The Tomaszewski article states that by 1949 "Most of the Polish deportees have found their way to new countries, some as far away as New Zealand. But a few thousand remained in Africa".
During my research I have found a nominal roll with comments of Polish Refugees dated 28/4/1950 from Tengeru camp and Koja camp
There are about 2000 names which I have added to my website and can be viewed at: http://www.polishresettlementcampsintheuk.co.uk/dundalkbay.htm
----- Original Message ----
From: Stefan Wisniowski <stefan@...
Sent: Monday, 29 September, 2008 19:16:44
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] "Out of Poland, Siberia and Africa, war orphans share bond six decades later" Montreal Gazette article
This quotes our member, Siberia-born Irene Tomaszewski
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Out of Poland, Siberia and Africa, war orphans share bond six decades later
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
There's something oxymoronic about a refugee reunion.
The privations and uncertainty of statelessness usually aren't feelings that people look back on with fondness. Why would former refugees want to be reminded?
But for 123 Polish orphans who were brought to Canada in 1949, the refugee experience was unique. A couple dozen of them will be getting together to talk about it today at the Polish Canadian Welfare Institute on Bélanger St. The guest of honour is Jan Krolikowski, the Roman Catholic priest who accompanied the orphans on their journey from Africa and wrote a book, Stolen Childhood, about their wartime ordeal.
Montreal was the ultimate destination of an odyssey that had begun at the outbreak of the Second World War. The children's journey took them from eastern Poland to Siberia to British colonial Africa to Montreal.
It was a long trip. There will be many stories told at the reunion.
Irene Tomaszewski has heard some of them. A writer residing in Hudson, Tomaszewski was a university student doing research at the National Archives in Ottawa when she came across a reference that struck a chord:
"REFUGEES, Polish, African."
"Oh, my God," Tomaszewski thought, "that's my story."
She was born in 1940 to a Polish deportee living in a Soviet prison camp. Tomaszewski' s own path to Montreal included stops in Africa and England.
The back story:
In 1939, Poland was invaded from the west and the east by the Nazis and Soviets, respectively. In the eastern zone, the occupiers deported about 1.5 million Poles to distant outposts of Joseph Stalin's gulag prison system.
"The intention was a complete takeover of the country," Tomaszewski says of Soviet motives. "It was ethnic cleansing as a terror tool. It destabilizes the population and removes any leadership possibilities. "
When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, one of the conditions for Stalin joining the allies was the release of Polish prisoners.
"Which he did in Soviet style," Tomaszewski says. "They were free, but it was up to them to get out."
Some managed. General Wladyslaw Anders's army of deportees went to northern Africa to join British forces, and the commander insisted - over Soviet objections - on taking Polish women and children with him.
"They couldn't leave them in the Soviet Union to starve," Tomaszewski says. "Anders knew that if he abandoned the women and children, it would sabotage the morale of his troops."
While Anders's Polish army went on to distinguish itself in the Italian campaign, notably in the great battle for Monte Cassino, about 50,000 non-combatants were taken to refugee settlements in India, Iran and several of Britain's African colonies.
Don't confuse the Poles' situation with the wretched conditions that prevail in modern refugee camps, Tomaszewski cautions. Tanzania was not Darfur, and the Polish women and children enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy.
"They were living in thatched-roof houses with small European gardens around each one," Tomaszewski says. "There was self-sufficient farming.
"There were schools and a hospital. It was all run by women and financed by the Polish government in exile."
Fast-forward to 1949. Most of the Polish deportees have found their way to new countries, some as far away as New Zealand. But a few thousand remained in Africa.
"The problem was no one wants dependents," Tomaszewski says. "If you're going to take in refugees, you want big, strapping men who are going to work in the mines or the forests."
Warsaw tried to repatriate refugees, but Poland had become part of the Soviet bloc, and unless they had family in the old country, most did not want to go back.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops in Canada lobbied Ottawa on behalf of orphaned Polish children. Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau personally guaranteed a group of orphans would be welcomed and cared for in Mont-real. Accompanied by Krolikow-ski, the group of 123 set sail through the Suez Canal to Italy and then on to Canada.
"The group was separated - some sent to convents, some sent off to work," Tomaszewski says.
Andrzej Jarosz worked at Northern Electric with an engineer who had been an orphan émigré. The former refugee told harrowing stories of his early childhood in the Soviet gulag, including the experience of waking up to find his mother frozen to death beside him.
"He came to my home when my mother visited from Poland," Jarosz recalls, "and he kept hugging her and calling her 'Mama'. It was sad and kind of embarrassing.
"He'd been through a lot."
Tomaszewski met an orphan who was 16 when he arrived in Montreal with the Polish contingent.
"Whatever hopes and dreams he had," she says, "he was packed off to a farm to work, all by himself, living in the barn."
But there were success stories - an enduring esprit de corps.
"The orphans kept in touch," Tomaszewski says. "Some married within the group. They reconstituted families, and that's how they talk about one another."
Today's gathering will be like a family celebration. There will be a few tears, many laughs.
"It's not often refugees have reunions," Tomaszewski says. "This an exception. When they get together they use expressions such as 'this experience brought back our childhood' or 'it restored our faith in humanity.'
"The orphans were cared for by women who knew exactly what the children had gone through. The educational ethos among the refugees was restoration of the emotional health of the children - that their tragedy was not normal and they didn't deserve what had happened to them.
"The children were taught they were important and had very important things to do someday."
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008
Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.
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