I am the last of my Family remaining who knows what happened to us in just eight years of upheaval.
1939 began well for us, a Family of five. Stanisław and Leontyna our parents married on the last Sanday of August 1926.
My sister Jadwiga was born a year later, brother Tadeusz in 1929 and I, Zbigniew in. 1936.Our Grandfather, Łucjan, died in 1923 while Dad was serving inthe Army leaving Grandmother, Aniela at home with two young daughters, Bronisława and Czesława.
The oldest of Dad’s sisters, Antonina, married a few years previously. Dad returned to a rundown property that needed a lot of work to restore. It was his and our Mother’s hard work and efforts of the next ten years that brought our security and comparative affluence of the late thirties.
A new house was planned in 1938, materials werestock piled when war broke out in 1939. In August Dad was summoned to serve at the Police Station of Bystrzyce, 12 km from home and close to the border with Soviet Union. Soviet invasion on 17/9/39 meant his unit was ordered to disperse and he returned a day later.
Day before I’d stood with Mum, Grandma and a neighbor in our yard listening to the sound of distant guns. After Dad’s return life seemed to flow as before until beginning ofwinter when Jadwiga and Tadeusz, beginning a new school, went to board with Aunt Bronisława.
The snow was deep, frost severe, Bronisława with husband Felicjan lived very much nearer the school. They came home for Christmas. Christmas Day evening we all sat by the open fire roasting skewered pieces of pork. Jadwiga and Tadeusz went back. life for me went on as usual.
Yet it also didn’t feel quite the same in the attitude of Mum and Dad. Our life was shattered a few weeks later. On the 10/2/40 I was woken up by Mum and, hurriedly, dressed into warm clothes. There were armed men in the room, Dad was standing facing the wall.
Hands above his head Mum scurried across the room frantically packing large bundles. I, bemused, couldn’t understand what was happening. In a while we were taken outside, Grandma Aniela with us, loaded into our waiting sledge and taken to the Primary School of the nearest village.
Białaszówka. It was very cold on the way, the large room we were put into felt warm by comparison. We sat down on the floor In time other people were brought in. It became quite crowded before I fell asleep. In the morning even more people joined us.
Also, midmorning Jadwiga and Tadeusz appeared, brought by their teacher. There were people milling about, a guard on the door. I sat with my back against the wall, still confused by the awakening of the night. uncomprehending.
We stayed in that room the whole day and following night. In the night Grandma slipped out, unnoticed by the distracted guard. In the morning we were taken out, loaded onto sledges, our own driven by Bendyk, a neighbor. It was cold, cloudy sky, flurries of snow carried on on the slight breeze.
We travelled across. country,the road invisible under deep snow. The journey to the Railway St. at Rokitno took all day. There a goods train was waiting for us. Last glimpse of our dogs who followed us, and our horse. We were loaded onto the train, doors were locked.
No light inside the wagon till someone lit a candle. It wasn’t until the evening of the following day that the train, jerking and clashing of buffers began it’s journey. It travelled with very few, brief, stops till 22/2/40 before stopping. The doors clanged open and we were told to come out.
The sun shone brightly onto deep, snow. Too deep for my legs and Dad carried me to a sledge in a line of others that were waiting to take us further. Before we left the wagon, Dad had written on the wall of the wagon our details and date of arrival,22/2/40.
This place where the side sideline stopped was Szabrycha, we had another 6 km. before reaching place of exile in Darowatka. Here we were put into one of large, wooden, barracks that stood close to a dense line of trees, There were three of them initially, later two more were built.
Subdivided into three they, each, housed about 60 people to a “room” . Our new “home” consisted of three wooden shelves and the floor space beneath. Within days adults went to logging in the woods with assistance of older teenagers.
Children of Jadwiga’s age to school, small fry like I stayed at home. Darowatka lay in an open to the east square of land. The east side was abounded by dense, old, woods. to the north a small river, Czerniawka south, a much smaller stream Kuzniecówka.
These two, flowing west into Darowatka flowing south. At the junction of Darowatka and Kuzniecówka there was a mill. At the time of our arrival the railway line was being extended to Połdniewica to the north where another exile settlement existed.
Even during that first winter death occurred amongst us. The oldest and the very youngest could not cope with the conditions of the new life. The weather was cold, deep snow covered the ground and temperature dropped as low as minus 60C.
Work in the woods was suspended once it reached below 50C. Each worker had a daily allocation of work to achieve to be sure of being able to buy a portion of the rationed bread, bread of poor quality. Adults, when working, were allowed 600gm.
Children and unable to work 200gm.per day. The whole area was desperately poor still feeling the effects of the Civil War. Within a short time the food we brought with us began to run out and hunger became a frequent feeling.
When spring came Dad managed to contact our relations at home and they responded with food parcels which, though taking long time to reach us, became our salvation. Long weeks passed before winter turned into spring. It was May.
Earlier some of the workers in the woods were redirected to carry on extending the railway from Szabrycha onwards. Most of the women, Mum included, and older girls loaded and unloaded ballast transported on open platforms along the already existing embankment from Szabrycha to the site of the proposed bridge over Czerniawka.
Heavy work, six and half’ days weekly regardless of the weather. Apart from the ballast platforms there weren’t any machines. Levelling the balast, laying sleepers and rails was done by hand. At the same time the area of settlement was being cleared of tree stumps.
Darowatka was first used to house exiled Ukrainians in the early thirties.About 400 of them were dumped in virgin forest and they had cleared the site building the barracks we now occupied. By 1939 they were all dead except for one who was allowed to move into a nearby village.
That is what we were told by the locals. Also, the building of two extra barracks began, to be ready before next winter. Brief, hot summer followed the slightly longer spring. Wild raspberries grew in profusion where the trees had been cleared in the previous years.
One day Tadeusz took me to see Dad where he was working inside a building, we walked a “road” made by dragged logs. I bare footed, to climb a steep bank where this house stood. Dad planed long boards and the floor was covered by sweet smelling shavings.
Quickly summer turned into autumn, nights became cold. Ground started freezing towards the end of the month. As autumn turned colder Dad and Mum became very worried about our footwear, especially Jadwiga’s.
Her boots were worn out, we didn’t have the money for the Russian felt, winter, boots that were only briefly available in Darowatka. It was now that Russian kindness came to our rescue. Dad was having a break at work when one of two Russians warming by the same fire offered him a baked potato and said.
“I’ve seen you worried and guessed why, take this note and go to my home. My wife will give you a hundred roubles “. He added “right now” Dad, dumbstruck, thanking him set off for Duza Katarynowka where this man, Nikita Nagibin, lived.
