Bolek and Bogdan

Bolek and his Mother

It was in February 1940, I was 8 years old and I remember how Russian soldiers came and took my mother Anna, father Włodzimierz, my  younger brother Bogdan and me  from our home in Kajszówka nr. Nowogródek and deported us to the depths of Siberia. With many other families we were crammed into cattle trucks and taken by rail  more than a thousand miles north, to the area near Archangel known as 'Oblast Archangielska'. I remember a large lake somewhere, I think, north east of Archangel. We had no possessions, as every thing was left behind, we were cold and hungry.


In 1941,when Germany attacked Russia, Gen. Sikorski  reached an agreement with Stalin to release the Poles deported into Russia, and  General Anders  recruted all able bodied men and women into the army creating the Polish II Corpus. Recruitment centres were set up for those that wanted to join the army and leave Russia. In the middle of winter, February 1942, we set out in a horse drawn sleigh, our family together with a Russian man. On the way wolves were attacking us but both my father and the Russian had rifles and we managed to reach Archangel safely. From there we made our way south by rail, I think to somewhere near Moscow, where my father put us all on a different train to take us further south The train was packed with Poles all wanting to leave Russia. Conditions were terrible, starvation and disease were rife and many people lost their lives, including my younger brother Bogdan.


I can't remember the journey in detail but know we ended up in Uzbekistan where my father, and hundreds of able bodied men and women  joined the newly formed Polish Army. The rest of the journey was made without my father. With other Polish people mainly women , children and the elderly we were sent to Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea and  sailed to the port of Pahlavi in Persia (now Iran).


We now travelled  in lorries through mountainous terrain to some sort of large building in Teheran, which had both Polish and English army personnel. There was an airport nearby, where you could see military planes landing and taking off all the time. During our time in Persia, my little sister who was only a few months old and due to malnutrition had no resistance to illness, sadly died. Now there was just mother and me and we did not know were father was.


From Teheran we travelled to Karachi, a very long journey, and then by boat (the Orion) to Bombay. Here we stayed for some time to rest and then, as India was not accepting any more refugees we sailed on to Mombassa  Tanganyika in Africa and on to Dar-es-Salaam. After a few days our journey continued, now in lorries, and we eventually arrived at the camp of Kidugala. The nearest town was called Njombe at the northern end of lake Malawi. In 1947 we moved to another camp called Ifunda, I was now nearly 16, but our travels had not yet ended. In 1948, with many other Polish D.Ps., we left Ifunda Camp for the port of Mombassa on our way to England where we would be reunited with my father whom we had not seen  since 1942 when he joined the Polish Army to fight for our freedom as part of the Allied forces.




As the train wound its way we looked through the windows and could see African wild animals on the plains and grasslands, which I can remember to this day. From the train I said a silent farewell to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, which was visible in the far distance. In one way, I was happy to be leaving Africa, but in another I was sad as so much of my growing up, the years of my adolescence, had been spent here. I was 11 when we arrived in Africa and now I was almost grown up at 17.


A native band

Unknown Priest and Friends in Africa

 Christmas in the camp Kidugala

Bolek and friend


Our ship, the Carnarvon Castle, had been used to transport army personnel and was fitted out accordingly. We set off for England and I had only been on board for a few hours when I had an attack of malaria. It felt like Africa did not want to let me go. I did not tell anyone as they would not have allowed me to travel. Once the ship had left port I went to find the doctor who was in the ship's bowels in a superbly fitted surgery. He examined me, gave me some tablets and made sure I was put to bed. In a white bed, lying on a soft mattress with nurses tending me - I felt like a king. I was the only one in the sick bay and made the most of being so well looked after. In a few days, my temperature dropped and I was told, much to my disappointment, that I was well enough to go back to the communal boys' quarters. I was given a bunk with blanket and pillow, no more special care and treatment from the nurses. It was extremely hot in the makeshift dormitory and we therefore spent much of our time on deck at the top of the ship in the open air. We were all youngsters, not used to being cooped up and none of us were angels so we ran all over the place and found some small firearms and rifles. These were covered up with tarpaulins and as soon as it was noticed that we were 'investigating' a serving officer really told us off and even threatened to place us under guard if he caught us again. The women and girls were in separate quarters, and there were cabins for 2 and 4 people and those who were lucky enough to get a cabin went to a different canteen with waiter service. However those in dormitories went to the main self-service canteen. The food was reasonable and plentiful and quite different to what we had in Africa. During the voyage we had concerts staged by our young people and sometimes by the sailors. We also had dances but our lovely girls stopped being interested in us young men and boys as the sailors in uniform were much more interesting and exciting. Outside, on the top deck, games and sport was organised and although there was a swimming pool, it was out of bounds to us. Only the ship's personnel had the use of it which was a shame.


I can't remember exactly how long the sea voyage took but I think it was about 2 weeks. The ship made its way towards the Gulf of Aden where it stopped to take on some cargo. We then sailed into the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal. We had to wait our turn to continue our way through the Suez Canal. At Port Said the ship docked and we were allowed to disembark for a few hours. We then sailed on through the Mediterranean Sea and through the Straits of Gibraltar and then, with Gibraltar on one side and Africa on the other, the ship stopped and dropped anchor, I don't know why. With tears in my eyes I looked at the African coast for the last time and said goodbye. We then sailed into the Atlantic Ocean towards the shores of England and whatever faced us there. We disembarked on the 5th of May 1948 in Southampton  - it was very very cold. We were clothed in light summery clothes and really missed the hot African sunshine.


From Southampton we were taken to Daglingworth, a military camp near Cirencester. After a few days we were re-united with my father whom we had not seen for about 6 years. The last time I had seen him, I had been just a scamp of a boy and now I was the same height, but a lot thinner. From Daglingworth, my parents and I went to Wheaton Aston near Stafford and then to Foxley in Herefordshire. This was where my father was based and where he was working closing down the Polish army transport units. It was here that I learnt to drive, in army vehicles called 15's. I drove these to various army units to do film shows. I lived in Foxley for a number of years before moving to Leicester.


Foxley camp dance group

Some of the names I remember:- Halinka, Zosia, Krysia Sławek and Ernest

Slawek Regini, Bolek Turowicz unknown and Ernest Myk in Foxley camp


If you have a story please contact  zosia




Life in a typical Polish DP Camp Northwick Park

in Gloucestershire

List and Information

on other family CAMPS


Polish Boarding Schools

Ships' Names and passenger lists

of  Polish DPs from Africa and Europe.

List of Polish Resettlement Corps Camps


Messageboard and  

Guest book