Below is a series of notes I took from an interview with my Aunt Danka. It comprises some of her memories and perceptions of the period between her arrival in southern USSR after the long journey from Kotlas and her eventual transportation to Persia. It covers many if not most of the key Polish recruitment and refuge centres in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. My guess is that many of our families will have been placed in one or more of these centres / camps and the dates, though different for each family or even individual, will be roughly around the same time of early to mid 1942.
Note that there are many different spellings of the locations as translation requires attempts to translate not only different alphabets but different pronunciations even with the same format (eg: English use Y where Poles use J for the same sound)
A summary of Danka's timline of that period:
Jan 1942 arrive in Uzbekistan, placed in collective farm to pick cotton
Feb 10, 1942 my father ledaves the family to join Polish troops at Kermine
April 1942 Danka taken by Polish women to Polish care in Tashkent
May 1942 Moved to Jang(i)-Jul
June 1942 moved to Wrewsko to orphanage; reunited with her mother
July 1942 moved to Karkin-Batasz with her sister, leaving their mother behind
Jul/Aug 1942 moved to better conditions at Guzar (where the two sisters wrote an account of their ordeal for Polish officials - which I obtained 67 years later from Stanford Uni Hoover Collection thanks to the expertise in this wonderful group)
August 1942 Danka and her sister transported to Pahlevi
Now for the interview notes - hope they help paint a picture of Jangi-Jul etc
Like thousands of other Polish refugees who had made their way to Tashkent, Danka was taken first to the Polish Army headquarters at Jangi-Jul. There was still snow lying on the ground. She arrived there some time before the 3rd May 1942. She remembers this because that date is Poland�s National Day and the girls marched to a tune with the words �We�ll go back to Poland one day�. She spent three weeks at Jangi-Jul before the authorities decided to evacuate the children as it was deemed that a military headquarters during wartime was not equipped or suitable for sick and hungry civilian children.
So Danka was transported to Wrewskaja where a proper large-scale orphanage was established. Shortly afterwards Janina (her mother) and Zosia (her elder sister) were transferred to Wrewskaja so those three members of the family were reunited for a few days only, because Danka and Zosia were to move on again. She was too old for the young children�s groups that were the main concern of the Wrewskaja services so she was next sent to Karkin-Batasz
Danka arrived in this centre for older children sometime in June or July 1942. It was a village of traditional Uzbeki mud houses. Karkin-Batasz means �Valley of Death� and it was well-named. Danka describes it as �the worst place under the sun�. There were scorpions and it was unbearably hot. Very quickly the children became seriously unwell. Within the four weeks Danka spent there ninety-four children out of a total of three hundred died. Danka too began to feel seriously ill for the first time in Karkin-Batasz. She had been ill before during the previous two and a half years, including pneumonia in the labour camp at Charotonowo, and very weak from hunger and thirst on the long train odyssey. But she had not encountered the effects of disease such as she now experienced in the heat of Uzbekistan.
So the army decided to evacuate this children�s death camp and moved the survivors and newcomers to Guzar.
Danka arrived in Guzar seriously ill, but she still does not know what disease she had. In Guzar the civilians lived under tents but it was still unbearably warm. Zosia had a desperately ill sister to care for. Just outside the camp was a cave in the rocks. Zosia took Danka there each day and laid her down for the whole day because it was much cooler than in the tents or outside where there was no shade. Zosia also exchanged Danka�s portion of bread for sour milk from local Uzbekis. This may have saved Danka�s life. It was strictly against the camp rules to go outside its perimeters or for young women to mix with locals because of the potential dangers.
Danka remained in Guzar until mid-August 1942 when arrangements were made to transport those well enough to travel to the port of Kraznovotsk at the Caspian Sea and fron there to freedom in Persia. Danka was unable to walk at this time but with the discrete help of friends forced herself to get onto the truck. The NKVD tried to enforce orders that if a person was unable to walk unaided to the transport they were not permitted to travel but had to stay in the camp.
The other families from the Stepek home village of Maczkowce left Charotonowa camp earlier than Jan and his family. Their journey led them to Alma-Ata, now Almaty, in eastern Kazakhstan, near the Chinese border. When these families tried to leave for the ships at Persia only able-bodied men were permitted to do so. Thus the men joined the war effort whilst the women and children were forced to remain in Alma-Ata. Only in 1956 were these families permitted to leave and return to new lives in communist Poland. The Stepek�s nearest neighbour in Maczkowce, and Danka�s godfather, Polawski, killed himself in post-war Poland after failing to discover his family. He did not know they were still in Alma-Ata.
Janina got money from Dad (he had saved his army wages and asked that they be given to the family should they locate them) so Zofia bought food. Danka was in an orphanage. �Suddenly I met my mother in the camp. It was for two days only then I got sent to Gruzen.�
Then Zosia joined the ATS and started looking after other orphans. Mother was left alone (in Jangi-Jul?) There Janina met a friend who was a doctor, whom Danka years later met and was treated by in Hereford. Danka doesn�t know what happened to Janina after that until Danka arrived in Tehran. There she met her Uncle Henrik who told her Janina was in hospital. (This is when Danka was only able to visit her once, then the next day Janina had died and was buried)
End of notes.
Finally, if you can find on google or elsewhere a map of Uzbekistan and surrounding countries, Jangi Jul is in far north-east of Uzbekistan just where the furthest north-west of Tajikistan starts to intrude like a finger pointing north-east.
Guzar and Karkin-Batasz are near each other in south-east Uzbekistan near the far eastern border with Turkmenistan and not too far from the Afghan border.
Hope if you can get a map that this helps to locate the general area where so many of our families congregated.
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