1: INTRODUCTION by Franek Rymaszewski     7: WITH MY BROTHER in WARTIME ENGLAND   11: POLISH CHRISTMAS and EASTER
2: MY FAMILY TREE   8: MY FAMILY SURVIVORS in POLAND 12: ANCESTORS - Part 1 : Origin and Records    
3: RELEVANT MAPS and POLISH HISTORY   9: MY EMIGRATION to AUSTRALIA       ANCESTORS - Part 2 : Family Tree
4: MY FAMILY ANCESTRY in POLAND 13: Rymaszewskis in present-day POLAND
5: PINSK UNDER COMMUNIST TYRANNY 10: Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 1     14: Rymaszewskis  WORLD-WIDE (Part 1)
    MIETEK'S MEMOIRS OF GULAG       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 2       Rymaszewskis in the USA (Part 2)
6: MY ESCAPE FROM STALIN       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 3 15: EMAILS from Visitors
 

MY ESCAPE FROM THE SOVIET UNION WITH GENERAL ANDERS POLISH ARMY


 
SOVIET RUSSIA : Early 1942
 
barbed wire
Soviet Russia
SOVIET RUSSIA - THE EMPIRE OF THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS

Each dot on the above map of the Soviet Russia represents a penal concentration camp (gulag), or a special "psychiatric" prison.

Full list of all location names and details can be found in a book (in Polish) "The fate of Poles in the USSR in years 1939-1986" : "Losy Polaków w ZSRR w latach 1939-1986", by Julian Siedlecki, Gryf Publications, London 1987.

soviet prison
barbed wire
 


Near the end of the second year of war in Europe, the Soviet Union was unexpectedly attacked by Hitler on 22 June 1941, breaking the 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact of friendship and cooperation. The Soviets found themselves, willy-nilly, on the same side as Britain, Poland, and the Allies.

They issued the so called "amnesty" for Polish citizens imprisoned or deported to the Soviet Union.   A strange amnesty indeed, where there had been no crime!  Many prisoners and deportees were released from prison camps, under the terms of this "amnesty", to allow recruitment of a Polish Army.

Thus late 1941 saw the creation of the Polish Army in the Soviet Union from survivors of over one and a half million Poles who were deported to forced labour camps in all parts of the Soviet Union after Soviet and Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.

The army was set up in the south of Asian part of Russia, headed by general Anders, former prisoner, who spent two years in the notorious Lubyanka prison in Moscow.

General Anders, former Soviet prisoner, inspecting Polish recruitment camp in Buzuluk, Russia - 1941


General Sikorski, Commander in Chief of the Polish Army in the West with Winston Churchill, PM of Britain and War Commander

 


ENTRANCE TO POLISH ARMY GARRISON IN BUZULUK, RUSSIA - NOV. 1941

 


RECRUITMENT TO GEN. ANDERS POLISH ARMY - LATE 1941 - EARLY 1942.
FORMER PRISONERS QUEUING UP TO JOIN

Polish Army being trained Soviet style — wooden rifles and make-believe artillery

 


It was soon clear that the Russians were not able to feed or equip the Polish army properly. Little food, epidemics, no arms, little equipment and ammunition. However, we had morale boosting good quality new battle dresses instead of rags and lice and real leather boots. This was supplied by the British especially for the Polish army in Russia.

So after much pressure on Moscow, general Anders managed to get Stalin's agreement to evacuate Polish troops through Persia (Iran) to Iraq and Palestine (then under British mandate administration) where they would be equipped and fed by the British. This agreement was mainly due to Churchill's support (in consultation with gen. Sikorski, C in C of the Polish Army in the West) who stressed to Stalin that troops were needed to protect oil fields in the Middle East. Advancing Germans (and Italians) were not that far away in North Africa and South of Russia from oil fields, and sending British troops to Iraq will delay opening of second war front in the West of Europe which Russians were demanding.

The Russians probably didn't mind us going. We were bad publicity to the enslaved Soviet population who never saw such good quality western clothes like our woolen uniforms and real leather boots superior to cheap Red Army's uniforms and boots often made of canvas. Also Polish army units were holding Masses out of necessity in the open air which drew local onlookers. Many Russians not even understanding the Mass started to participate by following our example of kneeling, making signs of cross, etc. - all this was forbidden in the Soviet Union.



barbed wire

MY ELDER BROTHER
66.122
  Zygmunt Tadeusz RYMASZEWSKI
DIED

20 years old Zygmunt was arrested by NKVD in Pinsk, accused of antisoviet talk and sentenced to 5 years hard labour in a gulag.

After the so called "amnesty" my brother Zygmunt, surviving 2 years of imprisonment, slave work, cold and starvation in Vorkuta gulag camp, finally reached Polish Army garrison in Buzuluk, Orenburg district, south of Russia, and joined the gen. Anders Army. Due to advacing German war front line, the garrison was moved past Urals to Guzar, Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in the Asian south of the USSR.

Zygmunt was very happy to wear the uniform of a Polish soldier but his body was so weakened by the labour and prolonged starvation that he soon died on 4 June 1942, aged 21, in Guzar (Ghuzor), Kashkadariyskaya province, Uzbekistan. This information about his death I received through the wartime Polish Red Cross in London in 1944.
More details were confirmed in year 2000 by Karta id. 51374 and 120197.


