top of page


Walter was born to Ignacy and Nadzieja on November 9, 1921, in Eastern Poland. 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.

Walter’s family were forcibly taken from their home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. They had been given less than an hour to pack what they could, without knowing where they were being taken. They took what they could carry and had to leave the rest behind.

They 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.

They 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 they reached the work camp in Siberia, they were told that this is where they would eventually die, but in the meantime, they had to work in order to earn their daily ration of bread.

Aside from the extreme cold in winter, and extreme heat in summer, they 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 kilometres 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.

Walter and his father, Ignacy, left the work camp and made their way south to join the Polish army. They left his mother behind to follow later, but they never saw her again.

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.

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.

Walter and his father Ignacy served in the Polish 2nd Corps in the Middle East and in the Italian Campaign, including the battle of Monte Casino.

After the war, Walter and Ignacy emigrated to Canada, arriving in 1947. The horrid memories and the nightmares of his past never left him, even until the last few days of his life. His father, Ignacy, is buried in the Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery. In Winnipeg,

Walter met and married Jean Hatmanenko in June 1950. Walter began his career in the oil industry in Manitoba as a land agent in 1949. He was inducted into the Manitoba Oil Museum Hall of Fame "for his outstanding contribution to the petroleum industry of Manitoba" in 1966. In the short accompanying bio it states that "Walter has more than anyone, been an advocate for the oil industry in Manitoba. He has provided guidance to oil companies, landowners and politicians. Walter who has been referred to as the conscience of the legislative assembly has personally known every Premier of Manitoba since Duff Roblin." Walter enjoyed many years of sitting in the Speakers Gallery of the Manitoba Legislature, following the proceedings, especially during question period. He attended countless committees and appeared before a number, speaking at length with no notes. He learned a lot and contributed a lot. He was awarded the Canada 125 Medal. Walter acted for some years as an international trade consultant, engaging in both economic and cultural trade between East and West, attempting to increase positive relations when they were so very low.

Walter Kucharczyk passed away in Winnipeg on February 28, 2003.

Copyright: Kucharczyk family

bottom of page