While my mum was sick, she put together a document with research on our family history. The original is here, and I've reposted it below.
Jozef Lesiak and Regina Michon: A Family History
This is the story of how my parents came to live in England. It is a part of a much greater story that the Poles were told not to tell, for fear of angering the USSR.
At the start of the 2nd World War the Germans invaded Poland from the West (1/9/39) and the Russians from the East (17/9/39).
The Russians forcibly took hundreds of thousands of people from the Kresy region (borderlands with Russia) in cattle trains to Siberia where they were made to work in the forests in incredible hardship. Many died from starvation, or disease, or cold.
My mother said that the Russians came at 5 in the morning with guns and told them to pack what they could, they were going somewhere very cold. That was the start of a terrible journey and most of those deported never returned to Poland.
When my brothers and I were younger we knew that something awful had happened to our parents but we didn't know the whole story. Many of the Poles were not able to talk about the horrors of watching beloved family members slowly dying and not being able to help them. When they were eventually released from the Labour Camps and arrived in the West they found it unbearable to talk about it.
The West did not want to sour relations with their new Russian allies so they never acknowledged the suffering of the people from the Kresy region.
A similar situation existed with the murder of the flower of the Polish Army at Katyn. The Western leaders went along with the theory that the Germans had executed 4,400 Polish officers and buried them in a mass grave in the Katyn Forest.
Churchill agreed that the atrocity was likely carried out by the Soviets. According to Edward Raczyński, Churchill admitted on 15 April 1943 during a conversation with General Sikorski: "Alas, the German revelations are probably true. The Bolsheviks can be very cruel."56
However, at the same time, on 24 April 1943 Churchill assured the Soviets: "We shall certainly oppose vigorously any 'investigation' by the International Red Cross or any other body in any territory under German authority. Such investigation would be a fraud and its conclusions reached by terrorism."57 Unofficial or classified UK documents concluded that Soviet guilt was a "near certainty", but the alliance with the Soviets was deemed to be more important than moral issues; thus the official version supported the Soviets, up to censoring any contradictory accounts.58
Churchill asked Owen O'Malley to investigate the issue, but in a note to the Foreign Secretary he noted: "All this is merely to ascertain the facts, because we should none of us ever speak a word about it."
It has since been shown conclusively that the murders were carried out by the Russians and the world has acknowledged this atrocity.
The story of the Poles, Ukrainians,White Russians and others who were deported to Siberia has never been really told or acknowledged fully.
There are 2 important things I remember my parents saying to me. My mother near the end of her life said proudly “In all that time I never despaired, I never gave up”
During a very difficult time in my life my father simply said to me “You can choose to be happy”
I am writing this history of my parents and their families as a testimony to their endurance and fortitude, so that our children and our children's children will understand and remember how they overcame hardships, and survived to give us life and hope for the future.
Chapter 1: The Lesiak Family
Eleonora and Franciszek Lesiak came from what is now called Wojewodztwo Swietokrzyskie, powiat Konskie (kolo Kielc) graina Radoszyce, wies Nalewajkow. Franciszek and Eleonora had 8 children
Their children were: Genowefa 1904, Wladyslaw 1907, Stanislawa 1911, Jozef 1914, Stanislaw 1917, Jan 1921, and two twin girls one was called Janina and we are not sure of the other girl's name but I think it might be Marianna because Stanislawa had two girls and called one Janina and the other Marianna. Jozef had a daughter called Janina by his first wife and had a daughter by his second wife called Maria Anna Krystyna.
Jan died when he tried to get some water for his mother who was very ill and fell under the train on the journey from Russia.
The twin girls died very young and we have no records of them being in Russia so they may have died in Poland.
Jozef Lesiak was born on 17th August 1914 in Nalewajkow in the Konskie District.
His father Franciszek was a big strong man, his mother Eleonora Kaczmarczyk was a tiny, feisty woman.
Grandfather Franciszek loved horses and was a horse dealer. He used to go to the horse markets to Konskich near Kielc. There he heard that land in the eastern border area was cheap but you had to be prepared to clear the forest to build yourself a house and clear land for crops/farming. Between 1925 and 1930 a few dozen families travelled from the central regions to this eastern area and settled in a village called Polotnica between Slonim and Baranowice. They worked really hard but the local Bialorussians were not all well disposed towards them.
Jozef said that his father stupidly accepted paper money for his farm (Ciocia Frania thinks they used to grow sugar beet) in Nalewajkow but by the time they got to Slonym the paper money had been devalued and was almost worthless. Some of the other farmers had taken gold. They all complained that the soil in Polonka was not as good/fertile as the land back in central Poland. I remember my father talking of the beautiful woods and hearing the wolves howling in the winter.
Marianna Majewska who is the daughter of Stanislawa and Wladyslaw Woloszyn wrote to me and told me her family's story. Marianna's parents met in Polotnicza and in 1933 were married. They lived near Slonim in Basinach and later in Sierakowce. Their children Janina and Edward were born in Basinach and Staszek andAlek were born in Sierkowce.
Jozef Lesiak (my father) was married to Bronislawa Kaleta at the church in Wysock and had 3 children. Jadzia Lichodziwska was one of the bridesmaids. Ciocia Jadzia's sister, Ciocia Frania (Kozycz) remembers that Jadzia was godmother to their son Jan. Ciocia Jadzia told Ciocia Frania that there was a large party with several horses pulling wagon/carts to the church. Jozek’s brother, Staszek, married Marysia Tazbir also in Wysock.
Jozef told his granddaughter Julia Lesiak (aged about 3 or 4 at the time) about the farm they lived on. They had a cow and horses and pigs and dogs and geese and hens at which point Julia must have been a bit tired of this and asked “But did you have a viper?” and walked off. Jozef was momentarily stunned and then burst out laughing.
Genofefa's daughter-in-law Jasia remembers Wiktor (Wincenty) telling her that when he was a boy he had to look after the cow. One day he hadn't fastened the gate and the cow wandered off. He was really scared because his father Wladyslaw Zaremski was a harsh man and used to beat him. Jozef helped Wiktor and he found the cow and got it back in the field. Wiktor was always grateful to him for saving him from a beating.
It was 60 years later in 2011 that Marianna's brothers Alek and Edward drove by car to the area. They needed a visa for Bielorussia. They found that these dwellings and villages no longer exist. The Russians levelled it all and built communal farms. Edward recognised the Church where he had his first Holy Communion in Zyrowicach, near Slonim. They looked for vestiges in the cemetary but found nothing and none of the locals remembered the Polish settlers.
When the family moved from Nalewajkow to Polotnicza (about 15 km between Slonim and Baronowicze) the church they went to was at Polenka but the parish was Wysoszk.
Jozef married Bronsilawa Kaleta at Wysock and they had 3 children Janinka 1935, Stanislaw 1937and Jozef 1940.
I (Krysia Campbell, nee Lesiak) remember my mother saying that a lady who came from the same village as my father, told her “Jozef worked so hard to build them a house - it was as if he was using yeast it grew so fast!”
After the outbreak of world war 2 the Russians invaded Poland. The Russian Police (NKWD) started to deport families from the Kresy region to Siberia. They gave no reason for this deportation. They came prepared with lists of people.
Marianna Majewska wrote to me that her mother had said that at the time of the deportations Grandmother Eleonora was staying at Uncle Wladislaw's house. When Uncle Wladislaw heard they were taking people from his area to Siberia he came by horse and cart to Marianna's parents (to tell them. Marianna's mother (Stanislawa) went back with him to see her mother for the last time. On the road back they passed carts loaded with people being guarded by armed guards. Marianna's uncle's wife (Wanda) and whole family were on these carts. When he saw his wife and family he jumped from the cart and ran to them. The Russians then kept him and would not let him go. Marianna's mother was in shock and did not know how the horse and cart got her home.
