Reflections > Survivors

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  • My father was the son of Polish immigrants, born in Massachusetts in

    1913. In 1926, after years of working in America, my grandfather

    purchased land in Eastern Poland and moved his family there. Then 13

    years later, in 1940, the entire family became victims of Communism.

    They were all deported to the Siberian Gulag on February 10, 1940.

    My grandparents died there from starvation and hypothermia but my

    father was granted "amnesty" in 1942 to join the Polish Army in Exile

    under General Anders, which was part of the British Army. To join he

    had to make his way to Persia by foot and hopping trains suffering

    from Typhus on the way. He was with Anders Army until 1943 when he

    was transferred to the First Polish Armoured Division located in

    Scotland. He fought in Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

    After spending about three years in the resettlement corps in

    England, he decided to come back to America.

    Barbara Soja RevoetApril 12, 2008Link to this Entry

  • I would like to direct this to links of "Stalin's" victim's. For 50 years "communism" has silenced Poland. I feel the families have waited long enough for the full story to be told.

    Victims of Stalin in Eastern Poland

    The Katyn Forest Massacre

    Katyn Andrzej Wajda (film)

    Joseph Stalin

    The Kresy-Siberia Memorial Wall

    Poland Speaks Out group

    Kresy-Siberia group

    Thank you, Carol Celinska Dove,

    Carol DoveApril 11, 2008Link to this Entry

  • My uncle died in Vladivostok on Christmas Eve, 1945, of pneumonia contracted from lying on the frozen ground while repairing a derelict truck in a bid to ease the prisoners' labors.

    While a bit superficial for those of us familiar with the GULAG, the exhibit is an excellent introduction for a public which is mostly unaware of the existence of such a system.

    Andrejs PramnieksMarch 27, 2008Link to this Entry

  • my father Tadeusz was taken to Seesen Germany to a forced labour camp.He married a German lady my mother and migrated to Australia 1949.My father died in 1993 and never bothered to contact his family after the war and never wanted to go back yo poland.He use to write to his family from germany but lost contact when the russians invaded POLAND.His fathers name was Franz and mothers name was Maria Serafinack.Peter

    peter.grzelecAugust 15, 2007Link to this Entry

  • Dad was an ethnic Byelorussian who was in the polish cavalry when the Soviets entered Byelorus and closed the borders. In an attempt to reach his faily home in Drebsk, Dad was betrayed to the local Soviet occupying authorities by a local "good citizen" who noticed Dad was "well dressed..." i.e., he surely must be a german spy". Dad was intercepted quite near the newly estalblshed Byelorussian border and was summarily detained, interrogated, and sentenced to an indeterminate time in the Kotlas gulag. Dad described his horrible experience travelling in a cattle car with many many others to that unspeakable place, and his suffering there. Providentially, he was released within a year with many other Polish prisoner/soldiers in an amnesty deal that stalin had with the British, and ended up in Persia to join the British forces there. He subsequently spent time in Egypt, Iraq and Palestine. Ultimately, Dad saw action in Monte Casino Italy. After the facists capitulated, he refused to be repatriated and ended up, fortunately, in the UK and tehreafter in the US. Dad died on New Year's eve 2001, aged 85. His personal survival and experience is a testament to a remarkable life.

    Helen BuckleJune 22, 2007Link to this Entry

  • Krystyna Maria Palka, born 29th September 1924 in small town in southeastern Poland called Strzyzow some 50 kms from the Ukrainian border

    One of three children - sister Zofia and brother Witek - both now dead

    Happy childhood, enjoyed school until September 1939. Her first year of senior High School was also the start of the Second World War when Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

    Can remember vividly the late summer of 1939, as every day Nazi bombers passed over her town on their way to bomb military targets on the Polish Russian border.

    The German invasion of Poland was over and their Russian allies occupied her town and Russian army officers took over her parent’s house.

