Thanks for this passage;
In the bolded paragraph, about 5 paragraphs from the end, my mother age
13 at the time ( part of a family of 10) was part of the lucky 1,500 who
went to the Santa Rosa Hacienda in Mexico. She is now 83 and talks often
about the painful journey from Siberia to Persia to Karachi to Bombay,
India where they boarded the USS Hermitage for the 2 month journey to the
California then to the Santa Rosa Hacienda in Mexico. The death from disease,
cold and famine to this day makes my mother cry when remembering this
journey. What I only recently learned ( and I was always curious about) was
why the U.S. didn't keep these 1,500 refugees in California? Why did they put
them on trains to Mexico? Apparently the Polish government in exile made
a deal with Mexico to house these refugees because the U.S. didn't want to
upset Stalin ------ hard to believe. Russia has just become our allies to
help defeat Hitler.
If any others are descendants of the 1,500 who emigrated to the Santa Rosa
Hacienda in Mexico, I would love to hear from them. My mother's maiden
name was BERDNIK, thus it was ten of the Berdnik's that found their way to
Santa Rosa and all made their way to the U.S.
Ed Lazor U.S.
In a message dated 7/5/2010 11:28:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
This is the link to an account of the overland journey, and the chapter on
that, which is copyright by Maria van der Linden
7. Journey to Persia and Life in Meshed
One fleeting life is all we have,
It Is not a rehearsal, but the real thing.
Accompanied by armed Polish Army servicemen, headed by a Polish major, our
long convoy of canvas-covered lorries left Ashkhabad. Some convalescent
soldiers were also part of our transport. Several sick and very weak
children, recently discharged from hospital, were under Mother's special
care. Again she was the only trained nurse, without a doctor, in charge of
this very large contingent of Polish refugees bound for Iran.
It was mountainous terrain. A steep, windy, dusty road led towards the
USSR-Persian border. In the high altitude the air was fresh and crisp and
the scenery breathtakingly beautiful. The boundary between the two
traversed a high altitude mountain plateau, where customs officers of
and USSR awaited our arrival. The Polish officer accompanying our convoy
present to ensure a trouble-free passage to Iran. At this frontier our
belongings and bodies were thoroughly searched, before permission was
granted to proceed.
The Persian border was inhabited by fierce and independent tribes of
Kurds and Lurs, therefore necessitating the continued presence of our
soldiers and armed Iranian Police officers on Persian territory. Our convoy
continued over the ever-winding, dusty roads. The journey seemed endless.
felt glad to be on Iranian ground and secure in the knowledge that we were
protected by armed escorts. Again we were facing the unknown, but we were
resigned to our fate. We rested on the lorry floors, our bodies bouncing up
and down and felt sick and drowsy much of that time. After travelling
steadily for most of the day we finally stopped for the night at a
predetermined destination, a small, remote village. Here we slept in a
white, clay-brick building surrounded by a high wall with doors and windows
facing a square courtyard in the centre. An iron gate and a doorway led to
this private, well protected dwelling. Iranian armed police manned this
single entrance to the compound around the clock. In the same village
similar dwellings were occupied by caravans of merchants, which regularly
travelled to the village market (bazzar) to trade their goods.
That night we received hot soup, bread, a slice of melon and tea with
condensed milk, a great feast to us, but many children were still unable to
cope with this nourishment. We slept on straw mattresses on the floor,
covered by army blankets. No pillows or sheets were provided, but we
expected no luxuries, having long been accustomed to the bare necessities
life. Most of us slept soundly after the long, arduous journey over very
rough roads. The next day began with a communal prayer and a hymn at the
crack of dawn, as it always did.
As the sun rises in the morning,
Yours is the earth and the sea.
For You sing all earthly creatures,
Be praised the Almighty God.
