Dear Mr Bullwinkel
Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I am forwarding your
information, and a transcript of the review, on to the Kresy-Siberia Group,
an internet-based group of survivors, their families, and others interested
in pursuing this history.
> The Horror Trains: A Polish Woman Veteran's Memoir of World War II by Wanda E.
> Pomykalski (1999), 362 pages.
> This is a book worth your time if you want to learn about the trials and
> tribulations of a young Polish girl, who was captured by Soviet security men
> while trying to escape from Poland to neutral Hungary in December 1939. The
> reader may want to know that the story has a happy ending. Wanda Pomykalski
> escaped from her horror trains just in time because of good luck and, no
> doubt, because she was young, healthy, and determined. She has lived in
> California with her family for many years but only now got around to compiling
> her notes and, at the urging of her friends, was able to present her riveting
> story in English.
> This memoir reads like a novel as its 32 short chapters cover many
> extraordinary events; as one phase ends, a new one begins. It starts with
> Wanda spending her happy summer months of 1939 in Warsaw, waiting to begin her
> medical studies. Charming young men are squiring her in romantic cafes and
> sentimental music fills the air.
> Like a bombshell this idyll ends abruptly on September 1. With her parents
> away in western Poland, Wanda follows the familiar evacuation of Polish troops
> heading east while the German bombers strike from the air. Then Soviet troops
> attack from the east. She is caught at the border; she describes her
> tribulations covering the period, which ends in August 1941. Most of them are
> endless travels by the "horror trains" as a Soviet prisoner. She is accused of
> spying ("anyone leaving our country is automatically considered a spy") and is
> informed that after 5-10 years in prison she will be "allowed" to work in a
> Soviet labor camp. She boards her first cattle train in southern Poland (which
> was declared a part of the Soviet Union) and is transported to Kiev and Odessa
> with many of her woman companions. The horrible winter of 1940 is a nightmare
> for the prisoners. The guards are often sadists and sanitary conditions
> appalling. The people are constantly crying for water, bread, and spoons of
> abominable soup, their nourishment. The bitter cold kills many. The most
> terrible aspect of this ordeal is the contempt and hostility of the guards or
> interrogators towards terrorized women who are being carried away to awful
> destinations. After Odessa, the trains travel for weeks to Ufa, Omsk, and
> Tomsk, way past the Ural mountains, towards the town of Tayga. This
> Godforsaken place is 2,000 miles from Warsaw, the same as the distance between
> Washington,D.C. and California.
> It is almost as if Cod rescues these people. Our writer learns the news of the
> German invasion of Russia while reading a discarded newspaper in the latrine!
> It also contains information that Stalin agreed to free imprisoned Poles and
> allowed the formation of a Polish Army. Suddenly there is some hope and travel
> is permitted to Samara (Kuybyshev), where Gen.Anders is assembling his
> prospective troops, along with the liberated civilians, some of whom can
> barely walk. Many of them lack shoes and cover their feet with bits of
> discarded automobile tires. The arrival in Italy brings an uplifting ending
> to Wanda's tortuous saga.
> In closing it is well to recall that similar tales were never recorded by
> thousands who did not survive. They were shipped in hundreds of horror trains
> to Siberia and the Arctic regions not only from Poland but also from the
> Baltic countries during World War II. Others met the same fate even after the
> 1944 at the hands the NKVD. For these multitudes there was no happy outcome.
> George Suboczewski
> From: "Clay Bullwinkel" <clay@...>
> Reply-To: <clay@...>
> Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2002 13:29:22 -0700
> To: <swisniowski@...>
> Subject: one more reference
> Dear Mr. Wisniowski:
> Thank you for your very important Web site. I have one more information
> reference, a book, to add to your list.
> Wanda E. Pomykalski,
> The Horror Trains: A Polish Woman Veteran's Memoir of World War II
> ISBN: 0-9634895-4-2
> It is for sale at http://www.minervacenter.com/shelf.htm email:
> minervacen@... review:
> You can reach the book sales desk there at tel. 941-951-3447. Or you can
> reach the author at her home at XXX-XXX-XXXX, and I don't believe she has
> email. She is one of the precious few survivors left.
> I have worked in Poland since 1983 and am self-taught with the language and
> the history.
> Clay A. Bullwinkel
> vice president
> U.S.-Poland Trade Council of Silicon Valley