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Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
The area was nice and fertile, but the awful mud and the constant rain made our work at the camp very difficult. The Uzbek and the Kyrgyz people were very friendly to us and we were often invited to their houses. We sat on the ground according to their tradition and ate thick rice with mutton, using our fingers.

March and April came. It was boiling hot - up to 60°C and our only joy was a large swimming pool beside the camp where we used to sit all day. Military training was between 6 and 10 in the morning and between 6 and 8 in the evening. We organised a swimming competition for the championship of the Battalion and put our companies under great stress. I won the championship of the Battalion in the crawl and breaststroke, for which I got a 3-day pass, but I just sat in the camp because I had nowhere to go.

Jurek's maternal grandfather, infantry Major Franciszek Budohoski, owned the Pawlowo Estate, near Gzhatsk, just west of Moscow and also property in the city of Tver, 182 km NW of Moscow. 
Franciszek married Aleksandra Emilia Wyrzykowska in 1881. They had eight children together. 

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Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
We used to get watery soup from the cauldron and 30 grams of bread. But as the saying goes the portion was: ‘too small to keep you alive; but too big to let you die’. Here at last we could wash ourselves, because the nearby stream provided us with water and so we began a bloody battle with the lice. At the first delousing after our journey, I scored 66 lice, but I was not the record-holder; there were people who had more than a hundred.

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* These excerpts are taken from Jurek’s personal journal. Note that he doesn’t talk much about the terrible conditions they lived in. Life in a Gulag camp was extremely tough and violent. I assume that his humoristic view of life was his way of coping with the terrors surrounding him.

He did also write a serious book about his time as a sapper in Anders army, which became 5 KDP, which is a military diary with lots of technical details.


On 15 January 1942 the Division was moved from the south of Russia to the Fergana Valley to the city of Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan. 

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
Our journey was very enjoyable, we drank at all major railway stations, and we even managed to steal a few bags of sugar and tobacco from the military repository in Tashkent, which made us very happy. Sugar and tobacco were real treasures in Russia at the time.

sea-scout 1938

Polish Forces in Russia Dec 1941

oil tanker Agamali Ogly 

Already a boy scout, having taken his oath in the 5th Wilno Scout Troop, he transferred to the sea scouts in 1932, the Romuald Traugutt Blue Sailing Unit (Blekitna Jedynka Zeglarska im. Romualda Traugutta) until the outbreak of WWII.

Jurek graduated in 1938. This was the last graduation of the old 8 class system. 

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Jurek's parents, Aleksandra Budohoska and Aleksander Gradosielski met while studying medicine in Moscow where they were married in 1914.

​The very poor rations, 12-hour work shifts, dysentery and other diseases quickly reduced the population of the camps. Of 1,500 prisoners at camp No. 13, only 900 were left after a year. 

The Budohoski family, being wealthy landowners, lost everything in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Jurek's grandmother and her daughters survived thanks to being hidden by servants. Jurek remained on the estate under the care of his nanny, who pretended that he was her son. It was only after three years that his mother was able to obtain a special permit from the Supreme Soviet in Moscow allowing her to remove him and their belongings from the estate. 

 Jurek's father was called up to become an army doctor and his mother became a nurse in the Red Cross (as she hadn't finished her doctor training), in order to be with her husband. 

Jureks entry in the Indeks Represjonowanych

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Evacuation to Persia

Jurek left the “Soviet Paradise” on 5 August 1942 by ship from Krasnovodsk across the Caspian Sea on one of the heavily over-loaded vessels and landed in Pahlevi (now Bandar-e Anzali, Iran).

5 KDP camp Jalalabad 1942

The isolation cell was really tough, minus 40 degrees Celsius, the slits in the walls were two fingers wide, we had no firewood and were starving hungry. We got 300 grams of bread and some water. We gritted our teeth …..but sitting around idly and slowly freezing to death didn’t make sense so we started to think about how to get out of there. Eventually, we realised that the space along the chimney was quite big and we could climb out through it. So we waited until dusk and got out. We supplied ourselves with wood, and taking advantage of the chaos at the camp, we collected bread from the bakery, and happy that we were not going to die of hunger or freeze to death, we had a good night’s sleep.  Of course, we hid the bread in the camp and only took a part of it with us. Three days passed and we were in good spirits which our oppressors just could not understand. But soon we were betrayed and our hole was blocked with iron bars.​

Soon I received a warm ‘fufajka’ – a kind of a quilted jacket, trousers of the same kind, rubber boots "walonki" and gloves. (Photo from Krzywy Rog 1941, donated by  Alina Jablonska).