There Nagibin’s wife, Larissa, read the note and handed Dad the money. The following day he was able to buy these “walonki” and Jadwiga had her winter footwear. They cost 90 rubles. Dad could never have been able to clear this debt from our Parents meager wages.
Returning the residue of the money, he gave Nikita his gold pocket watch. Valuable in other places, here it was just a bauble. Nikita Nagibin and Larissa became close friends of our Family, often visiting us on Sundays, the only day free from work.
When he was called up the following year Larissa moved to Darowatka. They were childless, also “relocated” from another area. That winter dragged on. Dad and Mum went to work after feeding us. Jadwiga and Tadeusz to school. I. not well, spent my time inside, mostly gazing out of the window.
Jadwiga, returning from school at midday fed me again. It was a long wait for our Parents to come home in early evening. Eventually, as I wasn’t showing signs of improvement, Mum was allowed a day off work so she could take me to the nearest hospital. This was in Chmielowka, about 20 km. from Darowatka.
It was a trip to remember. We went by a rail car (the line had reached Darowatka by now) to Neja the previous day evening. This Neja is a station on the sideline leading north from the main route west-east to Siberia where there is another Neja.
We spent the night sleeping in a warehouse having been met by a friend who worked there. It was chilly but quite comfortable night on large, full of something, bags. In the morning we set off in a small, one horse sledge, driven by a young woman.
The hospital in Chmielowka was about 2km. off. Across the wide, covered by deep snow, plain, early sun sparkled. In a while we reached the small wood and the hospital beyond. We waited awhile in a long corridor full of people. Our turn came and we were called into a room at the corridor’s end.
A young woman doctor diagnosed my illness as yellow jaundice, regretfully saving “But I can’t help you, we don’t have the drugs to treat it” There wasn’t anything to be done and we set off for the warehouse in Neja. Halfway there the horse spooked and began a mad dash for home, the driver vainly trying to regain control.
Soon, she fell out, we were on our own in the back of the sledge, Mum clutching me to her chest. The sledge overturned, we fell out, fortunately the snow was very deep. But, it was so deep that we were stuck as the top wasn’t firm enough to walk on.
Way behind us was the helpless driver,by the distant warehouse several people appeared and began making their way towards us. It wasn’t very long before we were rescued and back at the station. On the return journey, a fellow woman passenger asked Mum what was wrong with me.
Finding out she said “Go and see my mother, but don’t mention it to anyone. She will help you”. Years later I was told this by Mum. The old lady Mum went to see still practiced homemedicine, (strictly forbidden by law with a three month jail sentence if convicted) it was she who gave Mum a concoction based on wormwood.
I remember it as very bitter liquid. By early spring I was fit enough to play outside. During that winter, at beginning of 1941, Dad was stricken by severe internal pains. Szatunowa, the Settlement nurse got him a pass and referral to a clinic in Kirow,200 km. eastward.He was away several days before returning.
He wasn’t treated but diagnosed with pleurisy at this Clinic, pleased with having had tooth root removed, without. appointment, at a dentists he passed on on the way to the clinic. As he was unable to work in the woods owing to this condition he was moved to building maintenance. In his new job he walked 6 km. to Szabrycha each day, returning early evening.
There he wasassisted by teenage brother and sister who, really, we’re too young to work. This was Mielnikow’s (N.K.V.D. Commandant) idea, helping them to survive. Their father had been called up into the army and mother ill. Sometimes Tadeusz went with him.
Because of this change Mum was sent to work in the vegetable gardens When the days warmed. she would, often, take me with her. We would walk along the right bank of Kuzniecówka, the opposite bank fragrant with bird cherry scent, Left turn at the railway, then left again after crossing the stream by the line’s log bridge.
Cabbages and gherkins were the main crop as I recall. A road to Katarynowka led past the garden, I think it began at the mill on Darowatka. Further on lay the cemetery. At the beginning of our second summer there the railway had reached Czerniawka, where the bridge piles were almost complete.
In a hollow surrounded by birches, near the barracks, children collected in the evenings tell stories, sing and try to pedal a home made, wooden, cart up it’s slope. The very young of us played on the line making small, clay briquettes.
Each time the train of bridge materials came we tumbled down the embankment’s slope like large frogs. This was to the north of the Settlement’s Rail Halt, which still existed in 2014. It was at this time that, playing on the banks of Czerniawka, I witnessed the crash of this supply train.
Overloaded, unable to stop, the driver was first to jump off, followed by the women and girls of the work force. All jumped clear except one, she fell with the wagons into the water below the unfinished bridge. Badly injured, she spent weeks in hospital but survived.
One day Tadeusz caught a small fish, the hook was a bent pin. The line a long hair from a horse’s tail. Mum fried it and we all had a tiny piece each, it was delicious. This summer there weren’t so many raspberries in the long grass between the barracks and the forest.
Between the place on Czerniawka where clothes were washed and the bridge, planks were laid across, and we could search the opposite side woods for mushrooms. There were very few to be found. There was also a practically total absence of birds.
One hot Sunday Jadwiga took me there for several hours. We searched for a long time before finding one, even longer for another, small specimen. Coming back was very painful. We walked along the unfinished line. Barefooted, the coarse, hot, ballast hurt me badly.
The sun, still high in the sky shone directly into our faces, we were thirsty. It seemed an age before we reached Czerniawka’s cool water flowing over the planks. The last of the bridge piles were driven in during that week. By the time honored method of a raised, by hand, and dropped heavy log.
Cross bracing in place sleepers began to be laid, fun to watch for small boys. This railway reached the next Exile Settlement by early autumn. Here a brief return to the passed winter. At Christmas Tadeusz made me a tiny, clay, horse.
To bake it he laid it on the top of communal stove and I spotted it. In my excitement, picking it up a leg broke off My three legged horse went with me everywhere until lost on the way to Kyrgistan.
At the beginning of this summer we were still surviving on a mix of Dad’s and Mum’s wages augmented by food from Aunt Bronisława, and Aleksander Prokopczuk, Dad’s long time Ukrainian friend. Previous autumn we had a letter from Grandma Aniela and a photograph.
The invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany broke this contact and our existence took a turn downwards. In September news reached us of an agreement between Polish and Soviet Governments that released us from exile.
Once issued with appropriate documents we were free to travel anywhere in the Soviet Union. The only snags, how and where. We were destitute by now yet Dad was determined to get out of the country, somehow. Staying we faced oblivion.
