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24 September 2014
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February 2005
"We just knelt down, said a prayer"
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"They wanted the Polish people living there to be taken to Siberia and work until they die."

February 10th 1940 is a very significant date for many members of West Yorkshire's Polish community. This day saw the first of a series of mass deportations from Poland's eastern borderlands to Siberia in the Soviet Union.

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Some of the Poles who settled in West Yorkshire after World War Two, and their children, feel this is a story that should be more widely known.

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One survivor later made Huddersfield her home. She's been telling BBC Radio Leeds' reporter Tim Daley what happened to her and her family when she was just nine years old: "I don't remember exactly what time but I'm sure it was very, very early morning or night that Russian soldiers came banging at the door and they said, 'It's time to pack your things, whatever you can, in a very short time,' and they put us on a sledge because it was winter and it was very, very frosty outside, and they took us to the nearest station and they packed our whole settlement village into one cattle truck and we started our journey. to Russia. I don't know how long it was - probably a few weeks or even longer.

"There were a few things my mother would have liked to have packed but the soldier said, 'No, it will be of no use there.' Some soldiers were quite human but some weren't. They were pushing and so on. I think we just knew that we shouldn't be coming back, so we just knelt down, said a prayer."


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BBC Radio Leeds' Tim Daley talks to a survivor of the deportations from Poland to the USSR in 1940.

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Asked why she thinks the Russians acted as they did, she replies: "Yes. They wanted the Polish people living there to be taken to Siberia and work until they die. They took us into a forest, the parents had been cutting trees down and the children had to go to school - Russian, of course. There was no hospital, no doctors, nothing."

Has it affected her life? "Of course, I don't know what I would have been if we'd stayed there. My education, my work, my family even."

 

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