At this time, I was a 14 year old schoolgirl. Our schools were either closed down or became Soviet schools. They tried to demoralise us with the introduction of communism; they tore down crosses and holy pictures, they forbade us to pray and sing Polish songs. Nevertheless, you could still hear the Polish hymn being sung all around. They shouted that Poland did not exist now and would not exist in the future, that they were masters of this country. The Soviets’ aim was to create a Ukraine that would be completely subservient to them.
On 1 September 1939 the Germans attacked Poland from the west and then just 17 days later the Soviets invaded the eastern border of Poland, under the pretence of helping Poland in her fight against Germany. On that same day, I noticed Russian tanks passing through our osada.
The invasion was a great shock to everyone. There was no information, no instructions, nobody knew what to do. The NKVD (Russian Police) took over. We felt deserted by Polish Officials; we did not know then that they had already been arrested, as well as other leaders of our society. We saw Polish soldiers being transported by train to the Soviet Union. The county of Wolyn (Volhynia) was joined to the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR and soon after, the Ukrainian Committee was formed.
They carried out frequent checks in our homes, while we were locked up together in one room, at gunpoint. They turned everything upside down, they even tore up floorboards, I do not know what they were looking for. They were constantly making lists of what was in the house and taking what, according to them, there was too much of. They took whatever they wanted; there was no point protesting, they would either arrest you or threaten to shoot you. They called this “the re-distribution of wealth”.
We were ordered to leave our farm in October 1939; we were only allowed to take personal possessions, bedding, a few items of furniture and our two dogs, but no farm livestock. We left our beloved home and farm, wondering if we would ever see them again. We rented accommodation in the nearby town of Tuczyn. Our servants remained on the farm and a few days later during the night they brought us (as previously promised) supplies of food from our cellar. These turned out to be very useful later on. Still the NKVD kept harassing us - constantly checking lists of family members and our possessions. Every week we had to report to the militia. My parents feared that something else would happen, though nobody knew what.
I felt very deeply all that was happening; this was the end of my carefree childhood. The fate of being homeless was just beginning.
Danuta's Diary + route map
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