This is a true story about the life of one of many thousands of Polish families taken from their homes, from their country and forcibly transported deep into the Siberian forest by the Soviets in February 1940.
CHAPTER 9 – Lots of tears and laughter - ENGLAND
From Naples through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Bay of Biscay (it was very rough), the ship docked at Tilbury (Port of London). After going through Customs, we boarded a train and left London. About four hours later we arrived in Melton Mowbray. From the railway station we were taken to the R.A.F. Station, Melton Mowbray. It was dark and it was very wet on arrival at the camp, but about two weeks later the weather had changed.
The winter of 1947 in England was very hard with plenty of snow and we really felt the cold after coming from a hot climate and not having any warm clothing, but winter did not last very long. The Spring that year was very beautiful.
One day some Australians arrived at the camp. They were looking for volunteers to go to Tasmania and I volunteered, but soon after I was posted to R.A.F. Station Pershore near Evesham in Worcestershire. I stayed there until early Autumn and forgot all about Tasmania. I think it was September when I received an immediate posting back to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. On arrival I was told that a ship bound for Tasmania would be leaving shortly, but I cannot remember which port it was sailing from. By the time I had collected all the necessary signatures I was informed by the Station Adjutant that the ship had already sailed and I was to remain in the camp.
Melton Mowbray R.A.F. Station was being slowly shut down. There were already quite a lot of empty Nissen huts. Soon the first group of Polish families from Africa arrived at the camp and we helped them to settle down. During the winter more Polish families arrived, but my family was not amongst them. We used to deliver coal and firewood to them and generally looked after them.
In the late Spring of 1948 most of the Polish Air Force personnel were transferred to R.A.F. Station Dunholme Lodge in Lincolnshire. Melton was being turned into a civilian camp to house more Polish families. At Dunholme Lodge they started preparing us for demobilisation. We were all assigned to what was known as P.R.C. (Polish Resettlement Corps). There a man from the Labour Exchange used to visit the camp every week. He used to talk to us about civilian life and tell us what jobs were available. He offered me only one job which was coal mining, but I refused it.
It was Summer, July perhaps, when I found out that some Polish families had arrived at an army camp in Upton near Gainsborough, not very far from where I was stationed. That Saturday morning I jumped on my pushbike and went looking for Upton. After pedalling for about three hours I stopped at the crossroads just outside a little village, not sure which way to go. Then three small lads appeared from behind the hedge, and they were talking in Polish. I asked them which way to the camp? They pointed me at one of the roads, then I asked them if Mrs Hajkowska and her family were in the camp. They nodded and said “Yes”, then after a while they just disappeared. They must have told my family that a man in a uniform was asking for them. I started walking in the direction of the camp.
My mother and most of the family were waiting outside for me. When I saw them I let go of my bike and ran to greet them. There were a lot of tears and laughter and more tears as I hugged them all over and over again, for it was our first meeting for more than six years. I would not have recognised my youngest sister and my brother, for they had grown so much. They all looked different, so very different from how they looked like when we parted back in January 1942. They were healthy, well dressed, not in rags as I remembered them. We spent most of the day and all evening talking, and we had a lot to talk about after being apart for such a long time.
I went back to my unit on Sunday evening, but from then on I used to visit them every weekend. One Saturday my father, who was already demobilised also arrived, and the family was reunited. I was demobilised a few weeks later, but on that day after such a long parting we were together again.