Normal routine still continued in Darowatka, while conditions relaxed the only income was still from the same heavy work. Food became worse, even more scarce with the outbreak of war. The first group of late teenagers, men and women, left on the 8/10/41
Even though we still didn’t have our documents Dad was busy preparing to leave. Mum was drying bread for the journey. Where to?, Dad’s idea was to head south towards India. In the first days of November we had our documents.
Dad, with two free went to the Commander of the field airstrip being built at Neja and asked him for transport which would take us to the main line. The Colonel in charge willingly agreed and on the 8/11/41 an engine with two wagons came to Darowatka.
Just over a hundred people decided to leave on this cloudy, cold, day. Loading was quick, the journey didn’t take long and we got out at the mainline station to settle in the waiting room, It was packed. No one had expected such a crowd and the militia soon appeared.
We were asked to return, Dad a fluent Russian speaker, refused and told everyone to stay put We stayed there for almost two days before permission to travel was granted and space found on a train (tickets purchased of course) to Swierdlowsk, east of the Urals.
We were on our way. As we neared the Urals snow appeared in the fields. I noticed, when the train was taking a long left turn, overhead wires running along the line without knowing for a long time the railway was electrified. We travelled parallel to the mountains for quite a while.
They were heavily wooded and deep in snow. It was a sunny day, the snow sparkled. I sat at the window and, at some time, fell asleep. When I woke the carriage was in darkness and cold. We were in a siding, on our own. Quite far off I could see lights and movement on the main line.
We were there for a week. During this time in Swierdłowsk Dad saw the Polish Ambassador, Kot, who advised him to stay here. This was the same advice that the Colonel gave, “the Soviet Union is the same everywhere “. Dad ignored Kot knowing that with our limited resources we couldn’t survive.
The problem was that we didn’t have enough money left for further travel. Solution came from an unexpected source. Although Polish Jews were allowed to travel, in practice they weren’t allowed to leave the country. Such a group contacted Dad at Swierdłowsk Station.
We still occupied the carriage so they sneaked in when it got dark. There were ten of them, some related. Combined finances enabled Dad to rent the carriage to Taszkent.it would be attached to any train heading in that direction, time being immaterial.
A day later, in the evening, with much noise and jerking we were linked to a train and off on the next leg of our journey. As remembered by Dad we headed south then, on the next hook up, west. It was there, that while stopped an enormous locomotive pulled up on the next line.
It was red and green, reeked of hot oil and smoke. Within a few minutes I was being sick. It moved after a short while but I still recall that feeling on seeing that particular combination of colours. After two or three days we were hooked to another train and headed eastwards.
I was asleep at this change over, unusually for me for thejerking and buffers crashing kept me awake at such times. During the next day we crossed a very wide river that Jadwiga said was the Wołga but, in retrospect, could have been the Ural.
It was a sunny day, no snow in sight, within a short while after crossing the bridge our train stopped. Long minutes passed before a train heading in the opposite direction came into sight. It was extremely long mostly flatbeds, only a few wagons.
It carried vehicles, tanks and aerplanes without wings. Tadeusz counted the passing trucks, stopping when he reached a hundred and thirty. It was at one of those stops before we crossed the river that Mum traded her only head covering, a woollen scarf, for thirty pounds o flour.
It worried Dad but this flour proved to be our saviour in days to come. Meanwhile we survived on what we could afford to bay when the train made a stop, not always near dwellings or station. We had reached Kazakstan by this time and were heading south, it was warmer now, no snow in sight.
Long before we reached the Aral Sea the train made one of it’s unscheduled stops, unbroken steppe stretched in all directions. Few hundred meters away, in a grove of birches stood a house or two. Smoke rising above one. Dad jumped off the train and ran towards it.
Luckily the train hadn’t moved before he came back caring a steaming dish of food. A kind Ukrainian woman, a colonist from Kijow, gave him her freshly cooked meal. Hearing his story, she replied “But we are practically neighbour’s, if the train stops for a while come hack, I’ll find you something more”
But soon as Dad climbed aboard we were off. I can’t remember any of the next day or two before we reached the Aral Sea andstopped for a long while at a station. Here Dad went to the adjacent market and bought a reasonable amount of fish, which was plentiful and cheap.
Here also Dad was asked by the Jewish group to look after sharing of their bread for they quarreled all the time at meal times. He agreed, but years later he said to me “I regretted this, for it was a mental strain being watched all the time in case a thicker slice was cut”
By this time, we had been on the move over two weeks since we left Swierdkowsk. Few days later we arrived in Taszkent, were uncoupled and put in a siding. Dad made contact with the Polish Army recruiting here.
They told him not to leave the carriage under any circumstances without being told where to go next .N.K.W.D. were in charge of all refugees who were arriving daily from all directions. It was they who issued Dad with a permit allowing him to buy a meal for us in the Station Buffet.
As Taszkent couldn’t cope with such influx of refugees they dispersed them over a wide are of Uzbekistan. All were in a very poor state of health, many ill, placed in very poor conditions to work in frosty whether a large proportions died. Especially the old and the young.
Our group, reduced to about eighty by now were sent on to Kyrgistan, still in the same carriage, another train bound for Dżałał-Abad. We headed south before turning east to Dżałał – Abad arriving there the following night. In the morning we were given a meal and soon afterwards began leaving the train for the waiting Uzbeck Arbas.
Two wheeled, very large wheels, carts drawn by a single horse. It was drizzling with cold rain, the mud between the station entrance and the carts watery and deep, Dad carried me to our cart. It was barely large enough to house the five of us, driver and our meager possessions.
There were a number of these carts but I can’t remember how many. Within a short distance the road begun to climb, gently at first then steeper without changing the gradient. Soon, the horse couldn’t cope, Dad, Mum and the driver had to walk. We went on at this pace, always uphill, always in drizzling rain.
Towards the end of the day rain stopped but it became bitterly chilly. As darkness began to fall we stopped for the night. Here the road ran between a hill on the left and open field on the right. All the carts pulled onto the field forming a square. It was very cold, penetrating, damp, cold.
We lay on the cart shivering, Dad with Mum on the outside, we three on the inside, I in the middle. From a stack in the field the Uzbecks pulled a load of straw and lit a fire. It would quickly flare up producing warmth but die in minutes into acrid, eye watering smoke.
We spent very miserable night before a pale morning arrived. At first light we went on. The road continued climbing, horses barely coped even with all adults walking. Around midday we reached a small village on the right side of the road. Here we, children, were given some warm, watery, porridge.
