- http://www.niagarathisweek.com/community/life/article/1236096--surviving-the -forgotten-front Surviving the forgotten front Son recording father s experienceMessage 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2011View Source
Surviving the forgotten front
Son recording father’s experience in Second World War
Surviving the forgotten front. Dan Dobrucki and his father, Walerian, stand outside their Wellandport home. Dan and his father have been recording the elder Dobrucki’s wartime experiences in book form. It is an extraordinary tale.
When most people sit down to record the biographical details of their parent’s lives, the results, while fascinating to the family, may not always make for interesting reading to outsiders. When Dan Dobrucki of Wellandport started talking to his 95-year-old father, Walerian, about the elder Dobrucki’s experiences in the Second World War, the result was a fascinating tale of survival on one of the war’s forgotten fronts.
“A lot of people know what happened in Germany during the war, but they don’t know what happened in Poland and Russia. This is the story of my family,” said Dan. He outlined some of the details of his father’s experience. In 1939, Walerian was a soldier in a Polish artillery unit. On Sept. 1, the country was invaded by Nazi Germany. Walerian took part in the valiant, but doomed defense of his homeland. On Sep. 17, the Soviet Union, then a Nazi ally, invaded the eastern portion of Poland. As the military collapsed, Walerian was held as a POW for a time, then returned to his home town, which was now occupied by the Russians. His freedom there did not last long. On Feb. 10, 1940, Walerian’s village was rounded up by the Soviets and sent to a work camp on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
“They picked up the entire village,” said Dan. Walerian’s village were among the 1.45 million Poles “deported” by the Soviets to work camps in Siberia and the Urals. In the Urals, Walerian’s family started a new life in Pinyug, a largely wild area of the Kirov Oblast territory of Russia. Here, they made railway ties and mined at a settlement previously used as an internment camp for prisoners of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Food was scarce, and to supplement their diets, Walerian and the other displaced villagers harvested berries which grew in lush patches over a mass grave — interned bones of executed Catholic and Orthodox priests.
“They had to work as much as they could and were basically fed nothing,” said Dan of the family’s time in Pinyug. Their status as prisoners changed in the summer of 1941, when the Nazis turned on their Soviet partner, leading Russia to join the war on the side of Allies. The Russians formally released the Polish deportees, but with their homeland still occupied by the Nazis, and the Germans advancing deep into Russia, they had no way of getting home. So, Walerian and his family and others from his village joined a strange Polish exodus, one that took them over 4000 km of land by train and foot, south toward British-backed Iran.
“They went all over, working on collective farms,” said Dan. The refugees went south through the Soviet republics, including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In the ancient city of Samarkand, Walerian was present as the Hejnal Mariacki, a short anthem, was played, an act of particular significance in Polish folklore. Once, finally, in Tehran, Walerian joined the British-backed Free Polish army, and was moved to Egypt and Palestine. Walerian finally got a chance to fight back at the Nazis during the Allied invasion of Italy.
“My father was in the artillery at Monte Cassino,” said Dan, citing perhaps the most pitched battle of the Italian campaign, where the Polish II Corps artillery was aided by a trained bear who carried boxes of shells. Following the invasion, Walerian ended up in England, where his two little brothers (now members of an RAF auxiliary) were staying as wards of an earl.
Walerian’s story sounds remarkable, but the old soldier has photos from almost every stage of his journey, documenting his incredible journey and wartime experiences. After the war, he moved to Wellandport in 1949 and bought a dairy farm. Though he has lost much of his hearing and his English is poor, Walerian is still active on the farm, tending to the bees. When asked about the experience of putting some his experiences, Walerian said he “remembers things at night.” Dan Dobrucki’s book of his father’s reminiscences, “Survivors of War”, will be available on Amazon and online later this year