MY YOUNGER BROTHER
66.124
  Zbigniew Stanislaw RYMASZEWSKI

My brother Zbigniew (Zbyszek), now aged 16, in September 1942, tried to reach from the Northern Kazakhstan the Anders Army in the South of Russia. He got as far as Akmolinsk (now called Tselinograd), where, starving, he worked in a nearby kolhoz to get some food and survive. A severe winter arrived and Zyszek had no choice but to return to our mother who were left alone also in snow covered Matveyevka. Soon after there was the breakup of the Soviet - Polish diplomatic relations.

In the spring 1943, having Soviet citizenship forced on him again, Zbigniew was called up to the Red Army instead. With hardly any military training he was sent from Siberia to the war front in eastern Europe as "cannon fodder". He was wounded in Budapest in Hungary. This information I found out some time after the war in London, through the Red Cross, after contacting my mother who returned to Poland.


MYSELF
66.123
  Franciszek Romuald RYMASZEWSKI

 
My 26 days journey to Anders Army by crowded cattle-truck trains
 

 

On a frosty Siberian 1st of February 1942, at the age of 18, wearing rags and torn shoes, I went 50 km away from our village Matveyevka to the Soviet Politburo in the district township Aryk-Balyk, to see the military. There I presented myself as a candidate to the Polish Army. After various simple medical, and other Soviet style checks (e.g. whether I could read and sign my name) I was accepted.

From Aryk-Balyk, with other Polish young men from the district area, we were sent to the provincial capital, where there was a proper military commission. We traveled on snow by horse driven sledges for two days, to the railway line in Kokchetov, singing Polish patriotic and military songs on the way. As a shortcut we went over a frozen lake at Imantov. From Kokchetov by crowded train we reached town AKMOLINSK (later called Tselinograd and now ASTANA).

In Akmolinsk there was a Polish military commission with Soviet representatives. A Soviet major tried to suggest to me, without success, to join the Soviet army instead. After the recruitment procedure I was included in a group of 100 men and sent somewhere south to the Polish Army. After 26 days of struggle to get on various crowded cattle truck trains, and hunger, waiting for days to catch and push into next train at Petropavlovsk, Omsk, Novo-Sibirsk, Semipalatinsk and Alma-Ata, often trying to demand priority by yelling "we are the conscripts for war !", we finally reached our destination.


It was a small place called Lugovoy (see map above) in Kyrgyzstan, Kirgiz Soviet Republic, one of a number of places in the south of Asian Russia where Anders Army was located.



There, in Lugovoy on 26 February 1942 I joined the 28th Infantry Regiment, 10th Division of Gen. Anders Polish Army in Russia.

In spite of the still freezing temperatures at night in the South of Russia, and mud and slush in daytime, we slept in Soviet made summer tents on the ground without any heating, 18-20 soldiers to a tent.

We lived on meager rations which we also shared with starving Polish civilians hanging around the camp. But instead of rags and lice I now wore new, warm British battledress and real leather boots - heavenly comfort !

barbed wire


 
EVACUATION ACROSS THE CASPIAN SEA TO THE FREE WORLD : 2 April 1942
 


At the end of March, my Army regiment and myself traveled by goods train to Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea where on the 2nd of April 1942 we were packed like sardines on a dilapidated Russian cargo ship in the port.

Then we left the Soviet Union.

GOODBYE  STALIN !



 
Soviet cargo vessel (oil tanker) "Agamali Ogly"
 

My departure with one of transports of Gen. Anders Polish Army from port Krasnovodsk, USSR, across the Caspian Sea to port Pahlevi in Persia. All crammed in standing or sitting position on the rusty Soviet ship, an oil tanker "Agamali Ogly - End of March/April 1942.



PHOTO >>>
Another transport of ill and starving Polish troops and some women arrive in the Persian port. They landed at the harbour Pahlevi where the athmosphere was fresh, free and friendly.


 

PHOTO >>>

This transport of troops included Polish orphans whose parents died in Russia, and some military wives.

The ill and starving Polish divisions embarked with them in Soviet Krasnovodsk and sailed through the Caspian Sea to freedom.




 
PAHLEVI, PERSIA (now IRAN) : April 1942
 


The next day after leaving Krasnovodsk, I arrived in port Pahlevi (now Resht) in Persia on 3rd of April 1942.

I could not believe myself that I was outside the Soviet Union and its communist tyranny.

The first most exciting sight to me in port Pahlevi was the Persian flag on the ships in port, showing a Lion and Sun. For the first time I saw a different flag, not the hated and feared Hammer and Sickle symbol any more !! It convinced me that I was definitely not in the USSR.

I was so happy that I was now back in the normal, human world again, where people were free - not in the Soviet world of lawlessness, violence, hypocrisy and hatred to human beings.

Some Polish children, widows and families who happened to be in the neighborhood area of the Polish Army formations in Russia, were taken under the protection of this army and were also evacuated.

They were placed in transit camp in Tehran, Persia, then transferred to Palestine, British East Africa and India. Many of them later found home in Australia.
See  Australian Immigration in my Chapter 9.


 

In Pahlevi we camped on the sand along the edges of oil polluted Caspian Sea.

Two days later, on the 5 April, we celebrated on the beach our first Easter since leaving Poland.

PHOTO >>>
5 April 1942: Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by our Polish Army unit (part of 10th Infantry Division from Logovoy) on the beach sand in the Persian port Pahlevi where we camped after evacuation from the Soviet Union. In front one can see folded overcoats, rucksacks and haversacks.


