- Contributed by
- Dunstable Town Centre
- People in story:
- Mrs Kazmier Tule (nee Szikona)
- Location of story:
- Poland, Russia
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War site by the Dunstable At War Team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
Kazmier was born in 1932 in Brzessor Bogiem, Poland, near the Russian border. At the outbreak of war there were 11 members in her family. She was only 9 years old when she and her family were taken away and transported to Kazakhstan and the family were separated.
Kazmier’s older sister had been arrested and put in prison in 1940 because she was in the Polish Army. She too was later transported to Russia and on her release, when Russia joined the Allies, she rejoined the Polish Army under General Anders and went on to Palestine where she became a member of the Nursing Corps. At the end of the war this sister became a Nursing Officer at the 4th Polish Hospital in Penley, Wales. A brother also ended up in Palestine with the Polish Army 2nd Corps and went on to fight.
The most vivid memory of Kazmier’s family life is the harsh conditions under which they had to survive. The lack of food was the worst, her father and one brother died of starvation. Her life was only saved when she was dying, by an aunt from whom her mother begged bread. The daily ration was 30dg of bread for an adult and 20dg for a child. Sometimes they would not get any rations for three days on and off.
The people; whole families and villages were transported by the Russians for labour. In the area where she was held, vast fields of crops were grown to feed the Russians. The Polish were not allowed to take food from the fields and penalties were harsh. No special accommodation had been provided so families had to build their own shelters. The houses they built were called ‘Lepjanki’, they were made out of straw and mud mixed, and then stuck together to form a shelter. One window only, no glass, one door, one room with a hole in the roof for smoke to escape from the fire, used for cooking and to keep warm. Fuel consisted of dried reeds collected from a nearby river and dried dung collected from the animals in the fields. In winter when snow covered the shelters, all that was visible were the swirls of smoke from mounds of snow. The temperature was as low as —30 degrees.
She remembers too the infestation by lice and mites because of the poor sanitation and lack of hygiene facilities. Over a third of the people who were transported to Russia did not survive, most died from hunger, emancipation and disease from the harsh and inhumane conditions.
It was only at the end of the war when the family were released, after searching through the list of survivors who had joined the Free Polish Army, that they found that the rest of the family had survived.
They joined the thousands of refugees looking for a safe place to live and finally ended up in England with the resettlement programme. They found her brothers and sister in 1946 in Iseoyd Park, Whitchurch; they then moved to Marsworth near Tring and then settled in Dunstable.
“I lived through too much horror and endured much sorrow to dwell on. Some people would find it hard to believe today, I try not to think about it. You had to live, look forward to life, there was a better world that a lot of people fought and lost their lives for.”
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