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1PUK
07-21-2007, 08:01 AM
Meet the brave Poles who survived Siberian death camps

Recognised for their bravery at last, meet the brave Poles who survived Siberian death camps

Peterborough Evening Telegraph, UK
7/20/07

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/features?articleid=3046836


By Chief reporter David Old

HUNDREDS of thousands of Polish people perished in Siberian concentration camps during the Second World War. Families had been taken from their homes by Soviet troops and sent to the camps in the freezing forests. They were forced to work like slaves because their freedom was seen as an affront to Soviet communism. Like the Jewish Holocaust, efforts were made to cover up the atrocity, and it is only now that survivors are coming forward to tell their horrifying tales.
Now survivors are being presented with crosses to mark their ordeal. Chief reporter David Old spoke to some of the survivors who are now living in Peterborough.

JUST talking about her time spent in a Siberian concentration camp brings Genewofa Sobolewski to tears.

Remembering the hours spent toiling in freezing conditions while people collapsed around her, starving and exhausted, is heartbreaking.

The grandmother from Stanground, in Peterborough, is one of the survivors of the Siberian camps where tens of thousands of Poles perished during the Second World War.

Taken away from their homes by Communist troops from Russia, families were sent to work in the forests.

Miles from anywhere, and with no chance of surviving the harsh conditions if they tried to escape, they faced an impossible situation.

Those aged over 16 could work for a daily rationing of 100g of bread but that had to be shared with the rest of their family.

Even after months of living in terrible conditions, the deportees from eastern Poland still had an incredibly tough journey to go through.

But in the hard times after the end of the war, even England proved to be a hard place to survive.

Genewofa had to creep into fields under the cover of darkness to steal sugar beet to eat so she could survive though that tasted like luxury after having to dine on captured tortoises in other countries she had passed through.

Genewofa was one of thousands of children who had to endure the terror of the Siberian concentration camps.

Now she and others like her are having their plight recognised with a special award.

The Polish Consul is handing survivors the Siberian Deportee Cross. And seven Polish people currently living in the city and three who now live in Huntingdon have received the honour.

Polish Consul General Janusz Wach made the trip up from London to present the crosses to the 10 at a special ceremony at the Polish Ex-Servicemans Club, in Church Street, Stanground.

Mr Wach said: "This is to remember the tragic events that took place in 1940 and 1941 when a number of Polish nationals in eastern Poland were deported by Communist militia troops from Soviet Russia just because they were Polish.

"They were taken to Siberia in cattle cars where they were left homeless and without any means to survive. They were given no choice other than to work. If they did not work they did not eat.

"It was slave labour in very hard conditions. Many worked as lumberjacks in very cold temperatures.

"Hundreds of thousands of deportees survived, however more than that perished in Siberia.

"It was a big tragedy and a historic event that is always remembered in Poland.

"It was just like the Jews they were put into concentration camps. But the Soviets didn't even have to build the camps because there was no where for them to escape to.

"They were surrounded by miles of barren wasteland with no chance of surviving on their own."

"This cross is to remember the hardship those individuals suffered and remember those who perished."

Genewofa, of Oakdale Avenue, said it was because her father was given land after fighting in the First World War that led to her and her family being taken off to Siberia.

Those who were wealthy or powerful were taken off to be taught how to work hard, she said.

The grandmother of four remembered how she would help her brother in his work in the forests, chopping branches.

But the strongest memories she has are those of both her parents dying at the camp.

She said: "My father died quite early on, he was sick so he couldn't work. They said that they were taking him to hospital but that's just what they told us. We never saw him again."

With tears in her eyes she added: "A couple of months later my mother died. The children survived, it was only the parents who died in Siberia."

Genewofa, who later worked in a coalhouse, added: "It was so hard living there, people would be dropping like flies but you never stopped to help because you might be next."

Her husband Henryk (84) said that five of his brothers and sisters died in the camps.

He met Genewofa after moving to England in 1947 and they soon moved to Peterborough where he worked at the brickworks for 40 years. Now in a wheelchair and on oxygen, he said: "It's my life. I don't know how I lived up to this age. But I have two daughters and four grandchildren. I'm lucky that I had a good family."

Whole families were sent to the camps with no legal process or trial.

Siberia is known among the survivors as Gehenna or "inhuman land" where millions of Poles and other Central and Eastern Europeans died from hunger, cold, exhaustion, sickness, and excessive labor.

The survivors of Siberia are called "Sybiracy" in Polish.

During the Soviet era, no one in Poland was allowed to speak openly of the slave labour camps in Siberia, and history textbooks remained totally silent about this topic.

The survivors only began publishing their stories in the '90s.

Seventeen days after Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939, Stalin invaded the eastern part of Poland. Within months deportations began. Women and men, children and elderly were driven out of their homeland and deported to various concentration camps in Russia's north-east, in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

It is thought the deportees' sense of "Polishness" was perceived as a threat to Communism.

Some 115,000 of these were evacuated through Persia in 1942 as soldiers under General Wladyslaw Anders with their families. They spent the rest of the war fighting the Germans while their families were refugees in Polish camps in the Middle East, Africa, India, New Zealand and Mexico.

Many eventually settled in the West at the end of the war.

Egorka
07-22-2007, 02:23 PM
Hello!

May the God bless the souls of the perished ones in the deportation in 1939 - 1941. And the survivers also had to go through much suffering. The biggest of which was probably to loose the dear ones just next to them.

Though this article has obvious errors. And the strange thing is that these errors are printed in 2007.

The number of people deported from the Easten Poland during december 1939 - june 1941 was about 320.000 people of all nationalities and ages , i.e. Polish, Jews, Ukrainians, Belorussians, ect. Out of these ethnic Poles constituted somewhere about 250.000 people.

Here is the info in Polish language: Ośrodka KARTA: REPRESJE SOWIECKIE WOBEC POLAKÓW I OBYWATELI POLSKICH (http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/represje_sowieckie_10.html)

And here is the table from that report with the number of victims :
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/167/428009665_0ceef3410d_o.gif

That is why I did not understand these parts of this article: "HUNDREDS of thousands of Polish people perished in Siberian concentration camps during the Second World War" and "Hundreds of thousands of deportees survived, however more than that perished in Siberia."

And then there is absolutely fallacious and sick comparisson of the deportations to the holocaust! Do you, guys, know what percentage of ethnic Poles living in Kresy was deported? I can help you by saying that by 1939 there living app 5,5 million Poles in Kresy. So in 1939 - 1941 app 4,5% of Poles were deported. Now compare it to the Jewish Holocaust numbers!

Best regards
Igor

1PUK
07-23-2007, 02:38 PM
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the article there are those that will try to minimise the suffering of the people described in it.

Meet the brave Poles who survived Siberian death camps -
http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/features?articleid=3046836

The healing process for those people has also been made worse by not being able (allowed) to talk about their experiences.

Egorka
07-23-2007, 02:53 PM
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the article there are those that will try to minimise the suffering of the people described in it.

Meet the brave Poles who survived Siberian death camps -
http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/features?articleid=3046836

The healing process for those people has also been made worse by not being able (allowed) to talk about their experiences.

You are right that there are dishonest people that will try to minimise and exaggerate the suffering of the victims.

It is nice that you dissociate yourself from those modern politicians that try to use the victims to get cheap points. Politictians like the Polish Consul General Janusz Wach who has no excuse for saying lies.

I will in my turn condemn the cruel ones that talk about the victims with no compassion. And there are quite many of those out there.