Irena Wołoszczuk (Kropka)

Irena Kropka was born 10 February 1933. She was the youngest of four children. Her father was a soldier awarded with the Cross of Valor, a Polish military decoration given to individuals for extreme courage in the battlefield. She and her three siblings were brought up in a post- military settlement in Antonin near Dubrovytsia where her parents ran a small farm. After the Soviet Army entered Polish territory in September 1939, her father was mobilized to the army but soon came back worried about his family. Soviet troops soon came to their village and started plundering fields and stealing Polish possession.

One night armed men surrounded Irena’s house, broke into the household, arrested her father and gave her mother an hour to pack the family’s belongings. The Kropkas were told they did not need to carry a lot, because all would be provided for them at the place they were headed. The family was taken onto sleighs to Dubrovytsia where cattle wagons where waiting for them. They traveled in locked wagons for about 3 weeks in horrifying conditions with almost no food. Weak, elderly people and infants were dying of exhaustion and diseases. Irena remembers passing Moscow. They arrived at a train station in Kotlas and where loaded on sleighs. They traveled deep into the forest for about 2 weeks staying the nights in sheds and reached the Viled river where they were placed in barracks. In March 1940 they were all transported by sleighs to Vitjunino where the whole family was forced to work in wood cutting in exchange for small rations of food.

On September 1941 the Kropka family was informed about an “amnesty” for Poles. They did not know what that really meant and had no idea what to do. Together with a few other families they decided to build rafts and float down the Viled river also taking care of orphans who had lost their parents due to malnutrition, diseases and overwork. After over a week they reached Kotlas where they paid for places in cattle wagons that took them to a kolhoz in Uzbekistan. Afterwards they traveled by train to a settlement by the Amu Darya river in Turkmenistan. The Kropka family lived in barracks and worked in cotton fields. Later they returned to Uzbekistan where two of Irena’s brothers joined gen. Anders’s Army. They could all travel with the Polish Army to Krasnowock (today Turkmenbashi) at the Caspian Sea. Then they went aboard a ship to Persia. In Tehran Irena was treated at a Red Cross hospital for Typhus. After recovery she could board a British ship that took her to Africa. She spent 8 years in Ifunda (Tanganika) where she completed her education. Finally she emigrated to Canada.


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