Only 114 thousand soldiers and some civilians, out of nearly two million Poles in the Soviet Union, were saved by the evacuation to Persia.   It was a unique exit of people from the USSR, approved by Stalin, in the whole history of the tyrannical communist Russia. I was one of the lucky soldiers.

At first I thought that I was the sole survivor in my family.
My mother and my younger brother Zbyszek were left behind in Siberia. I wrote to them but I had no replies. I had no news about my father or my brother Zygmunt or Edward, or any of my relatives.

Later on, in Palestine, with a great joy I discovered that my brother Edward was also lucky to get away from the grip of Stalin, the greatest mass murderer of all time. Much later, in England,
I received a letter from the military hospital that my cousin Mietek was wounded in Italy, who was the second only relative that got out of Russia at that time at the last moment.



 

Unfortunately, the evacuation of General's Anders Army did not last long.

In April 1943 the Germans, who advanced on the Soviet territory found mass graves in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk and had produced evidence linking the Soviet Union to the murder of thousands of Polish officers found buried in these mass graves.

When the Poles arranged for an independent, international Red Cross investigation into the massacre, which confirmed that the officers had been killed by the Soviets, Stalin was furious, accused Poles of collaborating with German propaganda and had broken off diplomatic relations with the Polish government in exile in London.

The "amnesty" was withdrawn, the Soviet citizenship was again imposed on all Poles in Russia.
The evacuation of the Anders Army had ceased
.

barbed wire

Researchers show that, after two years in the USSR, from the total at that time of over one and a half million of Polish prisoners and deportees in Russia, about 50 percent perished from excessive work, starvation, exposure and epidemics, i.e. 750 thousands Poles already died in prisons, gulags, labour camps, collective farms, in forests. And those starved and exhausted trying to reach gen. Ander's Army died on trains, at railway stations, under fences, or in queues awaiting to be accepted into the army. Many were dying every day in the army itself, on average 400 soldiers per month.
barbed wire


 
From Russia to British PALESTINE (now ISRAEL)
 



 
MIDDLE  EAST : 1942
 

After starvation and diseases in the Soviet Union, in sunny Palestine and Iraq full of oranges, grapefruit, dates, grapes and good food, the General Anders' Army was fed, medicated and quickly recovered.

It began new life as the Polish 2nd Corps. Some soldiers volunteered to supplement the Polish Air Force, Polish Navy, Paratroops and Armoured Corps in England, and were sent to Britain to fight in Europe.

The 2nd Corps itself took part in the Mediterranean campaign with the British 8th Army and fought in Italy including Monte Cassino.


MY ELDEST BROTHER
66.121
  Edward RYMASZEWSKI


After release from the northern Vorkuta Gulag (Karta id. 50750) where he left his cousin Mietek behind, still awaiting his turn to be freed, Edward made his long way down to south of Russia in search of the Polish Army. While the Germans were advancing deep into the USSR territory nearing Moscow and Stalingrad, the army in the process of formation kept changing its locations to the Asian region.

To survive and get some food, he worked in kolhozes in the area of the river Amu Darya, in Kirghiz steppes between the Caspian and Aral Seas. Eventually he joined gen. Anders Army and was allocated to the Centre for Armoured Units at Karabalty, Kirgiz Soviet Republic. Afterwards, Edward was evacuated from Krasnovodsk to Pahlevi in Persia by first transports in March 1942.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From there his unit traveled to Palestine and stayed in camps in Hedera and El - Khassa.
Pretty soon, Edward was allocated to supplement the Polish Forces in Great Britain (First Armoured Dvision under gen. Maczek) and was sent there by the sea transport, sailing around the African continent.


The only photo of my brother Edward during his voyage from Palestine fo England.
Photo taken in a transit camp in PIETERMARITZBURG, near DURBAN, Natal province,
South Africa about July 1942.




MY COUSIN
67.112
  Mieczyslaw Arnold RYMASZEWSKI

Mietek joined general Anders army in Kermine, Uzbek Soviet Republic. He was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division's anti-aircraft artillery and was put in the NCO training battery. All men in Kermine were weakened by prolonged starvation and with low immunity about forty of them were dying every day.

Mietek was evacuated via Caspian Sea during later transports of the Polish Army. He sailed in August 1942 on a ship called Gruzavik (loader) from port Krasnovodsk to port Palhlevi in Persia (Iran).

Then he traveled to Khanakin in Iraq, where he was posted on defence of a refinery. His unit was reorganized and became the 8th heavy anti-aircraft regiment. They received new guns and began intensive training. Mietek was appointed as a driving instructor for a time.

Soon Mietek was posted to a place called Habbaniya near Baghdad on defence of an airport.

Picture: Mietek in Kirkuk, Iraq next to his tent, wearing an overcoat - winter 1942/43

Following that, Mietek was posted to Kirkuk in northern Iraq, and later to Palestine where he was stationed at Hill 69, near Rehovot.

The next move of the whole Polish 2nd Corps was to North Africa. Finally Mietek and all the troops were assembled at Cassasin in Egypt, awaiting embarkation to go to the war front in Italy.

shrine

Mietek in Iraq next to the Polish army shrine, with a Polish orphan from the USSR. May 1943.


This shrine was built by the lake HABBANIYA in Iraq by gen. Anders Polish Army, en-route from the USSR to the war fronts in Europe.

