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Zofia KRUK

ZOFIA KRUK (nee LITWIN) was born to Józef and Katarzyna Litwin in the village of Harta in eastern Poland on December 25, 1927.

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.

In 1940, the family were forcibly taken from their home at gunpoint, by Russian soldiers. They had been given lss 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 our 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. Children as young as 13 were set to work in the forests – cutting branches from the trees that had been cut down.

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.

When ‘amnesty’ was declared in July of 1941, she and her family left the camp and made their way to the southern USSR where the Polish army was being formed. The family evacuated to Persia (nbow Iran) with the army. 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.


After some time in Persia, they were sent to the Tengeru Polish Camp in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Africa, where she lived for 6 years. The camp was equipped with schools, a hospital, an orphanage, and vocational workshops. The Polish-Government-in-Exile provided for all their needs. There were over 5,ooo Poles in the camp - mostly women and children. Zofia continued her education here, and participated in the Girl Guides.

She was repatriated with other Polish exiles to England in the fall of 1948, and married Walerian Kruk, another survivor of Siberian camps, in 1952. There she started her family, and in 1962 immigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto. She and Walerian had four children: Edward, Ursula, Richard, and Christopher.

Zofia died in Toronto on January 15, 2014.

Copyright: Kruk family

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