But I didn’t build the ‘Sojuz’ (the Soviet Union) as a ‘łopatorznik’ (a spade operator) for too long, as I wormed my way into a more intelligent, better-paid and lighter job for a ‘top group’. It was a measuring-controlling group. So I was given a leveller and worked as a levelling technician. I didn’t have the faintest idea how to do this but I learned quickly and managed just fine. 

Tatishchevo Christmas 1941 – they even had a Christmas tree

15 September 1941 saw the creation of the 5th Infantry Division with three regiments: Infantry, Artillery, the Communications Battalion and the 5th Battalion of Sappers, to which Jurek was assigned. After being vetted by Lt. Grobicki he was appointed Platoon Ensign and became the deputy commander of Platoon 3.

British uniforms and Soviet arms began to arrive within a month, but as the winter was approaching they had to find a way to survive the cold, which would go down to -40°C. They therefore began to dig shelters 2 m deep, covered them with boards and earth and erected tents over them. On 15 November Jurek was confirmed as an officer cadet and was promoted to Lance Sergeant.

Joining centres in the Middle East March 1942

In October 1938, he was accepted to the Cadet School of the Reserve Sappers in Modlin[1], and after passing the examinations and taking a three-month course,  was transferred to the Officer Cadet School in Warsaw.

[1] Modlin Fortress is one of the biggest 19th-century fortresses in Poland. Built during Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812).  On the Narew River, some 50 km north of Warsaw.  After the First World War Modlin was modernized with modern bunkers, anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment. Its main purpose was to provide cover for Warsaw from enemy attacks from the North. The fortress also housed several military barracks and military colleges for NCOs, including the Engineers Training Centre and the Armoured Forces Officer Cadet School.    

1939 – the Germans attack Poland from the west …

On 1 September 1939, Germany attacked western Poland. On that day, Jurek was made a Corporal Cadet. So began the September Campaign: without any support from Britain and France, despite the Anglo-Polish alliance of March 1939.  Poland fought the German army for 36 days, never formally capitulating but continued to fight throughout the war – underground, as AK (Armia Krajowa) in Poland, and under British command on the western front.

​Jerzy was born in Moscow on 24 December  1916.

Doctors on the frontline, 1918,  on right Dr Aleksander Gradosielski

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There were approximately 15,000 prisoners who were distributed throughout the Gulag system. Jurek's kołona/sub-camp was No.13/SZDL*-Siewierneje Zelazno-Darozneje Lagiera. They worked on the construction of the Kniaz-Pogost Railway to Ukhta. 

*Sevzheldorlag was a penal labour camp of the GULAG system in the USSR. The full name was Northern Railway Corrective Labour Camp of NKVD. Established on May 10, 1938. Prisoners-of-war were employed in the construction of the Kotlas-Vorkuta Railway.


and Vyazniki/Wiążniki camp

Mine at Krzywy Róg

… at the end of May 1940, they were loaded into boxcars and transported to the far north to  Komi-ASSR, at Ukhta-Pieczora. They arrived in Chibyu (renamed Ukhta in 1939) below the 64 parallel on 13 June 1940. It was always daytime here. 

Jurek attended public elementary school in Wilno and in September 1927 he passed his entrance examinations to the first class of the Jesuit Fathers Secondary School.

In 1930 he transferred to the King Zygmunt August National Secondary School, which was considerably less expensive. 

Sea scout camp 1937

Tragically, Aleksander came down with typhus and died in 1921. The family decided to return to Poland, but the Soviet authorities did not reply to their applications to leave the country. 
In 1921, with the help of the Provincial Prime Minister Władysław Raczkiewicz, whose family estate was close to that of the Budohoski family in Tver, the whole family received Polish citizenship. With his support, in February 1926, they received the order to leave the U.S.S.R. within two weeks.

Jurek, with his mother Aleksandra, her sister Leontyna and their mother, left for Wilno/Vilnius where his mother received the title Senior Medic (Starszy Felczer, ie two years of medical school) and she worked as the matron in a hospital in Nowe Troki near Wilno. 

Jurek 1931

On 4 September 1939, Jurek with five other cadets under the command of Lt. R Pajsker, was sent out from Fort No.4 in Modlin in three vehicles carrying 15 tons of explosive material to the fortifications at Dąbica near Dubno. After delivering their cargo, they started their return to Warsaw in one truck. In Garwolina, they were diverted to Puławy. 