As the familiar tune of the morning hymn ended, a flurry of activities
followed. First, a quick wash in basins spread near the courtyard well,
hot tea and porridge prepared us for the long day's journey and new
experiences ahead. This time we travelled through hilly land, a hot,
desert-like terrain. Dust covered our weary bodies and our nostrils and
mouths felt drier and drier as the day progressed. In fact, dust penetrated
everything inside the lorries. Water was rationed to make it last through
At last we reached the province of Kharasan, the most fertile area of
Persia, but still extremely hot and dusty because of its proximity to the
desert. River beds were often very dry, with narrow, meandering streams
traversing wide, sandy beds in summer and early autumn. Now in October,
before harvest, the fields were covered with a carpet of scarlet poppies
grown for opium. Along the country roads tea houses (chat-khanah) were
scattered. They were clay-brick dwellings with wide, open verandahs in
front. A few adjacent trees provided the much desired shade for their
customers. Its scarcity made water a very precious commodity. It usually
came from muddy hollows or shallow clay-bottomed wells and therefore was
always murky and needed boiling before drinking. In village streams while
donkeys drank, women did their washing and cleaned their bodies. Nearby
other women gathered water for cooking and for drinking. Water was carried
in large, earthenware bowls, perched on a cloth ring on their heads.
after refreshments at a predetermined village and a brief rest we resumed
Finally, we arrived at our destination Meshed, where a Polish refugee
centre had been established through the Teheran Polish Embassy to take care
of us. Here we were to remain, to recharge our weary minds and bodies,
8th December 1942. Our temporary Persian haven was similar to many
we had encountered along the way. It was a large, white, rough-cast,
clay-brick structure, a rectangular building, with a spacious courtyard in
the centre, into which all windows and doors opened. A high wall built from
similar material protected our privacy. The only outside door and an iron
gate were constantly guarded by armed Iranian policemen. It was permanently
locked and opened only briefly when required.
Our dormitories were large, with adjoining staff rooms. Boys and girls
occupied opposite sides of the complex. Children were distributed in
chronological age. Again we slept on straw mattresses on the floor. A large
common room was used for school, recreation and as a makeshift chapel. A
large dining room, kitchen and toilet facilities catered for our daily
needs. Meshed had a resident British Consul and also a US Mission Hospital
where several ill children were soon admitted. My brother, weakened by
jaundice and diarrhea, was among them.
At first we were exhausted by the long journey from Ashkhabad to
Meshed. Many of us were ravaged by persistent, chronic diarrhea. A period
prolonged rest was needed in the new, tranquil haven of our orphanage in
Meshed. Although the very ill children were transferred to the local US
Mission Hospital soon after their arrival, others of us also spent some
In that institution, where new American drugs were administered to cure our
organic disorders. Most of our health problems stemmed from malnutrition
the lack of hygiene and sanitation in the USSR. My brother Alek was
emaciated and too weak to sit on arrival at Meshed. I was still able to
for short periods. We survived, but several weaker children died and found
their final resting place on the friendly Iranian territory.
After leaving hospital I attended the Polish school in our orphanage.
We were given lessons in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, religious
studies and singing. There were no text books available and no planned
syllabus. All lessons were in Polish and each teacher Improvised as best
could. All our teachers were women, and Indeed there were no men on the
staff of our entire orphanage initially, except for Iranian cooks and
policemen. Our formal education had been very fragmented over the past
years, since being deported from Poland. We needed to make a fresh start in
our new life. I was blessed with a photographic, retentive memory and a
strong desire to succeed. Soon I learned enough to take a class when our
teacher was absent caring for one of her own dying children. I enjoyed this
short teaching experience, little realizing then that it was the forerunner
of my teaching career in later life.
We looked forward to receiving clothing donated by the US Embassy In
Teheran. We were especially fascinated by attractive buttons, which we
cut off and exchanged to add to our collections kept in small drawstring
bags which we made at school. My brother spent much time In hospital. I saw
Mother very seldom, because she was kept very busy looking after
convalescent children who returned from the American hospital and needed
constant care. As I only saw her during the course of her nursing duties, I
became fully integrated Into the daily life of Polish orphans. As autumn
progressed temperatures became cooler. We felt nostalgic seeing the trees
assuming their autumn splendour of changing colours, with crowns of gold,
scarlet, orange, brown intermingled with shades of green leaves, all around
us and recalling a similar scene at that time of year in our native Poland.
