"[My father] Bolesław Frąckiewicz was a forester in Sucha Rzeczka" - recalls his daughter.
“I do not know whether my father belonged to the Home Army, or not. However, he used to meet up with the partisans. My father was arrested during the Nazi occupation as well, but he was released, when the Head of the forestry interceded for him. However, after the ‘liberation’ the foresters reclaimed the [Russian] ‘trophy’ cattle transport, my father was given a cow and a heifer. That’s when matters went wrong. The NKVD men turned up for a search, found a cow, and took it away. Luckily, dad wasn’t at home. On the 19th of July, the NKVD came back. A couple of armed ‘Boytsy” turned up. They said that they were taking my father for an investigation, and will release him shortly. We never saw him again. All we are left with are memories.”
Daniel Gowś who presently lives in Ełk, writes in his letter: “My father, Jan Gowś was a professional sergeant of the 2nd DPL in Grodno, Belarus, during the Nazi occupation. He was a Home Army member, and had the nom de guerre, ‘Drucik’. On the 12th of July 1945, he was taken into captivity from Kamienna Nowa Station, Sokólka County (…) I wasn’t allowed in the house; I could only see a gun stuck by a [Russian] lieutenant to my mother’s head. There was a track, a ‘Gems’-type one; after a while my father was brought to the track, was laid on the tin floor, and was covered with a tarpaulin by two Russian ‘Boytsy' and a lieutenant."
The detained were held in dozens of rallying points. These were mainly sheds and barns. The cemetery in Szczebra was also used as a ‘jail’. There, the NKVD gathered the men who turned up for the medals they promised them earlier. The prison in Suwałki was overcrowded.
“My husband was ill. They dragged him out of his bed” - says Wiktoria Laskowska from Danilowce. “I found out that he was in prison. I went to see him several times, but I was never allowed anywhere near him. I forwarded clean underwear and collected dirty ones through a warden. My husband’s shirt was all ripped to pieces, and was covered with blood.”
“Stop! You are not allowed here!” - the wardens were driving away the people who made attempts to contact their loved ones. In Suwałki one of the ladies asked a Russian officer, “Are you going to transport them away, or will you simply execute them?”
Even a uniform didn’t offer anyone any protection. In the cellar in Sejny, people saw certain Zaworski, a tortured Communist People’s Militia officer from Bierznik. He shared his lot with hundreds of others. Marian Ambrosiewicz from Krasnopol also disappeared under unexplained circumstances.
“He was an Armia Krajowa [AK - Home Army] member during the [German] occupation” - recalls his brother, Mieczyslaw Ambrosiewicz. “After the [Russian] ‘liberation’, for a short period of time, he was a People’s Militia officer, in Krasnopol, then later in Suwałki. Marian was wanted by the NKVD at that time, but avoided detention by pure chance. In 1945, he served at the Augustów’s [Polish People's] Army Conscription office. In mid-July, he left for Suwałki on his motorcycle; he was wearing a uniform. The lead ends there."
Leokadia Zojko, née Sitkowska, who at that time lived in Lasanki - Iwanowka, lost her brother Eugeniusz.
They lived with her father and sister. Her mother died in 1941. Gienek [tr. Note: short for Eugeniusz] was preparing for his final High School Matriculation exams. He was studying outside, in the orchard. It was a lovely day in July.
They [the Russians] were marching in formation, shoulder-to-shoulder, man-to-man, through the meadows from Sejny. They took Gienek with his books. “You are coming with us” - they said. They also said, “they only wanted to check his documents”. His family found out that he was kept in Białowierśnie, in Konopka’s barn, not more than three kilometers away from their home. The next day, Leokadia brought her brother some food, but they would not pass it to him. They accepted a handful of tobacco in return for allowing her to see Gienek. She found out that the following day she would have to come to Sejny and they would be checking his documents and releasing him home. Leokadia walked to Sejny carrying food and tobacco again. Somehow, she managed to get to the warden, as she spoke Russian; she used to live next to the Old Believers before the war. The warden promised that her brother would be released soon, but she could still not pass him any food.
On the 5th day after the arrest, Leokadia took him a clean shirt. She received one that was ripped and covered in blood, as well as a piece of paper with a message: “I am healthy and comfortable. Bring plenty of tobacco tomorrow”. She didn’t manage to pass this tobacco on to his brother. They were already sitting in the trucks. Zyta Kucharzewska from Giby sat next to her brother. The trucks left for Suwałki.
