Polish Children’s Home in Mala Minusa ( Siberia 1942-1946)

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Adambik
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Polish Children’s Home in Mala Minusa ( Siberia 1942-1946)

Post autor: Adambik » 21 gru 2012, 19:47

Forced resettlements of Polish citizens were the form of repression practiced by the Soviet authorities which concerned the greatest numbers of people. During the Soviet occupation of the Eastern Polish territories, which lasted from September 1939 to June 1941, about 2 million Polish citizens were deported to Siberia.(1) According to Polish sources in USSR the general number of Polish citizens deported throughout the years 1941-1942 is roughly 1 million 200 thousand.(2) There is no accordance concerning the exact number of Poles sent into the Soviet territory. The estimates provided previously by historians differ significantly from the results of the latest research conducted by a Russian historian Gurianov in Moscow’s archives. The Russian researcher claims the number of the deported Poles to range from 300 to 314 thousand. The work aiming at establishing and verification of the exact values is constantly under way.(3) Among the resettled 380 thousands were children (about 30% of the total number of the deported).(4) According to the data provided by the Polish Embassy in Moscow there were over 160 thousand children who required immediate help. Polish Government in London, from the very beginning of its existence, put effort to relieve the Polish community in Siberia. After prolonged pressure finally “...the Soviet Government permitted, with a decree of December 24th 1941, to create orphanages in bigger communities of Polish citizens in USSR....” which enabled the embassy in Kuybyshev to immediately begin creation of specialist institutions that would help children, the elderly, and the sick. “...The embassy undertook those actions in 1942, and at that time it created:
59 orphanages for 3000 children,
68 canteens providing meals for 3117 children,
12 nursing homes for 850 elderly people.”(5)

The orphanage of Mala Musina was opened in 1942 in Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia. During that year there were on average 45 children. When the orphanage left for Poland in 1946 there were 143 children.(6)
Excerpts from the memoires of the former inmates of the Mala Musina Children’s Home, as well as interviews with them are used in this article. The interviews were taken in Poland in June and August 2006. This is what they report:

Vladyslav Katron(7) recalls: “Within 6 or 7 kilometres from a town of Minusinsk, a district town of a couple dozen thousand inhabitants, there lay, on both banks of a small, winding Minusinka river, a village – Mala Minusa. The settlement was on the one hand a kolkhoz village, playing the role of Minusinsk’s granary, while on the other some of its features made it more of an outskirt of Minusinsk. These features were: the proximity of the town, both the names of the village and the river, the fact that almost all the region’s grain elevators were placed here, and also a culture and education centre that had a typically urban character, with its club and adjacent buildings.
The Children’s Home fully deserves to be named POLAND! It was here that patriotism, national and family traditions, good behaviour and respect for the older were taught. Before the morning meal prayers were told and we sang “Kiedy ranne wstaja zorze...” (When the Dawn Breaks... Polish religious song.) During dinner various Polish patriotic and religious songs as well as some Polish scouts’ songs were sung. We often sang: „Przybyli ulani...” (the Uhlans Have Arrived...), “Mazur Kajdaniarski” (The Chains Mazurka), “Harcerz i harcerka”(A Boyscout and a Girlscout), „Legiony to...” (The Legions Are...), „Plonie ognisko i szumia knieje” (The Fire Burns and the Woods Rustle), „Wojenko, wojenko" (Oh, War, Oh, War), „O moj rozmarynie” (Oh, My Rosemary), „Rozkwitaly paki bialych roz” (The Rosebuds Were Blooming), „Hej, hej ulani” (Hey, Uhlans), „Na Podolu bialy kamien” (There Is a White Stone in Podolia), and many others... Before going to bed we all sang “ROTA”(The Oath), Everyone did! The teachers and the wards. A secret scout team was organised.
Deep in the mind of those in the Children’s Home lay hope that we shall survive this Siberian captivity, and come back to Poland. As almost all the deported from Poland, we also believed that sooner or later we would return home.”

