Unable To Return To Poland
Trying to understand what us Polish soldiers went through is very hard for anyone without a direct family connection to one. It would be easy to assume that a soldier goes to war, carries out his duties and then returns to his homeland.
This was not the case for very many polish soldiers who ended up in Britain circa 1940-1944.
The Poland I Left Behind
The Poland I knew was a warm and friendly one, a place where families and religion were at the heart of the community. The country my parents generation had fought to win back from squatter super powers was a place where I knew freedom and where we Polish people felt we had earned a place in the world community.
So you ask why I did not return back to Poland, back to Stanislawa my wife, back to Lucyna my daughter and Zdzislaw my son along with my extended family of brother, sisters and parents.
Why did I not return back to the Poland that I had fought for, the place of lasting memories of freedom and friendliness?
The Family I Left Behind
You know, I was not alone in making this decision, many if not most of the Poles evacuated through Persia in 1942-1945 would ever see their beloved homeland again.
These are the loved ones I left behind:
- Stanislawa Hostik (Wife)
- Zdzislaw Gostik (Son)
- Lucyna Hostik (Daughter)
- LucJan Hostik (Brother)
- Stanislawa Hostik (Sister)
- Stefania Hostik (Sister)
- Alexandra Hostik (Sister)
- Irena Hostik (Sister)
- Regina Hostik (Sister)
Firstly, I will speak about the politics. My country of Poland had its fate sealed in Tehran in 1943. In November of that year, the leaders of Russia, Britain and the USA met in Iran (or Persia as it was called back then) to decide the future of post-war Europe.
In their secret discussions, it was decided that Poland would remain under the influence of the Soviet Union. It would cease to be independent with the eastern part (where we Poles were originally expelled from) and would be come part of Russia.
To me as a soldier, I felt betrayed, you know 48,000 Polish soldiers gave their lives fighting for the freedom of Britain, fighting against the Germans on behalf of the Russians and here we were, betrayed by the very governments that we had fought for.
As if that was not bad enough, what happened at Yalta in 1945 compounded this situation.
At Yalta, the USA and Britain agreed that a post-war Poland should be allowed to remain in a "Soviet sphere of influence". Everything we had fought for was in vain, we had been sold out. Our victory was a hollow one, it meant nothing.
Although we Polish men wanted to throw down our weapons in disgust, we had better honour than that and so my fellow soldiers who were still active in the army remained so and remained serving the country that had offered us a solution to escape Stalin.
To go back to Poland, back to a country governed by Stalin, was like going from the frying pan straight into hell, why would we do it? We knew those sly Russians, they would seek us Polish soldiers out and ensure that we either quietly dis-appeared never to be seen again or they would make our lives very difficult.
Yes, there were repatriation boats organised from the UK to Poland, some indeed did go back and I heard that some suffered at the hands to the Russians, even the odd execution of a Polish soldier. I could not face that.
Although I had only been away from Poland for about 5 -6 years, the experiences I had, the things I saw, they affected me. I suffered mentally with nightmares, seeing people die, being blown up and shot. War is a horrible thing and it did horrible things to my mind, I was not who I used to be.
Britain Becomes My Home
In another section I will tell you about a lady called Mae Pinney that I met and fell in love with and had a family with.
This was one of a number of events that made Britain become my home, I had a house to live in, 3 children, a business to run and my return to Poland suddenly was not a question at all. I loved Britain, I loved my family (both of them) and Poland too, but I just could not go back, it would be a lasting legacy that would haunt Zdzislaw and would break Stanislawa's heart.
Ultimately I know I was selfish and took the easy way out, the one that worked for me and for this it will be not me that pays the price but my family and my descendants. At this point I was an ex-soldier, tired from the war, I just wanted love, a home and my natural desires made this happen in the UK.
For this I ask my descendants to forgive me, try to understand my life, the things I went through and how it affected me.
Some of my Polish army friends did go back in due course, but they wrote to me and told me that to come back to Poland would be a dangerous thing, they could see the way things were going and I was told to "stay put" in Britain.
It turns out my friends were right because by 1949 the country was under the full control of the Polish Communist Party (which really was a puppet government controlled by Stalin in Russia).
You will remember how outspoken I was against Bolshevism? Well there was no way I could have a meaningful life in Communist Poland, itself just a variation of this.
Britain Becomes Less Hospitable
The decision to stay in Britain was not a light one, especially as the attitude towards us poles changed around about 1945.
When the war was won in 1945, everyone in the UK thought us Poles would "go home" and not "overstay" our welcome.
As far as jobs were concerned, it was felt that we Poles had taken the jobs belonging to the returning demobbed servicemen and that we should now forego these jobs.
This was made far worse by anti-Polish propaganda resulting in some people in Britain believing that Stalin was not so bad a dictator after all. This made our accounts of the invasion and life in the Gulags hard to believe and consequently we did not receive the sympathy we should have.
Also, when the British servicemen returned there was resentment from them because whilst they had been abroad we Poles had been attending to their womenfolk. Well, they were so pretty after all!
Post war politics coupled with pre-war and wartime knowledge of Russia's desire to wipe our country out put us fear for our lives, it was not safe to return to Poland, we lived in fear of being killed.
So we adapted, we took British wives, had children with them. We never forgot our loved ones back home, but it was impossible for us to even contemplate returning.
When you see how many of us stayed in Britian and took new wives, you can start to understand that it was not our personal choice to desert our families, we loved them. But time, distance and politics changed everything.
By the time circumstances in the world changed enough for us to contemplate going back to Poland, we had such strong roots in Britain and had lost that important connection with family and country.
Our continued stay in the UK as inevitable. Stalin succeeded in banishing us from our own country, just not the way he had originally planned.
But it was not Stalin who executed the plan, in the end it was Roosevelt from the USA and Churchill from Britain (Our alleged saviour from Soviet hell) that crystallised our expulsion.