Tolek Sobierajski

Much time has passed. We are still in pain,

So much advice but all in vain.

I must speak more before no one remains

To shout and accuse of crimes and chains,

Put on my people by ruthless regime

To work, and die for Tyrant’s false dream.

To those left behind these words are said,

If for a minute they think we forget

The hurt, the sorrow embedded so deep

No time can cure, but often we weep

Large tears of frozen ice, frozen in space

With moments of terror seen on a face

Of each that suffered unforgettable fear

Nineteen and forty was that fateful year

February the tenth was that very date,

The hour unknown but always late...

They came in darkness like shadow or ghost,

Feared and unwanted, hated by most.

Yet here they were outside our doors

Thumping and howling threatening force,

The knocks were made by rifles’ butts

Carried by soldiers wearing peaked hats,

Pulled down to cover most of the head

Only star showing, coloured bright red.

With hammer and sickle, badge is known well,

To millions of people meant life in hell.

Most frightening weapon in a dim light 

Was long thin bayonet one yard in height

Fixed to the rifle was ready to use,

In fight or combat many would lose.

The coats were long, made out of furs

Mounted on horses, looked like brown bears.

They came from the east in mid-September

Invaded my country, how well I remember

The stab in the back when fighting the Hun.

This was Red Army hand on a gun

Deporting my people with show of force,

To places unknown somewhere up north.

To Stalin’s Russia where his bloody hand

Enslaved many millions throughout his land,

Communism dogma he tried to spread

The outcome was tragic, those millions are dead.

Noises outside were getting stronger,

Our homes opened, delay was no longer.

Two hundred thousand men, wives and kids

Soundly asleep between warm sheets

Suffered same fate on that very night,

All were on move before came the light.

Just a few hours were given to pack

Limited goods and what’s on your back.

Husband can’t help, ordered, be seated!

Gun pointed at him knew when defeated,

Watches his wife who with breaking heart

Thinks what to do, or where to start.

Children come first they must be fed

Remember warm clothes for journey ahead

Must not forget this, that or the other

Choices, decisions, instead or rather.

Glances exchanged with man so rejected

Glances so wanted, help not expected.

His eyes half closed as if in a prayer

Surveys his home, sees only one layer.

The other’s outside, his livestock and farm

Feeding time soon, he hears the alarm,

Pigs, cows and horses need his attention.

His eyes get wetter, heart need no mention.

So much was achieved, lot more was planned

Is this the end of what they began?

Could all this be lost and seen no more?

Reality dawned, now the last chore.

Whatever was gathered was not a great deal

Had to be loaded, as was their will.

Two sledges in yard awaited forsaken,

People on one side, the other things taken.

The warmest clothing that could be found

Was given to all, this thinking was sound

For weather that day was rarely seen

The snow was deep, frost squeaky and keen.

Move out with things! came a stern shout,

Now even children had little doubt,

That everyone here was leaving the nest

Grown-ups keep calm, show no unrest.

They cannot cry, no tears of sorrow

This will come later, maybe tomorrow.

Short sad procession moved past the man

Who sat guarded by soldier with gun.

Behind him statue of rearing black horse

Stood chipped, neglected, of little worth.

One of the children with hands so small

Reached out and held it as if a doll

Later one look, then thought where it’s from

Kept them alive with long dreams of home.

Last longing looks, last silent farewells

To things eyes see, the noises, the smells

Hurried along they came to a door

To cold outside through porch with a store

The man escorted walked on his own

To yard much lighter showing near dawn.

Animals heard commotion around

Including the dog who added his sound

To hurry the hands which each day come

With hay, clean straw and oats in a drum.

Each one is fed, greeted by name

And friendly slap with a careful aim.

The dog keeps howling and jumping around

Where is his master, his loving hand?

They do not know and never will

This day changed all, not even until

But for all the tomorrows, this land,

The lake and meadows, will not understand

Why little children stopped playing games,

Where is the laughter, quarrels with names?

Who stopped them running along narrow lanes?

Has hungry bad wolf eaten them all

As in Red Riding Hood, story so tall,

Where children go free with cut of knife,

Where are the people who gave us life?

First chapter of exile has just begun

Mother and children, except for the man

Sat on a sledge tightly together,

Mainly for comfort, not only weather.

Horsemen with rifles did not allow

Time to think clearly, ask why or how

Order move out was shouted by guard

Condemned and forsaken were leaving the yard

Family as one was badly in a need

Yet man so wanted, was not to be freed,

He was alone with thoughts so grim

Those will remain between God and him.

Engrossed as they were in their own plight

Not many noticed misty strange sight,

With light improving, shadows before

Were loaded sledges, a dozen or more,

Where were they going and who were they?

The answer came slowly, and in a way,

They felt relieved and not so alone.

Soldiers on horses! All doubt now gone.

These were the neighbours looking unreal

They passed in silence sat perfectly still,

Frozen hot air showed they’re alive,

Guarding men waited till they arrive.

Now sledges in yard moved past the gate

Stunned and exhausted they weren’t in state

To raise a hand in anger or grief.

Greetings were rare and painfully brief.

One glance was enough to know they shared

Same dreadful nightmare, and nobody cared.

The convoy complete moved forward fast

The man still guarded walked alone and last.

His eyes kept turning to house nearby,

Could he go past without a goodbye

To his younger sister, who lived there four years?

