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

Second Lieutenant Czesław Kościelny, 37 years old, elementary school teacher, unmarried.

2. Date and circumstances of arrest:

On 17 September 1939 I was captured by the Bolsheviks in Tarnopol.

3. The name of the camp, prison, forced labor site:

a) Krzywy Róg, „Szylman’s Mineshaft” and „Kaganowicz’s Mineshaft”;
b) The Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic – the 28th Colony, located 60 kilometers west of Kozhva (Pechora).

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

a) Cramped barracks for workers – e.g. 40 people in a room 5 by 6 meters. Mud around the barracks was up to our ankles. The barracks were not well heated during winter. We were responsible for keeping them in order. Sanitary conditions were terrible, there was plenty of lice. We would secretly hand over underwear for washing in private. We had to beg in order to be allowed to bathe.
b) Taiga – tents (palatki). About 200 people lived in each tent. We sometimes had to sleep in the open air for several weeks. We would build shelters on our own, for example by the Ukhta river (so-called point 24). This is how we created “settlements” which we named Moscow, Leningrad etc. The Bolsheviks, the so-called Vokhra [armed guard], were furious when they found out about it. Housing conditions improved later, for it was we ourselves who built the barracks. Those in the 28th Colony were designed by our builder and built in accordance with his plans. After the barracks were finished, various Bolshevik commissions came by and could not believe how they turned out („what a crafty bunch of Poles ”). At first, sanitary conditions were terrible – lice were everywhere. Later, when the barracks and washroom were complete, hygiene was at a decent level. We changed our underwear once a week.

5. The composition of POWs, prisoners (nationality, types of crimes, intellectual and moral level, mutual relations etc.):

a) Poles, Belarusians, and Ukrainians – the latter were in the majority. Many Poles changed their nationality, for the Bolsheviks said that Belarusians and Ukrainians would be released from the camp. In some cases the NKVD men talked people into changing their nationality. The intellectual level of the prisoners of war was very low. Only several out of about 800 had a secondary or university education. Moral level – high. Only a couple of individuals served the Bolshevik cause. Others kept them at arm’s length. This is why protests and hunger strikes went well. Despite their efforts, the Bolsheviks weren’t able to identify the leaders of these operations. In order to scare us, they transported several people from our camp to another one, claiming that they would be prosecuted, while others would be sent to Siberia. b) Mutual relations between the Poles and Belarusians deteriorated – they distrusted each other and stuck to their own groups; then the Bolsheviks mixed them together – one could not plot against another, for there were informers among the prisoners.

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

a) There were three shifts in the mine: the 1st from 7.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m., 2nd from 3.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m., and 3rd from 11.00 p.m. to 7.00 a.m. Everyone worked each shift for three days. Working conditions were difficult. A doctor segregated people based on what kind of work they were fit for. We were provided with mining clothes for work. These were often wet, because in some parts of the mine one had to go through water. We were given no other kind of clothing. The food was lousy, mostly without meat. No one met the quotas. We didn’t want to accept money. Such was the situation from 15 October to 1 December 1939. Then we organized a strike which lasted nearly two months. The Bolsheviks tried to convince us to sign their so-called dogovor [a contract], but they failed. We were visited by various commissions and subjected to interrogations. To use more delicate terms: “You must forget Poland”, “Poland will exist, but only as a Soviet state” – then they would insult President Mościcki and Marshal Piłsudski. The talks and interrogations did not succeed. They started putting people in punishment cells. I witnessed one half dead prisoner of war being carried outside after 20 days spent in the punishment cell (in the winter). It was impossible to even think about social and cultural life – the fenced-off barracks were separated so that we couldn’t communicate with one another. We communicated in the toilet. The Bolsheviks organized assemblies of sorts, during which they praised their vlast ’ [authorities] – the speakers were booed. On one occasion prisoners started throwing shoes at their heads.

b) The quota and paiok [ration] of bread prevailed.

7. The NKVD authorities’ attitude towards the Poles (ways of interrogating, torture, punishments, communist propaganda, information about Poland, etc.):

Evident from the previous points.

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

a) There was some medical care, but doctors would send the sick to work.

b) The prisoner-doctors did a lot to improve the POWs’ health. For instance, no death occurred in the 28th Colony.

9. What, if any, was your contact with the home country and with your family?:

We were allowed to send one letter a month. I received six postcards from the home country, sent by family and friends. We were not allowed to read newspapers. We communicated in an informal way.

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

On 24 August 1941 I was released from the camp in Talitsa, near Ivanovo, and in this camp I joined the Polish Army on 25 August. I handed my application for the Polish Army to Col Sulik-Sarnecki.

Comments: If the need should arise, I can provide some details in addition to the points discussed in the questionnaire.

Official stamp, 16 February 1943