Wojciech WINNIK

Polish 2nd Corps

I was born in Poland on 1 October 1917, living in eastern Poland. When the war broke out, I was a farmer married to Anna and working on my family’s land. On 10 February 1940, my wife and I and the rest of our family were forcibly removed from our home and deported to a work camp in Siberia. 

 

This was the first of four massive deportations of over a million Polish citizens from the Eastern Borderlands of Poland – the Russian way of imposing ethnic cleansing on the area.

We spent nearly 2 years doing hard labour in the harshest conditions, with hunger and disease as our constant companions. When the so-called ‘amnesty’ was declared, in the fall of 1941, we were released from the work camp and permitted to travel to the south of the USSR where the Polish Army was being formed under the command of General Anders.  In April 1942, the Polish Army, along with tens of thousands of civilians, evacuated to Persia (Iran). Here I enlisted in the Polish 2nd Corps.

The army went on to Palestine and Iraq for training, and then took part in the Italian Campaign, including the battles of Monte Cassino, Bologna and Ancona. At the end of the war, I went to England with the rest of the 2nd Corps, 3rd Division, Carpathian Rifle Brigade.

The families of the soldiers had been sent to refugee settlements in Lebanon, Palestine, East Africa, India, New Zealand, and Mexico, in order to provide then with a safe haven while the war was raging. I was demobilized in 1947, and joined the Polish Resettlement Corps.  I found work and was then reunited with my wife Anna, who had been in a refugee camp in Africa.

 

In 1948, we were housed with our first-born at a resettlement camp near Colchester. We moved to Marsworth Camp near Tring, where I found work, and later settled in Dunstable where we eventually bought a house. I have always been an active member of the Polish community.

I was awarded a number of medals for my participation in the war effort.  One of them is the Defence Medal with Silver Laurel Leaves, along with the King’s Commendation for brave conduct.

Source:  Wojciech Winnik at BBC website: bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar