Memories from Deportation to Kazakhstan - Life in Kazakhian Village - Part II

by Stefania Borstowa (her photographs included)

Stefania Bortowa with her two children and Marysia, the maid, were deported from Eastern Poland to Kazakhstan. The first part of the memories was presented in the January edition of Polish-American Journal, please check it out Memories from Deportation to Kazakhstan - Travel to Kazakhstan - Part I . Here is a second part of her memoirs. Check also the third part: Memories from Deportation to Kazakhstan - Banya.

The route of our journey led through Stanislavov, Vinnica, Poltava, Charkov, Tula, Ufa, Chelabinsk, Lubiaza. We left the train on April 19, 1940 in Lubiaza. We spent a night on the railway platform searching for the luggage and some food, in the rain. The next day we were loaded into the trucks and distributed around Kazakhstan. Two tracks loaded with luggage and thirty people stopped in a village Krutoyark about 120 km from Lubiaza. Rain again, small streets, a square. In the morning the villagers came to see us. They were touching our coats, cloths and shoes. They wondered about everything. It was like a real comedy.

The representative of the kolkhoz (kolkhoz is a Soviet type of collective farming) came in and ordered the residents to take us to their houses. The old fisherman with a long beard liked Jedrek, my son and he took us to his house. The old fisherman's house was a large wooden house, with a kitchen, with one large room, with three windows and with a real floor (many houses did not really have a floor) made of wooden boards. A calf was kept in the kitchen and also the chickens were kept there under the bench. A big oven took over a half of the kitchen. The oven served for cooking of the variety of foods. The most popular food there were so called lepyoshki (lepyoushki is a type of bread made of flour, yeast and water). The oven was also used as a bed for sleeping. The room was very nice and very clean. The huge bed had a pile of pillows, two big chests next to the wall, one table, two chairs. At the windows there were curtains and many flowers. This was a house of the richest man in the village.

Olga, his wife, was not a good person, but she was very obedient to her husband. She gave us the room but took away all the pillows. She left only the straw mattress. She fed us and gave us the sage tea. After we unpacked the suitcases we went to see the rest of our group. We realized also, that we lost the suitcase with all the clothes of my husband (Soviets soldiers specifically asked me to take my husband's clothes). The big box with medicines was also lost.

Generally, the houses were not in bad shape. In Krutoyarka there were twenty wooden houses, built before the October Revolution and about 30 mud houses (earth houses). A wooden school building was situated in the middle of the village. It had large rooms for five classes and a teacher's room. There was a big square in the village with granaries and a small store. But there was no civilization there. There were beautiful old icons in every house. The icons were mainly of the Madonna and St.George (Yurij). They were kept in the corners of the rooms and in the kitchen. Before leaving the house, the residents always made the sign of cross and bowed in front of the icons.

After a couple of days all adults were ordered to work in the kolkhoz. This was a time of plowing and then the haymaking. The establishment of the kolkhoz was very upset that we - Poles after a long argument won a right not to work on Sundays nor during the holidays.

It was difficult to buy anything for money. We had to exchange some of our cloths to buy some bedsheets. In the beginning almost all newcomers were living a comfortable life. Many Poles were buying all the food they could, even sour cream, butter or ice-cream. We were one of the few who decided to live frugally since the beginning and this was a good decision. In May we asked for a plot of yard to grow potatoes. We received a hundred square meters of a very hard soil. I and Marysia had to cut the soil with a knife and ax before we were able to loosen it. To buy potatoes we had to walk with a wheelbarrow to a village 30 km away. People in nearby villages did not even know what potatoes were.

After doing so much hard soil-digging work I got an infection in my hand, eventually it evolved in the strep-like acute infection (erysipelas). I had a high fever and a huge edema under my armpit. Marysia had to cut it, it looked terrible but it healed eventually. Just when I started feeling better my daughter Tereska got sick. She had a high fever. First I thought that this was the flu but when I was combing her hair I realized that she had hard nodules all over her head. We called the doctor but he said that he could not come earlier than in two days. I was in despair feeling the hopelessness of this situation. When I was coming back home after seeing the doctor I began crying. Then my crying changed into an attack of hysteria. I sat on the grass sobbing loudly. Suddenly I remembered the words of mother Zakrzewska "you should not cry when something does not go according to your will. The cry weakens our will and feelings. We should trust in God and Holy Mary. They would never abandon you, they would always help". This was my last cry during our stay in Kazakhstan...

A doctor came in two days. The children were just eating breakfast - cocoa milk with sugar and bread with marmalade. The doctor stated that the food is too fattening and this was the cause of the hard nodules on the head. He was wrong of course. The tick's eggs were under the head skin of Tereska. I spent three days to remove it. I had to do it with the razor blade, I did not have any disinfectants but we avoided any further infections. This doctor studied medicine for six months and was responsible for the hospital with 30 beds. He had just two nurses to help. In June 1940 our host-fisherman went to visit his daughter to the village 60 km distant. After a couple of days we learned that he died on the way. His wife went ballistic. After we came back home with four buckets of wild strawberries picked up in the forest we saw our belongings thrown outside of the home. We were homeless again

The story is continued. Here is the next part: Memories from Deportation to Kazakhstan - Banya.

Translated by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn

Copyrights Baba Jaga Corner
February and March 2007

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This article was published in the complete paper edition of Polish-American Journal, you may subscribe to it here
Polish History and World War II - selection of articles
Among them Images of War - Graphics of Poland's WW II Suffering and World War II in Poland, its Impact on Everyday Life; Personal Perspective

Below are links to interesting literature about Poles deported to Russia, Siberia, Kazakstan etc. Some fragments are available in Amazon to read (click the link)

When God Looked the Other Way: An Odyssey of War, Exile, and Redemption (Paperback) by Wesley Adamczyk

The Brief Sun (Paperback), by Robert Ambros - A passionate account of the resilience of man and compromises that left Poland at the mercy of the Soviets.

Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944 (Paperback)

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Poland & Poles in World War II - Books' Selection

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