All the Poles (about 40 families) who lived in Polotnica were herded onto a train; in one wagon, there were usually four families. The toilet was a hole in the floor with a blanket to screen off the area.Ciocia Frania said “We traveled 2 weeks by train and the old and young died on the way. And then walked an entire week in freezing temperatures and deep snow, during this time more people died.”
They were all deported from Baronowicze on 29/2/40. They were taken to the Kubalo camp in the Czalowska region of Arkangelska.Conditions were very hard malnutrition and disease were rife. The young and the old died. Typhus killed many.
Eleonora, Jozef (her son) and his wife Bronislawa and the 3 children were taken to Kubalo. Genofefa Zaremske, Stanislaw and Wincenty (Wiktor) were also taken to Kubalo.
Little Jozef died in 1941. Bronia and Janinka and Stasio were taken to Tockoje on the 11th September 1941. I assume it was to get medical help as there were Polish military outfits there who had medical units. There were many women refugees and orphans at this camp and they were starving. Most died of Typhus. I think I remember my father Jozef saying something about this – that he got there too late and all three had died.
Wujek Stazek, Marysia and Marian were taken to Wieruzkoje oziero which is no 13 on the map slightly to the east of Kubalo. At this camp with them were a Marianna Lesiak and Stanislaw Lesiak who's father was Franciszek Lesiak but they don't seem related to us. Mystery! At Kubilo was a man called Franciszek Lesiak who was the son of Feliks Lesiak so maybe they were his children but it is strange that they were at a different camp to him if that is the case.
Photos near where Kubalo Camp was:
Marianna continued: The NKWD came with their list for Marianna's parents. The list had the names Wladislawa and Stanislaw Woloszyn but when Marianna's mother said that their names were Wladislaw and Stanislawa Woloszyn, the Russians said we don't want people by those names and would not take them.
Marianna's mother begged them to take her with the rest of her family but the police repeated (in Russian) we don't want people with your name. Stasia (Marianna's mother) understood Russian but did not speak it very well.
At the time of the deportations there was a great frost. They gathered the people at collection points and then put them in cattle trains. Many people died before they arrived in Siberia especially children.
After some time Marianna's mother received letters from Siberia. They spoke of hunger and sickness and being plagued by insects.
Marianna's mother sent them anything she could: dried potatoes, onions, garlic, lard.
Grandfather Francicisek was not in Siberia Marianna can't remember where he was at the time. Marianna's mother remembered he died in the Kresy region. Marianna's brother Edward has the death ceriticate of Francicisek Lesiak son of Stanislaw he lived to 68 years of age.
After the war the Kresy region was annexed by Russia. They gave Marianna's parents the ultimatum either take Russian citizenship and stay or they would be sent to Poland. Marianna's parents decided to move to Poland.
Edward said they waited for 2 weeks in the collection point at the railway station and were put on cattle trucks they journeyed for a month to the west to lands that had been under German rule before the war. They were eventually settled in Hucie Szklaney,okoloce Krzyza Wielkopolskiego. They arrived in Wrzesien 1945 with 4 children Alek was 13 months old.
Marianna's mother searched for her family via the Polski Urzed Repatriacyjny (PUR). She wrote to the Red Cross. She eventually found that some of the family were settled in England. She learnt of the death of her mother Eleonora. She was very ill on the road from Siberia. Also that her uncle Jan stepped onto the rail tracks to get water for his mother and in that moment the train moved and he fell under the train. Ciocia Genia and Ciocia Marysia were travelling with grandmother Eleonora. Grandmother Eleonora was buried in Afica. In Johannesburg. George Lesiak found her grave when he travelled there and took photos.
Jozef Lesiak wrote of the death of his wife and 3 children. Uncle Wladislaw found from PUR that Marianna's mother and family were in Huta Szklana. He visited the family and told of the tragedy of the death of his wife and 4 children (3 boys and a girl). Only one son survived Siberia - Mieczyslaw. Wladislaw had left his son with a Russian woman while he visited Poland looking for the rest of the family.
All this reliving of the suffering and sadness left Marianna's mother suffering from depression and she was bedridden until May 1946. Marianna's uncle Wladislaw helped her father care for the 4 children. He cooked and cleaned, washed, and baked bread. Marianna's mother was restored to health eventually and Marianna was born in May 1947.
Uncle Wladislaw tried to get his son Mietek sent to Poland. The Russian woman put him on a train, Mietek wanted to go to the toilet, he opened the wrong door by mistake and fell out of the train which cut off his legs.
Mietek's godmother was Aunty Marysia (Uncle Staszek's wife).She helped Mietek a lot and sent him some prosthetic legs. Mietek walked, danced and rode on a motor bike. He worked and got married and had 2 children. He died in 1980.
After the war no one talked about Siberia or Katyn in Poland. Nothing was taught about it in the schools. Only Marianna's parents told her about these times.
When the Russians joined the Allies to fight against Hitler they offered the Poles in the camps freedom for their families, if the men joined the newly emerging Polish army. Jozef was released on the 11th September 1941 and made his way to Tockoje and from there to Pahlevi to join the army in 1942 as a medical orderly with the 5th Kresowa Kompania Sanitarna 5KDP.
Chapter 2: Jozef Lesiak – The Army Years
The Polish deportees in the camps were told that if they joined the Polish army to fight against the Germans their families would be allowed to leave Russia. Of course everyone who could went to join the new army that was being formed. Some people did not get the chance to leave.
The following is taken from http://www.polishgreatness.com/generalwladyslawanders.html
“The tide changed when the Nazis invaded Russia. A Soviet-Polish agreement was made which allowed for the formation of a Polish army on Soviet territory. Anders was hastily released from prison and named Commanding General of the new army. Poles who had been deported when the Red Army invaded eastern Poland were interned in labor camps and concentration camps throughout Russia. Now they were being released to join the new army.
Along with them were thousands of Polish civilians who followed the army in order to survive. When the Polish troops were all assembled for inspection, General Anders was shocked and visibly moved to see that they were all severely emaciated and starving, dressed in rags and no shoes. But each and every one stood at attention proud of their rank and the ability to serve again.
Anders knew first hand the lengths of Soviet deception and tried to warn the Churchill but to no avail.; The decisions taken at Yalta were irreversible.; It was a betrayal of Poland's confidence in its Allies, and sealed Poland's fate for the next 50 years. When World War II came to an end, the Polish soldiers who had fought so bravely on the side of the Allies found themselves homeless, and stateless. They suddenly became pariahs - unwanted by the British government nor by the British people.
Despite the Allied victory, the British government was adamant that Poles never again speak of the war, so great was their fear of offending the Soviet Ally.”
Jozef was released from Kubalo on the11th September 1941. His wife Bronia and the children Janina and Stasio died at Tockoje. Jozef joined the Polish army and became an ambulance driver and medical orderly with the 5th Kresowa Kompania Sanitarna 5KDP.
I remember him saying that at one time his vehicle was blown up crossing a bridge and he ended up in a river full of barbed wire which tore his body badly. He also had shrapnel in his back which was never removed and used to set off alarms at airports in later life.