    On 13th April 1940 Russian troops forced hundreds of townsfolk into cattle trucks at the local railway station. Told that they had half-an-hour to pack some belongings into a suitcase they were then shoved into the train. It was at this stage that she was separated from her family, which she wouldn’t see again for twenty years. It wasn’t until twenty years later that she also learned that after the cattle trucks had departed, hundreds of townsfolk, including many of her classmates, were taken to the local primary schoolyard by the Russian soldiers and indiscriminately shot by machine-gun

    In appalling conditions the train travelled for two weeks until it stopped in Kazakhstan where they stayed in a Russian concentration camp for nearly two years. Conditions in the camp were dreadful and she lived for many months in a shared shallow shelter dug in the ground and covered with tree branches and turf. Meals were often a thin soup with stale bread or a thick porridge made from grasses that she had collected in the nearby fields. The winters were bitterly cold and many people died of frostbite and hypothermia. The Russians then changed sides and fought against the Germans as allies of Britain, France and USA.

    She enlisted as one of the first members of the Polish Women’s Army under the command of General Sikorski. Released from the Russian concentration camp, as she was now on the same side, she crossed the Kazakhstan border into Persia (now Iran) then to Iraq through to Egypt and into British mandated Palestine and eventually arrived in England just before Christmas 1943.

    Marek PalkaMay 16, 2007Link to this Entry

  • My father was brought to Germany in the age of 18 as a forced labour. After Liberation Day he escaped the fate of so many other Ukrainians who were shot as 'traitors of the fatherland'. In 1946 he fall in love with my mother and for the crime of having a sexual relationship with a German Woman was deported after a trial before a military court to one of the correction camps of the Gulag Archipelago. He left Germany for Suchobeswodnoje the day before I was born.

    I grew up with my mother in the camp at Sachsenhausen, a former concentration camp of the Nazis and later used by the soviets, where we stayed till 1950. We were no exception, in Sachsenhausen alone were more than 36 mothers and their children in that time. When the camp was closed in 1950, we where handed over to the East Germans who send us to their prisons.

    My father managed to survive the Gulag Archipelago. With luck and the help of the German Red Cross I found him in Russia in 1997 and two years later in 1999 we met for the first time - more than 50 years after my birth. In summer of 2000 he came to Germany, to see his two grandchildren and to place flowers on my mother's grave. I also have two sisters now and I visited them all for a several times in Russia. He died five years later on Christmas morning 2004 in the age of 79.

    If you want to know more about that, have a look at

    Alex LatotzkyMarch 12, 2007Link to this Entry

  • I never had grandparents. My dad's family died young and my mom's family was kulak. My grandfather was thrown into a ditch in Zhitomir after being executed in 1937 and my grandmother died in 1931 of typhus in a transit camp near Tomsk. They don't even have graves. At least now, after many years of silence the world is learning of the pain people like my mom lived through.

    It's about time!!

    Gabriele GoldstoneJanuary 28, 2007Link to this Entry

  • My grandmother was deported to Siberia. She herself did not tell me about it. I don't know exactly what was done to her but she is still, after all these years, unable to speak of it. My grandfather on the other hand witnessed (as a little boy) how his uncle and grandparents were shot... for nothing! I haven't yet met a person who in some way hasn't been influenced by the red holocaust.

    Kristel PalkNovember 09, 2006Link to this Entry

  • I have Relatives who are Gulag survivors, and the horror stories they tell of their experiences are almost too much to repeat.

    Pius GrossOctober 24, 2006Link to this Entry

  • On February 10, 1940 my father, Francis S. Urban, and his family were deported from Dubno, Poland (now in the Ukraine) to a camp (Mala Yeluga) a 10 days walk from Kotlas. My father was about 14 at the time. He was transported with his mother, father, younger brother, 2 sisters and his father's brother.

    They were sent to a logging camp. My father was a messenger. They worked 12 hours days 6 days a week. Sometimes that the place of work was a 3 hour walk. One of the worst memories was the bed bugs.

