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Waclawa (Krzewinska)  RYSZKOWSKA-ZUCHOWSKA


Deported to Siberia + Polish 2nd Corps

Wacława was born in Kiev on September 18, 1900 to  Wladyslaw and Aleksandra (nee Najkowska).  Her first husband was Mieczysław Ryszkowski, and her second husband was Ignacy Żuchowski.

Wacława was a descendant of the Polish insurgents who took part in the 1863 Uprising against the Russian Empire and were deported to Siberia. She was related to Ignacy Paderewski: her maternal grandmother and Ignacy’s mother were first cousins. Wacława, her younger sister Janina and brother Jerzy were taught Polish literature, history and geography by their parents. When Wacława was a teenager she joined a drama society and dancing troupe.

She was an intelligent child, did well at school, and became fluent in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and French.  She also a good knowledge of German. When she was about 15 years old, her father had a stroke and ended up in a wheelchair. Being the eldest daughter, she had to help her mother with all the household chores and take care of her younger siblings. As her father was unable to work, Wacława started giving Polish lessons after school to supplement the family income.

After she completed her education at the Pushkin State Lycée in Kiev, the family moved to Zwinogródka, near Kiev, where her father soon deteriorated and died. It was in Zwinogródka that she met and married Mieczysław Ryszkowski in 1918, and gave birth to non-identical twins Edmund and Czesław in 1919. With the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, followed by the Russian Civil War between the Reds (Bolsheviks) and Whites (Anti-Bolsheviks), and the capture of Kiev by the Red Army in 1920, the area became extremely dangerous for Poles.  Despite the danger of being attacked en route by hostile gangs, the family escaped to Poland in a wagon train of horse-drawn carts.

They arrived safely in Poland and lived in Perebrody, in Polesie province, where her third son Władysław was born in 1923. They then moved to Marcinkance, near Grodno, where Mieczysław became a Forest Ranger. Wacława soon got involved in charity work and headed various organisations.

The Germans invated Poland on 1 September 1939, and the Russians on 17 September 1939. On 10 February 1940, Wacława and her family were deported to the Russian SFSR, Permska oblast, for forced labour. They spent several weeks in an overcrowded cattle train, locked on the outside and without any facilities. The train stopped mainly to throw out dead bodies. Life in the Urals was hell on earth. Everyone had to work extremely hard in sub zero temperature chopping down trees and shifting heavy logs to earn their meager portions of food.  They lived in cold primitive lice infested mud huts.

When the so-called 'Amnesty' was declared in 1941, the family made their way to Uzbekistan to join General Anders’ Polish Army.  Sadly, Wacława's husband Mieczysław died from typhoid on 19 March 1942 and was buried in Czerakczi. The family, now under army protection, was evacuated across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi in Persia and then to Teheran.  While in the Middle East, she met her second husband, Ignacy Żuchowski, who was also a widower and a sergeant with the 2nd Corps.

Wacława joined the Polish 2nd Corps - Women’s Auxiliary Army Service (PWSK) and was given the rank of sergeant. She was the Quartermaster of 1945 Company. She later requested a transfer from Qassasin to the No.8 Polish General Hospital in El Kantara in Egypt, where her son Edmund was a patient.  He had been seriously wounded in action at Chiaravalle, Near Milan.

In 1947, Wacława and her future second husband, Ignacy Żuchowski, were evacuated from the Middle East to the U.K. and were housed at the Iscoyd Park Camp in Shropshire, where they worked at the No.4 Polish General Hospital. Wacława’s wounded son Edmund was transferred there from the military hospital in the Middle East. He died on 12 January 1948, and was buried in Blacon Cemetery, Chester.

It took Wacława a long time to come to terms with the loss of her son, but she managed to complete her training and became a Ward Sister in 1950. She married Ignacy in 1950, and they both continued working in the hospital until the late 1950s, when they joined the rest of the family in Bradford in Yorkshire.  Waclawa died on 18 November 1986.


Copyright: Ryszkowski-Zuchowski family

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