An excellent account of the exodus to Iran is found at http://www.parstimes.com/history/polish_refugees/exodus_russia.html
Here is a short extract
“Iran and the Polish Exodus from Russia 1942
By: Ryszard Antolak
Exhausted by hard labour, disease and starvation - barely recognizable as human beings - we disembarked at the port of Pahlavi (Anzali). There, we knelt down together in our thousands along the sandy shoreline to kiss the soil of Persia. We had escaped Siberia, and were free at last. We had reached our longed-for Promised Land.- Helena Woloch.
In Tehran's Dulab cemetery, situated in a rundown area of the city, are the graves of thousands of Polish men, women and children. It is not the only such cemetery in Iran, but it is the largest and most well-known. All of the gravestones, row upon row of them, bear the same date: 1942.
In that year, Iran stood as a beacon of freedom and hope for almost a million Polish citizens released from the Soviet labour camps of Siberia and Kazakhstan. After enduring terrible conditions travelling across Russia, 115,000 of them were eventually allowed to enter Iran. Most of them went on to join the allied armies in the Middle East. The rest (mostly women and children) remained guests of Iran for up to three years, their lives totally transformed in the process. They never forgot the debt they owed to the country that had so generously opened its doors to them. “
Jozef Lesiak served in the Polish army from 1942 to 4/11/48. He received the following medals:
- Krzyz Pamiatkowy Monte Casino 22 Luty 1945
- Star of War 1939-45
- Star of Italy
When he came to England he was quartered at Oulton Park Camp, Little Budworth, Cheshire.
During his time at the camp he studied English, basic book-keeping, Biology and other sciences.
He spent time at Petworth Camp in Sussex. He kept up a correspondence with Regina Michon from June 1945 until around May 1948. Regina was still at the camp at Bwana M'Kubwa in North Rhodesia during this time. Some of the letters they wrote to each other are included in Chapter 5 and show a blossoming love story.
When Regina joined him in England they were eventually married on the 9th October 1948. Regina travelled to Great Britain on the ship Arundel Castle and arrived at Southampton on 30th May 1948.
They were married at the Roman Catholic Chapel at Thorpe End, Melton Mowbray. Regina wore a dark suit rather than white, to show respect for the fact that Jozef was a widower and this was his second wedding.
Chapter 3: The Michon Family
Regina Maria Michon was born on the 7th September 1920 to Julianna and Wladyslaw Michon in a small village called Podlusze near Stanislawow, Poland. Julianna born in 1888 was married previously to Czarnieczki and had a little daughter called Francziszka. I think Czarnieczki and Francziszka died in the Spanish Flu pandemic around 1918.
Petronella Rekaszewska (Regina's maternal grandmother) died on 28th December aged 85, not sure what year. Marcianna (paternal grandmother) died in the extremely cold winter of 1928.
Julianna's brother Wawzyniecz emigrated to Poland with his wife and 3 daughters before the war.
Leon died in Russia as did Edward and Boleslaw.
The Michons shared a plot of land with the Ostrowski Family (Leon and Anna). The Ostrowski house was very close to the Michons house.
Ciocia Lesia wrote:I remember pigs, chicks, horses, f ruit trees and a small river, a big Christmas tree and snow. I remember I sometimes went to the cellar to eat fresh made butter, and they could not find me because I was hiding in the basement.
I remember when we hid in the corn field because of bombs going over our heads.
They took us to Russia on 10 February 1940, it was very cold.
Roman Catholic parishes: Stanisławów Knihinin św.Józefa
Photos of the Podluze area today:
Zbys's information from Regina:
My mother told me today
In 1939 after the Polish army was defeated by Germany and Russia there was a time of lawlessness in the area of Poland where she lived. There were many attacks on Poles living in the predominantly Ukrainian area and the family was afraid to leave the house. They stayed in in darkness every night waiting for the attack to come.
One evening she was out on lookout when she saw lights approaching she could hear the Ukrainian voices and ran to the house. She burst into the room where the family were hiding and shouted "They're coming ". When the Ukrainians arrived they were friendly bidding "Good Evening " they said that some Polish soldiers had arrived in the village trying to get to Romania. They asked if my Mother's family could shelter the soldiers for the night, which my grandmother readily agreed to do. There were 11 soldiers and they spent the night at the small village hall near my mother's family home. My mother was about 18 at the time and chatted to the soldiers about their homes and experiences in the war. She helped to feed them supper and cooked them breakfast and gave them some food for the journey the next day.
A few days after the soldiers left she heard that most of them had been killed in another village on the road to the border. Later a rumour spread that Polish troops had been murdering Ukrainians in the area, some Ukrainain mothers brought their families to my grandparents house and asked for protection, my grandmother told them that she was sure the rumour was false but they could stay if they wished. They later found that the rumour had been false, that it had been the other way round (perhaps tied in with the murder of the Polish troops).
The Soviets arrived some time later and the situation became calmer with the return of law and order. After some time a Soviet officer arrived and told them that all the Poles were being transported to a new area where things would be better and they had 3 days to pack what they could carry. He said to take warm clothes and food for a few days journey. They were taken to the railway station and packed onto double decker cattle cars. There was a stove in the middle of each car. Each time the train stopped my mother looked out to see were she was and to gather some snow to melt for water. At one stage the soviets separated all the children out from the adults saying they would be sent to a better place. My mothers little sister Marysia who was about 10 was put on a lorry but before it could leave my mother climbed onto the carriage and pulled Marysia out of the train by her head. A Russian came up and said " You idiotic woman, she will have to walk now like the rest of you - she could have ridden to the station if you'd left her on."
When they arrived at the station the rest of the children were already there and they boarded the train for Siberia. When they arrived at the camp in Siberia there was a very rudimentary settlement there - but at least there were huts with stoves in them. The people who met them told them that when they had first arrived there had only been forest. The family was put to work cutting wood and stacking it by a river to be used by a paddle steamer. This was near to a prison camp for political prisoners it was many miles from any towns or villages and bitterly cold.
One day while my mother was working in the forest with a friend she was scared by a eerie voice begging for food. The voice coming from nowhere hardly sounded human and she screamed. The voice stopped instantly. When my mothers friend realised that it must have been escaped prisoners from the camp they called out that they would bring food but there was no answer. My mother was scolded by her father for scaring the fugitives. He went into the forest with bread calling out to the prisoners. He left it in the forest but it was never touched and no-one heard the voices again. For several days no-one spoke to my mother and she still feels ashamed of herself.
My mother had a mare called Serbianka which was all black with a white star on her forehead, she was a good worker and my mother would give her scraps of bread sometimes. The work was hard and the food was poor. People died during the freezing weather. My mother's eldest brother Bolek coughed constantly and painfully but the family stayed together and so far they had all survived.With the German attack on Russia the Poles were better treated and allowed to form an army. Many were given a choice of leaving Russia to set up the Polish armed forces in Iran with British help. My mothers brothers joined up and as relatives of enlisted soldiers the rest of the family asked for permission to leave. They also began to receive some form of payment for the work they did and began to save this for the journey out of Russia. The Soviet army took the best horses, among them Serbianka and left my mother a 'northern' horse which was half wild and very lazy. When my mother tried to get it to work hitting it with a crop the horse kicked her hard in the chest and she had to go to the hospital. She got several days off work and tidied up the hut she lived in. This helped in an odd way to keep up her spirits. When they finally received permission to leave the country the transport was poorly organised. They travelled for weeks on trains and when some of the family went to buy food at a station the train left early without warning and the family were split up - in all about 150 people had been left behind.
