S T A L I N ' S  E T H N I C  C L E A N S I N G

STALIN’S ETHNIC CLEANSING in Eastern Poland
Tales of the Deported 1940-1946

ISBN 1 872286 88 7


Province: (Województwo)  Wołyń


OSADA BELWEDER (near Romanów, Armatniów, Worotniów)
KAZIMIERZ WIRA


District: (Powiat) ŁUCK


The settlement of Belweder was about 18 kilometres east of Łuck on land owned by Count Jezierski. In fact he gave a relatively small part of his estate in this part of Wołyń to soldiers, just 29 of whom formed the military settlers on this osada. Near the east end of Belweder there was a primary school where Poles and the mainly Ukrainian children from Romanow were taught together without any problems.

All this changed once the Soviets took over on 17 September. Then, after midnight on the 10 February 1940 there came a banging on our door which my father refused to open calling out to whomever it was to come back the next day. At this there came the reply that we had nothing to fear and we should remain safe and come to no harm. There was nothing for it and father had to open the door. Outside stood one Soviet soldier and two civilians. Once inside, the Soviet sat opposite my father - who was forbidden to move - and read out the order; mother and we older children started packing. All the time my mother, who could speak Russian and Ukrainian well, was berating them but nobody could change the order. Eventually mother was cautioned and informed that, as there was little time to spare, if she did not get on with the packing we would be taken just as we stood. To be truthful I think the Russian was sorry to see us six children, the youngest of whom was crying, trying to put things together for the road. However, he said nothing, just stared at us – he certainly knew what was in store for us, and allowed us a third sledge when we couldn’t manage to stack everything on the two sledges provided. Once on the way we noticed we were not alone as the whole of Belweder was on the move. It was towards evening by the time we approached the station at Ołyka to where thousands of other Poles were brought, amongst them those from osada Armatniów, some five kilometres from Belweder. The goods train that awaited us had its wagons fitted with bunk beds on which everybody was trying to find room for their families. There was also a small iron stove in the middle of the wagon and close to the wall a small opening in the floor which served as a lavatory. The train left Ołyka and as we crossed the Polish border, most people started crying. After a journey lasting three weeks we reached Kotlas, a town at the point where the rivers Vychegda and Suchoma join the north Dvina, just before it flows into the White Sea. 

From Kotlas after a further few hours on the train, we arrived at our temporary halt, Kopytovo. Our disembarkation began, supervised by the army aided by a few civilians, who were possibly representatives of the local authorities. Those families, like ours with young children, were the first to be sorted out.

We were helped by those who had journeyed with us as well as the engine drivers to collect our bundles from the train. We were taken to fairly new barrack huts of which there were ten in number. We were allocated one room on the first floor in which there was a single iron stove for both cooking and heating. Kopytovo was only a transit camp so that after ten days it was our turn to be moved on. We were loaded onto the three sledges drawn up outside the barracks and travelled in heavy snow for the whole of that day to posiolek Kharytonowo. This camp was three kilometres long and one wide stretching along the river Vychegda. At one time in the middle of this posiolek there had been a barbed-wire-fenced camp for political prisoners but, except for the watch-towers which still remained, this had already disappeared before we arrived. We were certainly expected in Kharytonovo because straightaway we were taken to barrack no. 5 which had been erected on the land of the old camp. Next day two local authority representatives arrived with the order that my father was to start work the following morning, while for the time being the rest of us, that is the children and my mother, were left to our own devices. We were also told that three more families from Kopytovo would be joining us that very day but in fact it was a few days before the Juszczak, Bentkowski and Urban families arrived. Let me record that our aunt Głowicka from our osada stayed in Kopytovo until the “amnesty”. On the posiolek there was a school, a saw-mill, an eating place and a hospital.

Small motor vessels called in to Kharytonovo, as well as other posioleks, to collect rafts of logs which were dragged up and down the waterway. The young children had to go to school while the older ones had to work. Each child received 400 grams of bread per day and the adult workers one kilo. Such rations were not sufficient, so during the summer we went into the forest to collect bilberries. These we sold to those on the steamships or to anyone around the eating places or those working in the administrative offices. Once the amnesty was declared, mother sold all the more valuable things we still owned in order to pay for the journey to Kotlas. We set off for the south. In Orenburg it was while men from our truck were out seeking bread that my father, at that moment carrying a whole sack, suffered swings of temperature having contracted pneumonia. We travelled on to Kagan where we were all simply unloaded on the station. There, mother found father a place in the hospital but, unfortunately he died within hours of his arrival. Later we travelled on in the direction of Turkestan and were distributed to different collective farms.

Within a short time all the men went off to the army. A month later the teenage boys decided they would join the Cadets. M. Graczyk, M. Kobyliński H. Mróz, S. Mróz, D. Trytek, S Trytek, K. Wira  – all managed to reach the orphanage in Turkestan and as a group went on to Krasnovodsk, Pahlevi and Teheran. There all the boys went off to different schools but I joined the Cadets in Ahwaz. I met up with M. Kobyliński and D. Trytek in Palestine. There after the war up to 1973 I was resident in England but now I live in Victoria, Australia.


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