Leokadia traveled with her father to Suwałki by horse and cart. Outside the gates to the NKVD headquarters, two men guarded a timber pile. She noticed her brother inside the courtyard.
“I recognize him! I definitely recognize him!” – she reassures us – “After all this is my brother!”
She entered the building and says - “I would like to speak to the commanding officer as my brother is here”. One of the ‘Boytsy' replied that there is nobody in there. The other one, a higher-ranking ‘Boyetz’ pulled her to the side and said, "[Listen] child, remember there is nobody here, you didn’t see anyone! If you want to come out of here [alive], run, [don’t look back] and don’t ask anyone any questions!’”
“I understood it was dangerous to ask questions. We went home.
Probably, a week later, the Russians came to our house again at night. They asked my father how to get to Kuncewicz’s place. I explained that my father was old and sick, and instead, I could show them directions. I went outside. There were two vehicles with people and also an army jeep. They said they would let my father go if they got some vodka. They took a bottle but detained my father anyhow … My father’s name was Stanisław; he turned 62 at that time.
In the morning, they showed up again to get my sister Jadwiga (who was born in the 1919) and took her to Giby ...
It was mid-July, and I no longer thought about the consequences of my actions. I grabbed an axe and wanted to hit someone. They beat me up, but left me alone. There used to be a bunker under the barn during the German occupation. I hid there for three weeks… They came back to get me too, but my aunt said that I was already arrested by the other Russians…
Later, I arrived in the so-called Recovered Territories [known as the Ziemie Odzyskane in the Western Poland]. No one wanted to arrest me at that point, but also, no one let me ask about my father, brother and sister. I was one of the ‘doomed’ as my immediate relatives were the so-called ‘bandits’. When in the 1949 I wanted to join the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBOWID), the people mocked me that I could join them only if I wanted to spend some time with the white bears, that is, to be deported to Siberia.
After 1957, we searched for my relatives with the aid of the Red Cross. The answers we received back were: ‘we did not hear about these people’, ‘these people don’t exist’, ‘they don’t’, ‘they don’t’ … So where are they?!’”
Even now, the voices of the elderly, who after all, were then only young girls and boys at that time, still quiver. In most cases, the parents of those who were arrested took their pain to their graves. The younger ones though, are glad that at least they can openly seek redress for the wrongs done to them and their loved ones.
A letter by one Jadwiga Rowinska, from Augustów reads:
“I am glad to write this letter to finally express my grief and pain that had troubled me for so many years. On the 14th of July 1945, in Gruszki, my father Jan Kurylo and my Mom’s brother Jozef Sluzynski were arrested. All in all, there were 14 people arrested in Gruszki. My grandmother asked the ‘Boytsy’ for the name of the place they took those they arrested. [They took them to] Krasne, was their reply. A group of women got together; they took some vodka and food and went to see their relatives. They didn’t find anyone in Krasne, nor did they find them at any other rallying point such as Kolnica or Szczebra. Allegedly, they were all transported to Giby. I have heard this from my grandma who went to Giby, and a Russian soldier pointed to the woods and said, ’they’re over there’."
The others write not only to express their grief, but also to openly demand settling the moral score.
A letter by Halina Pietrewicz from Suwałki reads:
“The war had ended. My father, Jan Puczylowski, was a forester in Przewiez. At last my entire family, (my parents and their three children) who used to hide during [the German] occupation, were finally reunited. We started a normal life. An unexpected tragedy changed that. A Russian unit herding cattle [that they had stolen earlier] to East Prussia was ambushed. The NKVD began to arrest innocent Poles in the area.
On the 19th of July 1945, in the evening, the major of the NKVD arrived in his carriage and took away my father for a couple of hours; allegedly in order to produce the documents (enabling my father to fulfill his duties as a forester). My father was taken in the direction of Strekowizna. He never returned, and was never seen by anyone again. His remains are concealed under the moss in the forest he used to work in, and guarded for 20 years.
