New Zealand's First Refugees: Pahiatua's Polish Children
The people lived in fear, and there was nowhere to run or hide. The Secret Police seemed to know everyone's movements and deportations were already taking place. Very early one morning in July 1940, at 4am, there was a knock on our door. My father opened it to face four Russian soldiers. The Secret Police officer in charge of the group was well known to us, as during a threemonth period he had constantly visited our house as a friend.
One of the soldiers, shouting at my mother to hurry up and pack, pushed her. page 61I was very frightened that he might hurt her so I pushed him from behind. As he turned around, his bayonet cut my arm and I fainted. We were then driven to the railway station, where people were sobbing and everybody was very distressed. There was a long line of cattle wagons, and the soldiers crammed people in to them and bolted the doors from the outside.
The overcrowding caused many deaths and the bodies were taken out of the wagons when the soldiers opened the doors at stations. The soldiers struck people with rifle butts and some, especially the older people, did not get up again and were shot where they lay. The toilet was a hole in the floor. Some people would hold a blanket for one another while others just did not care anymore. There was no way we could clean up spilt urine, which stank and made us more depressed. Our enemy was treating us like animals, humiliating us so we would obey them at all times.
The dried bread that my mother brought with us was almost gone. I did not know at the time, but she ate hardly anything to make our food last longer. One woman became hysterical, hitting her head against the wall of the wagon. Men were also cursing and someone was saying prayers aloud. I was scared, shaking and holding onto my mother. The noise, the smell, the hunger, the worry about my mother whom I knew was in pain – I wanted to go to sleep and wake up back in our comfortable house in Poland when everything was calm and normal.