My husband, Aleksander Topolski, received (and answered) the following
e-mail from Kevin Barclay in Edinburgh who found a bound set of WWII
soldiers' letters written in Polish. Mr. Barclay agrees that the proper
place for the letters is the Sikorski Institute in London. He has asked us
to post information about the letters, written in Iraq in March 1943, on our
discussion site in case there is someone out there who is interested in
knowing more about the letter writers.
>Kevin Barclay <kbarclay@...> said:
> > Dear Mr Topolski,
> > I am contacting you in the hope you may be able to throw some light on a
> > recent discovery I made during a visit to a car boot sale. I came =
> > across what appears to be a collection of correspondence between various
> > Polish friends stationed in Iraq in March 1943 and I was wondering if =
> > you may be able to help me put it into historical context?=20
> > The book takes the form of a wooden-bound "friendship journal" (See =
> > picture) where the correspondents have written various messages to each
> > other and drawn one or two pictures. It may be an extremely large =
> > coincidence, but there are a few references to names such as ZBYSZEK (No
> > surname), KAZIK (Kaisamir OR Casimer 'The Rascal'), among others. =20
> > I think it may have ended up in Scotland (wild guess) as there is =
> > mention of dalliances with women of the WAF in Iraq and, possibly, one =
> > or more of the correspondents may have married and moved to Scotland or
> > possibly have been stationed here (I believe Polish soldiers were =
> > stationed in defensive positions around Fife and the Firth of Forth).
> > Here are some other names I've extracted:=20
> > Names (People & Places)
> > KARCHER ZBIGIRIEN
> > WLADEK DYMOWSKI
> > ANNE KNOTUSKA
> > EDEK ROT
> > WIKTER ULANOWSKI
> > DROZDNI (Place?)
> > RYSIEK (Richard?)
> > WLADEK MIEDZYCHOWIEZ
> > FRANEK (Frank?)
> > ANIA KLLTRINSKA
> > MIETEK FRENDENBERGER
> > WANDA POZENIEZNA
> > ANIA DOBROWOLSKA
> > KRYCKYI HOLKI
> > D. NOTOWLIN
> > WALTER KAZANOWSK
> > KHAZI-RABBAT
> > Other References
> > Niesie my ci wolmosc - Ojczyzno(?)
> > Kujednym Celom dazymy
> > 10th Infantry Division
> > 18th Infantry Division
> > Paratroopers(?)
> > Shared hardship in a prison camp in Siberia
> > I have attached some photographs of pages from the book as I hope you =
> > may be able to help me identify the illustrations therein.=20
> > Thank you for taking the time to read my email.
> > Kindest regards,
> > Kevin Barclay,
> > Edinburgh.
>From: "Aleksander Topolski" <aleks@...>
>To: "Kevin Barclay" <kbarclay@...>
>CC: <joan@...>, <alexatopolski@...>,
>Subject: Re:Curious Polish discovery.
>Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2005 19:49:14 -0000
>Dear Mr. Barclay June 27, 2005
> That was indeed a curious discovery and I'm glad the book of
>letter written by soldiers during the war has been rescued by someone who
>an interest in history.
> Alas, I do not recognize any of the people you listed. Zbszek,
>Kazik and Franek are nicknames from common first names. In March of 1943,
>too was stationed with Polish troops in Iraq. Around that time I was also
>Kizil Rabat -- the "KHAZI-RABBAT" at the end of your list of names.
> We were part of the Polish 2nd Corps which had been formed by
>General Wladyslaw Anders in the USSR. Like Anders, many of us soldiers had
>been prisoners of the Soviets. Some of us, including me and at least some
>your letter writers, had done hard time in the northern Gulag work camps.
>were released in late summer and fall of 1942, after Winston Churchill made
>our release a condition of sending supplies to the Red Army, then being
>pushed back by German panzers. Stalin agreed to release us "criminals"
>(political prisoners), but only if it was labelled an "amnesty". Stalin
>first released Anders, a Polish cavalry officer who had served under the
>Tsar. Beria, then head of the Soviet secret police (NKVD which became the
>KGB) told Anders he'd been chosen to form a Polish Army in the USSR to help
>fight the Bosch.