The search [for my father] proved to be futile, as no answer was ever received. Everyone was threatened to remain silent. Later we searched for my father with the aid of the Red Cross - this also proved to be futile. We received a reply that such-and-such person cannot be found anywhere. [By comparison,] even the Nazi [concentration] camps informed families about the deaths of their relatives. The NKVD didn’t care about human beings – [our relatives] died as if they were animals."
Tadeusz and Piotr Puczylowscy, my father’s brothers, who lived in Serwy, were arrested by the NKVD in a similar way.”
A letter by Sabina Warakomska from Suwałki reads:
“My father, Aleksander Warakomski, lived in Leszczewko, near Stary Folwark. In August 1939, he was mobilized [for war]; he safely returned home after his unit near Grodno had been destroyed [by the Soviet Army, an ally of the Nazi Germany at the time]. He was a member of the AK, serving as a courier.
During the roundup operation, the NKVD came, but my father was not at home. On July 25, 1945, they returned. They carried out a search of our house as they looked for any weapons and ammunition. Although they did not find anything, they still arrested my father and Ludwik Korenkiewicz, who only three weeks earlier returned from a forced labor camp. Allegedly, according to the Russians, both men were turned in by ‘the [local] dogs [the Polish secret police] from the same village.’
I learnt about these events from my mother, as I was born in October, after the roundup operation was over. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my father while he was still live, and I never will. I had to settle for a couple of old photographs, which luckily survived. It ought to be emphasized that my mother, as a housewife (who was also pregnant at the time) was left without any means of support, after my father was arrested. The only aid offered by the [Communist] ‘People’s government’ was to take her children to the orphanage, which never took place anyhow.
Despite the passing of time, there’s no one, and nothing material, that could compensate morally for my loss. An opportunity to write about this ‘entirely personal’ case occurred too late, and I am quite reluctant to do this. I am only fulfilling my duty in order to most likely reveal another [Communist] crime, and to rehabilitate my father’s memory. [My father] who during the war [2nd World War] refused to remain passive, had to die.”
At last, we received letters that simply reminded us about the crimes committed by some, and the tragedy experienced by others."
Tadeusz Toczko writes:
“I would like to supplement the list of the names [you had accumulated] with the last names of the inhabitants of Dąbrowa Białostocka. My father, Józef Toczko told me about an incident that took place on the 24th of July 1945, at 4 o’clock in the morning. A patrol made up of three officers of the Red Army arrived to arrest my father and his brother, Aleksander. There were few such patrols in the village. The arrested were gathered in one place and having their identity checked, were either detained, or were sent “home”. The Red Army soldiers had a list at their disposal, probably indicating the names of Home Army members. My father, and a few others were released. The rest of them were loaded onto a wagon and were transported to Kamienna Nowa (which is a train station). The following people were arrested: Stanislaw Karpienia from Nowa Wieś, Aleksander Toczko from Nowa Wieś, Jozef Olszewski from Nowa Wieś, Aleksander Toczko from Nowa Wieś, Wladyslaw Szosto from Nowa Wieś, Dominik Wnuk from Malyszowka, Sobolewski from Kamienna Nowa, Krzywosz (two brothers) from Kamienna Nowa, Ugolik (two bothers) from Kamienna Nowa.
The detained were transported by car to Kolnica where they were locked in a barn. After two days, they were sent to Augustów and were locked in a cellar where once a coffee shop named ‘At Turek’s’ used to be; later it were the headquarters of the local MO [pol. abr. Milicja Obywatelska – Communist People’s Militia]. At three o’clock in the morning, (according to a woman living next to Turek’s), the detained were taken to an unknown destination and they vanished into thin air. Allegedly, the transport guards were saying: ’don’t forget to take the spades’. The graves of our relatives murdered in July 1945 are near Augustow, and must be found."
The roundup operation lasted for about two days. Suddenly, mainly during one night, the temporary prisons were cleared.
The trucks packed with people were heading towards Rygole. According to the inhabitants of Giby, and it is the only lead until now, the trucks would return empty.
In July 1945, Stefan Milewski lost his brother.
- “Stasiek was held in Giby, in the Kucharzewski’s forge. At present there’s a church in that place. Our auntie used to take him food and clothes. He said that he didn’t need anything anymore. Soon thereafter, a truck appeared and the “Boytsy” herded the detained to the platform. When the truck set off, the prisoners sung in unison [Poland’s national anthem:] “Poland is Not Yet Lost."
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