My mother then travelled by river barge on the Amudaria to the north. After several days my mother heard a familiar coughing on another train and followed the sound to find her brother Bolek. By then he was very ill and died soon after. My Mother was not re-united with her parents until they arrived in Khazakstan. My grandmother who had arrived there several days earlier took my mothers clothes and burned them as they were riddled with lice. They stayed for a while and worked in the cotton fields for which they were paid in advance but when they were given orders to move again, earlier than expected, the money was taken back by Russian officials.
My mother had Typhus and Malaria and my grandmother had typhus and was taken to hospital. My mother who was ill herself and had stayed behind when most of the others left for Persia, went to see her in hospital in Jakobak but my grandmother died before she arrived. My Mother wanted to stay and arrange the funeral but was told that if she did not leave straight away she would not be allowed out of the Soviet Union. She caught the last train out to Teheran and arrived in Persia still very ill. She left Iran by ship for Beria in Africa and then moved on to a refugee camp at Bwana M'Kubwa in Rhodesia. Here they were given 10/- a month and could grow their own food in small plots. They were taught various things like nursing, shop work, sewing(?).My mother worked in the hospital. My Fathers' in-laws (the Zarebski's) told her about my Father - how his wife and children had died and he'd been wounded whilst in serving in North Africa and she began to write to him.
Chapter 4: Life in Podluze, Stanislawow
Grandfather Wladyslaw was “Het Man” with a crew of loggers. They would be away from home for some time cutting trees and transporting them on the river. Wladyslaw had a gold watch and chain, in photo below he is standing up on the left.
Here are some scenes of work going on in Podluze:
Here are some photos of Holy Communions: Regina is on left but don't know who the boy is.
My mother Regina used to tell us about life in Podluze but it is hard to remember now what she said. She said her Babcia would sit making pierogi for hours. When the pierogi were cooked the water they were cooked in was full of bits of potato and starch, this was given to any pregnant women to drink as it was though to be nourishing.
There was a seamstress who travelled from smallholding to smallholding and would make dresses for her and her mother and the boys. Life was quite hard but they were mostly happy. The Russions deported her and her family in February 1940 to a camp called Kyltovo which was east of Kotlas and about 90 km north of Syktyvkar.
Today there is a monastery there and a church more information at http://www.nbrkomi.ru/en/kk/base/raiony/knyazh/tur_knyazh/ and at http://www.kyltovo.ru/monastyr/
Kyltovo — Kyltovo Krestovozdvizhensky (Erection of the Cross) female monastery (founded 1894). The majority of the buildings, including Zosimo-Savvatievsky Sobor (Saints Zosima and Sabbatios Cathedral, 1902 — 1911) are preserved.
This is from http://www.mccme.ru/putevod/11/11eng.html
Satellite map present time:
The Michon Family
|Name||Date of birth and age at 1940||Father's name||Date deported||Departure||Province||District||Place where opression occurred||Relatioship to George,Zbys and me|
|Julia Anna Michon||1888, 52||Jan||Feb 1940||30/8/41||KOMI ASRR||ZELOZNODOROZNY||Kyltovo||Grandmother|
|Wladyslaw Michon||1892, 48||Mikolaj||“||"||"||"||"||Grandfather|
|Regina Michon||1920, 20||Wladyslaw||Feb 1940||30/8/41||KOMI ASRR||ZELOZNODOROZNY||Kyltovo||Mother|
|Boleslaw Michon||1922, 18||“||"||"||"||"||"||Uncle|
|Mieczyslaw Michon||1924, 16|
|Jozef Michon||1926, 14||Uncle|
|Edward Michon||1928, 12||Died no date for departure or death||Uncle|
|Maria Michon||1931, 9||Aunt|
|Leon Ostrowski||1903, 37||Jan||"||"||"||"||Great Uncle|
|Anna Ostrowska||1906, 34||Grezegorz||"||Great Aunt|
|Waleria Ostrowska||1930, 10||Leon||Mum's cousin|
|Zbigniew Ostrowska||1932, 8||Leon||Mum's cousin|
|Ewa Lichodziewska||1904, 36||Hilary||29/2/40||12/9/41||Arch Czalowska||Ust'janski||Kubalo Buzuluk||Marys and Ola's Babcia|
|Kazimierz Lichodziewski||1889, 50||Aleksander||“||“||“||“||“||Marys and Ola's Dziadio|
|Jadwiga Lichodziewski||1920, 20||Kazimnierz|
|Francizka Lichodziewski||1922, 18||“|
|Wanda Lichodziewski||1925, 15|
|Czeslaw Lichodziewski||1928, 12|
|Eugeniusz Skirkowski||1895, 45||Jan||25/2/40||5/9/41||Arch Turkemina SRR||Wielski||ZOKSZA FARAB||Wujek Janek's father|
|Jan Skirkowski||1928, 12||Eugeniusz|
|Michal Skirkowski||1929, 11||“|
|Maria Skirkowski||1926, 14|
Chapter 5: Regina Michon - The Africa Years
The journey from the camps to Great Britain was a long one. It varied from person to person. Uncle Zbyzek sent a map showing he went from:
KSRR to Czelbinsk through Kazakstan via Karaganda and Biszek.
Through Taszkent in Uzbekistan
Through Turkmenistan to Teheran in Iran. Then from Abadan by sea to Karachi in Pakistan. Then by sea to Mogadiszu and finally to Kampala in Uganda.
Regina went by sea from Beria in Iran to a camp in North Rhodesia Bwana M'Kubwa.
More information on the journey from Russia to Africa on http://kresy-siberia.org/galleries/refugees/polish-refugees-in-africa/
The following is taken from http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~sarmatia/106/261mcgin.html
“More than one-half of the Polish civilians who travelled with General Anders out of the Soviet gulags found refuge in the countries of former British East Africa. This segment of East Africa, or “Polish Africa,” became the destination for postwar Polish refugees whose camps were closed in other areas of the world. To get there, however, the refugees had to first gain sanctuary in the Near and Middle East. Geographically, southern movement from the Siberian gulags meant initial entry points in these locations. The mercy shown for these skeletons of humanity is well documented in Piotrowski’s book, but death was often inevitable due to exhaustion, evidenced by the existence of numerous Polish cemeteries in the Middle East.
Assisted in an elementary way by English authorities, the Polish Government in exile (in London), the Catholic Church, Red Cross agencies, and other organizations, the refugees moved on. Iran was the first major stop for General Anders’s army. His weary battalions consisted of men freed from the Soviet gulags and their families. Twenty temporary camps also existed in Tehran housing thousands of orphaned children. Tehran’s moniker became “The City of Polish Children,” many of whom were laid to rest there, not being able to recover after near-starvation in the Russian camps. Stories of kindness, lush gardens, and an abundance of food left a lasting impression on those who survived.
Most heart-wrenching are the stories of orphan children who suffered the loss of entire family units. In Africa and Mexico particularly, settlements became minuscule Polands, with the establishment of ethnic schools, churches, and scouts to retain linkage with the homeland and identity as Poles.”
Some useful history can be found at http://www.dpcamps.org/poland.html
The following is taken from there.
The first stop of the refugees evacuated with Anders' army was Iran, where they found temporary quarters in large transit camps initially located in Pahlavi and Mashhad, and later in Tehran and Ahvaz. While Gen. Anders' troops were subsequently transferred to Palestine and from there to Iraq, the civilians remained in Iran. To accommodate the refugees, a sprawling stationary camp was established in Isfahan. Because it housed several camps for the thousands of orphaned Polish children, it came to be known as the "City of Polish Children." The relief assistance afforded by Polish, British, American, and Iranian authorities soon improved their living conditions and brought the devastating contagious diseases under control, diseases acquired in the Soviet Union which continued to rob the refugees of their lives even after liberation (over 2,000 refugees died in Iran alone).
