Excerpts from my diary:
September 5, 2013
I also did more internet digging which resulted in finding a PDF of a dissertation on the topic of the free labor used by the Germans and the Russians during WWII, as the reason for all the deportation and not just to break the people’s will and spirit or as a means of moving them out of the territories. The reason for this particular search, which was not the first time, was me trying to figure out why my mother and her father were arrested but her mother was not. From everything I read, whole families of former soldiers, and other dissidents were being arrested. The story growing up was that her mother was not involved, so she was spared. What I found confusing was that other whole families where being arrested and deported. Why was a singular woman spared?
This dissertation revealed interested facts and the writer’s theory. Along with that it revealed her sources, which primarily were from General Ander’s collection of documents found in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Even though I read his book, I did not know that he had surveys done by his soldiers about the Soviet labor camp conditions. This has lead me to Palo Alto California, to the research archives of the Hoover Institution where I am today.
I met Irena, yesterday, who signed me in, polish woman who will be helping me today. I am very excited to try to find out a bit more about what my father’s fate was going from Lithuania to a Soviet camp and out to the Soviet Union to join the Polish Army.
September 5, 2013:
Here I am in the Hoover Institution Archives and Irena has been showing me the procedures. The collection is so much larger than I thought it would be.
There is so much more in terms of not only accounts of the soldiers, but civilians and the nurses. So I have the whole family covered. Irena also mentioned that is another collection – The Polish Ministry of Information and Documentation contain the fullest available documentation (including more than 30,000 original depositions by survivors) . She checked both the Serbinski name and Krasowski name. Stanislawa Krasowska is there, my mother, with the correct birth date and from Kosow Huculski. Needless to say I am ecstatically awaiting the boxes of materials that I ordered to begin the exploration of the past. One can only order 10 boxes out of archives at time. Once you are done with those 10 you order another set of 10. There is so much to see.
There was indeed a statement that my mother wrote after her release from Siberia. It recounts the events at the beginning of the war as she remembers. I will it translated, as the archive staff person could not read her handwriting well.
There were boxes of statements of Polish soldiers answering questions about their capture and then release from Soviet camps in addition to what abuse they encountered.
My hope was that my dad would have made this kind of statement and there would be a record of it. But he did not. So now my hope was that there was enough material to show a path of where he may have been during his route from Lithuania to the 2nd Corp.
I reviewed dozens and dozens of statements from soldiers. The ones that I focused on were the ones that had soldiers interned by the Lithuanians. After the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940 those soldiers were transferred to a Soviet camp. There were a couple of themes, soldiers interned and then going to one camp or one other. A summary document that focused on Polish soldiers interned in Lithuania stated that once the Soviets occupied Lithuania, interned Polish soldiers, officers that were in the Cavalry were sent from Kozielsk to Griazowcu in Russia. Since this was a recurring theme, my speculation is that this is where Tatus was.
Tomorrow’s goal is to go through boxes that focus on the 2nd Corp in Italy, some English translations of statements, and locations of forced labor camps. The English translations will be welcome since reading Polish has been trying. The vocabulary of the day is difficult. Even if I may know generally what the document say, I don’t know for sure.
September 6, 2013:
Day 2 at the Hoover Institution. I found a list of families that were deported to the USSR and found my grandparents and aunt listed. Ciocia is listed twice, once as a daughter and a separate listing as a wife of a soldier. Tatus is listed as a son with the notation, ogn. pdchr. I do not know what the intials stand for. It also tells where the family was deported to – Kustanajska oblast, Karasuski rej., St. Kojbagor.
The other findings are about the camps in Lithuania and what was going on there. I cannot comment right now what they are about since they are lengthy and in Polish. I can only take a few pages at a time and then decide that it is better to photocopy the originals and have them read later. The other piece involves statistics about Poland which was a piece translated into English.
While waiting for additional boxes to arrive, I will be copying a lengthy narrative of a soldier that was pinned against the Lithuanian/Polish border during the campaign with hopes of safe passage into Lithuania. He mentions hearing near-by fighting by the Cavalry, which I am for now imagining was Tatus’ unit.
My over-all view of this experience has been mixed so far. What I have found is nothing new except for the additional information I have been able to learn about Lithuanian Internment camps. Even with this information, it does not lead me to more knowledge about Tatus and his time in that situation. But this experience does give me the opportunity to touch a broader base of history. These original documents/letters/statements look and feel like the ones left to me by mama, but the family documents and letters are personal and now I can really see how they fit into the very large scope of what Poland went through during the war years. Much of what I have read or at least attempted to read are summaries or essays about a particular camp experience or a summary about a situation, as witnessed by survivors.
I read parts of a very long newspaper article written by a surviving Polish officer who spoke about being in the same camp as those that were eventually murdered in Katyn, those from Starobielsk. He and several others were moved to a smaller camp without knowing what the fate of the thousands of others were until much later. He assumed they were all moved to smaller camps as did he. The article appeared in the paper “Nowy Swiat” written in 1944. As history has shown, thousands of others were murdered by the Soviets.
I feel like I can recount and compare this experience to my visit to Auszwitz in 2008. Taking a tour of the camp allowed me to walk up and down the corridor of one of the barracks, where photos of prisoners were hung along with their names and how long they were there, which was printed on each of the photos. I saw all the Polish names, and then seeing that the average time alive there was three months, brought me to tears. With the documents of the Anders Collection, I see names of soldiers, murdered in Katyn, including my uncle, seeing lists of families that were deported to the USSR, with the ages of the family members posted, many were babies and children, pregnant women and the elderly. This all comes alive for me as a witness to a forgotten time.
This afternoon may bring much of the same and I am very fortunate to have this opportunity to touch the thousands of pages documenting the Polish experience.
Many boxes later and no new information ended my visit to the Hoover Institution.