First Displaced Polish Girls – Eugenia Kuźmińska
Eugenia Kuźmińska was born on April 9, 1925 in Wołosów. Her parents Bronisław Kuźminski and Helena Fryśkiewicz met while both had immigrated to Detroit, Buffalo before 1917. Bronisław met Helena totally by accident as he was riding his bicycle on the street and ran into her. This sent her to hospital and it was while she was hospitalized he visited her and soon relationship ensued. They were married and their first of two sons were born in the USA prior to returning to Poland in 1919. Bronisław’s father owned a mill in Wołosów near Stanisławów, but died while Bronisław was in USA, so he returned with his young wife and small sons back to Poland to claim his inheritance.
Eugenia was born a twin on their family farm. When they were born, both were considered dead and placed in the kitchen covered with a towel. After thing had settled the midwife returned to the kitchen and noticed the towel moving so Eugenia was alive. This inner resolve would test her entire life. When the war started in September 1939, she was nearly a 14 years old. Being tall for her age the Germans deported her to slave labour in Germany. They transported her by cattle car where she was placed with German farmer family. She was treated there very poorly. They beat her for religious beliefs and let her live in the shed. Sometime later she was placed with different family who owned hotel where she was taking care of their children. After liberation in April 1945, she was placed in a Displaced Person (DP) camp. She registered with the Red Cross to locate her family but she feared all her family had died during the war. While in various camps she found her brother Joseph whom was taken by the Russian army. He informed her that their home in Poland has been totally destroyed. Later she found her other brother Rudolph, who was with the American Military, and after the war he settle in Kaiserslautern Germany.
Between October 9, 1946 to September 12, 1947 Eugenia were in various DP camps e.g. Rosenheim, Kempten, Altenstadt, Schongau, Kaserne Munich, and trained as nursing aid. One day at the camp she went with friends to see a Gypsy fortune teller. She was told that she would voyage across a large body of water. A few days later a poster appeared offering free transport for settlement to Canada as indentured workers for one year. Eugenia jumped to this opportunity.
On November 6, 1947 via U.S. Navy ship General MB Stewart she came to Halifax, Canada and five days later to Edmonton. She arrived to Edmonton with only the clothes on her back November 20, 1947. She was housed and worked in St. Joseph Axillary Hospital ran by nuns.
Eugenia received Canadian citizenship on May 1952. She befriended many other from polish community in Edmonton. Later she married Peter Semaniuk and they had daughter Linda and son Gary. In 1957 she started to work at the Celanese Chemical Company.
She had remained searching by the Red Cross for her family and in 1960, they been located in Szczecin, Poland. For the first time after the war, family was reunited when Eugenia went to Poland in 1963. That visit resulted in sponsoring her brother Joseph and younger sisters Zofia and Krystyna and her family to Canada. They all lived in the same house in Forest Heights till they were able to save for their own residence.
Eugenia became ill in 1979 with stomach and liver cancer and died at age 55 on February 12, 1981 at Sturgeon Hospital. Eugenia Kuźminska (Jean Semaniuk) was buried on Holy Cross Cemetery in Edmonton.