Jerzy Lewicki(8) recalls: “I cannot remember the first impression the Children’s Home made on me, but we both with my brother soon accepted our stay at the orphanage. We were among our people. Both the staff and the children there were Polish. The children spoke Russian and a little Polish. As we went to school together with Russian children we were taught in Russian; we had four hours of lessons in Russian and one hour of Polish language.
Concerts were very often organised in the orphanage. Our group had two rehearsals a week. I used to love to sing, and I still do, I can still sing all the folk songs of that period (in Russian). I can also remember a few Russian poems.”

Henryka Boguslawska(9) recalls: “Over there in Minusa we were children whom no one loved, no one cherished, and no one hugged; there was no one to cater for our needs. We were expected to show perfect obedience and humility. For breakfast, we were given one tiny slice of bread with a hint of scrambled egg, that was made our of American powder eggs. Additionally we were given a mug of something which they called tea! For dinner we were given tin bowl of some liquid they dubbed soup. From time to time, though, we had tasty lentils or pearl barley.
All this was swallowed within moments, and the hunger became even more difficult to bear.
The girls whose turn it was to help in the kitchen could lick the soup kettle clean. It was for each one of us a great joy and distinction. We used a metal rod to tilt the kettle, so that one could crawl inside an lick the walls clean. The best of times was when the kettle had been used for preparing semolina.
I also bear in mind some nice things, of course. Among those I would have to count all the ceremonies and celebrations during which we sang patriotic songs, recited poetry and danced. We even prepared our own attire for those occasions, making it out of the steppe grass, kovyl. We always participated in those things together with my sisters. We even performed in Minusinsk staging our plays. These were always elevated and joyful moments for us.
In 1946, when I was in 6th grade my classmates prepared for us, the Poles leaving for Poland, a farewell party. We were given little gifts by all the children of Little Minusa that evening. We were crying when parting with our friends with whom we had spent around five years.”

There is nothing tragic in the way the stories of the young deported are told.They often remembered small details concerning hunger or other experiences which have nonetheless gone deep into their minds. Since those days described here over sixty years have passed and some of the scarce pleasant memories have been blurred and erased. They hardly ever recall beautiful landscapes or interesting natural phenomena. Siberia, however, taught them independence, respect for work, responsibility for themselves and for others, the ability to overcome life’s hardships. They now live lives no different from those of the rest of the society. They live in average conditions, without complaining, and they enjoy what they have.

Pavel Stolyarov, MA, a PhD student at the Institute of Social Pedagogy and Andragogy of the Jagiellonian University

1. Byrska M., Ucieczka z zeslania. Paryz 1986, s. 160; Kolbuszewski J., Kresy. Wroclaw 1995; Deportacje obywateli polskich z Zachodniej Ukrainy i Zachodniej Bialorusi w 1940 roku, opracowano przez: IPN, MSWiA oraz FSB Federacji Rosyjskiej, Warszawa 2004
2. W czterdziestym nas matko na Sybir zeslali... Polska a Rosja 1939-42. (red. Gross J.), Londyn 1983, s.8
3. Ciesielski S, Masowe deportacje z ziem wschodnich II Rzeczypospolitej w latach 1940-1941 i losy deportowanych. Uwagi o stanie badan. [W:] (red. Ciesielski S.), Wschodnie losy Polakow. Wroclaw 1997, s. 85-116
4. Archivum AAN, Hoover – Ambasada RP w Moskwie syg. 29, s.70
5. Archivum AAN, Hoover – Ambasada RP w Moskwie syg. 29, s.71
6. Леончик С., Польский детский дом в Хакасии во время Великой Отечественной войны. // Актуальные проблемы истории и культуры Саяно-Алтая. № 6 2005; Улейская Т., Новые исследования о поляках в Красноярском крае (по материалам ГАКК). // Поляки в Приенисейском крае. Абакан 2005
7. Katron W., Losy Kresowiaka. Z Kresow Wschodnich na Syberie i powrot w polskim mundurze do ojczyzny. Szczecin 1998
8. Author's own researches, not published
9. Author's own researches, not published

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