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My Long Long Journey
My Long Long Journey
If you had asked me a year ago about my family tree i would of told you i was English through and through. In my quest for knowledge i have met alot of new family members who have all embraced and welcomed me. Including my Grandad who my Dad believed had died 30 years ago (they are now making up for lost time).
This is Rita's story, a relative who i didn't know existed until 6 months ago-its brief and may not have much detail but even after nearly 70 years these memories are still extremly painful.
So these are her words not mine, and i thank her for letting me tell her story.
I was very wrong about being English through and through:)
A long long journey without a ticket to England-through Siberia, Persia, India and East Africa.
I lived in the eastern part of Poland with my parents and older brother on a farm, close to the Russian border. I would see Russian soldiers guarding the frontier and civilians working on the fields.
In that part of Poland about 50% of the population were Ukrainians who were very hostile towards us, claiming that that part of Poland should belong to them.
In September 1939 the Red army invaded the eastern part of Poland, Ukrainian communists were negotiating with the Russians for a way to get rid of the Polish people, specifically the farmers, so they could get the land.
The local communists were organised into some kind of governing body and they gave permission to their mobs to rob the estate owners. Everyday the mob of 3-4 men used to come to our farm house and grab what they wanted. At night they used to throw stones at our windows and doors, and bang with poles shouting abuses. It was extremly frightening, and there was nobody to help us, the Russian army was om their side.
In Febuary 1940, they day of deportation came. One day very early in the morning i saw some horse drawn carrages coming down they lane, one at a time they would turn off towards other farms, each one had a few Russian soldiers with guns and a local communist. They gave us 2 hours to get ready, to pick up some belongings and food. They took us to the nearest railway station, where a long goods train was waiting for us. They packed 30-40 people in each carrage, it took nearly 2 days to fill. The one night the long train started moving east-into the unknown.
It was a desperate moment, many were bitterly crying, some praying, others begun to sing hymns asking for Gods protection.
Nearly a million Poles from East Poland shared the same fate that night.
The fate of those left behind in Poland were in the hands of the mobs. My Uncles family of seven were all brutaly murdered. My older sister was married and had lived about 20km from us, her husband was taken away and tortured for 4 days by the mobs-until he died.
After 3 weeks we arrived into deep pine forests, this was the end of this part of the journey-Siberia.
We spent 2 years-two very cold winters building railway lines, we were paid a meagre wage. This work was very very hard, many died of the cold and starvation, it sometimes reached -30. This was a labour camp, all the time we were supervised by police (N.K.V.D.)
In June 1941, the Soviet union was attacked by Germany, we heard shortly afterwards that talks were being held in Moscow to organise a Polish army on Russian territory.
In August 1941 good news, General Sikorski the minister of the Polish government in exile had signed an agreement with Stalin to release all Polish people from captivity in the Soviet union. But from the agreement to reality it was still a very long way off.
We spent another winter in Siberia, but at last in late spring the transport was organised and we headed south to Uzbekistan, to one of the Polish army centres in Kitab, after a short spell there we traveled through the Caspian sea (which was very stormy) to Persia.
When on Persian soil, we were given a change of clothes by the Red cross and all our infested clothes that we arrived in were put on a big pile and burned.
We traveled onto camps near Teheran and Typhoid was spreading fast, temporary hospitals were full of the sick and dying.
After about 6 months we arrived in India and then after a few more months East Africa.
At some point in our Journey on the Indian ocean a German warship approched us, suspecting that we were military transport-it was extremely dangerous and frightening. We were ordered onto deck and given life jackets. When the Germans discovered that there was only women, children and a few old men on board they sailed away.
When we got to Uganda i tried to complete my studies, to get some qualifications. My Father died in Uganda with many others.
When the camp in Uganda closed we were transferred to a small town called Arusha, where i got a job in the New Arusha Hotel as a bookkeeper.
In September 1950 we sailed to England again by the Indian Ocean in the opposit direction through the Red sea to Hull England, from there by coach i went to Glasgow. After a few months i decided to move to London, where i met my husband a Polish officer and we started a wonderful new life.
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