Krystyna Szopis

Born: 6th February 1931

Lwow, Poland

Date of interview: 16th May 2006

Map showing where Krystyna Szopis came from

Tell me about that.

Oh, in 1940 when the Russians occupied the site of Poland they decided they wanted to take us out of our country and gave us a free ticket to Siberia. So on 28th of June in 1940 they just arrived and knocked at our door and told us that we have half an hour to pack a few things because they are taking us to the police station which we knew perfectly well wasn't right, so you could imagine how little one could pack in half an hour and there was a lorry outside of our building and they packed us there took us to the station shoved us into cattle trucks about sixty people per truck if not more and that was that. I do remember it was a very hot day. I have, we have, my mother and father and I we had I had a Chihuahua dog. We had taken the dog with us but being so hot and stuffy in the cattle truck which was completely locked but for a tiny, tiny window the dog had fainted so my mother let it through the window and asked a workman to take it back to my mother's sister which unfortunately he'd never done but what I heard later on from aunty the dog must have run away from wherever he was in two weeks time and arrived at aunty's flat.

So and since then we travelled for, I don't remember, I think it was six weeks and arrived in Siberia ... The place was Sverdlorsk but beforehand we have arrived in the little village town and then with all our possessions which was almost nil. I mean it wasn't just us there were quite a lot of people in the same position. We had to walk through the huge forest, to a place that was simply cut out in the forest, and once upon a time there were some kind of prisoners there but when we came it was unoccupied. There were huts made of wood and they had they just tell us that we had to share a room with another family and in the place I can't tell you how many people there were but there must have been 300/400 people.

We've lived there till ... um God knows ... that would be 'forty-one something, something 'forty-one, nearing the winter but winter there was most of the year. We only had spring summer and autumn lasting about two months and the rest was just sheer winter with the temperatures going up down to minus fifty centigrade. Well that's more or less you know in a quick session as we managed to be there in 1941 as the Russians started the war Germans started the war with Russia and immediately we were told that we could be free if we wanted to get out of there. They tried to persuade us to stay but certainly everybody had started to move out. At the very same time we know that somewhere down south in Russia, a Polish army was being formed. It means that all the men out of prisons and camps were released and the army was being formed so father, my mother and I and a funny little cat, that I somehow I don't know who gave it to me, how did I manage to get it in Siberia, we went to the nearest station, got into another cattle truck [laughs] and arrived in ... I wish I knew ... Tashkent. And actually it was Samerkand near and settled for a while in a small town called Druma and Druma in Polish is one of the most serious illnesses.

There we found quite a lot of Poles already there mostly from the prisons and from camps as we were, very ill, typhoid and so on and people were just dying like flies. My father was very ill but then after he recovered a bit he said that he would go and try and join the army ... he went to ... can't tell you the name of the place. Anyway he joined the army but we hadn't heard from him for the last, for about three or four months and probably that is a bit of a sob story, where the state we lived, it was Uzbekistan and with, what do you call them, the Uzbeks in a small, small room, but there was nothing to live on beside occasionally, occasionally there was centre where they were cooking soup for all the people and so on, but my Mama she had the last ring that she still possessed. She had a wedding ring an aquamarine ring and she went to sell it. She sold it to a wife of a high ranking KGB officer. I still remember the lady and on the very same night my father came already in the uniform ... and said to mother, 'Well'. She said 'I've sold all these' and that was that. The lady came and somehow she became almost a friend of my mother, always begging not to tell her husband and my mother said that my father came back and we are going away. So she said 'Probably you want your rings back' and she gave them back. That's my mother's ring there. My daughter has the aquamarine ring and I've got the wedding ring.

We went to ... Mmm where to? With father we went to Turkistan where the army was being ... there was a centre of, you know some kind of army centre. We'd been there for a while then moved to the south.

By this stage it was 1942. In 1942 we ... went to, yes we were allowed to be moved with the army as the families of the people that had joined the army, to Persia ... Iraq, Iran sorry. Today is Iran. We went through Krasnovodsk. It's the port in Russia, across Caspian Sea into Pahlavi. From Pahlavi, well in Pahlavi there was a huge camp of really, well you can hardly call them huts. There were mats placed on top of wooden poles just to shade us away from the sun. Well it's no good saying most of the people were sick, very ill, I had very, very bad malaria and so did my mother but we were not the only ones and eventually ... Eventually we were taken to Tehran. Again we stayed in the camps with ...