Adults were allowed to warm themselves inside the houses. We were halfway to our destination and had to wait for different carts taking us further. These arrived in a short while. Ukrainian colonists were our drivers now. They’re horses being in much better condition than our previous set everyone could ride now.
I fell asleep quickly and don’t remember this part of our journey. I woke up feeling warm to an aroma of something pleasant being roasted. Opening eyes I saw Dad next to the bunk I was laying on. We were in a large, sunny, room and Dad was roasting maize kernels on a stove.
They tasted delicious. Here we waited for the people that agreed to give us shelter. I could see snow flurries in the bright sunshine outside. In a short while a man came in and asked for, “Kwiatkowski? ,I am the one you are going to stay with”.
In bright sunshine and swirling snowflakes we got onto his cart and went down a gently sloping road. We travelled about 700 meters before pulling up before a house on the left. Access to it was over a handrails bridge spanning the roadside ditch.
The Family’s name was Mytrenko. They were Ukrainian colonists who came there in early. 1930 – ties from Woroneź. Father’s name was Gregor, wife’s Anna. Children by age, Anna (“Niura”), Iwan (“Wania”) ,Aleksandra (“Shura”), about 17,15,9.
We were in Kyrgistan’s Dealal-Abad Oblaść Bazar – Kurgan Rejon, Kołchoz “Bolszewik” Posiołek Karakuł. The house stood on a patch of level ground between the road and a high ridge running north to south, it was about 30 meters high and overgrown with small trees.
Firs and crab apples Mum told us. About 200 meters north of the house, downhill, was a small grove of walnut trees. Another 200 or so meters further on lay the main part of the village. I think we arrived there about the end of December’s first week.
There were a few snow patches and the air was cold. It, once again, was a poor area. Dad and Mum tried hard to find work but with harvest in, there wasn’t any. Dad took to repairing pots and pans in neighboring Kyrgiz villages, sometimes Tadeusz went with him.
Later, for a while, Mum worked planting cucumbers and tomatoes in deep pits Aleksandra and I soon became friends and played with the Ukrainian children from nearby houses, I must have been the youngest. Snow fell properly well before Christmas and with food being scarce Christmas Day was a miserable time.
Help came from unexpected quarter, Polish Mission in Dzatal – Abad sent us a hundred rubles. This helped enormously. With the snow and frosts arriving out came the children’s toboggans and many happy hours of tobogganing in the road. I scared myself very severely when, after every one else went in.
I went off on a toboggan left behind, the slope was steep, I couldn’t stop and buried myself in a snow drift. It was before the snow fell properly that Tadeusz and I searched the walnut grove for fallen nuts. We found one and shared it, By the second week of January the snow was deep and frosts severe.
I don’t remember the next weeks except as time of play but always hungry for the next meal. In February Dad received his call up papers into the Polish Army. On the 12/2/42 I stood with Mum as we said goodbye to him in the road. Jadwiga and Tadeusz stayed in.
Snow was gently falling as he walked down the hill, stopped at the bottom to wave and disappeared around the bend. That day and night he and his two companions, Kolebuk and Jagiellicz walked over 50 kilometers. First to Bazar-Kurgan, then to Dzałał – Abad having missed the transport awaiting in the first of these.
Early morning in Dzalal-Abad they were put on a train and sent to Margielan. Dad’s hope of being able to help us was thwarted, Margielan was 200 kilometers away. We, of course, knew nothing of this until the following year. Meanwhile Mum had the responsibility for our survival.
There wasn’t anything we could do except wait for news from Dad. The winter was severe. Mum, with Tadeusz, often climbed to the top of the ridge to bring back chopped branches that served as firewood in our tiny fireplace. The only source of heating and cooking, not that there was much to cook.
On one occasion, returning from the ridge, she tried to follow my brother’s example of sliding down. Halfwaydown she lost her balance and tumbled to completely disappear in the snow. I, amazed, watched as she dug herself out still clutching the little axe.Weeks passed and we still hadn’t heard from Dad.
We were surviving on the quickly dwindling 100 rubles. Snow began melting in the sun which was quite warm at midday, yet it was still bitterly cold at night. One night. large pond up the road burst it’s bank and the resulting torrent of water hurtling downhill washed away half the house
On the other side of the road. I watched in the morning as people were trying to save the remaining half and salvage possessions while the water, diminished but still deep in the roadside ditch flowed on. The widow who lived there, Rohaczycha, absolutely distraught.
Spring was approaching but still no news from Dad. A pig drowned in a irrigation canal, Mum was able to buy a little piece of pork. While snow still covered the ground I watched army recruits in training They trained in the field beyond the irrigation canal which was still covered by snow.
With their imitation rifles they would fall in a line, to order the whole line leapt up and charged yelling “urra” to fall again about hundred meters on. This would last most of the day. The stony level patch on the opposite side of the road, where the very bitter wild garlic grew witnessed a minor drama one morning.
A large eagle was shot while attempting to take a lamb.I stood in a crowd around it and marveled at it’s size. Measured, the wing span was almost three meters. By now there was real warmth each day, grass was visible everywhere but still no news from Dad.
We were down to our last few rubles and barely survived. March ended, we were into first days of April when Mum heard of a Polish Army Unit stationing about thirty five kilometres away in Błagowieszczanka.
On Good Friday 1942 she left us to walk there. It took her a day of walking through the foothills of Baba – Atasz, she rested a day and returned carrying two loaves of bread. A day later we packed what remained of our very meager possessions and helped by Anna Mytrenko with
“Niura” set off for Błagowieszczanka It was a quiet, overcast, morning as we climbed the hilly road to the large lake where we turned right onto the path through the hills. About mid morning the sun came out and we stopped for rest on a patch of grass which grew in a hillside recess.
It was an enjoyable meal of bread, three eggs between all, and water. It wasn’t long after we set off again that I began to tire quickly. We couldn’t afford the time to rest again so Mum carried me. When she tired, Anna Mytrenko took over. In between times I walked.
The path led downhill continuously and this made the backs of our legs ache badly. Time passed slowly as, silently by now, we struggled on. Eventually, I don’t recall when, we reached level ground. It was a cotton stubble field, the stubble was very painful to walk on.
This field was in the shadow of approaching evening. We stopped part of the way across, all very tired, I unable to move a step. The sun was just setting, off to our left, up a slope, lights of Błagowieszczanka began twinkling.