At the beginning of November we heard the sad news that the Russian
authorities had closed the USSR-Persian frontier and stopped further
evacuation of Poles, many of whom were ordered back to the places they had
come from when they were deported from Poland. We felt deeply for the over
one million Poles remaining In the USSR, forcibly deprived of the freedom
which we were now rejoicing.
My own experiences in Meshed revolved around the daily routine
established at the Polish orphanage. Each day commenced with prayers, then
breakfast and school till lunch time, after which an enforced rest period
followed, before lessons resumed till 4.00 p.m. After school we were free
run around, play ball games or just sit and talk with our friends. Marbles,
hopscotch and card games were popular pastimes. After our main meal,
we assembled for prayers and once again concluding our devotions with a
familiar, daily evening hymn, 'All our daily tasks bless 0 Lard'. We
generally retired early to our dormitories and to our straw mattresses,
fortunate to have the woolen army blankets to keep us warm on the cooler
late autumn nights.
We had few opportunities to venture beyond the tall wall of our
private haven of the orphanage complex. One such occasion vividly stands
in my mind, when my mother with a few other staff members and accompanied
a small group of children visited the Meshed Mosque. For Muslims it is
second in importance only to Mecca. It contains the tomb of the eighth Imam
Au Rezo. It is an impressive ornate building with richly decorated mosaics
and magnificent dome-shaped towers, several covered with turquoise stones.
The largest dome is clad with gold. It overlooks the Golden Road to
Samarkand. It glitters in the burning sun and is visible as a landmark from
a long distance. We were very fortunate to have been permitted to visit the
Meshed Mosque, because women had only just been accorded this special
privilege. I was enchanted with the beautiful interior, which seemed like a
fairyland of bright mosaics, decorative inscriptions from the Koran, and
silk Persian carpets over marble floors.
Meshed was famous for its turquoise stones, which could be purchased
at the local bazaar, which we also visited later that day. We were
fascinated by the great variety of jewellery for sale. Gold, silver, brass,
precious and semiprecious stones were in abundance. The most Impressive
the beautiful shades of green-blue turquoises. Mother purchased a turquoise
necklace and a bracelet, which I now possess. They remind me of that most
enjoyable day we shared together. As we walked through the long arcades
stalls on both sides, I felt as if we were visiting a dreamworld from Alice
in Wonderland. There were so many impressions to absorb.
As December approached, nights became quite chilly, reminding us of
the coming winter. By now most of us were sufficiently recovered to face
future. Now we were able to embark on the next part of our journey. Our
destination was the British colony of India.
Other Polish refugees from transitory camps in Iran were sent through
Karachi in India to British Colonies in East Africa, notably Tanganyika and
Uganda. Smaller transports went to North and South Rhodesia and to South
Africa. About 1,500 Poles found a haven on Santa Rosa Hacienda in Mexico
733 Polish children In Pahiatua in New Zealand.
On Behalf Of lsarniak
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2010 11:46 PM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Re: Assistance required by members...
My mother reached Persia via Meshed in August, 1942. She was very, very
[25kg and 16 yrs old] and upon arrival was admitted to an American
After approximately nine months in this hospital she went into the
in Meshed. She still has her autograph book from Meshed with many
inscriptions obtained both from the hospital and orphanage. Mum's memory is
not good now and her only recollection (over breakfast this morning) of the
trip is that they travelled in an army truck and it was scary; also that
there were mainly small children and army personnel.
You're right, there doesn't seem to be much mentioned about Meshed.
understandable considering fewer than 3000 people arrived this way.
the crossing is fully described in the book "An Unforgettable Journey" by
Maria van der Linden. This is an Online book. Here is a link to the chapter
in case you haven't already read it: 7.
[The book is fully on line and well worth the read.]
Also, mum has a first holy communion photo of a group of children from
Meshed orphanage. It is number 11 in my album in the Gallery.
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