In time, various Polish institutions, including 24 schools serving some 3,000 students, were established in Iran and several. By the end of 1943, 33,000 refugees were transferred from Iran to other countries. By the end of 1945, another 4,300 were evacuated to Lebanon; by 1946, that number rose to 6,000. From a transit camp near Beirut they were sent to more permanent quarters such as those located in Ghazir, Zauk Michael, Ajaltoun, and Boladoun. Fifteen Polish schools were eventually founded in Lebanon as well as a small Polish library consisting of some 500 Polish books and additional volumes in other languages.
In Palestine, the camps for the over 5,000 refugees transferred there were located in Nazareth, Rehovot, Ain-Karem, and Barbara. Several scout groups, schools, training centers, a Women's Auxiliary Service, and an Officers' Legion were established. A Polish press, located in Palestine and Iran, printed the much-needed educational materials used in refugee schools throughout the Middle East. Some exiles also found asylum in India in transit camps set up in Quetta, Mount Abu, Panchgani, Bandra, and in and near Karachi (such as the Country Club Camp, Haji Pilgrims Camp, and the Malir Camp). But more stable settlements also emerged such as those in Balachadi, near the city of Jamnagar, and in Valivade, near Kolhapur. Balachadi became a refuge for some 1,000 Polish children. Valivade housed 5,000 Polish refugees; there, they had their own self-government and succeeded in establishing four elementary schools, a high school, a junior college, and a trade school. In all, 16 Polish schools were attended by some 2,300 Polish children in India. Moreover, several Polish periodicals were published, Polish amateur theaters were founded, and Polish business enterprises flourished. Africa provided another safe harbor for the Poles. In mid-1944, East Africa hosted over 13,000 Polish citizens. They settled in transit and permanent camps in the British colonies of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanganyika. In Uganda, the camps were located in Masindi and Koya on Lake Victoria. In Kenya, they were located in Rongai, Manira, Makindu, Nairobi, and Nyali near Mombasa. In Tanganyika, the largest settlement was Tengeru (4,000 refugees) and smaller camps were located in Kigoma, Kidugala, Ifunda, Kondoa, and Morogoro.
South Africa, South Rhodesia, and North Rhodesia also became the home of Poles. The largest of these settlements were: in the Union of South Africa Oudtshoorn; in North Rhodesia Abercorn, Bwana M'Kubwa, Fort Jameson, Livingstone, and Lusaka; in South Rhodesia Digglefold, Marandellas, Rusape, and Gatooma. In Africa, Polish schools, churches, hospitals, civic centers, and manufacturing and service cooperatives were founded and Polish culture prospered. African radio stations ran programs in the Polish language and there was even a Polish press. In South Africa alone there were 18 Polish schools with about 1,800 students in attendance.
The Arundel Castle was the ship that brought Regina to England on 30th May 1948 to the port of Southampton. The ship sailed from Cape Town with 600 Polish women and children and elderly on it.
The passenger list can be found on:
While Regina was in the camp she trained and worked as a dental nurse. Marysia belonged to the scouts and went on scout camps with other youngsters.
Regina became friends with Marysia Lesiak in the camp. Marysia suggested that Renia write to her brother-in-law Jozef Lesiak who was a soldier in the Polish army and had lost his wife Bronia and three children, Janinka, Stasio and Jozio in Russia. She wrote and started a correspondence with him that lasted until 1948 when she finally came to England .
Some of the letters are included in the next chapter and in them Regina writes about life in the camp.
Chapter 6: Jozef and Regina's letters to each other
The letters of Regina and Jozef
1st Letter from Regina to Jozef
P.O. Ndola Box 29
Dear Polish Soldier!
Please accept these heartfelt good wishes from an unknown Polish woman for the fulfilment of the hopes and dreams for which you fight, shed your blood, and risk your life. Beloved and brave soldier!
Pan Jozef as I write this letter I am not sure if you will want to reply? Because of course we don't know each other at all. It is your right not to reply to this scribble but excuse me for pointing out that it is a sacred duty to reply to a letter.
Now I will explain how I have your address. Your sister-in-law Pani Marysia Lesiak and I attend an evening class and we help each other with our homework. I get on really well with Marysia - she is sympathetic and a very cheerful lady. I also know your sister P. Zarembska. P. Lesiak told me about you and I asked her for your address and for permission to write to you. She happily agreed to this, so I took the opportunity to write these few words.
If you would wish it, we can continue to exchange our thoughts in this way. However if it is just a nuisance and bother to you then please forgive me the annoyance. Or you could let me know that you have received this letter but prefer not to correspond. I too have a brother in the army, recently he was in Palestine but was due to leave there. When he was in Italy he was with P. Zaremska's son, P. Wiktor, he wrote that P. Wiktor was his best friend. My other brother who is also called Jozef (like you) is in London. My parents died in Russia and I am left with my little sister who is 14 years old. She is in class 5 and is studying very well.
P. Marysia has probably written to you about our lives and conditions in this settlement. It is quite cool here at present. During the day it is mainly windy, the rainy season was a while ago.
The last rains were in May and the next rains will start around October or November time. At the moment we have good weather everyday. The sun here is fierce, you can easily get sunstroke or heat stroke but most people are used to it now and we don't get as many cases of it as we used to.
When I first thought about writing to you it seemed that I had so much to tell this dear soldier who was fighting to free our beloved homeland from oppression. The road to this goal will be beset with sorrow, self sacrifice, heroism, and danger. “I salute the Polish Army”
Well I am ending this scribbling, I apologise if what I have written is boring or not well expressed. I am hoping that if I receive a letter from you that I will have more subjects to write about.
Please write lots and lots about your health and your situation. In my next letter I will write much more.
If you ever meet P. Wiktor you may also meet my little brother Mietek because he will probably return to his old division in Palestine.
I am sending you warm greetings and am waiting for your reply.
This day 12/6/45
Szereg. Lesiak Jozef
Polish Forces no. 378
Thank you for the letter I received on the 25/6/45. I have great respect for your straightforward and sincere words to this soldier. A soldier who also longs to hear some warm words from someone - so many of the group I belong to are gone........ That is why every letter I receive from family or friends adds sweetness to my life. Sometimes I read them several times and in this way chase away the loneliness that so often overwhelms a man!..
Now I want to say that to date I am well - for which I fervently thank God, especially in the current times. It is so easy to lose your health, and life without health, is worthless. About my situation - I must say that circumstances at present are not the worst. We live in a small town, the civilians are fairly well disposed . I often chat with the small children. The climate is bearable – warmer than we are used to in Poland. It is a long time since it rained It is past harvest, we have plentiful fruit. Near us are camps with Polish women but they are mostly mothers who have been evacuated from Austria.
About Wiktor Zaremski – I have not seen him for ages. If I get the opportunity I will try to visit him and maybe then I will have the chance to meet your little brother.
On that note I will end. Once again thank you for your letter, and if it isn't too much trouble may I politely ask for your photograph to put in my album next to that of my sister-in-law? It will be a memento of the unknown Countrywoman!__
Please forgive me this delicate matter but I would like to confess to the same feelings as you mention in your letter. Many thoughts came into my head at the same time but at the moment I am on duty by the telephone and have constant interruptions so everything has flown from my head.....
So a second ending.
I am sending my most sincere greetings. I wish you lots of health and good fortune.
Also greetings to my sister-in-law and to Genia.
