Solidarité Ukraine
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European Memories

of the Gulag




Janina Borysewicz was born in 1927 in the Grodno district, then in Poland, now Hrodna, Belarus, where her father, a former member of Piłsudski’s Polish Legion, had been given land as a military veteran settler. For that reason the family was deported on 10 February 1940. Her father had already been arrested, and Janina was deported with her pregnant mother and four brothers and sisters to the taiga forest in the Arkhangelsk region. In 1941, she was separated from her family. She attended the Russian school in the settlement village where she stood up to her teacher and was sent to a reformatory. Her mother and youngest sister, born in the taiga, died and her brothers and sisters were placed in a Polish orphanage, where her younger sister was fostered by a Polish family of deportees.

In 1943, Janina managed to reach a Polish orphanage, but it was closed down shortly afterwards, and for refusing Soviet nationality she was sentenced to forced labour in a camp in the Kotlas district. She was released in 1944 and sent to Kharkov, Ukraine, where at the end of the war she applied to return to Poland.

No one was waiting for her. She married to escape the hostility of her maternal aunt’s family who had taken her in. She managed to get a job as a shop assistant with help from a friend of her father’s she tracked down in England. He also helped her to find her brothers and sisters. Not until fifty years after their separation did they see their little sister again.

Janina lives with one of her three daughters, and, as ever, continues to express her anger towards the authorities. She cannot stand injustice.