    In September 1941 they were permitted to leave the camp. They made their way back to Kotlas and after great difficulties and illnesses they made their way to Pahlevi to join the Polish Army. On the way my grandmother died of pneumonia (between Kirov and Perm). Food was very scarce and they did resort to eating grass.

    They reach Persia in 1942 and it seemed "like a land of exquisite riches and freedom". Unfortunately my father's bother died of typhus and is buried in Teheran. The family eventually ended up in Palestine where my father attended to Polish Cadet school.

    Brigitta Urban-Mathieux

    Daughter of Francis S. Urban

    Brigitta A Urban-MathieuxAugust 28, 2006Link to this Entry

  • Hello!

    I lost my grandfather (Finnish born) to the gulag. My grandmother (also Finnish born) survived but never got out of the USSR. An uncle (American born) survived the gulag but also died in exile.

    My aunt (American born Suoma Laine Lahti), survived 10 years in the gulag. We got her out and back to the US in the 1980s, thanks to Gorbachev and others. Her mother survived but died in the Soviet Union. Her dad died in the camps. Both parents were Finnish born.

    My mother's family and my aunt's family both left the US for the Soviet Union in 1931, during the Depression. They were among some 12,000 or so Americans who went. Some 300,000 or so Americans applied to go.

    My aunt and another American, Walter Warwick (he died in the Soviet Union) have written about their gulag experiences but the material has not been published. We also have some photos of their worker housing, etc. when they were in the Soviet Union.

    My aunt's son, Alfred Lahti, when he was an infant, was taken to Mr. Leino at the US Embassy, after people started getting arrested. He spent some 5 years in the compound. NH Senator Styles Bridges finally secured his release. He came to the States and lived with my mother (who had left her Swedish American husband and family behind in Moscow, at the age of 18).

    Reuben RajalaAugust 06, 2006Link to this Entry

  • My parents and grandparents were deported from the eastern part of Poland to the gulag in Arkangielk in February of 1940. My oldest sister was born in the camp and later died of starvation. My family was released by the Soviets after the Germans attacked the Russia. They went in search of the Polish Army forming somewhere in Russia. My Grandfather died in Kazakstan. Eventually the Polish Army staging area was located in Buzuluk. Several months afterward the Polish Army and it's large contingent of women and children moved across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi, Persia (now Iran) to FREEDOM.

    Richard J. Widerynski

    Richard J. WiderynskiJune 20, 2006Link to this Entry

  • On September 1, 1939, Hitler attacked Poland. Seventeen days later, in collusion with the Nazis,the Soviet Union also invaded Poland.

    With the intent of ethnically cleansing the eastern borderlands of Poland, the Russians deported over 1.7 MILLION Polish citizens to Northern Kazahkstan, Siberia and other parts of the USSR. My mother's family were among these unfortunate souls. Of 10 family members who were deported, only 4 survived the journey, the harsh conditions, the inhuman work (on hands and knees digging for gold with hand tools and moving rocks with their bare hands), the starvation and ensuing diseases.

    Because the Russians later became the allies of the UK and USA, nothing was ever publicized about these deportations because the Western powers did not want the world to know that they had colluded with the devil.

    It is only in the past decade that the stories of the survivors is finally being told.

    Untold millions of Grandparents, parents, adolescents, children,and infants from Poland, and from all the countries that fell under Russian domination, died in these inhuman conditions. It is about time that the world acknowledges this fact.

    Krystyna (Siomkajlo) SzypowskaJune 19, 2006Link to this Entry

  • What a woderfull idea to show everyone even the remnants of history and allert people of the horrors some of us went through.

    I am one of the survivors of the deportees from Eastern Poland to Taiga forests near the White Sea where our family and thousands like us, spent over two years in the hardships of the camps. I am fortunate, but many were left behind,including my father.It is with that memory that I apploud this Exhibition.

    Antoni Kazimierski

    A.KazimierskiJune 18, 2006Link to this Entry