Corporal Albert Jancewicz, 30 years old, farmer.
I laid down my arms on 22 September 1939. I was captured in Zdołbunów and deported to the USSR to a place called Shepetivka.
The camp was situated within military barracks. The food rations were scarce – we starved. Hygiene was non-existent. Health care was poor; there was high mortality. As for cultural and social life, as well as the national composition, it’s hard [for me] to say as I only stayed there shortly.
I was moved to Novohrad-Volynskyi, where I stayed from 4 October 1939 to 23 October 1939. It was better there in terms of food (easier to barter). The camp was full of chaos; everybody was struggling to survive. I deluded myself with [thoughts of] freedom, and that lifted my spirits. The labor consisted of going away to work at road construction, or sometimes on a kolkhoz. It wasn’t any better than Shepetivka.
On 27 October 1939, I came to Zaporizhia. Living conditions were good. Medical care was sufficient. Working conditions varied depending on where you landed. Remuneration was reasonable. Work ethics were high at the beginning. Communist propaganda was huge, the lectures were initially well-attended, but then gradually boycotted. There was a strong tendency of the Bolshevik authorities to hold POWs as contract workers. Strikes were a response to this, with strong solidarity (80 percent). There were two strikes: first during Christmas (with a religious background), and another in February, which was supposed to make our release happen sooner. As a result of the strikes, the camp divided into three groups: the first one consisted of those who refused to work, usually coming from under the German occupation, Poles exclusively; the second group was neutral; the third group included those loyal to work (mostly Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, and Byelorussians) and the peasant and working-class people. Cultural life was limited to the organization of a few performances of an orchestra and a choir. When we encountered local civilians at work, the interest in Poland was high.
On 18 May, I left. On 4 June 1940, I arrived at an NKVD labor camp – the 5th unit [delegated] to build a main iron railway.
I spent the first days of work in the Urdoma settlement. Urdoma is located about 150 kilometers northeast of Kotlas. Taiga all around, the only path which connected it to the world was leżniowka (a road made of logs laid across). The camp was surrounded by a fence, with “storks” – watchtowers – in the corners. The work started at 8.00 a.m. and finished at 6.00 p.m. It consisted of logging, digging, and earthwork. The quotas were always impossible to attain. Food rations were scarce. Living conditions were terrible (a hundred people [lived] in each primitively built barrack), bunk beds were often made of logs, there were no bed sheets. People fell ill with dysentery, and around autumn, masses were ill with scurvy. Thirty percent suffered from night blindness due to a lack of vitamins. Daily routine: a watchman did the wake-up call by ringing the gong; [we then received] rations of bread according to the norms we had filled; breakfast was then given, which consisted of one meal (usually wheatmeal or a codfish). Brigadiers led us to work near the gate. Here the counting and checking started, until finally a boyets would give the order: “ Szag wprawo, szag wlewo ” and so on – the march started. Of course, the whole point was to walk in the slowest possible way. After arriving, everybody would be given certain work to do. The hard and unrewarding struggle began. Around noon, prymbliuda – a meal – was brought to the worksite. Whoever had the first cauldron would receive soup; those who had the second cauldron would get a 150-gram pie made of barley flour. Before 6.00 p.m., work results of each worker were inspected. Then, the result was compared to the norm in the camp’s offices, and the amount of bread and the type of cauldron were designated. After returning from work, the prorabs (work chiefs) would put incorrect workers in front of the foreman, who would threaten them with court or prison, and forced improvement at work, often locking them up in a punishment cell. Every day, there was a check-in for brigadiers and chiefs, and if any of them defended the workers (their colleagues), they were exchanged for someone else and considered supporters of sabotage.
Intellectual standing varied; social relations were better than ever before. There was no cultural entertainment of any sort. Agitations were unwillingly listened to.
During work in the forest, Chlemtacz from Borysław was killed – God rest his soul. Except for that, in the neighboring colony – during a railway accident – 18 POWs were killed; I don’t know their surnames.
Throughout my whole stay in the North, I received two letters.
On 10 July 1941, I was taken to a camp in Yuzha, where all the interned POWs were gathered. On 31 July, the NKVD authorities read out an amnesty that liberated us, and from that point we were treated as free citizens. On 5 August 1941, a representative of the Polish army in the USSR, Lieutenant Colonel Sulik-Sarnacki [Sarnowski], took command from the NKVD.
I was accepted into the Polish Army by a Polish-Soviet commission.
Official stamp, 7 March 1943