Lives Remembered:
Deportations of Poles to Siberia and Kazakhstan 1939-1942

Report by Lieutenant Colonel K. Jamczyk,
the Army of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939)

Editor's note: This report is one of the many documents preserved in the Archives of the Hoover Institution in the files of "Poland-Ambasada USSR" (ours comes from Box #15) which deal with Poles deported to the USSR in 1939-1941, after the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939. It has been stated by eyewitnesses that NKVD officers who appeared at the doors of Polish homes in 1939 and 1940 were in possession of the lists of people to be deported. They presumably obtained these lists from the communist party members and communist sympathizers in Poland.

The deported individuals, whose total number is estimated at 1.5 million, became slave laborers in Siberia or Kazakhstan. Their families were also deported, but in different shipments and in such a way as to prevent contacts between family members. Over the years, we have published in the Sarmatian Review a number of translated statements, letters, and other documents written by both victims and their executioners.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviets decided to use the surviving Poles to fight the Nazis (whom the Poles, too, were eager to defeat). They allowed the Polish Government-in-Exile to set up recruitment offices throughout the eastern Soviet Union, and they urged Poles to enlist.

We thank the Hoover Archives for permission to translate and reproduce the document.

On 20 March 1942, Mr. Kazimierz Kret, son of Zygmunt Kret, came to the Polish Recruiting Office in Chelyabinsk.(1) He was 36 years of age and a married Catholic, a forester by profession. Before the Soviet invasion, he worked as a forester in the Nowogrdek voivodship, in the village of Switez.(2) He reported that he was elected spokesman for the Polish families deported in railway carriage #421174.(3) The carriage contained 30 persons en route from the Arkhangelsk area to Chelyabinsk. In that group was a farmer, by the name of Jan Zygadlo, son of Wawrzyniec and Maria Zygadlo, born in 1901 in Zapust, Dubno county, Volhynia voivodship. He fell ill in the vicinity of Novosibirsk(4) and died in the railway carriage on 18 March 1942, near the Kargan station. His body remained in the carriage until the train reached Chelyabinsk. We then took the body out and laid it on the railway tracks near the carriage.(5)

The following documents were found on the deceased:

1. contract for land lease (#1409) in the Switez area, prepared by Lucjan Sawicki, Notary Public in the city of Dubno

2. copy of a real estate mortgage #15495.3

3. statement by the governor of Volhynia issued on 12 April 1938 concerning a matter identified as M.R.H. IV/15/120

4. statement # M1641 from the Land Bank dated 9 May 1927 and signed by B. Poltawski

5. second copy of contract #3344 for the year 1924, prepared by Notary Public Ignacy Rzazewski in the town of Luck

6. copy of a real estate mortgage #15495

7. military ID issued to Jan Zygadlo

8. certificate of appearance before the Land Committee in Dubno

9. Jan Zygadlo's birth certificate

10. family reminiscences of Wawrzyniec Zygadlo

11. Jan Zygadlo's school diploma

12. Bronislawa Zygadlo's birth certificate

13. Boleslaw Zygadlo's birth certificate

14. Jan Zygadlo's Polish passport

15. five school certificates issued to Wladyslaw, Bronislawa, and Boleslaw Zygadlo

Signed K. Jamczyk and K. Kret


1 A city in the Urals.

2 Known from Adam Mickiewicz's romantic ballads "Switez" and "Switezianka."

3 The train had many such carriages, and it was one of the many trains carrying the deportees. However, the deportees were not entitled to information about their destination. To identify their whereabouts, the writer memorized the number painted on the railway carriage.  

4 Novosibirsk lies east of Chelyabinsk, and it is unclear whether the route included it, or whether the writer had in mind some small town by the same name.

5 Readers might wonder why the body was left on the tracks. Russian soldiers would not allow the deportees to leave the railway carriages or step out on the platform. The best they could do for the body was to leave it close to the carriage, which meant the railway tracks.

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