Reflections > Survivors

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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