Krystyna Szypowska
Brick Number: 

This is the story of what happened to my mother and her family. My mother, Julia Siomkajlo Szypowska, was forcibly deported by the Soviets on February 10, 1940 from Eastern Poland to the northern regions of Kazakhstan, on the very border of Siberia. They were awoken in the middle of the night and given less than an hour to be ready to leave their home and all their belongings. She was deported just because she was Polish, and for no other reason. She was deported along with her elderly parents (Jan and Michalina) and siblings (Jozef, Aniela, Amalia, Michalina, Joanna, Stanislawa), and approximately 2 million Poles. For weeks they were locked into an unheated cattle car in the dead of winter, with temperatures falling as low as minus 40 degrees, as the train brought them deeper into the depths of the USSR. She and her siblings were slave labourers in a gold mine for almost 2 years, and five members of her family remain in unmarked graves in the USSR. Helpless to do anything about it, she witnessed the deaths of her parents, from starvation,malnutrition, and Typhoid fever, as well as the deaths of a brother, sister, and sister-in-law. They were given no medical aid, no clothing or supplies, and only a slice of bread per day; and this was based on whether or not they met their quotas in the mines. They had to work on all fours, for 12 hours a day, with only hand tools to assist them, and they were not even made to clear the mine when explosives were set off. The rocks rained down on them whenever this happened, and many were buried alive. When they were finally released, she and three remaining sisters had another harrowing journey ahead of them, with few provisions, until they finally reached the Polish Army that was forming in southern USSR, and eventually made it to freedom in Persia. After regaining some of their strength they made a further journey to Kidugala, a refugee camp in Tanzania, East Africa. A year later, my Mother made another incredible journey. This time she traveled on a troop ship from East Africa to England, at a time when ships were regularly being torpedoed and sunk. In England, she joined the Polish Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and served out the rest of the war working in aircraft maintenance. By this time, Poland was swallowed up in the Communist axis, so she no longer had a country to return to. After meeting and marrying Michal, they set off on another incredible journey, this time to a new life in Canada. They spent the first 22 years in Montreal where they raised their children and rebuilt their lives. In 1971 Julia and Michal moved to Kingston, Ontario, where they lived for 36 years. In her final years, Julia suffered from Alzheimer's and while she steadily forgot the more recent moments of her life, the horrible memories of the past came flooding back. So in her last years she suffered once more the pain and indignity of life as a slave labourer in the USSR, and she re-lived the deaths of her parents and siblings in those inhuman conditions. She died on September 7th, 2007, in the arms of her husband and children. She will be forever remembered and forever loved by her children and grandchildren.