The 10th February 1940 saw the first wave of four mass deportations of Poles settled in Eastern Poland to the far reaches of Siberian Russia. This was a well established Soviet method of dealing with ethnic groups seen as potentially troublesome to the regime. Polish nationals were seen as ‘enemies of the people’ simply because they had a distinct national identity. Stalin’s answer was to murder the officer class in the forests of Katyn and elsewhere, and the wholesale resettlement of tens of thousands of Poles:
At two o’clock in the morning of 10 February 1940 my mother’s crying in the kitchen woke me up. I got up to see what was happening and, on opening the door, was grabbed by four men with rifles: two in NKVD uniforms, and two civilians with red bands round their sleeves. They searched me to ensure I wasn’t carrying arms, then allowed me to return to the bedroom, as they told us to pack our belongings for departure to the railway station in Klewan. Because he’d gone to see my mother’s family in Nowa Ziemia, about 25 kms from the osada, my father was not at home at the time. Mother told me to go and find father and I escaped through a window. The NKVD and Ukrainians heard nothing of my escape from the home, in which remained my mother, two sisters and a brother…
Osada Rokitnianka, District Równe
When my parents came from town bringing things belonging to me and my sister with them, daddy said that the increased police activity could only augur bad news. Sure enough within hours there came a knock on the door. The first part of a roll-call check of the inhabilitants of each house which came as an order from the Supreme Soviet demanding our removal and that we were to pack all our possessions. The order was signed by ‘The National Commissar of the Western Ukraine â Nikita Khrushchev’.
Osada Batorówka, District Horochów
Come the dawn we were taken to the station in Rozyszcze, where cattle wagons awaited us. Inside, along both walls, were two rows of wooden bunks, one on top of the other; in the centre was an iron stove for heating; and in one corner there was a hole with a seat – the toilet – which we screened off with a blanket. The long journey in those wagons proved to be a nightmare. From time to time we were given some hot soup. The children slept on the top bunks and I recall one night we were wakened by our younger sister Ira calling out that she couldn’t lift up her head. What had happened was that her thick, long hair, had frozen to the wagon’s metal walls. After five weeks’ journey we were ordered to disembark at Kotlas near Archangel where sledges again awaited us. Now for a further two days we were transported along the frozen River Vychegda in the incredible cold, indeed so cold, that some infants froze to death.
Osada Karczówka, District Luck