Witaj Elzuniu ;
agreed, perhaps at least could have called her Pani/Panna "Lukomska"
Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2010 15:42:57 +0100
Subject: RE: [Kresy-Siberia] 10 FEB 1940
I wonder why the writer keeps calling her “Lukomski” instead of using her Christian name, Danuta or Donna. It sounds so impersonal in an otherwise very personal and emotional well-written article.
Elzunia Gradosielska Olsson
Names: Maczka. Gradosielski.
Kresy: Osada Krechowiecka. Wilno.
Siberia: Monastyriok. Siewzeldorlag, Komi.
Army: Pestki 316 Transport. Sappers 5KDP.
] On Behalf Of Lucyna Artymiuk
Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2010 11:26 AM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] 10 FEB 1940
REGINA — The train stops.
Nine-year-old Danuta Izbicki hops out of a packed car full of Polish
refugees bound for Iran via Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea.
She scrambles into the cold with a starving throng of passengers collecting
firewood and snow to make drinking water. If they're lucky, they might even
be offered food from poor farmers in the area.
But they don't have much time. At any moment, the train can leave without
warning. In fact, the Russian conductor hopes to leave some passengers
behind at every stop.
"They just want us to die somehow — before we leave Russia," says Donna
Lukomski (nee Danuta Izbicki), recounting her childhood escape from a
Russian work camp during the Second World War.
Hunger overrules common sense and drives her farther away from the train
where locals hand out pita bread. Her moment of satiation is stolen by the
dreaded sound of coupling rods as the locomotive begins to move — her family
"Everybody is just running from the field to the train ... the last cabin is
open and all the soldiers are standing there," she says, referring to the
men in green uniforms standing above her flailing arms.
"Please help me! Pick me up!" she yells at the Russian soldiers, who return
her desperate plea with laughter and saliva.
"Oh my God! The train is moving," she says, wondering what to do.
She sees the steps on the conductor's cabin, reaches out for the railing and
somehow climbs aboard.
"I made it," she recalls.
But this wasn't the end of the horror.
For hours, Lukomski, stood in the bitter cold, her hands latched onto the
cold metal railing, watching the Ural Mountains pass by.
The train finally stopped.
"I couldn't move, I was frozen" she says. "I threw myself on the ground and
my mother and sisters brought me into the cabin and started rubbing my limbs
with snow ... They saved me."
Lukomski suffered for years with swollen limbs as a result of that escape in
1941 — one of many trials she and her family endured in their 10 years as
"I don't know how I survived," says Lukomski, 77, who finally found her home
Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of her deportation from Poland to a
work camp in Arkhangelsk, Russia, almost 1,000 km north of Moscow on the
banks of the White Sea.
Her refugee life began when she was seven years old and living in what was
then called the Polesie region of Poland (the Polish population was
decimated and the area became incorporated into the former Soviet Republics
of Belarus and Ukraine).
"We were living on a huge acreage of land — very happy, very comfortable,"
says Lukomski recalling early childhood memories with her mother, father and
Then, on Feb. 10 at 4 a.m., the Russian soldiers arrived at Lukomski's door.
"They knocked on the door, came in and said, `We have to move you from your
home to another place,'" says Lukomski remembering the cold -40° morning
that marked the end of her childhood.
"My mother started screaming, `What did we do? Why do we have to move? My
kids are so small!' " she recalls.
"They told my father, `You stay in the corner of the house. If you move,
we're going to shoot you ... You have one hour to pack. Take mostly food and
warm clothes, otherwise you're going to die like a dog.' "
The family packed up their valuables and was taken to the train station at
Pinsk, near the Russian border.
Lukomski's family was the first of four different Polish groups deported,
equalling a total of two million people.
"I was on the first transport in winter ... It was the worst," says
Lukomski, recalling the "cow trains" that became their home for the
five-week train journey to Arkhangelsk, in northern Russia.
"They threw us on the wagon (train) where there were lots of people in it
already — Jews, Ukrainians and everybody," she says. "Our whole family sat
on the ground and we were all scared."
Train cars consisted of planks where people slept, a wooden stove for
heating and a "big hole" on the side of the cold, metal wall, where people
could go to the washroom.
Their diet was hot water and soup made of fish and cow heads.
"The conditions in the wagon were unbelievable ... the odour, the smell,
people sick, throwing up ... that was how we travelled for five weeks."
When they finally arrived in Arhangelsk, they were taken to the work camp,
where they were told they would "earn food by working for the Russian
Her family's home for the next two years was a big building that was shared
with 400 to 500 other people.
"It was packed and everyone slept on planks, just like on the train. I got
so scared because people were dying and nobody would pick up," says
Lukomski, referring to the dead bodies strewn throughout her living
But Lukomski's family was intact and surviving life in the camp. Then
something terrible happened.