But we no longer had the strength to walk that last kilometre. In front, about two hundred meters away a light appeared in a house. Anna Mytrenko told us to wait and went towards it. She returned in a little while with good news.
Good news indeed, a kind Uzbek woman agreed to let us stay with her overnight. Wearily we walked that short distance, across the roadside ditch spanned by a plank. Once inside, I fell instantly asleep. I woke up to a grey day. Mum had gone and we went outside. It was drizzling with rain but not cold.
Soon Mum appeared sitting beside a soldier driving a one horse cart. Quick goodbyes to Mytrenkos who faced the long walk back and we were being driven up the long, gentle slope, to Błagowieszczanka. We were taken to the first house on the left which, I think, was the Regimental Command Post of 14p.p.5th.Diw.
There we .stayed for several days. It was in an apple orchard, trees already in leaf ,grass quite high by now. Afterwards Sergeant Urban, in charge of civilians the Army cared for, moved us half way up the kilometre single street, here we settled in a leanto belonging to an Uzbek widow.
Later in her yard salt was stored, large blocks colored brown. We were now sure of survival though it was a precarious existence. The soldiers were on half rations themselves and from these merger resources they fed several hundred women and children. After a while life settled into a rhythm.
Sometimes there were ready cooked meals, sometimes just provisions which Mum cooked on an open fire. The only fuel available were the dry stalks of cotton some of which still lay on the ground. Often I went with Mum to gather these along the irrigation canal.
Beyond the houses on the other side of the road there was an open space covered with tiny pebbles. Across it trickled a tiny stream, there I played with children of my own age, often. There the Army held a parade at the end of their live maneuvers.
Spring turned into hot summer, we stopped expecting news from Dad, just lived from day to day. One evening I watched the Uzbek woman bake pancakes in a clay, beehive shaped, oven.
After heating it with a small interior fire, she threw the pancakes onto the inside surface and when they were ready, golden in color, just peeled them off to stack beside her. By her house grew a few small apple trees and mulberries
These she guarded warily. In mid August rumor began that we were going to leave the Soviet Union with the Army. It was around that time we had an unexpected visit from Anna Mytrenko And “Niura”. They came late afternoon leading a cow.
Her husband had been called up ,to survive they were selling the cow but keeping it’s calf. Mum still had a little flour so they milked the cow and that evening we had a magnificent meal of milky noodles. Unusually next morning was foggy and damp.
Crying, Mum and Anna said their goodbyes before Mytrenkos carried on to Diatat – Abad market. Once again we were back to normal routine of existing and waiting. The lime trees along the street, at this time, had leaves covered with sweet drops of liquid and it was fun licking them in spite of Mum’s warnings.
End of the month approached and the rumors of leaving became true. We didn’t need a lot of time to pack, all our possessions went into one bundle and a bucket. When, on 30/8/42, we headed Lowards the, already full of soldiers, lorries, I felt a sense of adventure without having the faintest idea why. It was a short drive to the Dialal-Abad station.
During that time I stood behind the cab of the lorry feeling exhilarated by the wind. We were soon on the train and moving, this time it was dry and warm here. A contrast with the cold, wet, arrival, but this time Dad wasn’t with us.
Once the train was on the move I fell asleep quickly in the comfort of a window seal Mum woke me for breakfast. Eating I watched the passing hills. Theywere covered in long grass, occasionally large, grey, smooth looking boulders appeared.
This scene didn’t change most of the day, it wasn’t until next morning when we left the hills and began travelling over flat grey ground that stretched into far distance. Early evening the train stopped. There weren’t any buildings visible only dry, grey bushes.
People were getting off the train, small fires were lit. Mum grabbed our bucket. and ran somewhere. She was back quickly, made a small fire in a nest of three stones and boiled the water in the bucket. With some she made noodles, using the rest of our flour.
Once it cooled we drank what remained in the bucket, there wasn’t a lot of it. I don’t remember how long the train stopped there because once fed I must have fallen asleep. That meal and small breakfast was the only we ate that day. I next woke up laying on a blanket in hot sunshine, by a high fence.
Beyond the fence there was an open space and water stretching into far distance. There wasn’t any shade, we were hot and without water.There must have been several hundred people sitting along that fence suffering from thirst like us.
Towards noon a word spread along the croud that water was available further along this quayside. Tadeusz took our bucket and trudged off in that direction. He was gone a long time, When eventually reappeared he was crying but carrying water.
A lot had spilled out for the full bucket was too heavy for him to carry a long distance from the tap, yet what he managed to bring was sufficient for us to recover. Time passed very slowly, the temperature didn’t drop. The sky cloudless. We were waiting for a ship that would take us across the Caspian Sea to Iran.
The sun was red and low in the sky when it, at last arrived and the quayside gates opened for loading. It was a small fishing vessel that stank of fish and diesel. Much too small for the soldiers and civilians waiting to board. Mum carrying me we squeezed and pushed along the gangplank.
Once aboard we were forced below decks, I began to choke, unable to breathe in that temperature and lack of air. Mum, still carrying me, managed to return to the deck. Jadwiga and Tadeusz also. It was standing room only here, we were like fish in a very hot barrel.
The red sun was just above the horizon when the engine began to throb and the ship, slowly, got under way. It was still very hot only made bearable by the breeze created by ship’s movement. I don’t remember any of the crossing, I must have fallen asleep very soon afterwards.
I woke up laying on a blanket, under a rudimentary roof of a shelter which consisted of several poles and a large tarpaulin. On my left Mum sat with Jadwiga and Tadeusz eating something that smelt delicious. Soon I was also tucking in to a slice of fresh bread and runny corn beef, followed by a long drink of cool water.
The shelter was one of many in a line between sandunes and the sea which was about 150 meters away. There were a few buildings between us and the sea, it was warm, gently warm compared with the port where we boarded the ship. The port was Krasnowodsk, today Turkmenibaszi.
Now we were in the Iranian port of Pahlewi, now Bandar-e-Anzali. We lived there a few weeks. Polish Authorities gave each family a small sum of local currency so apart from tinned meat and bread Mum was able to buy occasional hard boiled eggs which the Iranians sold in great numbers.
They were small but tasty. Once or twice she bought sun dried melon strips and a few grapes. For us children it was a relaxing time. The sea was shallow, quiet and fun to splash in. Tadeusz used to take me there every day. Sometimes a squad of soldiers marched by, something to stare at and admire.
It was on one such occasion, late afternoon that Mum, standing with us suddenly yelled “Janek” and ran towards a soldier in the last four of the squad. They hugged and talked excitedly for a few minutes before he ran after his squad. He was Janek Kuriata, A young son of Mum’s Parents neighbors in Bronisławka.
