Zbigniew Ireneusz Wajszczuk 0062
"A Silent and Dark"
Pictures from Siberia from the life of a Polish Soldier
after September 1939
Zbigniew Ireneusz (0062) Wajszczuk (known in the Family by a nickname Zbyszek)
graduated before the war from a Technical College in Wilno with a degree
in construction of land and water highways. He was a soldier in the Polish Army in 1939, most likely with
a rank of a junior non-commisioned officer, athough it should be noted
that the copy of a document from the files of the Russian prisoner-of war
camp (which was obtained from the Polish Central Military Archives [CAW]
in Rembertów) states: private, 6. supply batallion. Initially, only a very
limited amount od information could be obtained from his Family in
Argentina. It was learned that he was captured by the Soviets in the
eastern part of Poland, shortly after they entered there on September 17,
1939 (the details of his capture were not known to us).
A postcard (shown at left) mailed to him by his sister in February 1940 is addressed to the Post Office Box in Równe (Western Ukraine - previously a Polish territory) and the Post Office stamp from Równe shows the date of March 29, 1940 (29-3-40) thus suggesting that he was detained at that time in that area. From the publications of the Information Center KARTA in Poland (www.karta.org.pl),which specializes in gathering information about the fates of the Polish war victims, it is known that in that area there was an extensive network of the POW labor camps run by the NKVD (Soviet Security Organization). The NKVD Construction Project nr 1 in that area employed the captives to hurriedly build a strategic road system between Novogrod Volynski - via Rowne and Dubno - to Lvov (see - map, note contemporary Ukrainian language spelling of the names).
This NKVD construction site existed until the time of German invasion in June 1941. At that time the camps were liquidated and some of the prisoners were transferred to Starobielsk, and some were put to work in the iron ore mines or in the limestone quarries in Ukraine or transported to the Arctic North. The details of Zbyszek's fate at that time are not known. At a later date, at the time of his meeting with his uncle Zenobiusz (0096)
in Iraq (see below), Zbyszek talked about working in a quarry. This information was also confirmed by his wife Stefania, who did not know its exact location, but mentioned that at some time Zbyszek was also a prisoner in POW camps at Starobielsk, Kozielsk and Ostaszkow (see maps below). After the German attack on the Soviet Union, and an "amnesty" for the Polish military and non-military captives and prisoners resulting from an agreement between the Polish and Soviet Governments signed on July 30, 1941 (see below the attached abbreviated text of the book by the British historian Michael Hope), Zbyszek was released and embarked on a very long and difficult trip, including 500 km on foot, to Jangijul (see map below), where the new Polish Army was being formed. On July 4, 1942, he was enrolled in the Officer Cadet School.
New information obtained from the Russian archives and recently published by the KARTA Information Center provided few more details (see at left).
It confirmed that he was captured on September 18, 1939 in the region of Tarnopol (Ternopil' on the map above), was initially kept in the POW camp at the nearby Szepietowka (Shepetivka) until October 5, 1939 and then was transferred to other camp(s) of the Rowne - Lwow network. Unfortunately no other details are given and we still do not know, where he was imprisoned and where did he work during the period from October 1939 to September 1941 - was he transferred deeper into Siberia? (see pictures below - dated January and February 1941 - before the German invasion in June 1941)?
According to the information obtained more recently (2007) from the
Central Military Archives
(see), he was
captured in Tarnopol on September 18, 1939, was initially detained in
Szepietówka and from there he was transferred on October 5, 1939 to one
of the camps of the Równe network (Camp file #11596). This document also
reveals that he was "de-registered" from this camp on September 2, 1941.
The same date, September 2, 1941 - is given in the files of the KARTA
Center as the date of Zbyszek's initial enrollment in the Polish Army
(Gen. Anders' II Corps) beeing organized in the Soviet Union, at one of
its organization centers in Tockoje, which is quite a distance from
Jangijul, where he apparently arrived much later - (i.e. in July 1942 -
We still do not
know any details about his "travels" in the Soviet Union before and
after release from the P.O.W. camp and about the origin of the mementos
- see pictures below. Also, see a map near the bottom of this page for locations of the detention and labour camps for Poles over the whole territory of the Soviet Union and of the "collection" points of the organizing Polish Armed Forces.
At the time of his visit to Poland (for the first time) in summer of 2001, his son Adam Tadeusz (0062) (Adan Tadeo in Argentina) handed over to me copies of some of the mementos, which he inherited from his Father. Very interesting drawings made by a prisoner include a column of prisoners crossing on foot the vast snowy expanses with the guards and dogs around them. Explanation on the reverse says: "Year 1941 month January, from Kotlas in the direction of Siberia across the Northern Dzwina (river)" - see the map below. Marching, going where? who and when will arrive there? Perhaps to Vorkuta to the coal-mines or to a quarry? As far as we know, Zbyszek was never in Vorkuta. Another one is a portrait of Zbyszek with a full face of hair and a caption: "Wojtowice (?), d.(ay) 3.II.941" - artist's signature is illegible. Where did he and they end up that winter in Siberia?
