Senior Sergeant Franciszek Kędziora, born in 1895 in Jarogniewice, Kościan district. As a regular second lieutenant I performed military service in the “Berezice” battalion of the Border Protection Corps.

After the Border Protection Corps’ retreat from the Polish-Soviet border and the disbandment of the units, I returned to the Polish borderlands, to my place of service and residence.

In March 1940, when my friends were being arrested, I went into hiding and remained so until May 1940.

On 16 June 1940 I was in the town of Włodzimierz, where I was arrested in a general roundup. In July, following an interrogation etc., I was deported to a camp in the north, Pechorlag, and there my sentence was read out to me: I was sentenced to three years on charges of subversion. The journey itself was very hard – the wagons were overcrowded, there was no water, it was hot, and we received barely enough food to keep us alive. The foodstuffs we received were mainly herrings.

This journey, which was very hard, ended in Kotlas, and then we went by water, train, cars and on foot to the Pechorlag.

It is difficult to talk about any housing conditions, as we were taken directly to the forest, where we had to build huts for ourselves out of young pines and moss. It was the same in winter, except for the fact that we received tents for the whole camp, or more even, depending on the number of inmates. Heating – we made stoves out of iron barrels (in which petrol had been stored). There was considerable lice infestation, but whenever we stayed at some place for a longer time, we built bathhouses in which we steamed our clothes. Wherever the steaming was introduced, special importance was placed on delousing.

However, as we moved on with our work (we worked at railway construction), the camps had to be moved as well, and again the conditions were very bad. We could receive some clothes or underwear only when we got rid of our own or they went to rags. In summer we received clothes of denim fabric, and in winter warm pants, a jacket (a padded fufayka), and additionally a warm pea jacket (bushlat). It was most difficult to get shoes, as only a small group of the chosen ones received some as an encouragement to become shock workers (Stakhanovites), and the majority had to wear postoly made of rubber tires. In winter there were felt shoes, but again for the chosen ones. In addition to postoly, we received 50-percent padded shoes (sewn-in canvas over padding).

The food was very meager (there were three types of meals). 75 percent of the Poles received food from the first cauldron, that is, the worst, which was due to the fact that the work quotas were very high and it was very difficult to meet them. The quotas were getting worse because of the Ukrainians, who had their ways of appearing to have exceeded their work quotas, as a result of which the administration would give them rewards to encourage them, and at the same time raise the quotas for the Poles (there was constant vying). In general, both the guards and the administration personnel of the camp treated us in a sad way. There wasn’t a single day when they didn’t resort to physical violence when driving us out for work. However, we were treated differently when the supervising authorities were present. Every day, up to 10 percent of the inmates were sick due to exhaustion, but the camp doctors issued medical leaves only for those patients who ran a temperature of 37 degrees or more. In theory, in winter we didn’t have to go to work when the temperature fell to 45 degrees below zero. However, the thermometer – which I never saw – never read such a temperature, although sometimes it was even colder. Sometimes, however, we were taken back from work; it was at sunrise or in the evenings. It was when we had our chins and cheeks frostbitten.

Culture, education. If anything at all appeared on the bulletin board, they were caricatures criticizing bad workers and exalting the good ones.

I was released from the camp on 14 September 1941 and on 27 September of the same year I joined the 19th Infantry Regiment in Totskoye.