S T A L I N ' S E T H N I C C L E A N S I N G
Name Dorota Jasińska (Jarosz)
Osada Rejtanów, District Dubno
Similar to the overwhelming majority of the military settlers, my family, consisting of father, Karol Jarosz (50); mother, Waleria (46); sister, Halina, who was supposed to start her university studies in 1940; and I, Dorota (17), were deported on 10 February 1940 from osada Rejtanów to the Sarga posiołek near Entalsko, district Krasnoborsk in Archangel Province.
Our journey was no different from the road to exile of our companions: cattle trucks with a hole in the floor to Kotlas and then by sledge to Sarga. Altogether a journey of some four weeks. I estimate we were in a slightly better position than many. Not only were we allowed to take useful objects, but were even advised as to what would prove most serviceable in our new situation. Also, on the posiołek itself, for our entire stay in the USSR, we suffered less than other families in that we eventually left Russia as a complete family, and also less by way of hunger, cold and illness. We were helped in this by parcels sent to us from Volhynia. They came from Ukrainians, among others, and from one particular Jew whom my father, a miller, helped during the regular scarcity period (przednówek) prior to harvest: he ground his corn without payment and, in times of need, gave him flour.
Even my sister and I, who spent time in four prisons and in a camp near the White Sea, both survived this hell.
At one time, being part of a transport which resettled people to the Far East, we were taken to a place near the Mongolian border. The prisons were so overcrowded that it was difficult even to stand. Among this cosmopolitan crowd of quite often dreadful women, were a lot of 11-12, and 13-year old girls imprisoned for stealing a handful of cereals, a few potatoes or turnips from the collective farm, to help their sick, cold and hungry families. These girls were abused in ways, and to a degree, which are difficult to describe and believe.
I must mention that on our way to prison we passed through another posiołek, Vasenki, which was situated only a few kilometres from our original one. There lived our former neighbour Mrs Salomea Marszycka, the mother of four children: Zbyszek, Zenek, Wanda and Jurek. The youngest was born with an almost completely closed fist. Having such a family made things difficult for her, but she nevertheless came out to meet us offering bread and some other bits and pieces. It wasn't until 1946 that Mrs Marszycka managed to escape from the Soviet Union. The last part of her life she spent in the loving, thoughtful care of her son Zenek and his wife.
Our other neighbour underwent a tragic experience on posiolek Sarga as deportation happened when she was well-advanced in a pregnancy. Moreover, for some reason or other, she was not allowed to take any of her possessions from home so that life was particularly difficult for her. She suffered hunger and cold despite the help and concern shown her by her companions. Little Bolesia was born in the posiołek but, unfortunately, died after a few months from lack of food and decent conditions. Only another mother who has lost a child can really understand the pain and despair she underwent.
Another tragedy concerned a couple with a little one-year old son. The mother was expecting another child and convinced herself that she would die during the delivery. In fact nothing like that happened and she delivered a very small but healthy child, Marysia. However, troubles started piling up from the first day, initially with the difficulties of keeping the two little ones clean.
To describe the conditions of hygiene in the posiołek as primitive would be a massive overstatement. At that time, hygiene for the Soviets was non-existent, despite their never missing an opportunity of reminding us just how advanced was their culture, giving us as prime example the number of voshoboykas (de-lousing points) available. As for this young mother, washing in summer was no trouble for she used the river, but she continued to use the same method in the autumn and became very ill. There was no medical help whatsoever and, reaching the end of her endurance, she several times tried to end her life by hanging. In fact she died of natural causes. Her husband now found himself in the impossible situation of having to work and at the same time care for two small children. Though among the posiołek’s inhabitants he found a carer, there still existed the need to find a supply of milk. Admittedly, there were on the posiołek a few cows and a bull but they had to be slaughtered during the winter since these Russians who cared for them hadn't put by sufficient food to keep them alive. Driven by hunger, all the animals kept up a terrible bellowing and, eventually, the bull broke free from the enclosure, ran between the huts before becoming exhausted, and fell dead.
However, Marysia continued to grow and be able to take solid food as the father sold everything he could to provide nourishment for both children. Then, Marysia caught some children’s disease and, like the majority of the posiołek children, simply died. Her father managed to get over the loss of the child mainly because he still had Zbyszek but regularly said: “If I hadn’t Zbyszek, there would be no point in living”. As for Zbyszek, one couldn't help but love him for he was pretty special. He had a lot more charm and intelligence than most of the other children, but he died on the road south.
The father broke down completely and attempted suicide on more than one occasion but, luckily, people saved him.
In Sarga there were lots of families with many children and these lived in extreme poverty because the bread and soup was only supplied to those who worked. Mortality among these families was very high. Alternatively, there were some who lived quite well since they were issued with much clothing but didn't consider sharing it with those who were in need. One very wealthy family stayed on the posiołek only because they had too many things to carry.
I would also add that those of us who were young, even in these inhumane conditions, managed to smile, joke, flirt, and wonder at the beauty of the nature and, in our own way, remain content with life.