> With the help of the Polish Government-in-Exile based in London
>under Gen. Sikorski and with supplies provided by the Brits via the
>sea route to Murmansk, Anders's army took shape. Recruiting officers were
>sent to key railway stations in the USSR to alert Poles about the army
>formed "in the south" of the USSR. We lucky men were able to find army
>camps. Most of us were in rags, gaunt and suffering from starvation. When
>the army was being formed, names such as 18th division were given to the
>newly formed units. Anders expected to have more men to show up than did.
>At that time we didn't know what had happened to some 20,000 Polish
>taken as prisoners of war by the Russians, who invaded eastern Poland just
>two weeks after Hitler's forces invaded from the west. These officers were
>shot in the back of the head and piled into mass graves in Katyn Forest,
>Kharkov and other places.
> Some younger women had been part of the mass deportation by the
>Soviets of Polish civilians living in the Polish eastern borderlands
>With others they escaped from the dirt poor outlying Soviet settlements (in
>the northern forests or the hungry steppes) after the "amnesty". Young
>also joined the Polish Army. Many wound up as our Transport drivers. Some
>other Kresy survivors-- women and children and older men�- also made it to
>our army camps and we shared our food rations with them. Some escaped the
>Communist regime with us to Pahlevi or south across the mountains and
>to India, Africa, Mexico, etc.
> In Spring of 1942 and again in late summer, batches of Anders
>left the USSR, mainly on the deck of Soviet oil tankers that took us from
>Krasnovodsk across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi (now known again by its
>name of Anzeli) in Iran. In the Middle East our army was reorganized into
>the Polish 2nd Corps under the British 10th Army. At that point units such
>as the 18th division were downsized into other units. We were assigned to
>guard the oil fields of northern Iraq while we regained our health and
>strength, and continued our training. It was a boring time for us in the
>desert and so we often spent our off hours looking up and keeping in touch
>with friends by visiting neighbouring camps or by writing letters.
> In Iraq our corps was strengthened by the Polish Carpathian
>that had fought Rommel in North Africa including Tobruk. In March 1944 we
>landed in Italy to serve under General Alexander as part of the British
>Eighth Army. Our notable achievement was ousting the entrenched Germans at
>Monte Cassino and thus opening the road to Rome for Allied forces. I am
>polishing the second volume of my memoirs recounting my adventures as a
>Polish soldier serving in Signals in Iraq and Italy.
> The Polish First Corps, formed in France and withdrawn to Britain,
>fought with the D-Day forces in Europe, including the paratroop drop over
>Arnhem Forest. Many of our pilots won praise from Churchill for the role
>they played in the Battle of Britain against the Luftwaffe in 1940.
> The emblem on the title(?) page of that book you found is for
>war cavalry. Perhaps these were enlisted men who had been in the cavalry
>together before the war. To me, the surnames sound like typical names from
>the northern Kresy lands in eastern Poland.
> I cannot help you further but I know other Poles who are
>in what happened in those days and finding out what there relatives were
>doing in those years, including some later killed at Monte Cassino or in
> Like me, the Polish WWII veterans still alive are old. I'm now 82.
>The Polish veterans groups (SPK) were very active in Britain after the war.
>But now that our ranks are thinning, many of them are moribund. However, I
>suggest you contact the national headquarters of the SPK for Great Britain
>see if there is still an active group or some members in Edinburgh. They
>based in London at 238-246 King St, London W6 ORF. Tel: 020-8741-1911
> I also suggest that you post your letter on the Kresy-Siberia
>discussion group site (see details below). My wife and I are both members
>it. We could pass on your letter to them if you wish.
> I hope that your find will eventually wind up in the archives of
>Sikorski Institute in London. I was there myself earlier this month. They
>are one of the main sources for historians and researchers looking for
>information about the Polish army during World War II. Many people are
>unaware that the Polish Army was the third largest of the western allies
>during WW II, surpassed only by the British and American armies. By the end
>of the war we had a quarter of a million soldiers fighting to defeat
> I hope this is the kind of background you are looking for,
> Aleksander Topolski