After arriving in Jangijul on July 20, 1942, Zbyszek was signed up for active
military service with a rank of a corporal, reserve unit and a student
in the Cadet Officer School and assigned to the Artillery Training
Center of the Polish Armed Forces. From Jangijul he was transported with
the Army to Krasnovodsk and from there by boat (most likely in August of
1942) across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi in Iran. Some time
in 1942, while recuperating in a hospital south of Mosul in Iraq, he met
with his uncle Zenobiusz (0096) and told him his story. Many years later,
while already back in Poland, Zenobiusz wrote his war-time memoirs
There are relatively few details in it concerning Zbyszek's experiences in the Soviet Union - presumably, since the diary was written while under the communist regime, and it could have been dangerous to reveal too many details). An abbreviated excerpt from Zenobiusz's memoirs says:"on the way to meet me, in spite of being an excellent swimmer, he nearly drowned while crossing the river, which had extremely strong currents, vortices and underground channels - not knowing that, he tried to swim accross to shorten the distance". From there, via the Middle East - details are not known -Zbyszek was transferred to Italy.
According to the most recent information (April 14, 2009), he became
enrolled at the beginning of 1944, while in Italy, in a special military
training as a "Cichociemny" (a Silent Dark one - a secret commando unit
of the Polish Army during World War II -
was never parachuted into occupied Poland. "Wajszczuk, Zbigniew
Ireneusz - second lieutenant, artillery - "Miś 2" ("Little bear 2") -
parachute jumper "cichociemny", trained and sworn in, ready to be
dropped into the homeland" - (source:
based on a book: "Drogi Cichociemnych", red. Koło Spadochroniarzy AK,
Wyd. Bellona, Warszawa 2008.)" According to his wife Stefania, he
suffered a back injury (during a training parachute jump?) and his
post-war medical evaluation acknowledges a 40% medical disability. It
cannot be established, whether he was not dropped into Poland because of
the suspension and then termination by the Polish military of this kind
of activity (Soviet Army has entered already the Polish territory) or
because of the sustained back injury?
mentioned in uncle Zenobiusz's memoirs (see)
reveal that they met again in Egypt and later Zbyszek participated in
Italy in the battles for Ancona in July of 1944 and for Bologna in April
of 1945. After this last battle, they met again in Capua in Italy, where
Zbyszek underwent oral surgery.
It should be noted that
at the time of completion of the parachute jump training (a certificate
dated February 15, 1944) his rank was corporal, Cadet Officer. Another
military document certifying his right to wear the commemorative badge
of the 5th course of the Artillery Reserve Cadet Officer School was
dated December 21 1945. His military rank was then already a second
lieutenant. Perhaps this is also the date of his graduation from this
school, but this date could not be definitely established.
After the war, Zbyszek arrived in 1947 in England, where he worked as a lecturer at the Agricultural courses in Foxley, met Stefania and got married in 1948. While there, he met again in 1947 in London with his uncle who shortly afterwards returned to Poland; Zbyszek and his new family decided in 1951 to emigrate to Argentina. From the same memoirs: "While in the Middle East and later in England, Zbyszek served as a voluntary guardian of one of the Polish orphans recovered from the Soviet Union and placed in a camp for the Polish orphaned children in Kenya - they continued to correspond for a few years".
Zbyszek's wife Stefania Frasz was born in 1923 in the county of Janowiec in the Poznan voivodship and at the age of one year moved with the family to Trembowla (south-eastern part of Poland before the war - currently in Ukraine). Her mother died, when Stefania was 6 years old and her father remarried one year later. Stefania's father was a policeman and as such, after Soviet invasion on September 17, 1939, was arrested, deported and jailed somewhere in the Soviet Union already early in the autumn of 1939 (see - files of the KARTA Information Center). Stefania and her stepmother were deported on April 13, 1940 to Kazakhstan. The trip by rail in a cattle car lasted over one month. They were placed in a "sovchoz" (soviet government farm) "Bolshevik" in the Kokpekti county, Semipaltinsk (currently Semej) region along the eastern edge of Kazakhstan, near Karagand. They were housed in mud huts without doors or windows, heavily infested with lice, flees and bed-bugs. After the July 1941 agreement, and "amnesty", they were released from this labor camp and embarked on a trip to Jangijul, (which is located at the southern edge of Kazakhstan - near Tashkent in Uzbekistan), where the newly-formed Polish Army was stationed. They travelled via Ust-Kamenogorsk (on the river Irtysh). In Jangijul, they were succesful in finding Stefania's father, who was also released. After a short stay in Jangijul they were transferred with the Army to Krasnovodsk (in Turkmenistan) and by boat across the Caspian Sea, arrived to Pahlevi (currently Bandar-e Anzali) in Iran and then to Teheran.. Stefania and her father joined the Polish Army in May 1943 in Teheran and then through Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria arrived in Palestine. In Nazareth Stefania enrolled in the "School of Junior Volunteers" (a high school program) and on May 20, 1947 was awarded a graduation certificate, which was handed to her by General Wladyslaw Anders, at that time the Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in the East. In 1947 the family arrived in England, where Stefania and Zbyszek met in Foxley and got married in July of 1948. Stefania's father and his wife left for Argentina later in 1948 (he died there in 1974). Zbyszek's and Stefania's travel was delayed, but they finally arrived in Argentina in 1951. The son Adam (063) was born while still in England and the daughter Ewa (068) shortly after arriving in Argentina in 1951.
click on the picture to enlarge
See the Branch
See also reminiscences of others:
2. Combatant group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Kresy-Siberia
Prepared by: Waldemar Wajszczuk i Paweł Stefaniuk 2002