Farewell for now,
Please forgive any blunders and write as soon as you can.
First Page is missing
I now have a delicate request to make which I hope you can fulfil. May I hope to receive a photograph of you with your letter? Revenge will surely follow!
I see your sister-in-law every day because all my time, free from house chores, I spend in her house. Many happy memories of these times will remain with me in the future. Thank you for the greetings you sent to your sister and to Marysia and also for the sincere greetings you sent me.
Now a little about me. I live near Marysia with my little sister - also called Marysia. She is 14 years old and goes to V.kt, she is a good student she has at present gone with the girl guides to a scout camp for 10 days. I am 11 years older than her and so I feel she is like my little daughter as well as my little sister. I love her dearly and it is the one thing in this broken life (and sometimes it feels like all life and all the world is sadness) that is worth struggling for. If only for this reason to return to life so that she has a chance of happiness.
Thanks be to God at present we are all well. I am sure Marysia is writing to you as to
conditions in camp . We are now on informal terms, we say “ty” to each other. I am so happy that I made the acquaintance of your sister-in-law because we get on well and have similar views and understand each other. However my character is completely the opposite. Whilst she is good and cheerful, pretty and intelligent, I am like a monkey – completely the opposite. I am not good, but ugly and sad and almost always do stupid things. For instance – I write rubbish letters to unknown individuals- is that not so?
And so to finish I send my good wishes and greetings, your Countrywoman!
Please forgive the blunders and the rough scribblings -even though I wrote it on a table and not my knees!
I await your reply.
Szereg. Lesiak Jozef
Polish Forces No 348
For your letter of 22/7/25 I sincerely thank you. I also thank you for you straightforward honesty and not hiding your doubts which in fact showed themselves to be mistaken, since one of the most pleasant occupations in this present empty life is to write letters to ones friends and relatives.
Please believe me that every warm word directed to the address of this wandering soldier, sweetens his bitter life. Also I am grateful to this new acquaintance “Compatriot” for her scribbling, which I would willingly read more often if that were possible.
I am happy that my sister-in-law found a friend in you because life is easier if you have someone you trust to confide in and share both the bad and the good.
Now I would timidly like to ask why you have such a listless outlook on life since you would think that many would envy your young years.
You have......you are believing harsh things of yourself, and I don't believe them, because I think it is the reverse. It isn't allowed to think so badly of oneself because perhaps God will allow us to survive for something better, so we must wait patiently because “there is no skill living a life with no obstacles, the skill is in overcoming obstacles”.
Now I want to write that nothing has changed here, we are in the same place that I wrote of in my last letter. I can't tell you of your little brother and Pan Zaremski because I have not seen them for a long time.
I will try to send the photos with my next letter. On that note I'll finish.
I send my sincere felicitations. I wish you good health and good fortune.
Farewell for now.
Please pass on my greetings to my sister-in-law, my sister and all the compatriots.
(I await a reply)
Szereg. Lesiak Jozef
Polish Forces No 348
This morning I received your letter dated 13/9/45. This letter dispersed the hopes which were born while I was waiting for the letter. Because those actual “Don't knows?” seemed to me too long.......
Reniu! As at the moment I have only modest requirements ??????????
You have called me “your hero” and this fills me with undeserved pride, so I am bold enough to write “Dear Compatriot”. Although it is difficult to love someone not personally known, I have to be honest and confess that I love your character and thoughts. Lately I have felt changes in my attitude to life, something in me has broken which is so hard to talk about, and has seemed for three years to me to be impossible. Sometimes my friends would say that with time I would forget about my misfortune and that I will someday find “Someone” and will be happy. It seemed to me they were just saying this, it is easy to talk when you are not suffering, but it is different when you are the one in pain.
That is why my experience and tragedy has taught me to be compassionate with friends and it does not surprise me that the tragedies in your life have changed your character. But don't forget we punish ourselves with many worries and they are of no benefit to those who have died. Of course it is the duty of every man to fight every obstacle, not to let your arms fall and to think of a better
“Tomorrow” and here...... you need a goal for the future, a focus of support, you need a “Someone” for whom it is worth living. To belong heart and soul and share a mutual trust in every way, otherwise life is without happiness and charm. .......
As to jealousy you rightly said it is a sin. I freely admit that I am old, I was 31 on the 17th August and am not surprised that fellow soldiers speak to me as” wy”.
In this case I won't be angry with “My annoying countrywoman” for calling me “Thomas” . On the other hand I would like to be with you and would not even need to touch, as “Thomas” did, but to hear your voice, meet you in person, and see everything about you and confirm that I understood you from your letters.
And now as to this photograph. I am scared to send you my “mask” in case it frightens you, and you might stop “scribbling” the letters that I have so quickly become accustomed to. It is a shame but I will send it.
Reniu!.... I am so sorry that I can't visit and chat to you and divert myself with the beautiful evening you described to me.
I am ending now because you are probably bored with reading.
I send greetings to you, your little sister Marysia, Marysia, Genia and all the kind and sincere countrywomen.
Forgive any mistakes.........
Impatiently waiting a reply
Write often but without the “mister” and as much as possible, and I ask for revenge according to our honourable agreement.
Don't convict me of jealousy, I was just being honest.
p.s. Reniu tell me, if you don't keep someone in your heart who has caused you sadness with his letters?
First page missing
Now I must write that there is nothing new here. Day after day goes by, each much like the next.
The only bright moments are when we get a letter or some good news, but there are not many of either. God has ordained that our country should suffer such losses.
Enemies have destroyed our land. But perhaps God will change this - with the spilling of our blood and tears to save our holy and great nation.
We have to live with the hope that this can be changed!
We are still going to evening classes it is likely that there will be exams before the Holy Days (Christmas?), I just ask you not to laugh at our belonging to the stubiakow.
Soon it will be the rainy season, it is an unpleasant time. It rains for a few hours a day and constantly in the night. But please don't be perturbed, don't cancel your vacation because it isn't so awful and after the rain the sun shines again. I came in the first transport to this settlement.
In March it will be 3 years. From the beginning, and not only here, but on the whole journey from Russia my sister and I had malaria. Now thank God it has left us.
Our settlement lies in the beautiful and picturesque African bush near a town called Ndola.
You can always here the whistle of trains and the factory. We have a nice little church where Holy Mass is said everyday. On Sunday the first Mass is for the school children and the second is for everyone.
There is also a large new building “Swietlica Akcji Katolickiej” where a few times a week, and on Sundays, there are readings. You can also dance to the radio or the gramophone.
The Cultural Committee from time to time have shows or dances at which we have a few local guests. Our settlement is divided into 2 areas 7-szy and 2-gi. A wide road divides them by which grow the most beautiful Mimosa trees, they are in blossom now and have beautiful lilac flowers.
The moon is lovely tonight it is shining just like I wrote in my last letter.
I must end now because I am worried you won't have patience with my scribbling and my kilometre long letter.
Please forgive any mistakes......
I send my sincere greetings and wishes that your fondest dreams will come true.
P.S. P. Lesiakowa and P. Zaremska asked me to pass on their greetings to you.
(I am waiting for a reply)
PO Ndola Box 29
Joey I am just jotting a few words down, first of all thank you for the greetings you sent to me in Marysia's letter. Marysia told me today that she had received a letter and you asked her to remember you to me. Dear soldierling don't take offence that I am scribbling this to you. I have to wait a long time for my letter from you and I want to fulfil my promise in my last letter and so I send a photo of Marysia and me with this letter.