The inscription on the altar is in Polish :
ZWRÓC NAS PANIE NA OJCZYZNY LONO, and means O, LORD, RETURN US TO THE BOSOM OF OUR HOMELAND






MYSELF
66.123
  Franciszek Romuald RYMASZEWSKI

from
1 Sept 1939 to 28 July 1943

1


 
Persia, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt : 1942
 


From Pahlevi in Persia I traveled through Kazvin, Hamadan and Kermanshah in high Persian mountains in hired trucks driven by Iranian reckless civilian drivers (speeding, racing each other, causing accidents), up to the Persian-Iraqi border. Then we were driven by sensible British or East Indian military to Baghdad in Iraq, rested in Habbaniya near a lake, and continued our journey through Ramadi, Rutba and Transjordanian desert to Palestine, finally stopping in a large camp Hedera (Gedera).

Later I was moved to a camp in El-Khassa where I was issued with death identity discs to be worn around the neck at all times.

Our units in Palestine were formed into a new Carpathian Division incorporating the former Polish Carpathian Brigade ("the rats of Tobruk") who had just been moved to Palestine after successful defense of Tobruk in Libya, Northern Africa, alongside the Australians. 

In the El-Khassa camp I met a man from Pinsk, named Filipiak, who told me that he saw my brother Edward (66.121) here in the army!.. It was unbelievable as I thought he was living in the German zone of occupied Poland. Now I realized that he must have been captured trying to escape the Soviet occupation, and was imprisoned by the Soviets. The exciting news was that he survived and also got out of the Soviet Russia like myself, and was here in the army! I couldn't wait to see him.

Soon, there was a big disappointment. I discovered from my Army Command Office the bad news, that just a week before, Edward was sent to England. It was the last of such transports. The rest of us will go to North Africa.

The war was in full swing and who knows if Edward and me will ever meet each other.

I desperately wished to be with my brother Edward ! ... Soon, an opportunity arose when I discovered that 100 volunteers were wanted to be parachuted into occupied Poland to join underground resistance. Their main duties will be as Morse Code radio operators of the secret radio stations passing the intelligence to London. They will be trained in England.

Without hesitation I quickly joined this group of volunteers so I could go to England.

After I joined, to my new disappointment, we were told that before we can be trained in England for underground activities, we must become well acquainted with Morse Code and the ABC's of short wave radio transmitters and receivers here in Palestine.

So we were formed into an independent, special unit of 100 men, stationed in Palestine in a small camp at El-Mughar, near Rehovot. The unit was subordinated directly to the Office of the Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in London.

The unit was under the command of lieutenant Piotr Tarnowski, an electrical engineer from Tobruk campaign, and we begun our training.

 



Franek Rymaszewski in El-Khassa camp, Palestine - 1942.
I am 18 years old.



Franek Rymaszewski in El-Mughar camp, Palestine during the radio telegraphy course - 1942

Polish Army Camp at El-Mughar, near Rehovot.


Franek Rymaszewski in the centre (3rd from the left) outside our lecture tent during the Radio Course.

Street scene in REHOVOT. Jewish lady shoppers and Arab children on a donkey - 1942

REHOVOT

 


Arab women getting water - 1942

Military training in addition to radio-telegraphy



During a walk at lunch break among the cactuses in Palestine - 1942. Franek Rymaszewski standing first on the right wearing a pith helmet.


Franek Rymaszewski, age 18, with a young donkey belonging to an Arab seller of oranges - YIBNA Camp, Palestine - 1 June 1942


PHOTO: With an Arab on a loaded camel.

Franek Rymaszewski is third from the left. >>



Franek Rymaszewski - age 19
Palestine, November 1942

PALESTINIAN COINS - 1942
(Traced in my notebook)

GEDERA CAMP
PALESTINE
1942




Our special unit of 60 men marching near Gedera camp in Palestine, November 1942

A unit of Women's Auxiliary Service (PSK) of the Polish Army marching in Gedera camp, Palestine, November 1942. They were the only ones in Anders Army that wore the Australian Army hats. Although the Unit leader wears a forage cap (she is in front, first on the left - others are marching in 3's)

GEDERA CAMP
PALESTINE
1942



IN GEDERA ARMY CAMP THERE WAS A CINEMA CALLED "LA SCALA" showing films every night at low prices. Above is a programme for the week Friday 13 November 1942 to Thursday November 1942. Every week they screened two or three good films from pre-war Poland.

After two years in the Soviet Russia, It was a pleasant surprise for us to see again films in Polish language from occuped Poland. We admired Israelis that they had all such films.



And this is the REVERSE SIDE of the above Cinema Programme with ADVERTISEMENTS, all in the Polish language !    In fact everywhere in the British mandate of Palestine one could meet Jews from Poland, able to speak Polish. They were all very friendly and made us always welcome.

 

from
28 July 1942 to 1 October 1942

2








Back to IRAQ by sea around the Arabian Peninsula
on troopship "BANFORA"



Later on in 1942 the remaining units of the Polish Army in the USSR under gen. Anders were being evacuated from Russia and were taken to northern Iraq, completing the 2nd Corps. My cousin Mietek was with them. The Polish army already in Palestine had to join them in Iraq to cosolidate the 2nd Corps.

Road transport was limited, so all the troops from Palestine, and my Special Unit with them, traveled to Iraq by sea convoy around the Arabian Peninsula. I sailed from Port Suez on a ship "BANFORA", in a convoy alongside Polish liner "Kosciuszko" also filled with Polish soldiers and British battleship, arriving in the Persian Gulf.