He didn’t have any news of Dad but seeing him gave hope of seeing Dad again. Once again time came to move on. Open trucks were our next transport to wherever we- were to go next. The trucks carried us away from Pahlewi one early morning.
Very soon the road entered mountains where for hours it snaked along high above valleys on the left and steep slopes on the right. Several times we saw wrecked vehicles in the valleys, completely wrecked. It was quite scary at times when we passed traffic in the opposite direction Early afternoon we stopped.
Here there was a small plateau, few buildings and a gushing spring of water flowing across the road. The Russian driver of our truck took me from Mum’s arms. carried me to the spring and washed my face in the cold water. It felt wonderful. He went off quickly to return with an enormous bunch of grapes that we all shared.
The sweetest grapes of my life. Soon we were travelling again, the road was dusty so, most of the time we huddled in the shelter of the cab as the sides of the truck were low, the top open. It was early evening before we came out of the mountains and saw the twinkling Lights of Kazwin far below us.
Stop for the night. I can’t remember the last stage to Teheran at all, must have slept. Next day saw us in low wooden barracks and a visit to a communal bath unlimited warm water, all our old clothes burnt and clothed in donated by Red Cross replacements.
In Teheran we lived in a number of low barracks outside the city. To one side there was a deep well which supplied, to me, delicious drinking water. Food was supplied by the Army. Not plentiful but just enough not to overload stomachs which had starved for three years.
Ours was an end barrack, next to a low wall. Beyond stretched grey, stony, dusty plain covered with sparse bushes. Here we lived two or three weeks before being taken, by lorries, to the railway station. Boarding the train we waited for the next stage of our journey, and waited.
The train did not move and after about two hours we returned to the barracks. Several days later back to the station and, this time, off to Actwaz. It was a slow train along the line which wound itself between hills and frequent tunnels. It was in one of these tunnels, about midday, that the train stopped.
Soon our carriage filled with fumes from the engine, breathing became unpleasantly difficult. It was quite a while before another engine arrived and we continued our journey. Once again I do not remember arriving in Achwaz it was morning when I woke up, laying wrapped in a blanket on the of a large room.
There were about forty of us there. The room had a very high ceiling and was open on one side, it was sunny but with a pleasant breeze keeping the temperature low. This room was our “home” for the next few weeks. The building was part of Iranian Army barracks, cavalry as we soon found out.
Unfortunately Mum fell ill with malaria after a a week or so and was taken to hospital. Jadwiga took charge. Days later one of my eyes became infected. Bathing it did not help and, on a hot afternoon we set off for the clinic in town. Clinic we knew existed but not precisely where.
The road from the Barracks into Achwaz town led uphill, was very straight without a scrap of shade anywhere. It took a long while to each the clinic. Here we waited in the corridor, and waited, and waited. Eventually we realized the clinic closed without seeing us, so, we went back.
At least it wasn’t so hot now and downhill. After a few days the swelling over my eye went down, there was no more talk of returning to the clinic. I felt a lot happier, specially as we were allowed to visit Mum in hospital. After a week she returned and took charge.
She was very weak and moved slowly. A week didn’t pass before we were packing again and heading for the train in the coolness of an evening. This time our journey only took a few hours before we left the train and walked towards a waiting ship.
A short walk brought us to the gangplank in the shadow of very early morning without sunshine. It was a steep gangplank, too steep for me, too steep for Mum carrying me and a bundle of our few possessions. A nearby soldier carried me aboard while helping Mum at the same time.
Within minutes, huddled against some superstructure I fell asleep. when I woke up it was sunny, the ship was moving slowly, I could see a coast with palm trees. Little of that journey down the Persian Gulf remains in my memory. The distant shore disappeared in the distance, small vessels came and went.
I sat on the warm decking, cooled by the breeze, too tired to move. The following morning we we in Karachi. Here, on the shore, it was unpleasantly hot, it reeked of tar and oil. Hot breeze constantly blew dust in our faces as we trudged towards a collection of ten tents beyond high fence of wire netting.
Everyone kept silent. The tents were large enough to hold about twenty people, Devoid of any furniture we would have to sleep on the ground, soft sand. It was a little cooler out of the sun and drinking water was soon provided. Next day we learned that our stay here was brief, week or so of waiting for a ship taking, us to Africa.
It was here that I gave Mum a shock by vanishing for several hours. Seeing other children entering a tent which stood to the side of the main group, I followed them, without telling Mum. It was the tent for school children and hours passed before frantic Mum found me there.
All was fine in the end though I was too young to attend the teacher allowed me to stay and until we left I went there every day. Where we camped was close to the harbor, an unpleasant, dusty, smelly area. One day an Indian Army Band gave us an impromptu concert.
Tall, smartly uniformed soldiers marched and counter marched in time to music, a great pleasure to all in spite of the blowing dust. It wasn’t long afterwards that, once again, we packed and trudged to board another ship. It was early evening and we embarked in a leisurely manner for once.
Next morning saw us out of sight of land. The sun sparkled on small waves, it’s warmth tempered by a cooling breeze. Close to where I was sitting, with my back against a wooden partition, a group of women were softly singing a plaintive tune while repairing clothing.
That first day passes very quickly. The second day, just as sunny, was full of interest. The sea here changed color to almost green, very clear. For a while dolphins appeared on the port side. They swam alongside for an hour or two before speeding past to vanish in the distance.
Little later shoal of large fish did the same on the starboard side. We saw several of these shoals before the most exciting sighting of all. A whale surfaced, several hundred metres away but clearly visible in: the afternoon sun. It stayed in sight long enough for me to become bored.
It was also time for our evening meal. The evening brought more interest. The ship slowed and stopped. In the distance, on the starboard side coast with twinkling lights was in sight. As we watched, two boats full of soldiers left our ship and headed towards this coast and it’s lights.
Quickly they vanished in the darkness before our ship was under way again. It was next day that Mum became a fortune teller. One of the women aboard was very depressed, she wasn’t the only one so stricken. Practically everyone. aboard had left their menfolk in the Soviet Union joining the Polish Army.
Like our Dad Seeing the terrible mental state of this woman, Mum picked up a pack of cards and foretold, early, good news she would have of her husband. This improved her spirits at the time but no one was more surprised than Mum when it came true. I recall only one other incident on that voyage to Africa.
