki (jackets), woven overshoes (łapcie), gloves, axes and saws, and they paid us a few rubles in advance. Then they led us out into the forest to fell trees and get them ready for removal. First, they divided us into four or six person squads. The men felled the trees and the women cut off the branches, gathered them in piles, and burned them.

At first, this was not easy for the women. We did not know how to move about in these conditions. We kept falling into the deep powdery snow. Later, we somehow learned to walk on the felled trees and make do. After the first difficult day of frequent falls into snow up to our necks, and unskilled burning of branches, we were exhausted. Time seemed to drag terribly. Later, we learned to step on the felled trees to cut the branches, and to drag the branches to burn them. As we burned the branches, the sparks flying around the fire burned holes in our kerchiefs, jackets and clothes. We had to learn everything from scratch and get used to everything.

After some time, they transferred Bronka, the two Buczkwoski girls, and me, to a yard with some sawing jacks. They gave us saws and axes. On these jacks, we cut medium-sized pine and birch trunks into small 6 cm circles that we later chopped into small pieces. Then we threw these pieces into special containers. One of these containers could hold a volume of a quarter of a cubic metre. Four of these containers held a cubic meter. Bronka and I worked as an independent squad, and returned home each day exhausted.

We were paid for our work but, the cost of our transport from Poland, the rent of our home, the tax on the lot on which our house stood and the path that passed around it, the cost of our jackets, shoes, gloves, hatchets, axes, saws, and other tools, were all deducted. Sometimes they gave us advances against future pay.

 

Our Life in the Urals

 

After returning from work and eating whatever there was of a meal, all we wanted to do was go to sleep. We all slept the same room. The bedding consisted of bags filled with wood shavings. Balbina got them from the wood shop. She had gone there with Józia, Dolek and Marian  and had begged for a few wood shavings, sawdust and some pieces of wood. They packed all of this into bags and brought it home. The wood was used as firewood, and the wood shavings and sawdust we packed into bags on which we slept.

In our room we had two nary, made of unseasoned boards nailed together, to be used as beds.. My parents slept on one, and we arranged our underwear and clothes on the other. In other words, the second nara served as our wardrobe. The remaining seven people slept on the floor, on the bags of wood shavings and sawdust. We only slept this way for the first winter. In the summer, we stuffed the bags with dry grass, making them much more comfortable to sleep on. We did the same the next summer.

Father wrote a letter to Poland and gave them our address. In response, we started getting letters from Bojowice, from Karol, Józek, Celka, Aniela and other friends. At first there were only letters; later they started sending packages with food.

 

 

Work in Bałdycha

After a while, they transferred us to Bałdycha, to fell trees in the forest. The place was 12 km from Kluczanka. We spent the nights there in the barracks. Once a week, we would walk to Kluczanka to visit our family. We would change our underwear, do our laundry, and take some of the food sent in the packages from Poland.

There was a canteen in Bałdycha, where one could buy a portion of bread, soup and porridge. Only those who worked in Bałdycha could stay in the barracks. Each barracks had two large halls, with iron beds that had mattresses on them. In the middle of the barrack, in between the halls, were a kitchen and a drying room. The kitchen had a stove with a steel plate that could be accessed from two sides. A tank with boiled water and another with cold water stood beside it. In the drying room, there were ropes on which we dried clothes that had been soaked through in the woods. There was a special stove to heat the drying room. The barracks teamed with bedbugs. There was a special housekeeper, called an uborszczyca [arranger] who kept the stoves burning, cleaned the barracks, and carried and boiled water.

In Bałdycha we could talk to the locals freely without penalty.

Work started at 8:00 am. Generally, the first bell rang at 5:00 am. The second rang a half an hour later and, depending on the distance from the place of work, there was a third bell. We left the barrack on the third bell, to arrive at the place of work at exactly 8:00 am. We worked until 5:00 pm. We could walk more quickly in the summer and so could get up a little later.

The days were shorter in the winter; we left in the dark and came back in the dark. It was very cold - -30C/-35°C. When it was very cold, we did not have to go to work, but we did not know this. Therefore, we worked even on some of the coldest days. However, there were several times when we did not work on the coldest days.