Then from Persian Gulf we went by trucks to Baghdad. From Baghdad by narrow-gauge goods train we traveled to Khanaquin in North Iraq. In Khanaquin there was located the Head Quarters of gen. Anders Polish Army.

Franek Rymaszewski (standing second from the left) in Quizil Ribat camp,
North Iraq - 7 October 1942


Arab villagers, Baghdad - 1942


Back to PALESTINE and EGIPT
by Transjordanian desert

But one moth later, after we set camp in Khanaquin, North Iraq an order came from London that the best 60 soldiers from my Special Unit, out of the 100 volunteers, should be chosen and sent to England for further training.

The selection tests were made and I, well motivated, was one of the best.

 

So we traveled back to Palestine, this time by land, in trucks, again through the Transjordanian desert , and then after a period in Palestine by rail to Egypt, passing El-Kantara and Ismailia.

Our departure port was Suez, at the south end of Suez Canal, where we awaited for ocean transport in small tents on Egyptian sands
(sketch >>>)


from
1 October 1942 to 30 December 1943

3


 

MY  WARTIME  VOYAGE
from MIDDLE EAST to ENGLAND
Nov 1942 - Sept 1943

The troops were transported around the African continent because the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa were the theatre of War.

 


 
Troopship "Nieuw Amsterdam"
 

On the 22 nd November 1942 in the Egiptian Port Suez our Polish Special Unit of 60 soldiers boarded the 40,000 ton Dutch liner "Nieuw (New) Amsterdam" which served as a troop transport during the war.

 

 

Holland-America Liner NIEUW AMSTERDAM serving as troopship. >>>

 


Two British battleships and a submarine, providing escort to our ship " Nieuw Amsterdam" carrying Allied troops from port Suez in Egypt to Durban in South Africa - 1942



Troops Meal Card to enter Dining Room on New Amsterdam - 1942

 

Eight days later, anchoring at port Diego Suarez in Madagascar on 1 December 1942, our ship picked up South African troops returning home after very recent British action here to take over the island of Madagascar from the Vichy-French.

The soldiers were bringing home from Madagascar "souvenirs" such as monkeys, huge snakes, parrots.

 

 

On the 7 December 1942 we arrived in Durban, Natal, South Africa.

 

 

This is how this beautiful Nieuw Amsterdam looked like by the end of war after 5 years of troops carrying service.>>>




 
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
 


From Durban port we traveled outside the city, to an Army Transit camp in Clairwood, where we spent our 1942 Christmas.


"LADY IN WHITE "
I remember an unforgettable scene on arrival in Durban, of a lady dressed all in white and a floppy hat, standing on the quay and singing to the arriving troops with the aid of a megaphone.

Years later I found out that her name was Perla Siedle Gibson. She was remembered with fondness as Durban's singing "lady in white" in many memoirs of troops passing this way during the war. 50 year old mother of three, she voluntarily sung just like Vera Lynn patriotic songs to every arriving and departing troopship in Durban, .

Town Hall in Durban. Note a rickshaw on the road.
Photo 1942.
__________________________________________________________

PHOTO : >>> Sitting on the rickshaw : Piotr Romanowski (left), Franek Rymaszewski, myself ( middle) and a Greek sailor (Vasilico Navtico) from the army transit camp in Clairwood. The sailor recognized us after noticing our Polish eagle badges. On the right : a native, elderly rickshaw owner, who preferred to pose in his Zulu tribe costume next to his rickshaw instead of driving.

Piotr Romanowski, my friend, was killed next year (7.7.1943) when our Special Unit had parachute jumps training at Ringway military airfield near Manchester in England. Piotr was born in 1918 in Dzierkowszczyzna near Glebokie, north of Wilno (now Vilnius).

IMAGES OF NATIVE ZULUS IN NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
IN 1942


DURBAN, Natal, South Africa - 11 December 1942

This is a block of solid gold (18 carat) being paraded during the Gold Cavalcade in Johannesburg, the city of gold mines.

Another picture taken during the Gold Cavalcade in Johannesburg.
- 1942 -




 
Troopship "Orion"
from Durban to Capetown
 

Our Polish Unit with other Allied troops was then assigned to guard over a transport of 3000 Italian POW's, who must have arrived there by train or trucks from the war-front in North Africa. They were to be taken either to England or to Canada. We all boarded the liner "Orion" on 22 January 1943.

Later, in mid-February we heard a rumour that this ship was torpedoed by German U-boats and sunk, together with the Italian POWs


Orion, full of troops and POWs ready to depart - 22.1.1943


23 January 1943 - After embarking on the ship Orion in Durban, a friendly sailor (picture) from the ship's crew informed me that it will take 3 days to reach Cape Town where we will stay 7 days loading food and supplies. Then it will take us 3 weeks to England. However, ...

However, after sailing from Durban for three days, then going around the Cape of Good Hope and docking in Cape Town, our small group of 60 Polish soldiers was unexpectedly requested to disembark in Cape Town and make room on the ship for more urgent cases.

So again we were taken to another transit camp, this time in Capetown. Similarly, it was used for troops being moved to the Middle East or Far East, or back home to Great Britain. Its name was "Imperial Forces Transit Camp 'Pollsmoor', near Retreat (see map below).

