some of the Poles who settled here after World War Two, and
their children, feel this is a story that should be more widely
Danielczuk has lived all her life in Bradford but her father
was amongst those who found themselves in Siberia: "The
world is not aware of what the Stalinists did and the story
is obviously very personal because it is my father's story.
It's my mother's family's story. It isn't my mother's story
because she was deported to Germany but nevertheless the deportations
(to Siberia) which happened are not widely known at all. Very
few people know about the Stalinist regime during the war,
probably because they were allies of the British, and obviously
it's a difficult topic to talk about and the people who experienced
it find it difficult to talk about for all sorts of reasons."
1st September, 1939, the German army invaded Polish territory
on several fronts and 16 days later Soviet troops crossed the
border from the east. The Nazi-Soviet pact signed in August
set the way for the restoration of both countries' borders as
they had been before 1919. More than 20,000 Polish soldiers
were killed by the Soviet secret police at the start of World
War Two and the Germans discovered the bodies of several thousand
Polish officers at Katyn in 1943.
Tarnowska was just 13 when she was deported to the Soviet
is estimated that by 1941 1.5 million Poles had been moved
into labour camps across the Soviet Union.
explains: "The 10th of February 1940 is a very significant
date - it is impinged in people's minds. In the early morning,
at about 2 or 3 o'clock they heard a knock on the door and
they had 20 minutes to get themselves ready. Young children,
the elderly - it didn't matter. My Dad says they were taken
to some sort of communal hall and then they were marched to
the train station, and when they got there they were herded
onto cattle trucks and they were transported for months until
they reached Archangel and he says the journey was horrific.
If people died en route they were thrown out of the carriages.
If they didn't have any water they melted the heavy snow.
The toilet was a hole in the carriage and they were packed
in - the potential for disease would have been very high and
that's what happened. People did die en route. They were taken
and transported by the thousands to build railways, to build
was just 13 when she made the forced journey to Siberia. Her
father was already a prisoner in the Soviet Union: "My
father was a soldier in 1939. He wanted to go through Romania
but he was captured on the border and he was sent to Siberia,
right to the White Sea and he was working in the forest cutting
the trees and sending them back. I was in the second lot of
Polish villagers who were sent over there."
says her father did not know his family had been taken to
Russia: "On October 17th when the Russians came, they
started moving everybody and brought all their own families
so eventually we were moved into one room and stayed there,
and that was for a few months because in April they took us
to Russia. They came at one o'clock at night and said in 15
minutes you have to go so we went straight out to the lorry
and they put us in the animal wagons. There were 60 people
put inside - mothers and children - and there were no sanitary
(facilities) at all. There was just a big hole inside, and
that's why the disease started, and there wasn't anything
to eat until we crossed the border and then they gave us hot
water and horse salami and at night they came and gave us
some soup to eat, never during the day, always at night.
Danielczuk wants the events of February 10th 1940 to be
more widely known
was May 1st so they couldn't transport us any further because
it was starving desert - if you look on the map it's where
they've got the sputniks now. We were waiting there and the
river started flooding and we started screaming. An old lady
died and she didn't have anybody, she only had a basket so
we put her in the basket and next day she was floating like
a Moses. After four days they took us right to the mountains
(for 200 kilometres nothing grows) and there were no houses,
just the barracks. We were living all together on one site.
We started working building the roads and railways."
found herself working on an electric station. Her family decided
their mother was not going to work which meant she would not
be given any food: "We supplied her with bread and she
managed to look after the children so they were not sent to
explains: "There were four dates - February 1940, April
1940, June 1940 and June 1941 when the final deportation happened
so, as Czeskawa says, the first lot were foresters and lumberjacks
because my Dad was a forester as were the villagers around
the Eastern Borderlands. If you can imagine the situation
- it was probably a few people in a vast area covered in trees.
It wasn't just plains and they were used to that sort of work
but they were exploited because if you didn't work you didn't
get any food."
agrees: "That was the difference between the Germans and
Stalin. The Germans killed straight away and Stalin sucked the
whole blood out of us because we were dying." Helena adds:
"In a court of law Stalin could never say I have killed
X, Y and Z because he never did. He just transported them to
work and it's the hard work, the cold, the malnutrition and
the disease did the job for him quite efficiently."
"Poland is in the wrong position geographically
and politically. And that's why every so often we're
moving that way or that way and those people who were
under the Germans were Poles and those that were in
Russia were Poles and we are Poles just the same and
that is awful because you don't know where you are belonging
all this Czeskawa
says they never lost their faith: "There
was a German man who was sent to Siberia after the First World
War and on May 3rd he was playing on the piano, and we told
him that May 3rd was our Polish Feast because it was when
we had our constitution in 1771 and he knew the Polish music.