We had a practice “abandon ship” drill. Apparently enemy submarines were in the area. The time passed quickly, we arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, early one morning, boarded a waiting train and, without further delay, were on our way.We pulled into Nairobi St. early afternoon.
There seemed to be flowers everywhere. Tables covered with food stretched along the platform and, a little dazed, we left the train to eat. There was a Welcoming Committee, it was a little chaotic as we ate and not long before finding ourselves sitting in the train.
Bunches of fruit were handed to us as the train slowly gathered speed. Smiling faces and loud wishes of good luck left behind the train settled into a steady speed. Within a few miles greenery appeared, left of the line. Within minutes, animals.
Dozens of all sorts. in the narrow plain between the railway and the river glinting between trees beyond. Crowded by the windows we marveled at the elephants, ostriches, large birds winging along and high above the trees. It seemed never ending especially when someone spotted a group of lions on a stony outcrop.
The line paralleled the river for miles and nobody moved away from the windows till the distance between them widened and the animals became a series of distant dots. While still light we passed a number of stations but didn’t stop at any of them.
Dusk came, sleep soon afterwards. When I woke up it was midmorning. The train stood between a line of trees and bank of a large river at a station called Namasegali. Here we left the train, had a waiting meal in the cool shade of the trees then trooped down to our next transport, two river barges towed by a small diesel powered boat.
Embarking was quick, the barges didn’t have proper railings so we crowded in the centre. Once all were aboard we set off. It was a pleasant, warm morning as we slowly cruised downstream on the river Nil. Both banks were about hundred yards away from our boats, overgrown with tall reeds and trees.
Both teeming with birds loud with their calls, frequent glimpses of large fish and crocodiles brought sounds of excitement and apprehension. It was pleasant and enjoyable. All was to change as we left the Nile and entered Lake Kyoga. By this time it was getting hot.
The barges were without awnings, metal decks unpleasantly hot, no drinking water aboard. We were hours away from our destination, time dragged thirst intensified, our journey seemed endless under a cloudless sky.
Sun dipping towards horizon in the late afternoon brought some relief but, as it set, brought another problem. Firstly mosquitoes then, quite quickly it became chilly. Penetrating chill aided by the slight breeze of travel.
Worn out by the heat and thirst the quick change of temperature made me fall asleep. I evoke as we were disembarking in Port Masindi. It was early morning, a line of open trucks awaited us. Quickly aboard we set off along a narrow road, headlights lighting up trees on both sides.
After about hour and half, night turning grey, we swung right and pulled up next to a low building. Minutes later we were inside it’s dark interior, groping for beds. Deep sleep within seconds. I woke up late morning. No one close by, I went outside.
There were three of these buildings in a line at the end a fenced off area. with animals. Mum stood in one of the groups chatting about our surroundings. Opposite a meadow of sparse brown grass stretched to an equally desiccated wood. A herd of cattle, grazing, came towards us.
About noon, still outside, I smelled smoke. Flames appeared in the wood heading towards us, panic set in as people began beating the approaching flames with sticks, broken branches and buckets of water. I was terrified, the fear of that fire remained with me a long while.
We stayed there about two weeks before being moved to our permanent “home” in the fifth of eight small, interlinked, “villages”- comprising Polish Settlement Masindi in Ugandan land of Bunyoro people. Date of our arrival in the temporary quarters-Christmas Eve 1942.
Our new home was grass thatched , generous roof overhang formed a sort of verandah around the building so protecting the clay walls from rain. Windows without glass only wooden shutters, door with only a peg to keep it “locked”. Beds and table were the only furniture.
A paraffin lamp and anti mosquito nets for the beds plus a metal water bucket completed our possessions with what remained of our clothing. Water supply was from a standing tap in the street. Very much a basic living but free from starvation and fear of illness that threatened us in Soviet Union.
The Settlement (almost 4000 people at it’s peak) soon organized itself into thriving community. The vast majority were women and children below eighteen, only a few elderly men and skeleton staff of Administration.
Yet, by mid 1943 there was a complete range of schools, workshops, hospital and, the still existing, church began to be built. In January of 1943 we had our first news of Dad. He was in the Polish Army, stationed and training in Lebanon. and had known of our arrival in Teheran since November of previous year.
This was a great boost to our wellbeing and soon we were in touch with him on a regular basis.. I began school at the beginning of the year. It was of high standard, sacking was not allowed and lack of achievement at the end of a school year meant staying in the same class year.
Not a happy existence for the next ten months. The Government supplied us with a small subsidy in cash and basic food. Our Mothers, being predominantly country women, soon created vegetable gardens next to the house. Mum grew potatoes, carrots,’ cabbages, ground nuts.
Also corn and pau-pau fruit trees plus a single banana. The corn had to be picked unripe, ripened it was very hard. In time she also kept chicken. The local native market. supplied lots of fruit and staples but. our meagre finances didn’t allow much buying.
Life for us, children, was a pleasure though interrupted by malaria to often for comfort. School lessons were six days a week, eight to twelve/one on alternate days, Saturday always ending at twelve.
Once set home work was completed and the heat of early afternoon faded to bearable warmth my friends and I roamed the nearby grassland and jungle. Worry created our parents or fear of wildlife never entered our heads.
A kilometer from home, in the jungle, there was a stream where we built dams until the pressure of water carriedthe whole construction downstream. Above there were nests of wild bees, large pieces of decayed wax littered the ground.
These African bees had a ferocious sting as I discovered when bees kept by a man in our street swarmed as he attempted to harvest honey. We built small huts deep in the four meter high elephant grass. There, also, four of us had the first and last attempt at smoking.
The tops of this grass housed hundreds of nesting birds. All, sadly, destroy at the annual burning of the bush. This took place between November and February of the following year.
During these fires, on the front of about kilometer the numerous termite towers would gush with black smoke and crimson flame without being completely destroyed. Nuisance to hung, drying, clothes, fun to us, the drifting flakes of burnt grass were fun to chase and knock down.
We were given a cat, the first of our pets in Africa he soon left us preferring a life in the bush. The next one, a she, was an affectionate companion of mine for the rest of our life in Africa The years that followed our arrival, in our eyes, were a normal mixture of school, fun, with occasional illness.
We didn’t notice the lack of material goods. War was an event far away, never did I think that Dad might get killed. Mum kept her worries bottled up. Life carried on in a settled pattern.
The Settlement was, probably, at it’s largest in 1944/45.A11 was seemingly the same with the ending of the war but by mid 1946 subtle changes began to be noticeable in daily gossip. Discussion about the future were common.