 



 
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
 





Adderlay Street, Capetown - 1942




Rhodes' Memorial, Cape Town - 1942

On 28 January 1943 we were taken from the ship to Imperial Forces Transit Camp "Pollsmoor", Retreat (near Capetown), Cape Province, South Africa :

A camp that served during the World War Two, as a staging area for British and Allied troops which were being moved by troopships from England to Middle East or Far East or to other parts of the British Empire, the colonies in Africa and Asia, or back home to Great Britain.


South African forerunner of "Drive-In Take Away" on the highway near our camp in Retreat - Year 1942 -


Cheap 9 pence rail ticket for the Military in uniform from Retreat to Capetown, printed in English and Afrikaans

Photos: >>>

Our Special Unit of 60 men exploring rocks near Table Mountain in Cape Town
on 12 February 1943.

 

 

Our Special Unit's commanding officer and squad leaders.


from left:
Sgt. Edmund Szalbierz
Cpl.Jan Lul
Cpl. Kazimierz Kujalowicz
Cpl. Teodor Kopczynski

1st.Lt. Piotr Tarnowski

Cpl. Tadeusz Czapowski
Cpl. Jozef Kryza
Cpl. Marian Kurys
Cpl. Wladyslaw Woszczyk

Cpl. Ludwik Bereszynski


from
1 May 1943 to 4 August 1943

4



 
Good Bye to my unit and my friends sailing to England on QUEEN MARY
 

"Queen Mary" serving as a troopship during the war

 
CAPE TOWN Military Hospital
 


Imperial Military Hospital in Retreat near Cape Town

On 16 February 1943 I was admittted with fever and pleurisy (pleuritis) in my lungs to the military hospital in Retreat.

I was now paying for the untreated pneumonia during my imprisonment in the inhuman Soviet Union. Below is a photo in hospital's convalescing ward in April 1943.

Finally, our unit sailed for Scotland on the "Queen Mary", the second largest liner in the world at that time, used as a troopship.

Unfortunately they left me behind in the Imperial Military Hospital.
___________________________________________

One of the wards at Imperial Military Hospital in Retreat near Cape Town


Imperial Forces Transit Camp "Pollsmoor" in Retreat

After my unit has left South Africa for England and after discharge from the hospital I was among British troops at the camp.


Franek Rymaszewski is squatting second from the right in the bottom raw .

On my right is George Hunter, my friend.



 
Friends I made at Cape Town Military Hospital
 


GORDON LANNING

While I was in the military hospital in Retreat I made acquaintance with another patient, Gordon Lanning, from the British Army. And he became my best pal. He was born in China where his father used to work. I am indebted to him for my modest knowledge of English at that time because he was enthusiastically teaching me all the time. I hardly spoke any English when I went to the hospital and at first I had to use my school French to communicate with my doctor. Gordon gave me his parents address and asked me to write to them when I get to England : 9, Cavendish Crescent, BATH, Somerset, England.


Photo of Gordon Lanning in front of his home in Bath, England before going overseas.



 

Table Mountain
Cableway


Gordon Lanning.
Photo given to me in Capetown on 17 February 1943


14 June 1943

Monday. Beautiful sunny day. I have just said goodbye to Gordon Lanning who is leaving Capetown tonight with his Royal Armoured Corps unit, for Durban en route to the Middle East, or to India, or maybe somewhere further. The troops are not given many details. DON'T TALK ABOUT SHIPS OR SHIPPING! are the notices posted everywhere.


 


FIVE PHOTOS BELOW WERE TAKEN BY GORDON'S FATHER WHO SERVED IN THE BRITISH NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

 

 


English battleship NELSON

Duch light cruiser

Japanise heavy cruiser

Russian batttleship MARAT

German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE



GEORGE HUNTER

Another friend of mine in the Military HospitalI was George Hunter.



"To Franeck from George Hunter with lots of luck and best wishes - 1943"

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Eventually I recovered from my lung problems in South Africa and when a new sea convoy was formed, I boarded a comparatively small 17,000 ton ship "Aorangi".

On the way, the convoy had to anchor in the mouth of the river Congo in Belgian Congo, to hide from the following us German U-boats.


Gnr. Hunter A.E.11050796, Movement Control, 63/5th Regt. R.A.
c/o G.P.O. Southhampton

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •




"To my friend Franeck Rymashevski - BEST WISHES"

NORMAN SILKSTONE, 71 Violet St. Derby, England.
Capetown 1943.



 


MY FINAL STAGE OF THE VOYAGE

on troopship
"Aorangi "

 

Notes from my
WARTIME DIARYare below on this page:

from
4 August 1943 to 8 Sept 1943

5

4 August 1943
Wednesday. The rain has been falling all night and is still falling intermittenly to-day. It is still "winter" in South Africa. Soon
after breakfast almost all troops marched out from the camp to the suburban railway station Retreat, to be taken by train to Capetown where a sea transport to England was now ready. Their kitbags and other baggage were collected yesterday.

For the past seven days or so, a mysterious vertical column of smoke was appearing in the mountainous rocks near the Table Mountain. Some people were saying that it was the work of German agents notifying their U-boats in the Ocean that a sea convoy of troops was being readied in the port. This morning the camp is almost empty, and very quiet. It is drizzling. There is a feeling of some sadness. There are only five of us left, former patients in the convalescents barrack - three Polish servicemen and two Englishmen. Were we forgotten?

Not really. At noon came a messenger from the camp Reception Office and told us to pack our things quickly, return camp blankets to the store and report in the Office. The transportation captain was awaiting there. He told the three of us that we would join a group of about 250 Polish soldiers already on board, traveling from the Middle East (formerly members of general Anders army from the USSR) to supplement the Polish Forces in the UK. So we were loaded on a lorry and taken in a hurry all the way to Capetown port.

