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The Marszalek family's story

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:30 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My family is originally from Ukraine. Our country was invaded by Germans.

In April 1940 the Russian (Soviet) secret police asked (told) my family to pack and leave for Siberia. My father told me stories of people dying on the way. It was part of Stalin's 'ethnic cleansing' programme. Kids were not allowed to speak Polish, but only Russian.

My father was nine when war broke out. His feet were deformed in the camp in Siberia since he had no more shoes.

In 1941 Germany invaded Russia. The Katyn Massacre happened then - Polish university professors, officers, priests and politicians were butchered there.

In 1943 Stalin decided to let Polish people leave Siberia. My paternal uncles joined the army and fought in Italy.

Some of the Polish people (those who survived) were sent to India and Iran. Some were sent to Africa. My family members ended up in Uganda. My maternal family ended up in Tanzania. My mum was born there in 1943 - my mother speaks Swahili.

When the war finished my uncles reunited in England. When Poland was 'sold' to the Soviets, there was no way they could go back. Their camp still exists in Marston. Eventually, they got their work visas. They experienced lots of racism. There were people gathering outside the camp preventing Poles from interacting with locals.

My older uncle went to a technical college in Cambridge to attend a technical course. Later he worked on the construction of the M1 motorway. My father bought his first house in 1964. My dad got married to my mum in the same year. I was born in 1965.

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Marszalek family

Person who shared the story/items

Julian Marszalek

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Type of submission

Shared at the Polish Social and Cultural Association, London on 1-2 November 2023.

Record ID

106741 | POL010