You know those shavings you have, and because the soil was
so coloured, we managed to make ribbons and the Russians came
but they were happy because they were thinking it was their
first of May but it was our third of May. We had Polish singing
and dancing. There was an old man reading the bible and somebody
told the government so he was taken to prison. "
June 22nd 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union and things
began to change for Czeskawa: "They gave us our freedom
so we managed to go away from the place - 10 miles - and that
was good enough, a little town, and I was put in the gold
mine to work. It was one night in December 1941, and next
door they had a radio, and we heard our hymns. It was General
Sikorski announcing we were free and Stalin decided to open
the camps and prisons and let people go out so we were happy
but we still had to stay because we didn't have transport.
My mother was thinking how to get out and one morning (it
was winter) and my sister saw a Polish soldier who had come
for some of his family with a special note
That man was
sitting in the prison with my uncle and they said, 'Whoever
you find on the way, we will take.' Instead of two people
he took 12."
explains: "They were forming the army and the army were
allowed to move freely. They said these are my family as well
so they were allowed to go. People adopted anybody to get
them out of there and so it was the long trek to God knows
where at that stage."
adds: "They only supplied food for the army but we split
that with the civilians and the children from the children's
had been agreed that the remnants of the Polish Army would
go across the border into Persia: "Instead of 100,000
people we had 200,000 because the civilians were going with
left the Soviet Union in August but says: "When I see
the film Doctor Zhivago I think myself walking in the storm
because it was a line from one place to another. We were holding
each other hand on hand, and whoever dropped never got up
because we didn't have anything to eat"
was only 15 when she joined the Polish Army and first worked
as a courier: "It was terrible. I was running between
the camps and when you came to a house you couldn't open the
door because the children were already dead and swollen because
they didn't have anything to eat."
remembers seeing images of starving children in Biafra on
the TV when she was a child and her father saying, "That
became an army nurse and eventually came to England where
she met up again with her family. Helena's father also left
the Soviet Union as part of the Polish Army despite being
ill with typhoid. He was never to see his sister again but
in recent years Helena has managed to get in touch with her
cousin who lives in Australia. It was only in 2003 that she
found out how her grandparents had died. Her own mother was
deported in the opposite direction to Germany to work on a
farm. Helena says when her mother tried to escape from the
farm she was put into solitary confinement with only rats
for company. Her mother was 16 at the time but she says it
was not the youth that was taken away from her parents' generation:
"I think it was their lives that were stolen." Czeskawa
agrees: "You have to fight yourself to go further because
otherwise you would be lost. If your mind isn't strong enough
then you will be lost."
says: "This story has to be told. People have lost their
lives and even if they are physically alive their lives have
been blighted by it. A quick death might be better than the
slow death they have had. My Dad is suspicious even now. He
doesn't like what I am doing yet I, as a teacher, feel that
people have no idea about British history or European history,
they have no idea what the significance of Europe is which
is why when people are saying, 'Do you want to belong to Europe?,'
how can they make a decision at a referendum when they don't
know the reasons why the Ukraine is clamouring to be part
of Europe, why Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics all
wanted to be part of Europe. That's what is driving them to
be part of this safe place where perhaps people will support
each other because Britain has had a history of being fair
and trying to accommodate others even if they've disliked
it at times. My Dad has also got a document saying, "Don't
you think maybe you ought to go back and help rebuild Poland
so there are a lot of political issues. Also I want children
to be aware that we've got people living who have experienced
observes: "The youngsters in Poland, they don't know
what has happened to us and they don't care. We were brought
up with religion and love for the country and that's why we've
never forgotten. My children speak Polish and their children
Helena, growing up here: "I feel I belong to both (communities)
but I feel I belong to neither. I'm not Polish because the
Poles don't regard me as Polish and I'm not really English,
so who am I in the end? There are thousands throughout the
world who feel the same. We're almost schizophrenic and obviously
there's issues around that. Monday
to Friday from nine o'clock to four o'clock I was English
and called myself Helen - I wasn't Helena or Hela as I am
now - I was Helen and I wanted to have English friends because
that made me belong. Once I got home it was Polish but even
now I'm thinking the Polish people don't regard us as Polish.
They don't regard my mother and father who were born in Poland
as Polish and it's this search for identity as much as anything
, and knowing who you are. Now the the bits of jigsaw are
falling in place and I suppose I've gone the other way now.
I'm striving to make people aware we do exist and we are here
and our parents' experiences should be heard as well."
concludes: "Poland is in the wrong position geographically
and politically. And that's why every so often we're moving
that way or that way and those people who were under the Germans
were Poles and those that were in Russia were Poles and we
are Poles just the same and that is awful because you don't
know where you are belonging to."