1. Personal data (name, surname, rank, age, occupation and civil status):

Rifleman Franciszek Barczak, 30 years old, a teacher by profession, married.

2. Date and circumstances of arrest:

I was arrested on 28 June 1940 in Włodzimierz Wołyński, after I had refused to accept a Soviet passport. I was detained at night under an “impressment” action.

3. Name of the camp, prison, place of forced labor:

I was detained for around 15 months in various labor camps in the far north, near the Pechora River.

4. Description of the camp, prison (grounds, buildings, living conditions, hygiene):

In the first camp, there were some one hundred Poles and Jews (and a dozen or so Ukrainians). Initially, we had to live in the open, while later we built ourselves a few shacks and lived in them until December 1940, when the ground became covered with a 50 cm layer of snow. The shacks were overgrown with moss, and so all the rainwater and melted snow fell on our heads and beddings, which at the time consisted solely of moss. Towards the end of November 1940 we moved into sturdier shelters, which we had also erected on our own over the previous months. As building material we used raw wood that we carried into the camp on our shoulders. The new shelters were better than the shacks, since the water no longer dripped directly onto our heads. But because these structures were overcrowded with people, and also due to the wetness of the wood that we were forced to use, mold soon developed and they became unlivable. The camps to which I was later sent were identical.

The fact that we could all sleep only when lying on our sides shows just how crowded the conditions were.

Until a bath house was built, the place was infested with lice. Each of us would kill a few dozen or more of the creatures daily. Occasionally, we would be provided with water to wash. In the main, however, the supply of water was deficient and we could only bathe from time to time.

5. Social composition of POWs, prisoners, deportees (nationality, category of crimes, intellectual and moral level, mutual relations, etc.):

Initially, the camps for Polish convicts stood separately. But in the beginning of 1941 they mixed us with the Soviet prisoners. Thus, we found ourselves amongst all the nations comprising the USSR. Georgians and Uzbeks accounted for the majority of criminals, with the former being mainly “politicals”. On the whole, the intellectual level of this hotchpotch of men was very low, with perhaps the Georgians being an exception. In each and every camp, Poles constituted a special group, that of the so-called “masters”. Georgians and the older Russians were particularly fond of us Poles. Indeed, these Russians loved to hear tales about life in Poland, for it reminded them of their former life in Pre-revolutionary Russia, after which they longed.

6. Life in the camp, in prison (the course of an average day, working conditions, quotas and norms, wages, food, clothing, mutual relations, cultural life, etc.):

Work performed in virtually all the camps was identical. We toiled on the construction of the Kotlas – Vorkuta railway line, and also felled trees. The guards would wake us up at five in the morning or earlier, and by six we would be marching to our place of labor. Work continued without a pause until dinnertime, which would be handed out at various hours – two, three, four o’clock, or even later. We had one hour for dinner. Afterwards, those of us who had carried out the norm would work until seven. But those who had failed to fulfill the quota had to toil longer, sometimes even until midnight. Supper was given when we returned from work. The quotas were extremely high, and therefore some 80 percent of the prisoners failed to meet them. But those who carried out the norm would be cheated with impudence by the Russian “commandants”, who attributed a percentage of the work performed by Poles to Russians. This all resulted in us receiving reduced food rations – which were insufficient to start off with. Our complaints, which we initially sent to the camp authorities, were always decided in favor of the Russians. For this reason, once we found out how the system worked, we abandoned the official route and started meting out justice on our own, beating up the transgressors. As it turned out, this approach gave the best results – we became a force to be reckoned with. However, we could not apply it all the time, because by and large we were a numerically small group.

Our wages were very meager. I personally earned twelve rubles in a year, although I actually received just five rubles and some kopecks – the rest got displaced (in the pockets of the Russian administrators, no doubt). The food was bad. We would be given from 300 to 900 grams of bread per day, and soup thrice daily. Those who carried out the norm would receive an additional dish at dinnertime – 200 grams of kasha. There were weeks when neither fat nor salt were added to the soup or kasha, while when some fat was actually added, the quantity would be so minute that we could not tell by taste whether it indeed contained any. On occasion, the hunger would be so severe that some of the prisoners went insane. Underwear and clothes were given only to Stakhanovites, or those who fulfilled the quota. The rest walked around in rags, often without any undergarments.

Information about Poland came exclusively from Soviet newspapers, which we would steal, or otherwise buy for exorbitant sums from the Soviet administration. Sometimes we would pay for a newspaper in cash, but mainly with our shirts – or other items of personal clothing.

7. Attitude of the authorities, NKVD towards Poles (methods of interrogation, torture, punishments, Communist propaganda, information about Poland, etc.):

The attitude of the NKVD towards us Poles was exceptionally unfavorable, indeed hostile. The penalty usually applied for infringements was the punishment cell, which – however – cannot really be compared with any regular isolation cell. They would also send transgressors to penal labor colonies. I had no contact with my family.

8. Medical care, hospitals, mortality rate (provide the surnames of those who perished):

Medical care was poor. The doctors were usually people who had nothing in common with medicine. Their “aid” was limited solely to the application of iodine and the provision of vitamin tablets. The mortality rate was high.

9. Was it at all possible to keep in touch with the home country and your family? If yes, then what contacts were permitted?

We had no contact with the home country or our families. We were allowed to write letters home, but no one ever received a reply.

10. When were you released and how did you get through to the Polish Army?

I was released on 13 September 1941. I managed to reach the Polish Army thanks to my own ingenuity.