Wiktor Hermanowicz and his family were deported from Kresy to Siberia for labour in a Soviet camp. His family’s full story is being written by his son, Stefan, and will be published on this page in due course. Until then, Stefan has provided a short summary together with two photographs of original letters written by Wiktor to his brother, Anton. The text of four letters has been translated into English below and give a personal insight into his experiences.
*Wiktor’s brother-in-law, usual name for Franciszek.
** Maria and Franek’s daughter(?) Julia.
Translation of Letter from Polish (original shown below)
Karabash, April 2nd 1940
Dear brother, mother and sister-in-law*
We send you all our warmest greetings. I received your letter on March 30th and thank you so much. We are glad to know that you are all well over there. We are also in good health. As for me, I now have a more difficult job, working in a copper-ore mine 500 mts underground, but it wouldn’t be so bad if we had sufficient food. They give us only a bit of bread and nothing else. So, my beloved brother, check with the Post Office if it is possible to send us a parcel and if so, send us some pork fat and bread. If you don’t have any, ask the rest of the family. Send us news and let us know if there is hope for us, because the only news we get is from the letters received by the others who live with us. Zarychta and Hlebinowa are not here and I don’t know where they are. Ask Vera** why she hasn’t replied to our letter. We do not despair, even if things are hard.
Say Hello to Monia, Bronia, Julka*** and all our relatives. Kisses to you all – goodbye.
My grandfather, Wiktor Hermanowicz, fought in the Polish–Russian war 1919/1920. After the war, he was awarded an estate very near his family’s village (Ros), just north of Wołkowysk by the Polish state. From my research, I have established that this was Osada Nowosiołki. My grandfather was a secretary for the local Gmina (municipality), a landowner and a former soldier, so in 1940 he and his family were obvious Soviet targets for deportation. He, his wife Maria and their three children (Bernard, my father, Irena and Danuta) were taken from their home in Krzemienica on 10 February 1940 and deported to Karabash, near Sverdlovsk. Anton, my grandfather’s younger brother and his family remained in Ros and the two brothers would never see each other again. As far as I know, Anton just took care of his small piece of land but managed to send food parcels off to his brother in Siberia.
After "Amnesty", our family made its way down through Kazakhstan to the Caspian Sea. My father was incorporated into the newly-formed Ander’s Army. His mother and sisters spent about two years in Persia and were later shipped to Tanganykia. I think my grandfather went to Egypt and ended up in Scotland at the end of the war. My Dad was in Iraq, Egypt and Palestine. He was in the 2nd Polish Armoured and fought at Monte Cassino and Ancona. He was in Bologna when the war in Europe ended.
In 1947 his mother and sisters arrived in Liverpool and the whole family was reunited in England that year. My father was demobilised in 1948/9 and met my mother near Leeds. They settled in York and had two children, myself and my sister Janina.
Photo of original letter
*Anton’s wife Maria
**Wiktor’s sister-in-law, his wife’s sister.
***diminutives for Maria, Bronislawa (his sisters) and…Julka…?
Translation of letter from Polish (original not available)
Geilston Camp nr. Cardross
November 7th 1947
My dear brother and sister-in-law,
Yesterday I received your letter dated October 15, 1946, for which I thank you so much. As with you, this letter came as a great surprise and filled me with so much joy that even today I find it hard to gather my wits and calm down after all these emotions over the family. All the more so since I didn’t count on getting a reply to my first letter. The news of our mother’s death brought on a great sadness. Unfortunately, God decided so. She has left us according to God’s will, not because of illness. God willing, we shall see each other again in good health. I am sure of that, just as I believe that it was God’s will only that protected us in spite of all the horrors of war.
As I wrote in my last letter, Mania (Maria) and our daughters Irena and Danuta are in East Africa, in Tanganyka (now Tanzania). I haven’t seen them for 4 years. The last time I saw them was in Persia (now Iran), in Tehran, after which I left for Palestine and they for East Africa. In 1945 I arrived here from Egypt, while the war was still going on. After the war, Bernard joined up with me here. He….(illegible) because he was wounded three times by the Germans.
I am so sad to over Bronia’s bad news. It cannot be easy for her with the children. I pray God to help her in these difficult times. Greet her for me, with kisses for her and her children. Kisses also for Maria and Franek* and their children. Julka** did right to leave. Send me their address if you can. If the occasion arises, do the same yourselves. Say Hello from me to Maria’s parents and also to Vera and her children. I correspond with Lolek Josko (Maria and Vera’s brother). He is in Jalowka with his wife. I have already received a letter from them.
There are many people from our region here, especially from around Krzemienica (the family’s village). Both of the Kwaczaniakis, my assistants, are here. There are many from Rokosnica also. Janek Guarowski from Ross is here, we often meet up. Hlabik died in R. (Russia?), but Michelina is in Africa with their children. Werbal also died over there (Russia) and his wife is in Africa or in India with their children. Zygmund Borodynski from the factory is also here. That’s the news on me and the others. I am so sorry to hear that Wolkowysk and Ross were destroyed. Was Ross church also destroyed? Pray Jesus of Ross… (illegible).
I would be very grateful for a photo of you and the family. I am so happy that God has bestowed joy on you : your son (Boleslav). May he grow up in good health and bring you much happiness. Kiss him for me. Kiss your Marisia (Maria) and the girls (Kristina and Danuta) who have already grown up. They have no doubt become lovely young girls. I will also send you a photo of myself, perhaps in my next letter.
A big Hello from me to all our relatives and friends. May God and the Holy Mary watch over you.
With all my affection,
Your loving brother, Wiktor.
Translation of Letter from Polish (original shown below)
Karabash, June 11th 1940
Dear brother, mother, sister-in-law and children,
We send you all our warmest greetings and thank you so much for your parcel. We, and especially the children, jumped for joy as never before. We have well received all you sent us, including the postcard dated June 8th 1940. The day before we received your parcel I sent you a letter asking you to send one, as I didn’t know you had already done so. If you send another one, address it to Maria, as it seems you can’t send regularly to the same person. Nothing new or cheering here, just more and more pressure. They force Mania to work and today she is going to see the doctor. If she goes to work, there will be no-one to cook our meals, nor to bring water, which has to be carried over more than one kilometer. Please do not forget us and write. Greetings to all the family. Whatever you can send us will be welcome. Warmest kisses to all,
Wiktor, Maria and children.
*This postcard was apparently sent upon arrival in Karabash, 2 weeks after their deportation. It was written in Russian and no doubt in such a way as to pass the Soviet censor.
**Wiktor uses a diminutive form when writing “brother”, showing his affection.
***Manya is a diminutive for Maria.
Translation of Postcard from Russian (original not available)
To : Hermanowicz, Anton Stepanowicz, Ross Post Office, Wolkowysk District, Ross Volost, Krasnoye Selo
From: Wiktor Hermanowicz, USSR, Chelyabinsk Region, Karabash City, No.1 Barracks?, room 13, Wiktor Hermanowicz
Karabash, March 6th 1940*
Dear mother, brother** and family,
We send you greetings from the city of Karabash in the Urals. We travelled for 2 weeks. We arrived in good health, only Manya***had flu for 3 days but now everyone is healthy. I work in a copper mine and due to my competence I was appointed foreman, so I only did physical work for two days. I hope to get a better job. I earn about 20 roubles or more per day. We live very well. I am the only one who works. The children will go to school. We are waiting for the warmer Spring weather because we still have severe frost.
Write to let us know that you are well and give us news. Say Hello to all our relatives and friends.
We kiss you all.
Wiktor, Manya and children
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