All sorts of situations imagined without anything positively confirmed. Dad, still in Italy, hadn’t heard anything certain either How we were to be a Family reunited was an unknown, especially to me and my friends of similar age.Dad’s Unit left Italy, sailed to England to be stationed in East Anglia.
There was still nothing settled about our future. It wasn’t until mid 1947 that he wrote us that we were going to join him in U.K. once he was demobilized, date still unknown. By this time people started leaving the Settlement.
There were empty houses a few streets away, passing these on our way to car favorite area of the jungle didn’t really made us think about the changes they signified. Month or so later reality arrived in the shape of Dad’s letter.
We were joining him in U.K. early next year. Within weeks Settlement Administration notified us of our leaving at the end of February 1948. We began getting ready though the date was months in the future. Mum had a large, cane woven”, suitcase” made (still in my possession).
All the rest of our meagre chattels would go into bundles. Time passed quickly. At Christmas the Church was packed with people attending Midnight Mass, many had to stand outside.
There was a full moon shining, Very bright, it’s silver light picked out the nearest buildings of my School clearly and, for the first time, I realized soon all this was to be just a memory.
Weeks of the New Year passed in mild series of disruption in daily routine. It was the hottest part of the year but the jungle with it’s coolness no longer attracted us. At the beginning of February I no longer had to attend School, It felt strange, an unpleasant change.
At home we were packed living a strange existence of waiting for the DAYI can’t remember the exact date when, towards the end of the month, we mounted a lorry outside the storehouse and were taken to an assembly point by the Shop/Post Office.
There a line of buses awaited us. It was about 2 a.m. Quickly aboard and settled on wooden seats we were on our way with minimum delay. It was a cool night as we headed for Masindi and the road for Kampala, Uganda’s Capital and the railway station for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
About 6 o’clock our bus stopped, the driver and his assistant went off in direction of nearby patch of trees. They returned with two large containers of water and refilled the radiator of our bus. Soon we caught up with the rest of our convoy.We drove through grassland until midday.
That’s when disaster struck our bus. There was a loud thud from the front, a gush of white water vapor and we stopped. The rest of the buses went on, our driver went off somewhere. We had stopped in a banana plantation but there were no buildings or people visible anywhere. It was hot very hot.
We waited, and waited and waited. About four hours passed before another bus turned up and we were on our way again. The sun was setting when we reached the waiting train at Mukono, the station 20 – kilometers outside Kampala. The night was spent on the train which moved off next day at about ten.
Soon we were passing over the bridge spanning Owen Falls. It took seven attempts before the train mastered the slope to the next station with the help of a second engine.
The line ran through some spectacular Country, sometimes at walking pace, proved by my brother walking beside it At Tororo, Ugandan/Kenyan border, a derailed cattle train held us up overnight. There were still dead cattle by the track when we moved off in the morning.
Making up for the lost time the train travelled quickly, at midday we were on the causeway to Kilindini Harbour from an unseen Mosque loud voice was calling the faithful to prayer. The short distance from the train to the waiting ship, “M.V.Caernarvon only took minutes.
Up a wide ramp carrying our belongings and we were aboard for the next part of our travels. We sailed before noon of the next day. Goodbye Africa. It seemed no time before we reached Aden. There the ship took on extra water, it was foul to drink.
There, also, we watched boys of my age diving for coins thrown from the ship. The following day we reached the Suez Canal having sailed most of the Red Sea during the night, it was narrow. Both banks were close, the one on the right being much closer.
On the left bank palm trees grew, vehicles and people were visible between frequent houses, the right stretched away into far distance, an empty, barren plain of sand. The ship moved slowly, the water of it’s wash slapping gently against the banks.
Night came and T was asleep when we reached the Mediterranean Sea. When I went on deck it was sunny, sunshine sparkling off small waves, quite empty in all directions. This soon changed and there ships in plenty to watch. Exciting at first this soon became boring for me and my friends.
We decided to explore the ship and finding an open door we went in, it was towards the stern of the ship. There a metal ladder led downwards to several more. We went down to the last rung which ended about two meters above a floor covered with sand.
We could hear throbbing of engines and our confidence vanished, quick retreat followed. I think it was the next night, somewhere about Malta, we ran into bad weather and most of us were very seasick.
The long breakfast tables covered with served eggs and bacon the following morning were pretty empty of people. We reached the Straits of Gibraltar in bright sunshine. It was fascinating watching Africa and Europe on either side before both disappeared as we sailed into Atlantic and turned north.
Bay of Biscay greeted us with grey skies and enormous waves. It was almost impossible to cross the front promenade deck against the wind I can’t recall the passage along the Channel only the entry and sailing up Southampton Water.
It was slow, plenty of time to watch passing boats and a long line of seaplanes moored on our left. It was a miserable, wet, dark day. When I went on deck following morning ill was just as dismal with addition of drizzling rain. It was cold.
Opposite us, at. a distance was the shore along which ran a road with bare trees and moving vehicles It didn’t look attractive or welcoming. Yet here we were to join Dad whom we hadn’t seen since 12/2/42. I didn’t feel happy, just apprehensive, without being able to imagine our future.
It was soon time to disembark and get aboard a train, again just a short walk. Even sitting in a comfortable compartment did not make feel any happier. It was still raining as the train moved off but soon the day brightened with pale sunshine.
Outside I could see fields and houses, it looked empty to me without woods in sight. Hours later we left the train, got aboard waiting trucks and headed for the Army Camp where Dad would meet us .When we reached it the sunshine had gone.
The day was gloomy with low clouds but without rain. This Camp, in Gloucestershire was dismal. Lots of low, oblong, buildings connected by boarded walks with roofs. The only greenery around the periphery.
We were taken into one of these huts with a number of others. It was completely empty. We all spread whatever we possessed on the concrete floor and made our “beds”. I woke up, feeing stiff, late next morning.
As I blinked my eyes my brother walked towards us with a soldier. Dad, Dad, at last. Hugs and tears of joy but……we were the same yet different. A lot of time had passed with inevitable changes since 1942.
The same day Dad took us to the station in another Army truck. We travelled the rest of that March day. Somewhere we changed trains. All I remember of that journey are smoking trains, crowded station platforms.
At the end a small truck took us to a half round building amongst tall trees. there was the sound of wind steadily blowing as we went in. I don’t even remember getting into a bed before falling asleep. Here, in Borde Hill Camp/Haywards Heath/Sussex we became a Family,
A Family facing an uncertain future of life in a forcing country for there wasn’t any hope of ever returning to our home But what followed is another story.