On 6 September since the Germans were already only kilometres away, they decided to evacuate to Brześć. There they took several barrels of petrol and a lot of food supplies from the Sappers' warehouses and headed towards the Hungarian border. ​

… and the Soviets from the east  

On 17 September 1939, the Soviets in alliance with Germany invaded from the east as agreed in the secret protocol in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 

Unfortunately, on 18 September, a few km past Tarnopol, surrounded by Soviet panzer divisions, the Polish soldiers were taken prisoner.  Jurek’s group shared the food they had brought in their vehicle with comrade prisoners, which saved them all from starvation.

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal:
We played many funny practical jokes on the Bolsheviks ……we fooled them in every possible situation, especially regarding food. For example, for voucher N5 in one canteen you could get tea, and in another – a cutlet. So we bought 5 teas in the first one and ate 5 cutlets in the other, etc.

Once I came back beaten like a dog with my head smashed. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for three days …. but it passed. And I got that beating because I still had a little eagle on my cap and I didn’t want to take it off.

Eventually, the Soviets began to avoid our room because our electrician invented such a switch that whenever an undesired visitor came in, the light went out immediately and every possible piece of clothing, including heavy Polish boots and mess tins, dropped onto the visitor’s head. Of course, the perpetrators were never found and it was really difficult to put 80 people into a 3x3 m. punishment cell. Our idyll lasted until March without any serious problems from the Soviets. Apparently, our gang got on their nerves and they couldn’t take it anymore. So ....

Excerpt from Jurek’s journal*:
On 1st September, we were in Modlin as the 3rd Sapper Reserve Company for the Modlin Garrison. Our zeal and the will to fight were overpowering. Everybody was pushing their way to volunteer, not even asking what their task was and where. Whatever …. as long as it was something specific for Poland, to fight, not just to sit passively behind the walls of Modlin Fortress.

Instead of snow and frost, they had rain and mud but at least it was warm. The soldiers trained at full steam.

The general maneuvers of the Division were visited by their Commander-in-chief, General Władysław Sikorski.

On 20 September 1939 the prisoners crossed the Polish-Soviet border in Podwołoczyska and came to the camp at Tetkino, Ukraine. 

After a month, they were off-loaded in Krzywy Róg at an iron-ore mine. The work was difficult and dangerous, but the propaganda proclaimed “U nas nuzno sprawdaca rabotoj” (“Here, work is necessary to justify oneself.”) - then you will go home after a month. They worked for a month at 120% effort, but when they were refused passes to go home, they rebelled - and were locked up in solitary confinement. Here they were very crowded and very hungry. 

Jurek’s paternal grandparents lived in Vishny Volochek, 320 km NW of Moscow.
Pawel Gradosielski was a civil servant/Treasurer of local County Council Finance Department. 

He married Anna Moroshkin in 1875.

They raised 6 children, Aleksander being the youngest (schoolboy on top right of photo from 1902).

Aleks and Ola  (middle) 1918

“Amnesty” and Formation of the Polish Army

Although they had been allies at the beginning of the war, the Germans attacked the Soviets in June 1941.  

The Sikorski-Majski Treaty was signed on 30 July 1941 granting “Amnesty” to all imprisoned Polish citizens. The soldiers in the northern camps were released somewhat earlier, in mid-July. Still at the points of Soviet bayonets, they were transported by ship, train and on foot and quartered in Wiążniki camp,  Juża, Iwanowska, an NKVD holding/transit camp for Polish ex-POWs, (approx 12 000 soldiers).  Col. Nikodem Sulik, known in the camp as Private Sarnecki, representing General Władysław Anders, commander of the Polish Army in the U.S.S.R., presided over the repetition of the swearing of oaths by the soldiers, and they were soldiers of the Polish Republic once more. From that day forward, the Polish troops took control of the camp. 

The pilots and sailors were separated from the rest and sent to England. The remainder was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division (which later became 5KDP).

They left the Wiążniki camp on 2 September 1941 and after several days' journey, arrived in Tatishchevo near Saratov on the Volga River. This was the summer training camp of the Soviet Army, made up of a lot of tents and a few administrative buildings. The Commander of the Division was Brigadier Mieczysław Boruta-Spiechowicz, an energetic and good organizer, popular with the soldiers.