Just a knock on the door, few words, more tears, 

To man on a horse he showed his intent,

Reaction was quick, clear what it meant

Long bayonet on rifle blockaded his way

By now he knew it was not his day.

He tried again, response was stronger.

Wife saw it all, couldn’t sit much longer.

She jumped off the sledge and began to run

The horsemen followed with loaded gun,

Ignoring the danger she pushed ahead

Soldier kept shouting, must have seen red.

He charged with fury in deep white snow,

From height his leg delivered a blow.

This knocked her down her handbag flying,

She screamed with pain, her sounds of crying

Reached on all the sledges moving ahead

Never slowed down, went faster instead.

The drama went on she did not give up

Picking her handbag she aimed a long slap,

This gave her chance to run to the door

Her hands at the ready, but just before

The door has opened, they heard her cry.

Meeting was short, no how where or why

They’re taking us away! she quickly said,

Ah! the animals they haven’t been fed.

Before she finished the soldier was there,

Dragged her away without any care

She willingly ran to be with her own

Comfort was there, the future unknown.

Bewildered and puzzled those left behind

Had many questions, one special in mind.

Why were they not taken that very night?

The answer came later in full morning light.

Families still there were settlers of late

The ones on the road were earlier date.

They were ex-soldiers who fought the Reds

Now the Red Army repaid its debts.

They haven’t forgotten how at great cost

The Reds did battle and heavily lost

To Polish Army two decades before,

This stopped them knocking at Europe’s east door.

Now ten men of Chylin, that was the name

Of little village where they all came

To start fresh life just after the war

In this part of Poland, Russia no more

Was theirs for over hundred long years,

Occupation most cruel and full of fears.

For past twenty years this was our land.

Here settlers were given parcels of ground

They soon realised that without a wife

There was no future, nor family life.

Young, inexperienced needed each others

Building and farming, girls became mothers,

Slowly the hard times were fading away

Till dark clouds of war, and now today

Not ten men that came but sixty in all

Were nearing a railway covered in snow.

Still deep in shock and mentally blind

The eyes did see but not the mind

What was in front defied description

Picture of hell for book of fiction.

Cattle truck wagons with no end in sight

With doors wide open, and ramps floor height.

Small narrow windows were all boarded up

Added to boards was barbed wire wrap

Metal flue pipe... but all that was still

Commotion on ground gave them a chill.

Hundreds of sledges, some empty, most full

Were moved around as if to a rule,

Enforced by soldiers not previously seen

Armed to their teeth and looking real mean.

Never stopped shouting, or waving a gun

This was with purpose and to a plan,

To stop them seeing what waited them all

Wagons and ramps with open black hole.

People went through conveyor belt stages

The system perfected by practice for ages,

Sledges arriving immediately receive

Soldiers both sides, and no one to leave.

Hustled along with brute use of force

All cry for help, small children are worse.

How could they know, or understand

Why was it done, and at whose command?

The grown-ups knew, who, why and where

But at the moment they did not dare

To even think, what will or what may

Now was the time, to look up and pray.

Only few hours since the ordeal began

And here they are wife, children and man,

Standing in front of the dreaded hole

At last together in body and soul.

Struggles were useless, some had a try

Result was seen, as blood not yet dry.

There was no escape, all go through the door

With what they brought, and nothing more.

Each hole received some sixty poor souls

To be imprisoned between dark walls.

Suddenly door moved, all heard it slide

Black hole was closed and bolted outside.

Crowded in mass of such little weight

Forced to accept the impending fate.

Invisible, blind and as if no more

They stood in the middle of wagon’s floor,

Till eyes have opened and in poor light

They could make out most depressing sight. 

Two layers of planks fixed at each side

With middle part open sliding door wide.

There in the centre with metal flue pipe

Stood heating stove, cast iron type.

There was something else, at first hardly seen

Later of need to stay healthy and clean.

In one corner of floor, there was a hole

Some nine inches across with only one role

To take all the waste, human and others,

There was no screen, till one of the mothers

Hung some material to form a curtain.

Use was more private but still uncertain.

There was no more except for holes

Round doors and windows, and in all walls

This not only gave some light

But also fresh air all day and all night.

Doors hardly opened, locked most of the time

All prisoners now, accused of no crime.

If there was a crime, it was at birth,

They were born Poles now in a hearse,

Are being taken to sites near hell

History knew, and knows it so well.

That hell is Siberia, a fearful place,

Where millions went, regardless of race

Not of free will, but on Stalin’s behest,

His many crimes unknown in the west.

Most children at schools will never hear

Of one life lost, of one frozen tear.

Many have died and will not speak

I will shout in anger, with voice so weak

I cannot forgive, nor can I forget

The sorrow I’ve seen, the tears, the dead.

Long journeys and walks on tired feet,

The constant search for something to eat,

The rivers of hunger, the valley of dead

The trauma of millions when nights were red.

The Katyn Massacre, where one by one

Fifteen thousand lives were given to gun.

All high ranking soldiers, prisoners of war

Shot in the back, and what is more

They denied murder, blaming the Hun

All Stalin’s deeds, he is the man

His hands stained red, the blood will stay

Till retribution, on God’s judgement day.

I am often told, let past be dead

I try, but then, I kneel by my bed

And pray in silence for the one and all,

God! in your mercy show none on his soul.


Link to a description of Osada Chylin where T Sobierajski lived