One night, at a regular meeting held by the refugees, her father made a big
mistake: He spoke out against Joseph Stalin, general secretary of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was reported immediately and
imprisoned. Within weeks, he died of starvation.
"I've never seen my father since," she says. "We didn't know how we were
going to manage without (him)."
Then in 1941, as a result of political forces (the Soviets decided they
needed Poland's help to fight against Germany), Lukomski got her chance to
Lukomski's mother was working in construction when her foreman said,
`Stella, you know you're free, you don't have to work any more — there is a
Polish army forming here,'" recalls Lukomski, referring to the Polish men
who were being conscripted from the work camps.
The Lukomskis grabbed the opportunity and made haste in the night to the
train station on the foreman's sleigh.
"Russian soldiers were walking back and forth," as they tried to decide
which train they should board, recalls Lukomski. "We didn't know where we
were going to go. Maybe we were just going to go to another place (work
Then, with the help of Polish General Wladyslaw Anders, they boarded a train
that would take them to Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea. From there they
would take a boat to a refugee camp for 900 Poles in Pahlevi, Iran.
It was during that train trip that Lukomski was almost left behind and
sustained swollen limbs.
In Iran, Lukomski stayed in one of 1,000 Red Cross tents on the beach, where
she witnessed many more deaths.
"I remember walking with my mother and stepping between dead people laying
on the sand," she recalls. "They put their names in a bottle and buried them
in the shore so there would be no epidemia."
After that, they stayed six months in Tehran. There, Lukomski's mom survived
a near-fatal sickness while working in a Red Cross kitchen.
"All we did was pray, `God, please don't take her. Don't take our mother
away. What are we going to do by ourselves?'"
From Iran, her family boarded another boat bound for a refugee camp near
Mumbai, India, via Karachi, Pakistan.
Tragically, her baby sister died of food poisoning just as the ship was
"On the steps of freedom, we lost her," recalls a teary-eyed Lukomski. "When
they threw her body overboard, I thought my mother was going to jump over
Lukomski had endured more than a lifetime of struggles and she was only 10
in 1943. She was due for a period of solace.
In India, Lukomski enjoyed some of her best years. The Maharaji, King of
India, allowed Polish refugees from Persia to stay in Kolhapur, India, south
of Mumbai. Lukomski stayed for five years.
There she learned English, finished Grade 10, joined Girl Guides and
"It was just like heaven opened for us," she says. "These were the best
years of my youth."
The war ended in 1945 and the refugee camps shut down. Lukomski's family was
moved to Koja, a refugee camp in eastern Uganda near the Kenyan border,
where they stayed in thatched huts for two years.
Then, opportunity knocked.
"A representative of the Government of Canada came to our camp and inquired
for domestic help from young boys and girls age 17 and up," says Lukomski.
Lukomski and her sister jumped at the chance, leaving behind the other
family members, who later moved to England. It would be two years before
they saw each other again.
Lukomski, along with 800 other young Polish adults, received a contract for
one year to work in Canada.
She recalls her voyage on the General Black from Mombasa, Kenya, to Halifax:
"It was four weeks of a beautiful holiday on a ship."
When they reached Canada, most of the boys went to Kitchener, Ont., to clear
forest. Lukomski, her sister, and another friend were among the girls
assigned to work on Canadian farms.
They were sent to Abernethy.
"I worked from six in the morning till midnight — every day," says Lukomski,
remembering her hard work on the farm. "The family's child, Delores, a
three-year-old, was mentally sick and I was always with her."
When her contract came up, Lukomski was offered a chance to stay in
Saskatchewan from Monsignor Anthony Gocki, a local Polish priest who
facilitated some other major events in Lukomski's life.
"Monsignor found me a job to work with nuns at Holy Rosary on Scarth Street
across from Blessed Sacrament."
He also found sponsors to bring Lukomski's family over from England.
"Then Monsignor Gocki introduced me to some Polish young people ... and we
went to a dance on November 11th," recalls Lukomski. "That's where I met my
George had his eye on Lukomski for some time, so on the night of the dance
he didn't waste his chance.
"He came, asked me to dance and ... he never took me back to my crowd," says
Lukomski, recalling her husband's courting tactics and sharp dress. "He was
such a classy gentleman."
The two married on Dec. 26, 1951.
Six children and 16 grandchildren later, Lukomski says her husband and their
offspring represent the greatest joy in her life.
A close second was a trip with her two daughters back to Poland in 2007.
It was her first time back in 65 years.
"Beautiful country, beautiful towns," says Lukomski.
This month, marks 70 years since Lukomski was deported from her Polish home.
She expects Wednesday to be a very emotional day.
Says Lukomski: "I will go to church and thank God for everything ... God was
always with me."
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Introducing Windows® phone.
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