 

Spring in the Urals

It got warmer in the month of May, and the days were significantly longer. The sun was warm. The snows melted. In places where the sun warmed the ground, spring flowers like violets and anemones would peep out from under the snow. Rivers swelled with water and flooded their banks. Once, as I walked from Bałdycha to Kluczanka, I picked a few violets and anemones and brought them home. It was odd, because there was still a lot of snow and it was still cold. The birches ran with sap and the buds swelled on the branches of the deciduous trees. Birds, from small woodcocks to large black birds that the locals called głuszcze, returned.

 

The Next Change of Work

When it got warmer and spring came to stay, they sent us from Bałdycha to the base at Kośwa. This was 25 Km from our home in Kluczanka. We travelled to work by boat, across the swollen Kośwa River. An old man captained this very dangerous voyage. A large mass of ice flowed down the river and sometimes scraped against the sides of our boat.

In Kośwa we burned branches and cleared the ground so that grass would grow. It was a sort of meadow. I Worked with Bronka and other people from Kluczanka.

 

Summer in the Urals

It was the time of white nights.  In the summer, we worked at night, due to the threat of wild fire during the day. The dry forest floor quickly ignited, most often from sparks from a tractor. Fires broke out frequently and every living soul would run to save the forest. Fire in the forest spreads very quickly, even if there is only a light breeze.

In the early summer, mosquitoes and black flies tormented us. They came in huge swarms and their bites were painful. The pain and itching lasted a long time.

The summer in the Urals was very short. When the grass grew high enough, we worked at harvesting hay. Most often, Hanka Charpuła and I mowed the grass with scythes. When the grass dried out enough, other women turned it over with rakes, and then piled the dry hay in stacks. At first, our supervisor was Antek Charpuła and later Marchlewicz from Horysławice.

In the Urals, spring, summer and autumn are short seasons. Only winter is very long. By August, there was frost, and it was sometimes very cold.  

During this short time, everything grew. There was an abundance of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and mushrooms in the summer. When we worked at night, we would pick berries right after dinner. If we worked during the day, we would go berry picking just after 5:00 pm, or we skipped dinner. We would take a piece of bread and a bottle of water from the river and ate berries - most often raspberries. Every one of us gained some weight and got a little healthier. This helped satisfy our hunger. Potatoes also grew to edible size during this time. This was a type of potato that produced tubers early - even before April. The tubers grew very big.

 

Meeting Bears

The adults went to work, while Balbina stayed with the children and grandparents in Kluczanka. In the summer, they would go to the forest to pick wild strawberries, raspberries, blue berries, mushrooms, etc., depending on the season that each ripened. They had a variety of adventures and surprises during these expeditions. One the biggest was a meeting with a bear.

Balbina told the story that once Jóźka, Dolek, Marian and she went to pick wild strawberries. Balbina knew the terrain because she had to cut grass there with a scythe during the harvest. Early one morning, they arrived at a meadow where a lot of wild strawberries and raspberries grew, and they happened on a bear. When he saw them, he began to approach Dolek. They all started to make a lot of noise, and burn tree bark, to scare him away. The bear turned and left. It was summer, he was probably not hungry, and so he backed off.

I had occasion to see a bear too. It was at work, and we were a large group of women, men, Poles and Russians. We all began to shout and make a lot of noise, and the bear turned and ran away.

 

‘Amnesty’ for the Poles

On the night of August 24, 1941 they rounded up all the men of Kluczanka who were 15 years of age and older, who were able to walk, and drove them out into the unknown. Female Komsomol members and other Russian party members rode next to this column. We, the women, were terrified and tried to follow them with the children, but they made us turn back. No one knew where or why the men were being taken away.

 

Work in the Coal Mine

Right after the ‘amnesty’, many people in Kluczanka, among them Bronka Wróbel and I, went to work in the Nagorna Coal Mine. Bronka, I, and other women, worked down in the mine 12 hours a day. The women and girls pushed the carts loaded with the coal along tracks. Two people pushed each cart. I worked with Stefka Buczkowska from Złotowice.

