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​​THE GRZYBOWSKI FAMILY


CZESŁAWA RACHEL-GRZYBOWSKA


vii. WORLDWIDE DISPERSAL

After many difficult talks with the Soviet authorities and thanks to the tough approach by the Polish Army commander, General Anders, permission was obtained for the evacuation to Persia (Iran). Persia was a transition area for Polish refugees, from where civilian families and children set off, or rather were sent out into the world, often very exotic places.


Under the agreements and numerous arrangements between the Polish authorities in exile and their Western allies, especially Great Britain and the United States, about 1,600 people arrived in Mexico (the Santa Rosa colony). New Zealand accepted over 700 mostly orphans and their guardians. The largest group of Poles went to India and Africa, where it is estimated that the African Continent received a total of about 20,000 refugees, mainly women with children and orphans. It is estimated that in 1940 about 1 million Polish citizens were deported to the USSR. Some were not so lucky enough to leave the "inhuman land" with the army. It left behind numerous graves of compatriots, as well as masses of less fortunate exiles who spent the rest of the war there. About 217,000 were able to return to Poland in 1946, but many remained in exile forever - some died under various circumstances but others survived.


The news that we were to go to Africa was received in different ways. This continent was probably known only from reading of Sienkiewicz's novel "In Desert and Wilderness” ("W Pustyni I W Puszczy"); located far from the country to which everyone longed to return; a continent full of wild, dangerous animals. Some had many reservations, others were pleased. Our mother said that the further we are from the Soviet Union, the safer we are, and you can return to Poland from any corner of the world.

At the end of May or the beginning of June 1942, we left Tehran: mother and her four daughters, Stenia, Hela, Danusia and myself. Father was buried in the cemetery, and we believed my brother Władek with the Junaks escaped the "house of captivity" in the USSR. The first stop, probably quite a short one, was in Ahwaz, where we were brought by train. I remember massive hangars and incredible heat. At night, huge chunks of ice were brought and whilst melting refreshed the air a little, and in this way we could fall asleep, lying in rows on the ground.

From Ahwaz, we were taken to the port and we sailed by ship to Karachi in India (now Pakistan). Here we were allocated tents on the sand. I don't remember much of it except the very strong tea with milk, which I couldn't drink, the tasteless powdered scrambled eggs and the howling of jackals at night. I also remember a funny incident that took place there. On this occasion a children's movie was shown, naturally in the open air sitting on the sand. At one point, for some reason, those in front stood up. The voice of an American soldier was heard, speaking in broken Polish: "Those in the front sit down because those behind can't see anything." The crowd of children reacted with crazy joy.


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