Freed: Archangel To Lugovoye
The Morning Of The "Amnesty" Announcement
One morning (12 August 1941), a Russian officer came into our hut. There was something different about his walk today, my curiosity was aroused.
We were ordered to stand up, he then began to pace the room and tell us that the Germans had invaded Russia. You know, even though I hated the Germans, I hated the Russians more and so to know that the Germans had invaded made my heart flutter a little.
He told us that we had been freed, we were no longer captives of Russia. A man called General Anders was forming a Polish Army in Exile who would fight with the Red Army against the Germans. Well, hadn't things taken a turn I thought!
Apparently, Russia saw au as "free soldiers" to help them defeat the Germans. It was an insult to us, after all we had been imprisoned for nothing other than being Polish.
Now we were to help our captures fight their oppressors, the very oppressors we had been fighting when the Russians captured us and sent us to the Gulags. I remember thinking that their so called "amnesty" was every bit as fake as the arrest charges that had brought us all here.
We were told, encouraged even, to join this army. The officer then left the hut.
Wild conversation then broke out, some men wanting to fight the Germans, some saying they would never help Russia, others remarking that either way we were free men again.
I could not sleep! Would we be able to defeat the Germans? Would we be able to return to Poland? Were my family still alive and would normal life with the family resume?
None of us slept, we were free men and yet we had nowhere to go to so we slept freemen in a hut that just the night before had held us as captives.
In the early hours of the morning men began to talk, to discuss their thoughts, to lay plans. Jubilation broke forth, we talked excitedly, we sang old Polish songs, if only there was some Vodka to drink!
We got up, put our arms round each other and sang, laughed, cried all the time dancing. No-one cared how they danced, how stupid they looked, we were drunk on jubiliation alone!
Then, eventually, reality and sadness set in. We needed to know more about this new Polish Army, who was this man Anders? We asked each other, but no-one knew. One man said he was not sure but he thought Anders had at one time fought for the Russians.
This confused me even more, how could a man who fought for the Russians lead a Polish Army of strong devout Polish men fanatical about their homeland. It made no sense at all. But we continued to hope.
The next morning at breakfast we were told that recruiting stations had been setup in Totskeye and Buzuluk, we were to make our own way there although we would be given some rations and train passes for some of the journey.
The rations arrived, not all men got them but between ourselves we shared the food and supported our fellow countrymen.
Getting Ready To Leave
This amnesty meant the end of repression of all Polish people in Siberia. We were free to go. All I have to do now is wait for my release documents to come through. (Editors note : sample document to be added here soon).
Well at this point I had only served 15 months of my 8 year sentence, the release was very welcome but my heart felt heavy, yet more fighting and more struggle ahead.
At the same time I wondered about Stanislawa my wife. Where was she? Was she alive? And my children, how were they?
How I longed to be back with them but I had to put these thoughts to the back of my mind for now I had to journey south to an important railway junction in Lugovoya in Kazakhstan to signup for Anders army.
The Journey From Archangelsk (Siberia) To Lugovoya (Kazakhstan) - 1500 Miles
Section still to be written.
In Lugovaya it was cold, very cold! Temperatures dropped to -43C and we were expected to train. Rations were poor, we were constantly hungry. At Lugovaya there was stationed "Battalion S". They specialised in parachuting and commando work. This really inspired me and was to lead to me training as a parachutist.