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After a well-prepared lunch by Łowiczanka catering, a musical interlude was provided by Iwona Januszajtis who performed two of her own haunting compositions; “Where Are We Going” a tribute to her mother’s Siberian experiences which she first performed at last year’s commemoration;  “These Beautiful Hands” to words written by Ala Squire in memory of her mother. Iwona’s repertoire provided contrast in which she was joined by the audience in singing other songs including “You Are my Sunshine”. Iwona found a volunteer in “Pan Antoni Matwiejczyk who sang “Kozaka po polsku” with all the gusto of a man half his age to rapturous applause.

Jenny Robertson is a Scot who together with her husband Stuart have taken an intense interest in Poland and its history since their student days in Glasgow. A duo reading of their own poem written in Polish and titled “Polish lessons in Glasgow” received enthusiastic applause. Jenny spoke about her early contacts soon after the war-end with Polish exiles which led her to study the language and, as an author, to write on Polish subjects.  Her book “Wojtek: War Hero Bear” is a popular topic amongst schoolchildren to whom she often gives talks. It leads her to explain the reason for a Polish Army to be in Iran at that time, their origins from Kresy and their fates in Siberia.

Jenny read a passage from her book “ From the Volga to the Clyde” and gave an insight into her most recent publication  “From Corsets to Communism: The Life and Times of Zofia Nałkowska” a biography of Poland’s leading modernist writer. She also read a passage from Nałkowska’s diaries, written during the winter of 1941 in Warsaw, describing how despite the hardships of life she continued her artistic activities.  

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Kresy Family Polish World War II Group has commemorated this event each year since 2015 and 8th February this year was no exception succeeding the work of OROK (Ognisko Rodzin Osadników Kresowych - Association of Borderland Settlet Families). The number attending has continued to grow. Survivors, families and friends totalling 121, arrived at Łowiczanka restaurant in POSK, a significant number being grandchildren of survivors. 

Mirka Wojnar, chair, welcomed guests including the Polish Consul General, Mateusz Stąsiek, and led applause for the 25 survivors present.  One of those, Czesia Grzybowska, gave a talk about those events in 1940 and later, recalled memories of her experiences which still remain. Despite the hardships she had suffered, her life was blessed  with a husband, daughters and good health. She recommended reading of authoritative historians for the truth of those times: for Poles, a truth which after 80 years is not widely recognised and even denied. 

Photos by Janusz Zajączkowski

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Kresy Family Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Deportations from Kresy to Siberia

On February 10th 2020, it was 80 years since 110 freight trains were each loaded with 2000 Poles across Eastern Poland.  A further three such deportations between February 1940 and June 1941 displaced a total of some 1.7 million people into exile and forced labour. 

Czesia, Jenny and Iwona and guests provided a fitting contribution to commemorating this all-important anniversary and reinforcing the Family spirit of all those touched by the deportations and their descendants.   

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