J John Palimaka
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In memory of my paternal grandfather Jan who died far from his homeland as a consequence of the forced deportations from Eastern Poland carried out by the Red Army and NKVD of the Soviet Union in 1940. At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Western Poland and the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland under a secret agreement (the Molotov-Ribberntrop pact). In February 1940 thousands of Polish families were taken in the early morning from their homes without notice and packed into cattle cars to be taken by train to work camps in Siberia. Many did not survive the long journey or work in the harsh winter conditions of the primitive camps. In June 1941 Hitler turned against Stalin and invaded the Soviet-controlled regions of Europe and threatened the Russian heartland. The Polish deportees were released from Siberia so that the men of military age could join the fight against Germany. After months of travelling by train, on foot, by ship and by any means available my grandfather and his family reached Iran where an army was being assembled to protect the oil fields from Hitler’s grasp. It was in Teheran that Jan died from typhoid fever contracted while providing nursing assistance at the hospital. He was buried in Tehran where he remains today. His oldest son Jozef entered military service and the rest of the family (my grandmother and three children) were transported to the British Colony of Rhodesia. They were reunited in Britain after the end of the war but chose not to return to Soviet-controlled Poland due to their prior horrific experiences in the communist “workers’ paradise”.