Now you will know that I was right about myself and even if I offended you by calling you “Thomas” I was still completely right. In your last letter with which you included your likenesses you say that you love my outlook and I can say the same about you. Also I know you not only from your letters and photos but through all that Marysia has told me of you.
However having received the photos of she who thinks this, will you want to end this sincere and pleasant correspondence?
And even if this was to happen I am sure that I would say to myself “It is a shame that this has happened but it would have happened anyway, if not today then tomorrow” Is that not true?
And now I'll write a little about other matters. Today the camp is celebrating the Holy Day of All Saints. In the afternoon at 4 o'clock we processed from the church to the local cemetery.
There the priest gave a short but moving sermon and after the ceremony and prayers we returned to the camp. The cemetery is quite large and well-maintained and there are now 10 of out people there. Marysia had a pack of candles so we lit them and put them on one grave because we couldn't put them on the graves of our nearest and dearest who are scattered through out the world. As our priest said the only way we can help them is through prayers and good deeds.
The rest of the letter is missing.
st. szereg. Sagan Feliks
Polish Forces No 348 M.p.
Yesterday I received your letter dated 22/10/45 for which I am very grateful. Don't be angry that I didn't reply by hand as I was busy with certain matters) that I did not receive my promise 2) the plea that I should not send money to you came too late because I had already sent £5 to you.
Anyway Reniu! I don't see anything wrong with it and I insist I am not doing it to gain your confidence but for clear and honest reasons. I understand your concerns but I don't believe it hurts anyone and would much rather send it with the aim to help my countrywoman then spend it here on trivia because there is nothing else here to buy......You must be bored with my letters because you advise me to bridle my affection and I don't understand why.
Every one of your letters is like a blessing .....and each word from you addressed to me is “dear”....
Although you don't wish me to write as I have in previous letters and please don't remind not to, as I feel an invisible urge which I can't withstand.......something tells me to “write this way” and so I did, not knowing that this causes you a sadness which at the moment I don't understand. So in your next letter explain to me the reason why you don't want me to send anything and so forth. Write everything and I will store it in my heart.
Reniu! Forgive that I am sending money with this letter, the serial W2/53 310298 and 310299, but I had already ordered them in your name and I don't want to waste them. And I had ordered several others before receiving your letter. As to jealousy – it is swimming in the sea. It isn't always worth it because firstly jealousy is a sin and secondly you easily drown.
About meeting up I believe that we will, if only God gives us health. As to how we speak to each other we will sort that out together.....
I'm ending now.
Thank you for sending greetings to me and my family and also for theirs to me.
Greetings to you, your little sister, and to all my nearest and dearest. But especially you may all your dreams come true.
I await your reply and a “merciful verdict” from my country woman.
Write more and more often.
Unknown date - not sure if this is in the right sequence
Private Paul Jaroszewicz
Polish Forces No 348
I write “dear” because really you become more dear to me. Renia, this will certainly surprise you and amuse you that someone, somewhere, unknown to you, is turning your head with his letters , and even you will think, that these are empty words without meaning, but I would like to be honest with you and not hide any more what I feel in my heart.
So Renia, from the first day that I received your letter I started to look at the world differently. In this letter, I read ten times more than you wrote and every word seems to me so sweet and I felt the contents of this letter comforts (?) me, because something in me is starting to live and from this I started thinking of some “Renia” often asking myself what will happen in the future with ?????? to get rid of negative
thoughts ??????? That is the way it is for me, more and more often it gives me no peace. And what I am writing now I believe is tactless on my side because in this situation which we find ourselves it does not help to think of other things...... In addition, at my age, to be in love with a young girl, but this last forgive me not saying these words to your face.....
???...Renia in this letter I am sending you £2 (W240379135 and 379136). Please don’t think badly of me and do not think that with this money I am gaining your sympathy.
I send my sincere regards to you, to Marysia and all my other friends. I wish you all the best.
Au revoir, always thinking of you.
I ask for a speedy reply.
North Rhodesia This day
Today I received your lovely letter and apart from the joy from this for which I am very grateful I need to reply and this has given me a little problem. Because apart from the great value of your written thoughts and feelings I also found an undreamed of (by me), £2. For the letter and also for the money, I sincerely thank you. But truly I don't know by what right I should receive them?
It is not for this reason I wrote “my dear Thomas” to gain my sympathy but be certain that I did not think that. Because I knew you from your letters and I know a little more about you from Marysia. Even when Marysia and I were still calling each other “Pani” , she would tell me how her brother-in-law had written about this or that, I felt a sympathy towards you and thought of you. Listening to her stories of you made me ask if I could write to you, and don't think that I thought to do so from selfish interests. Because after writing my first letter to the “Unknown Soldier” I thought it was a mistake and didn't know if I would receive a reply and what it would
Now I still don't know if I made an error to write to the worthy Jozef. I expect that having sent you my photo your beautiful dreams of the “some such Renia” will crumble. Those dreams you tried to get out of your head will have flown away. If it isn't as I have written then forgive me Jozef, I still can't say that I love you, but I do often think of you. What the near future may bring I don't know.
I am curious how long I can ask myself what is my...................
The next page is missing.
st. szereg. Lesiak Jozek
Polish Forces No 348
Your letter found me in good health for which may God be thanked. Also countless thanks for your likeness which I received with your letter. Don't make me cross that you wrote “Jozef” on the back of the photo, I like you for it. But it does make me very cross you think you are lacking in beauty.
When I look at the photo it is the opposite - I see a lot of advantages to you. Unless you are pulling a fast one and have sent me someone else's photo. But I would not expect this of you as up to now you have from your letters always been pleasant and honest.
If you are the one on the photo that I have just been so keenly observing then I don't want to exaggerate but this “type” - looking bravely ahead is one that I like and it does not surprise me that the tone of your letters is sound and that I have become immersed in what I read through your eyes.
Now I want to tell you that I have started to play at sztubeka, I am in the 6th General class. The work isn't too much but you know the discipline.........
Reniu! Thanking you for asking after my health and I am also asking about your health because you don't mention it in your letter but the photo says it all and it gladdens me that you and my sister-in-law look so well.
Now to other matters we are living in the same old way, talk is strong but certain things at the moment are nothing and we wait patiently for good things.
Reniu! Stop convincing yourself of bad things and stop thinking of a “black grey” future. I don't like you for this! Because who thinks ill of themselves has no time to think of the good points!! If I ever meet you, you will have to lose this listlessness once and for all........
I think of this often and long to meet you and now having received your photo it has re awoken my dreams.......Reniu with this letter I am sending a cheque serial W2/90 379163 when you receive it let me know.
Now Reniu on this occasion of the Holy Birth of our Lord I send you, your sister, Maria, my mother, Genia and all my acquaintances the best Christmas greetings and may God grant that next Christmas we spend all together in our Beloved Free Fatherland.
Finally once again I send everyone sincere greetings.
Once again I wish my Countrywoman health and happiness.
Doubly thinking of you
Once again I want to thank you for your photo.
szereg. Lesiak Jozef
Polish Forces No 348
I am writing “Dear” again, not knowing whether in your next letter you will give me a proper scolding, which I rightly deserve with regard to my hastiness with my “Countrywoman”. I cheer myself with the knowledge that I am dealing with an honest and true girl so the outcome will be fair.....
Now I would like to tell you and Marysia don't look at the name and don't write to me about ....“the main” subject matter....... Because the saying goes “it falls as it falls,may it be for the best” “give to understand” ......(written in English) Don't laugh at me that I have written a few words in English, but if it makes no difference to you whether it is in English or in Polish then write to me in English and with the help of a dictionary I will reply to you. It would be a good English lesson for me. Reniu in this letter I am sending 1 and a half pounds (serji W2/49 013375 and L1/71 481808) and please in the same way write the No of the cheques that you receive. So many times I have asked Marysia to write in this way but she never does so please tell Marysia.........
