Russians at the Door

Evil usually happens in the darkness of night.  If families were to be deported or arrested, there was always banging on the front door in the middle of the night. This was no different for my mother.

For seven months my mother and her father worked with their underground network, getting Polish soldiers across the border to Romania.  As my mom tells the story, in the spring of 1940 their ranks started to crumble.  Arrests were more and more frequent, and she and her friends were afraid of their own shadows.  They knew they were on borrowed time, knowing that one day sleep would be interrupted by banging on the door.  As my mom put it,  “When you woke up in your own bed, that meant that one more day was ahead of you.”  At her house the banging came on April 17, 1940 at 1:00 a.m., when she and her father were arrested by the Soviets and taken away.  The charge was conspiracy against Mother Russia.

My mother wrote an essay on this subject, and in it she stated she was in several prisons on Polish soil, but I can only document one prison in Stanislawow, the governing seat of her region, which was where she stood trial and was sentenced.

Russian receipt for confiscated jewelry - watch, earrings, bracelet.

Russian receipt for confiscated jewelry – watch, earrings, bracelet.
Dated, 4/29/1940 – Stanislawow Prison. Document preserved with Scotch Tape

As she recounts, she experienced frequent late night interrogations to harass, frighten, and for her captures to get a signed confession.  These dehumanizing interrogations, when you were not fully awake and terrified, became a game for the guards.  Your “friend” across the desk wanted to make you comfortable and even offered you a cigarette.  Then the games began.  They would ask the same questions over and over, but if the guard did not like the answer, if it displeased him, he would come from behind the desk and tell you to sit on the edge of the chair with your legs out straight.  From then on the guard would pace, ask questions, pace and pace some more.  If again he did not like the answer, he would stop behind you and pull the chair out from under you.  Somehow my mother was never prepared for those moments. She said,  you just never knew which answer would displease him.  Another trick they used during interrogations was to have water drip, drip, drip, over your head in even intervals.  If you tried to avoid it by moving ever so slightly, the chair was pulled out from under you again.  This would go on for hours!

Prison document

Tribunal sentencing – 8 years of hard labor.

The men were separated from the women following their arrest, so my mother only saw her father one time after the initial arrest, the day of the mock trial. 40 or 50 people from their organization were arrested over the course of the raids and all stood trial and were sentenced on either September  20, 21, or 23, 1940.
The document translation: In a closed court hearing, the Court Martial of the 12th Army Tribunal, having considered the case against Krasowska, Stanislawa, daughter of Marcin, born in the year 1921, according to articles 54-2 and 54-11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukraine SSR.
Krasowska, Stanislawa daughter of Marcin, based on Article 45 and 54-2 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR, to correctional – labor camp for the duration of 8 years, confiscation of property belonging to her, and (illegible) for the duration of 5 years.

Researching the criminal code of Ukraine SSR,  Article 54-2: is for bourgeois separatism and nationalism. Article 54-11: is for being a member of an anti-Soviet organization.

September 23, 1940 was the last time my mother saw her father.  Apparently the men withstood harsher interrogations.  The judge allowed the families to talk for five minutes after the trial and when my mother met face to face with her father she saw that his teeth were pulled.  I guess his interrogators did not like his answers!  Some men had faces burned when guards would lite matches to their whiskers.

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