While traveling, the thoughts were coming to my mind ... Well ...... so it looks like I am definitely leaving South Africa this time .... A very beautiful country, peaceful and wealthy, where I had many happy moments and a perfect and comfortable rest, and good food, including during my time in a modern hospital, a reward after all that suffering and starvation in the Soviet Union .... My poor mother and younger brother ... they are still there freezing and starving in Siberia.... And what happened to my father?....

The rain is still drizzling... We arrived at the sea port. There were two passenger ships, now troopships, docked in the port. A big one, called Dominion Monarch, and much smaller Aorangi from the Canadian -Australasian Line, only 17,000 ton.

Unfortunately, I had to board the smaller one and join the Polish transport group already on board, under the command of cpt. Wiktor Rodziewicz.

After settling with the group, I went to ferret the whole ship, its decks and nooks. I met only three English soldiers known to me from the camp, all the others are on this big Dominion Monarch. When I was on the very top open deck I hid from the sudden shower, in a nook next to a well glazed cabin. Some important looking man in the cabin, perhaps he was a Merchant Navy officer, so I imagined, saw me and invited me into the cabin. He was quite polite and pleased to find out that I was a Polish soldier. He offered me a cup of tea. I wasn't there for very long, because the ship started to move and after I drunk the tea I had to go back. While our troopships were awaiting for the warships from the Naval base Simonstown on the Cape Peninsula, we sailed around the Cape of Good Hope couple of times between the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. I had the opportunity to see the beautiful bays, the Table Mountain and the locality Muizenberg on the opposite side of the Cape. Soon we were joined by our escort of two battleships and five destroyers and the convoy was on its way. Aorangi immediately started to rock unpleasantly (they had no stabilizers at those times). Suffering from the motion sickness all my young life, I became seasick at once. I could not eat any dinner to-night and I was vomiting.

5 August 1943
Thursday. The whole day Aorangi was badly rolling. The ocean was rough and agitated. I did not eat all day again. Weakened from vomiting, I had no strength or inclination to undress and hang up my hammock. I slept on the floor on my folded hammock, fully dressed in my clothes and with my boots on. Our common hall where we are accommodated was warm and stuffy.

6 August 1943
Friday. The sea has calmed down. I emerged on the deck, pale and weak. Bumped into and talked a little with pte. Plumb, a cockney, former taxi driver from London whom I met in hospital. He entertained everybody with his talk and jokes. In the middle of our convalescing ward we had a record player on the table. And very few records. One of them was "All the Christian Soldiers ..." It was played over and over again and everybody was very bored with it, almost fed up. One day, in the middle of a dark night, about 2am, the whole sleeping ward was rudely awaken with a loud playing of "All the Christian Soldiers..." - it was Plumb who quietly got up and in the darkness put the record on and quickly jumped back into bed.

7 August 1943
Saturday. Our daily routine is as follows. The reveille is at 6am. Breakfast at 7am, consisting of white bread, butter, tea, porridge, canned beef, bacon or fish. Dinner is at 12 noon - soup, potatoes, vegetables, meat, and a dessert. Supper is at 5pm - bread, cheese, jam or marmalade, ham or other smoked meat and pickle, tea and orange fruit. At 8pm tea and biscuits. At 10pm the tattoo.

Fresh water for drinking and washing up is available from the storage tanks for one hour after breakfast and supper only. That's, of course, for the whole ship. For showers and laundering, water is available all day but it is salty water from the ocean. In the morning we do the cleaning up, we take off the hooks our hammocks in which we sleep in a large hall, and we fold them to make the hall a living room. There are also in our hall tables at which we eat our meals. The food is brought from the kitchen. Afterwards there is inspection of our quarters, while at 10am we all go to the Emergency Stations on B deck, with our life belts. During this parade the gun crews are practice-firing from the cannons and heavy machine guns.

8 August 1943
Sunday. The sea is becoming calmer and calmer.... To-day, I am on duty at our table, together with pte. Dec. We have to bring the food from the kitchen in vessels 3 times during the day for the whole table of 16 people. Afterwards we have to wash up the plates and cups which were given to us on the ship for the voyage. Most of the time is taken by division and sharing of the food, and there is terrible mess and disorder.

In my platoon, which sits together at the table, there are 16 following soldiers : pte. Cybulski, pte. Dec, pte. Labuc, pte. Malinowski, pte. Michalski, pte. Niemiec, pte. Oliwko, pte. Ozimek, pte. Palonka, pte. Partyka, L/cpl. Pell, pte. Pietraszkiewicz, L/cpl. Przygoda, cpl. Rozpendowski, pte. Rymaszewski (myself), cpl. Swierszcz.

9 August 1943
Monday. I am spending most of my time on deck where there is fresh air, as we live on the lowest deck F2 in the bow of the ship. The outside temperature is becoming hotter and hotter. I took off my woolen battledress and now wear a tropical shirt and khaki trousers. There is nothing to do. I went to the canteen to-day and bought some razor blades and a chocolate. I had to wait for it in a queue as there were a lot of English buyers. They are stocking up with blades, cigarettes, chocolate, etc. for the future, because they say everything is very expensive in England, or even not available.

10 August 1943
Tuesday. We got our pay to-day. One English Pound each. Many boys immediately start playing cards for money. Others, including myself, spend their time learning English from "teach-yourself" books.