I am ending now because I am hurrying to go on duty.
I send you my sincerest greetings and also for your little sister, for Maria, for my mother, for Genia and for all my acquaintances.
I wish you lots of good things for you
Thinking of you
Write more often
Please if possible write soon
I received your letter of 28.10.45, today in which there was £1 1⁄2 . For the letter and for the money I sincerely thank you. I received your letter this afternoon and I am replying this evening.
Dear Joey! You know that however much I am grateful for your goodness I am nevertheless sad to be profiting from your kindness.
I ask myself by what right should someone send money to a some such unknown person? When he should keep it for himself! Joey think – this is extravagance. Only just recently, a couple of days ago, I received £2 , now again £1 1⁄2 how can this be? Not so surprising if you knew this some such “Renia” . But this I don't understand?
Did you not read in one of my letters the plea to rid yourself of the thought – to send money to me.
Don't be angry with me Joey for these sour words, because I of course don't want to annoy you!
Sincerely your letters are very dear to me with regard to your sincerity and unbounded trust.
Joey you write that you are angry with yourself that some unknown Renia stole your thoughts (although unintentionally) which fly to this unknown and return with complaints that you do not know her!!
It is a shame you did not believe me, my “doubting Thomas” and you imagined some beautiful Regina.
But if you knew me personally, you would definitely never think about me.
It cheers me greatly that despite everything, you have no grievance with me.
With regards to you being unable to come to us for a holiday,it is a shame, but maybe this will change in the future?
Only this calm before the storm does not bode well.
The rest of the letter is missing.
Private Joseph Lesiak
Polish Forces No 348
The letter from you dated 2/4/46 I received on 25/4/46 and on that day I received a ten day holiday. I wanted to make use of these few days ............... My request was accepted and I gladly ............
I decided to go to Bologna, 100 kilometres away from the camp and to make certain purchases and prepare some things for school. On the 25th April, the car in which we were riding met a catastrophe and we crashed into a bridge over a canal which was perhaps three metres deep (the car was travelling at 30 to 35 mph). In this catastrophe one of the people(?) was drowned and he died on the spot. The
rest of us were saved thanks be to God and we survived without being too badly injured. I had barbed wire sticking in me in several places and had bruises all over. I have been lying now for three days in this hospital. I feel reasonably well but I still have a temperature of 38 degrees. I don’t have too poor an appetite. At this moment I am sitting on the bed, writing this letter but my hands are just scribbling.
Petworth Camp 1
My dearest and most beloved Renia!
It is three weeks since our school was closed down and the time is coming to think of what tomorrow brings.
From the 6/4/48 I have lived at the new camp at Petworth which is beautifully placed in a woodland by a lake, and a bus station about a mile from the small town of Petworth. All in all the camp is pretty decent, but this month it will be closed down, there are food shortages but since we are not doing anything the
shortcomings are bearable.
Tomorrow we will be visited by representatives of the Ministry of Employment (English) to deploy us into work. I am going to try to avoid going into a job because once you become a civilian they stop the free train tickets and you don't get paid holidays.....??????NOT SURE about next bit
Now in relation to your travelling here it would be a big plus for me because I wouldn't have to pay for the journey. I don't know yet if I can sort something out .
And now Reniu a little about my feelings. At this moment I am sitting by a small pond in a beautiful woodland and my thoughts turn to my darling Renia (which actually happens 10 times a day). Today is very beautiful and the birds sing all around, Spring casts its spell on me but I don't have you here and so despite these lovely surroundings my thoughts search for you in far away Rhodesia.
You know Reniu I dreamt of you today - you were in my arms and I kissed you as you were mine, and we were happy - almost near “sin” and in this loving state your brother Jozef found us, I was overcome with a kind of shame and woke up. At first I looked for you by my side but there was just emptiness.......
I regretted that it was only a dream and not real..... Much later I still couldn't shake it off and thought to myself why have I never written to your brothers. Surely as we hope our dreams will come true so should they know about it. So that is why today Reniu I ask you to send me their addresses or let them know yourself of our plans because the time draws near for your arrival, so it would be good for them to know
about everything..... I will on my part, also write to them and ask for your hand......We just have the problem of what will we do if they don't agree?......But I leave that for you to sort out Reniu..... I believe in your spirit and your ability to secure their agreement....My greatest sorrow is this wait for your arrival.
There is nothing I can do to shorten this wait. The only ones who can do that are your brothers and I hope they do everything in their power to bring you here as soon as possible.
You might be wondering Reniu why I want so much for you to come as soon as possible? Because before while studying, I stayed apart from everyone and was indifferent to everything, now that we have changed camps and there are many women, children and families here I find myself longing for a family...... In addition there are many Polish women here who want to marry and I am afraid that something may take my eye......Till now I always escape somewhere on my own and dream only of you. Occasionally I will chat with the children because they seem to me to be sincere and nice.
Ah Reniu as soon as you arrive we will think about a little babykins. Isn't that true Reniu? Then we will have a joy and a purpose to our lives.....As to the aforementioned “Polish women” don't worry I don't intend to change my marital status but will wait for you......And now Reniu I want to remind you of this machine, Well as far as if it is a good machine and the cost to ship it is not much, and you would lose a lot if you left it, then bring it with you but if it is not too clever then leave it and we will buy a new one here. What is worth bringing to England is lard or any other fat (if it isn't costly there) but if you are overcharged then it is better to buy it here on the “black market”. It is also worth bringing cigarettes and
sugar (here for 20 good cigarettes 3 shillings and 6 pence, while on the black market it is 3 shillings).
Rings are also expensive here. The kind Marysia sent to Zosia here would cost about £15. How much would they cost where you are? If they are expensive then I will manage to obtain them here. Clothes here are reasonably cheap and we will get coupons so don't worry about that.
What else can I tell you Reniu? Well maybe one more time I should say that I love you with all my heart and soul and I wait for your arrival as for a blessing ??????????????tear away for ever the occasional depression.
So Reniu don't have any doubts about my intentions towards you and don't worry about my being “fussy.”.....
Now I must finish because you will be bored with reading. So give my greetings to the “little frog”, your brothers and all close relatives and friends. Accept greetings from my brother Staszek and 100 sweet warm kisses from me on your eyes, lips, nose and everywhere because surely if you feel as I do we are now entitled? .....
Stay well Reniu
(Please reply soon if possible) Send me your brother's address
Chapter 7: Happier Times – Weddings
Unfortunately I am not well enough to do all the chapters I wanted to do about life in England, Weddings and Happy Times.
Chapter 8: Happier Times – Christenings
Unfortunately I am not well enough to do all the chapters I wanted to do about life in England, Weddings and Happy Times.
Chapter 9: Joseph and Regina's Life Together
Chapter 10: General information
Chapter 11: Thanks
So many people have helped with this and I am very sorry if I do not mention everyone here.
Thank you to all the following:
- Marianna Majewska
- Zbigniew Ostrowski
- Frania Kozycz and her daughters
- Waleria Turowska
- Marysia Skirkowska
- Zbys Lesiak
- Bronia Michon
- Eddie Jarosz
- Jasia Zarembska and Jean Zarembska
And Peter Campbell who has spent hours sorting it and tidying it up
Thank you everyone and I hope it helps our children and our children's children understand their origins.