We would then place the empty cart under a woronka (a tapering chute). Next, we pulled a board out of the lower part of the chute and coal would pour out of the opening into the cart. After filling the front of the cart, we would pull the cart back and the empty half would then fill up. Once the cart was full, we slid the board over the opening, and then we pushed the cart to the other track. The coal was full of debris. There were discarded pieces of wood used in propping up the walkways in the mine, mixed in with the coal.  One of us would climb up onto the cart and throw these out. These pieces of wood often stopped the coal from pouring out of the chute into the cart. We once had an accident because of this. A piece of wood was blocking the coal and preventing it from falling into the cart. One of us pulled out another board to so that she could pull the stick out, and the coal came rushing out on top of us. Chunks of coal hit our heads and landed beside the cart. We panicked and started to scream, and the supervisor ran over to close the opening. A lot of coal had poured out of the chute. We tidied our workspace and used shovels to dump the coal into empty carts. Others worked with us on this.

The trip into and out of the mine was also dangerous. The elevators were very makeshift. Once, the elevator stopped working about 35 metres below the surface. The elevator started to slowly descend and we were very frightened. The mine was very far below us and at the bottom was deep water. They slowly pulled us to the surface, using ropes.

After that incident, we started using ladders to climb down to work in the mine and climb up to the surface. It was a very tiring journey. Every 15 metres or so, there was a closed flap. As we moved down or up, we had to hold the flap open with our hand or foot and slide up or down. We were not experienced or strong enough to do this smoothly. It took us an hour to climb down into the mine, and another hour to climb out. It was worse climbing out of the mine. We had to constantly pull our body weight up using our arms. Blood would stop properly circulating in our arms and, when we got to the surface, our arms would be white, numb, and very painful. In the winter, we would rub snow on them. 

We did not work long in this mine. We left the mine and returned to our families in Kluczanka.

 

Departure from the Urals

We began preparations for our departure from Kluczanka on the journey south to central Asia. We sold whatever we had left. Bronka Wróbel and I walked tens of kilometres carrying the things we had brought from Poland on our backs. We had quilts, dresses, skirts and men’s suits. I sold Wicek’s suits. He escaped the transport in Mościski and so was not with us. With the money we made, we bought food, salt, and other necessaries for the journey.

On November 5, 194, all the families in Kluczanka travelled to the city of Molotov (once called Perm) to go south to Uzbekistan, where Gen. Władysław Anders was forming the Polish Army.  

 

 

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This is where the memoir stops. Further work on the memoir became more than the author could bear. When she got to Uzbekistan Stefania married Maciej Majgier of Mościski, who was in the Polish Army in the 6th Lwów Infantry Division. A dysentery epidemic broke out in the city of Shakhrisabz. Stefania became ill, as did her parents Jan and Anna Wnęk. Stefania’s parents died there and her husband Maciej Majgier died of malaria in Tehran.

 

 

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NOTES

 

 

1.  Wicek - Wincenty Wnęk, brother of the author. A bachelor. They both lived with their parents Jan and Anna (nee Kubat). The rest of their siblings lived with their families in Bojowice or other places (Albina Wróbel, Józef Wnęk, Karol Wnęk, Stanisław Wnęk, Jan Wnęk, Tekla Sieńko in Mościski and Apolonia Maj lived in Pomerania).

 

 

2.  Celka - Cecylia Grabowiec from Grodzisko Dolne, Łańcut county, the sister of the author’s sister-in-law (wife of Jan Wnęk). Jan and Aniela Wnęk (nee Grabowiec), were a young married couple. A little daughter, Harminegilda (Minia), was born to them in March 1939. In preparation for the coming war (the threat of invasion by the Nazi Germans) Jan Wnęk was drafted in the first mobilization in June 1939. Cecylia Grabowiec came to help her sister. In October 1939, after the partition of Poland by the Germans and the Russians, when the occupants agreed that the San River would be the border between them, Cecylia could not return home to Grodzisko Dolne. Jan Wnęk was taken prisoner by the Red Army. Celka returned to her parents in Grodzisko Dolne near Leżajsk after June 22, 1941.

