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15 October 2014
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Danuta's Journey From Kresy/Poland to London

by Elzunia Gradosielska Olsson

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Contributed by 
Elzunia Gradosielska Olsson
People in story: 
Danuta Gradosielska Nee Maczka
Location of story: 
Poland to Britain - via Siberia, the Middle East, Egypt and Italy.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 July 2005

Danuta 1945 Italy

My name is Danuta Gradosielska Nee Maczka, and I came from Poland to Britain - via Siberia, the Middle East, Egypt and Italy. I was born on a military settlement called Osada Krechowiecka in Wolyn, Eastern Poland. I was just a schoolgirl when the Second World War started, ending my carefree childhood. On 1 September 1939 Hitler's army invaded western Poland and on 17 September the Soviet army crossed the eastern border. The war came to destroy our quiet life. The fate of being homeless had just begun. We were evicted from our farm in October 1939 and lived in a nearby town, Tuczyn until 10 February 1940, when our family of six joined about 150.000 other Poles being deported to Siberia and other parts of Russia.

After a 3-week journey in a crowded cattle wagon under appalling conditions we arrived in Kotlas, in the district of Archangel. There we had to work in the forest in freezing temperatures. Thousands of people, including my younger sister, died there from starvation, malnutrition, cold, disease, exhaustion, etc. It is estimated that approximately 1.7 million people were deported into the Soviet Union and only about 116,000 (soldiers and civilians) made it out with Anders Army. After the Amnesty in 1941 we were free and eventually left our camp in January 1942.

Pestki - Women in the Army
We travelled to Southern Russia to join the Polish Army under General Anders. In April the Polish Army came under the command of the British 8th Army in the Middle East. As a Driver in the 316 Transport Company (PWSK) - women only - of the Polish 2nd Corps I contributed to the war efforts in Palestine, Egypt and the Italian campaign. We transported ammunition, provisions, fuel, equipment to the 2nd Corps’ second and third supply lines, and sometimes even troops. We often found ourselves within range of enemy fire.

After the war in 1945 I got married and was transferred with the army to England where I finished my secondary education. We moved to London in 1949 and have lived there ever since.

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