February 10, a date etched on the hearts of many
February 10. I know someone dear to me whose birthday is on February 10 – but for me and many others, this date has another very important meaning and it’s coming up soon.
It was on this day in 1940 that my mother and her family and many other Poles were deported by Stalin from eastern Poland to Siberia in the first of four terrible waves.
NKVD police come knocking
Stalin sent his secret police, the NKVD, in the middle of the night – families often had just minutes to pack. As the drawing above shows, mothers, fathers and children were herded onto cattle trains, often at gunpoint, and sent to Siberia to die.
While my grandmother did pass away out there from TB, my mum, her brother and their father survived. Granddad, or dziadek, as I used to call him when I was little, was separated from the rest of the family and went to another gulag. Here is grandad:
He then joined Anders Army, went to Monte Cassino and was in the Second Corps (above) with Wojtek the soldier bear, an amazing story in itself. Then grandad was reunited with my mother years later in Yorkshire through the Red Cross and its amazing tracing service.
Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum
You can learn a lot about the deportations to Siberia at this brilliant online museum called Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum. If you have a relative who was deported to Siberia, you can help the museum in their quest to compile a list of all those deported here.
The museum is holding a special dinner on February 12 in Balham, London, to commemorate 77th anniversary and I’m delighted to say I’ll be attending.
A Homeland Denied
At the dinner, I believe author Irena Kossakowski is going to be reading from her book A Homeland Denied which is just out. It’s going to be great to meet another author who has written about this subject. I really like what is written on Irena’s site – “The soul of Poland is indestructible, and she will rise again like a rock which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock” Winston Churchill 1-10-1939. By the way Irena, if you’re reading this, I’ve just ordered your book…
My dear mum. I miss her so much. I will definitely remember her and her brother on February 10, and at the Kresy-Siberia anniversary meeting on February 12 where I am sure many stories will be shared and many tears shed. My mum never wanted to talk about her time in Siberia, I only ever got snippets, which only fuelled my desire to know more. The photo above shows the sorts of settlements they had out there. There is also a great factual book about the deportations by Professor Matthew Kelly called Finding Poland and B.E. Andre’s wonderful novel With Blood and Scars.
Are My Roots Showing?
And finally, also see my book which mentions the Siberian deportations – it’s called Are My Roots Showing? and is available on Amazon as a paperback or e-book. It is a funny book mainly, however the history is woven in through some of the characters.