Written by a son.
My mother (Krystyna Kepa, Nee Parys)
When the Soviets invaded Poland on 17th September 1939 she was only 18 years of age. They took her from her home town of Lwów (Lwow), which was in the east part of Poland before the 2nd World War. On 13th April 1940 along with her parents and two brothers were taken from there homes and transported to various parts of the Soviet Union. My mother and her parents were taken to Kazakhstan. One of her brothers was incarcerated for opposing the Soviet invasion. I don't know were her other brother ended up but he was very thin in some of the photos that were taken after his release. Approximately 1.7 million Poles were taken from pre-war Poland, dispersed to various parts of the Soviet Union and put in labour camps or made to work the land. Many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, did not survive the freezing cold weather, harsh work, and poor nourishment. Many even died on the trains they were being transported in. This seems to be a forgotten episode of the 2nd World War.
When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the Soviets and the Poles came to an agreement to release the Poles so that they could help to fight. She then left Kazakhstan and went to Tehran and eventually got to the Polish camp in Tengeru, East Africa, with her mother and father. Her mother died in 1948 and was buried in Tengeru.
Her brothers joined General Anders army. One fought in tanks and the other the artillery. She then came to England with her father and she worked as a nurse in the No. 3 Polish Hospital in Penley, Wrexham. Her father died in 1952 and was buried in the St Mary Magdelene Church Yard, Penley, North Wales.
She later moved to London where she met and married my Father.
As you will see I know much more about my father's experiences than my mother's. Neither liked to talk about their time during the war but there is at least published information about my father. Also some people who new him have mentioned him in there own writings.
My Father (Feliks Kepa)
He was a professional in the Polish Army and took part in the Polish Campaign of September 1939. He fought in the 42nd Infantry regiment (42 pulk piechoty) in the Bialystok region of Poland (North East). He was given command of the "1st Reconnaissance Company" (Pierwsza Kompania Zwiadu).
He had graduated from the Infantry Cadet School in Komorów, Poland in 1936 (Szkola Podchorazy Piechoty)
After fighting the Germans as part of the regular army and following the Soviets attack on Poland he joined the underground. He was eventually arrested in 1940 by the NKVD (a forerunner of the KGB) and taken to Russia and placed in a work camp.
After being released he joined up with the Polish army being formed by General Anders. (I still have the document, in Russian, that allowed him to travel across the Soviet Union) After recuperating from his ordeals he underwent re-training.
He fought with the Allies as part of the "2nd Polish Corps" (2 Korpus Polski) in the Italian Campaign 1944-45. He was given command of a mixed company of Poles, Italians (who by then had joined the Allies) and Yugoslavians. The company was given sabotage and diversionary tactics training. The company's name, roughly translated, was the "111th Bridge Protection Company" (111 Kompania Ochrony Mostów). This is a stange title as they were never intended to protect bridges and with their training they were more likely to blow up bridges then protect them. They were also unofficially known as the "2nd Commando Company" (2nd to the "1st Independent Polish Commando Company").
At least on one occasion the two Companies fought together.
One battle in which he and his company fought was the "Battle for Monte Freddo", which took place about the 9th July 1944. They fought alongside the "1st Independent Polish Commando Company". For his actions in this battle he received the "Virtuti Militari" which is the Polish equivalent of the British "Victoria Cross".
The "2nd Command Company" fought in Ancona and Bolonga. They were the 1st Allied soldiers to enter Ancona.
As well as not wanting or not feeling able to talk about his worst experiences my father was very modest about what he did.
These are some of the things that others said about him.
In 2005 through the Internet I came across someone who had met two of the Italians who had fought in the 111th with my father. He said that they held my Father in very high regard.
After the war my father came to England where he was de-mobbed from the Polish Army in 1949. Like many Poles he remained in England because he felt that he could not return to a communist Poland for fear of being shot or sent to a work camp again, as happened to many of the Poles who did decide to return.
The first time he felt he could go back to Poland to visit his family was in 1976, a gap of 36 years.
Unfortunately he never lived to see a Poland free from Communist rule.
My mother also could never go back to her home town as it was never returned to Poland.