 

 

3.  Stachu - His actual surname was Ścibiorek. He came from Łódź or environs (possibly Pabianice). When the war broke out on September 1, 1939, he was at the Jesuit school in Chyrów. Like many refugees from western and central Poland, he ended up at the border crossing in Przemyśl on his way out of this area to get home. The refugees were starving and would go to neighbouring villages to ask for food. They would walk 20 Km, and often more, even in winter. During his wanderings in search for food, Stach, half frozen, happened on his grandfather, Jan Wnęk, one day by accident.  He was hungry, weak, without winter clothes and very poor. He found shelter to get through the winter with his grandparents. It was at this point that the deportation of Poles began. They did not deport him because he was was not on the list. The Russians took him in April 1940, promising that they would let him through the border to go south to his family. They lied. He wrote to Bojowice from Krasnojarskiy Kray in Siberia. This was the second mass deportation of Poles to Siberia, on the nights of April 22 and 23, when the Polish refugees from western, central and northern Poland were deported.

 

4.  Boratyce is the name of a village that belonged to the Roman Catholic Parish in Husaków, within the borders of the municipality of Przemyśl. Chmiel was the surname of close friends, among them peers of the author, who were good friends of hers.

 

5.  Balbina Wróbel - the author’s older sister. Jóźka, Dolek, and Marian were her children, the author’s nieces and nephew. The author worked in the forest with her oldest sister Bronka, felling trees and later cutting the wood into small circles and then into bits of wood.

 

6.  This was not a real amnesty, because there was no trial or sentence for a crime. It was simply a return to normalcy. The government of the Soviet Union recognized Poles as criminals (enemies of the state) in September 1939, though no crime had been proved legally by trial. At that time, every Pole was considered a criminal in the U.S.S.R., simply because he was a Pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorable Days in the author’s life (from 1939)

 

 

Stefania (Wnęk) Majgier was born February 10, 1916 in Grodzisku Dolnym, pow. Łańcut, Małopolska.  She died in hospital in Poznan on October 16, 1996 and is buried at the parish cemetery in Bydgoszcz.

 

 

I. POLAND

 

  • 01 September 1939, Germany invades Poland.

  • 12 September 1939 bombardment by German planes in the area of Husakowa.

  • 13 September 1939, the German Army arrived in Husakowa

  • 17 September 1939, the Russian Army invades Poland.

  • 10 February 1940, forced deportation of all settlers and their families from the area  (village of Bojowice, the municipality of Husaków, the county of Mościska, the voivodeship of Lwów).

  • 15 day trip to Siberia in cattle cars.

 

 

II. The URAL Mountain Region

 

  • 27 February 1940, left the cattle cars and boarded sleighs that took us to the Kluczanka camp.

  • 25 August 1941, we were told about the ‘amnesty’ and that we were free to leave.

  • 05 November 1941, we left Kluczanka and travelled for 6 weeks to reach the Polish Army in the south of the USSR.

III. UZBEKISTAN

 

  • 18 December 1941, we reached Uzbekhistan, and were assigned to the Kizelkija  collective farm  (Kargand, Ursałyjeszewsk, Kopand, Andizan, Kankiszłak)

  • 13 February 1942, all the men left to join the Polish Army

  • 30 June 1942 to 8 July 1942, we travelled to Szachrisab.

  • 15 August 1942, we left the USSR, crossing the Caspian Sea to Persia.

 

 

IV. PERSIA (IRAN) - PAKISTAN

 

  • 18 August 1942, we arrived at the port of Pahlawi, Persia

  • 23 August 1942, we reached Teheran.

  • 05 July 1943, we learned of the death of General Władysław Sikorski.

  • 09 November 1943, we left for Ahwaz.

  • 01 December 1943, we boarded the Polish liner „Batory”

  • 09 December 1943, we reached Karachi.

  • 22 January 1944, after an 8 day voyage on the British ship “Radjumba”, we reached Africa.

 

 

V. KENYA and UGANDA

 

  • 30 January 1944, we reached the Makindu transit camp in Mombasa, Kenya

  • 08 March 1944, we reached Masindi, in Uganda

 

 

VI. RETURN TO POLAND

 

  • 01 September 1947, we left Masindi for Kampala.

  • 06 September 1947, we travelled to Mombasa.

  • 14 November 1947, we left Cairo on a ship bound for Poland.  

  • 14 December 1947, we arrived at Wiąga (woj. bydgoskie, Pomorze) where my brothers and sisters settled in 1945.