Kresy Family

Poetry written by Hania Kaczanowska


Długa Droga do Wojska … Long Road to the Army 


18 February 1942 my dad joined the Polish Army in Kermine, Uzbekistan. Many travelled this same path……a reflection of what his picture says to me.

Fufajkas…...Quilted jackets
Valonki …….Felt boots
Wielki głód i choroby……..Tremendous hunger and sickness
Do Wojska i Wolności......To the Army and Freedom

My dad’s first photo in the army asks that his story be told
January 1940, he was returning home in snow and bitter cold
The war had divided his country and the roads were no longer free
Bitter teeth of winter couldn't protect him from the invaders NKVD

They called him an illegal trespasser, holding him in crowded jails
With a promise of a trip to Siberia in a chained boxcar on the rails 
Kowel to Kherson, trapped with others until they could hold a trial
Then sentenced him to five years labour with a smug Russian smile

More than a year passed as death stalked the workers day after day 
Exhaustion and hunger almost broke him and all he could do was pray
Bone breaking temperatures and winds of the piercing Arctic air
Fufajkas, pants and walonki just weren't warm enough to wear

He had to fill a quota breaking rocks for daily 700 grams of bread
And held his clothes and broken boots as sleep awaited him in bed
The Northern lights danced to quiet music teasing that they were free
Even winter sun was taken away for three months on the White Sea

Then, his prayers were answered as an amnesty would free the Poles
And the camps opened the gates to the flood of lost, ragged souls
Rivers Dvina, Pechora, Kozhwa, to Workuta to Yenisiej he remembers
After stamping his freedom pass in 1941 in the middle of September

Cramming onto dirty barges and trains to reach any Polish army base 
Taking with him the fleas and lice that were also leaving this place
Behind him were barbed wire shadows of the northern Arkhangel sky
He thought about the ones who never survived, with tears in his eyes

Crowded in the rail stations of broken bodies and crippled souls
This was what the Russians did to his brotherhood of Poles 
“Wielki głód i choroby” followed him on the long journey south
As many fell on this road to freedom, following by word of mouth

Every mile became two, from train delays and begging for food 
Boiled water with weeds and grass would make your bones protrude
Luck fell on him and a friend as they found a sheep they could steal
And in the dark night Wladek cooked it and finally had a meal

Their hunger was bigger than their stomachs as they quickly ate 
But the sheep was going to repay them and now it was too late
You can't starve a pauper and in one day feed him like he is a king 
It was a difficult lesson on what more the call of hunger could bring

Feb 18, 1942 he reached the train station in Kermine after 5000 miles 
Three weeks passed before uniforms or boots for enlisted Polish exiles 
Finally some food, a warm tent, clean clothes and a bath and soap
And news of a transport in March to Krasnovodsk confirmed new hope.

They finally left on trucks and trains as true soldiers of the Polish Army
And tried to forget the nightmares of their hell inflicted by the enemy.
Beaches at Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea would take him to Pahlevi
As he boarded a rusty old coal tanker knowing he was now finally free

There was no water and only dried herring, because Russia was so kind
But in spite of this he endured with only one good thought on his mind

“Goodbye mother Russia, you cruel, heartless murderer of men, 

of women and children and dreams .....May we never meet again.”
Do Wojska i Wolności
                                                     2016              
                                                   *****


3 God How I Hate the Cold
4 The Archangel in a Soldier's Boot
4 Mamusia and the Red Scarf
6 The Ghostly Soldier of Buzuluk
9 The Eagle's Tear
9 Dziadek did you have a Gun?
11 The Polish Soldier

Back to Hania Kaczanowska intro


Link to KF Facebook