Suddenly something suspicious begins. The ships curiously start and keep changing their formation and keep traveling in zigzag fashion. The sailors continuously monitor the ocean from the crow's nests. From time to time the ships nervously signal each other and fire from the canons into the sea. We note that these are not normal practice times.

11 August 1943
Wednesday. At 10 am we saw land shores on the starboard (right side). What could it be? ... The next port of call supposed to be Freetown in West Africa, while we are at the moment at the very most 5 degrees before the equator. Probably it will be some small islands in the Atlantic.

At noon we stopped at some kind of a bay, which was previously checked out by the warships. We anchored. All day to-day there is fresh water in the taps. But instead, the salty water was forbidden to be used for bathing and showering. We were told it was dirty and there is an epidemic of fever here. To-night I did all my washing and had a good solid shower, because there was always a queue before. Later at night I played chess with pte. Cybulski. I felt very well because the ship was stationary.

12 August 1943
Thursday. The whole convoy is still anchored in the same place. Now we are finding out that we are anchored in the mouth of the river Congo, in Belgian Congo, where we called at to mislead the German U-boats that followed us, and to avoid the peril of being torpedoed.
I spend the evening studying English a bit, and writing my notes.

14 August 1943
Saturday. At 6.20 am we left the river and Belgian Congo.

8 days later:
22 August 1943
.
We arrived at 7.30 am in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa. An unusual sight was watching young native boys swimming in the harbour like fish and offering to dive and fish out coins thrown down to them by the ship passengers.
(See drawing on the right >>>)

The ships in our convoy were replenishing from the shore facilities the fresh water which was running very low, also food and other supplies. Nobody was allowed to go ashore.

2 days later
:
24 August 1943
. After dinner (i.e. English lunch) we departed from Freetown.

7 days later:
31 August 1943
.
Next port of call was French Morocco and we docked in port Casablanca. It looked exotic with white buildings an minarets.

Next day:
1 September 1943
.
We left Casablanca and sailed avoiding the English Channel, where there was danger of German Air strikes in addition to U-boats. So we sailed on the other, Western side of Britain, over the Irish Sea right up to Scotland.

7days later:
8 September 1943
.
In the morning, when I came up on deck, I saw the shore on the right hand side.... At last the land !.... Now we can be sure that we are not going to be torpedoed!..... L/cpl. Pell pulled my leg by calling "Look, Frank, your brother is standing on the shore!" He knew that I was looking forward very much to meet my brother Edward in the Polish Army here, whom I haven't seen for 4 years. We parted at the outbreak of war in Poland.

Soon, on the other side, a shore also emerged. It was hilly. ... The weather was bad. Cloudy, foggy and drizzle. We were sailing among all sorts of gulfs, coves, inlets, bends and small islands. On the shores one can see the lighthouses and estates. Brick or stone houses, usually two-story, characteristically built in a style reminiscent of little medieval castles. In the coves are docked all sorts of ships, little boats, vessels and crafts. Comparing to them our Aorangi now seems quite big, not as small as I thought before, especially when down there below, small fishing boats are passing. Then we stopped in some cove. I noticed nearby in the port there were many naval ships and a large aircraft carrier among them.

The sun has suddenly appeared in the sky illuminating beautiful arable fields and stubble fields, spread out over the hills, with sheaves of crops. Of course!.... It's already autumn here. When I was leaving Africa, there was spring just starting over there.



 
SCOTLAND - 1943
 



8 September 1943
.
We are told that we are now anchored at port Greenock, near Glasgow in Scotland on the west coast. Little steamboats took us from the ship to shore where there was an empty train already awaiting for us. A very pleasant impression made on us welcome from the Salvation Army on the platform and other Scottish ladies - all volunteers, with smiles and greetings, they immediately started to serve us cups of hot tea and cakes.

From port Greenock the train took us to Glasgow. We were watching the view from windows. Pleasant surroundings, so much greenery! Although we passed also a lot of factories, coal mines, etc. Huge captive barrage balloons, protecting important objects and the port from German planes, were gently swaying high in the sky. (photo)

 

Many passengers left in Glasgow at Queens Street station. Our Polish army group continued by train to Kirkcaldy on the east coast of Scotland where there was a Polish Forces Reception Centre.

From there I was moved by Polish army truck to Auchtertool, to some army unit located in an old brewery. Soon after arrival, I was given a copious dinner - a real Polish dinner, meat, potatoes and sauerkraut.


 
1: INTRODUCTION by Franek Rymaszewski     7: WITH MY BROTHER in WARTIME ENGLAND   11: POLISH CHRISTMAS and EASTER
2: MY FAMILY TREE   8: MY FAMILY SURVIVORS in POLAND 12: ANCESTORS - Part 1 : Origin and Records    
3: RELEVANT MAPS and POLISH HISTORY   9: MY EMIGRATION to AUSTRALIA       ANCESTORS - Part 2 : Family Tree
4: MY FAMILY ANCESTRY in POLAND 13: Rymaszewskis in present-day POLAND
5: PINSK UNDER COMMUNIST TYRANNY 10: Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 1     14: Rymaszewskis  WORLD-WIDE (Part 1)
    MIETEK'S MEMOIRS OF GULAG       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 2       Rymaszewskis in the USA (Part 2)
6: MY ESCAPE FROM STALIN       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 3 15: EMAILS from Visitors