1. Personal data (name, surname, rank, age, occupation, marital status):
Corporal Bolesław Cieślak, [army postal service] no 160, 36 years old, engine driver, married, three children.
2. Date and circumstances of arrest:
I was arrested by the Soviet authorities (the NKVD) on 12 December 1939 in the town of Stolin. I was incarcerated in the prison in Stolin from my arrest until 6 April 1940, and then I was deported to the USSR. I was indicted for counter-revolutionary activities based on the so-called BSSR stattia [article of law] 62.
3. Name of the camp, prison, or forced labor site:
Stolin, Minsk, Velikaya Inta (Komi ASSR).
4. Description of the camp or prison (grounds, buildings, housing conditions, hygiene):
The labor camp occupied a square of muddy ground. It was fenced with wire and had watchtowers at the corners, manned by guards. The above-mentioned camp was one of [illegible] camps. There were 20 barracks, some of which were made of wood (that is, 10), while the rest were mud huts. The housing conditions were deplorable. The barracks were cramped, dirty and dark. Maintaining hygiene was impossible: we had a bath once a month and changed underwear only once a month, after our bath. We didn’t have any dishes, so the prisoners had to use rusty, dirty cans. Due to the lack of hygiene, we were plagued by lice, and it was virtually impossible to get rid of them. The barracks were dirty and infested with bugs, cockroaches, and other vermin.
5. The composition of POWs, prisoners, exiles (nationality, category of crimes, intellectual and moral standing, mutual relations etc.):
Prisoners of many nationalities worked in the camp: there were Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, but the majority of the prisoners were Poles. The majority were imprisoned in the camp for counter-revolutionary activities. There were also citizens of the Soviet Union, such as Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Georgians, and representatives of many other nationalities. The above were imprisoned for all sorts of crimes, they had been tried both under the politicheskaya stattia and the bytovoy stattia (robbery, theft, etc.). Russian political prisoners stood out among the Russian prisoners, as they were quite intelligent and understanding, they sympathized with the Poles and helped us keep our spirits up, whereas the others treated the Poles with arrogance, stole and robbed from them; there were many fights with them. It was impossible to have friendly relations with them. The relations with prisoners from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, on the other hand, were rather good.
6. Life in the camp or prison (average day, working conditions, prescribed amount of work, remuneration, food, clothing, cultural and other activities etc.):
The camp life was very bad. The wake-up call (podyom) was at 5.00 a.m. From 5.00 to 6.00 a.m. we had to dress ourselves for work (and we were issued breakfast, that is, 3/4 liter of some watery, fatless porridge). At 6.00 a.m. we were assigned to work (the so-called razvod). I worked in a coal mine under very harsh conditions, as I had to work almost the entire day, that is, from 6.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m., having eaten nothing but the watery and fatless porridge. From 12.00 p.m. to 1.00 p.m. we had a dinner break, during which we received a dinner of two spoons of millet groats, oat soup and boiled fish (the so-called treska [cod]). Then we worked again from 1.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. At 6.00 p.m. we finished work and were marched under escort back to the camp. Immediately after our return we received supper (bare porridge and boiling water – kipiatok), and after supper we went to sleep. The working conditions were very hard: one person had to [illegible] seven cubic meters of earth: this so-called quota was impossible to meet. Those who failed to fill 100% of the quota received very meager food (from the first caldron), consisting of water with a few oat grains and 300 grams of bread. [Illegible] prisoners lived at our expense. For instance, when a Polish prisoner met 90% of the quota, the foreman would note down 50% and distribute the rest among his friends, who then received food from the so-called Stakhanovites’ caldron. This was the case at the beginning of our stay in the camp, for three months, and lasted until we noticed this scam [?]. As a result of this swindle, many people became exhausted due to the lack of nourishing food and excess of [two illegible lines].
7. The NKVD’s attitude towards Poles (interrogation methods, torture and other forms of punishment, Communist propaganda, information about Poland, etc.):
The NKVD was hostile towards the Poles. During interrogations the Poles were beaten, incarcerated in dark cells, spat on in the face, and indoctrinated with Communist propaganda.
8. Medical assistance, hospitals, mortality rate (give the names of the deceased):
The medical assistance was poor. Sick people were forced to work. One of the Poles died, injured by one of the escorts, this injury being caused by negligence. The injured man was called Śmigus; I don’t remember his name, but I know that he came from Warsaw. The above-mentioned laborer died shortly after the accident.
9. Was there any possibility to get in contact with one’s country and family?
When I was in the camp, I was in contact with my wife, who lived in Poland, in the Stolin district.
10. When were you released and how did you manage to join the army?
I was released from the camp when the amnesty for Polish citizens was proclaimed, and I was directed to the Polish Army in the town of Totskoye.