Now we were no longer paid for our work, given only 800 grams of bread and watery soup but, those who did not work, got only 100 grams of bread. Hunger stalked the “posiołek” where only 12 families remained.
Soviet soldiers were arriving so we were squashed into one hut. Christmas was a sad time as we had nothing to eat, except a few pieces of dry bread. That night I dreamt of freshly baked bread! Just a year ago, my sister Zosia had died and the memory was painful.
Life went on, some working hard in the saw-mill, Bogus far away in the forest and Father in construction. On 22 June 1941, the Soviet/German war began. In August 1941, the Sikorski-Mayski agreement brought “amnesty” for all Polish citizens in the Soviet Union. There was great joy that God had heard our prayers. On 5 September, they began issuing the first discharge documents from our “posiolek”. But not for us. Bogus and six friends were determined to join the army, but the camp commandant explained that there were many people at the stations and not enough wagons for everybody; without documents, they would face starvation as they would not qualify for food rations at the stations. Nevertheless, they escaped on 14 November.
Our journey took about six weeks, travelling through varying landscapes: less snow and then steppes covered in dry grass. In Turkistan, we saw people riding camels, donkeys and mules. In Tashkent, my Father went off to buy bread and was left behind - and he was carrying all our documents! We had to continue without him; we were all terribly anxious. (see map)
Finally, we stopped in Dzalal-abad not far from the Chinese border; we turned back and eventually found Father. We were deliriously happy at finding him even though he had no bread! We continued through the desert towards Turkistan. We had dried bread and cheese during the trip; someone found sacks of buckwheat on the train so father took one sack. We mixed this with hot water to a sort of gruel, which probably saved our lives.
We arrived in Guzar, Uzbekistan on 22 February 1942 - our journey's end – and to the Polish Army!
10. Post-war life
Finally, on 27 December we received our papers. Next day we travelled to Kotlas Station by sledge. Father picked Tadzio up from the hospital. There were huge crowds at the station. We had already paid for our wagon: 80 roubles per person, seven families, 28 of us altogether. We were given 400 grams of bread and some soup.
On 2 January 1942, the train set off and we travelled into the unknown - our goal was the Polish Army. It was a great feeling of freedom as there were no guards with rifles, and doors, which we could open and close ourselves at will.
Release papers, needed to buy train tickets and get food rations
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Kresy Family group