The First Soviet Occupation
The Bolsheviks came with such an assumption that they defended our Ukrainians against the Polish occupation. The time when the Russians came in was very difficult. There were arrests. They arrested all those who worked at the office, at the town hall, all the professors who lectured at the local school. So many people were killed here! Already in 1939, there was the NKVD here, there was a prison. You could not say anything against, even non-political. You could get into jail right away. My uncle – he worked at the factory once – he ones told his mate that in the past wages were better, you could buy beer and drink it, and now you have no money for beer. Somebody heard it and my uncle was arrested in three days. He was at the NKVD; they tried him and gave him three years in prison.
Zdzisław Baran
We were enrolled for the Bolsheviks, and if the Germans had not moved with the war we would have been taken to Siberia. A day and a half was left, the utchastkvi (community policeman) came, everything was ready to take us to Siberia, to deport us. Because we were rich, 17 hectares of land, but two parents and ten kids. And we all worked like beavers.
Marian Bumblis
The teacher, Józef Suchoń, Wilno voivoidship. A very good teacher, but when the Bolsheviks came — they took him away to Siberia, he died there, died of hunger. He was a great patriot, a very good teacher. When he taught us in 1939 he could have been 22. When he came: a young, nice, good boy.
Marian Bumblis
[Drohobych, 1939] When the Russians entered and came to the polyclinic and saw spittoons on stands, they rushed to them with admiration: what lovely pots these are and how good it will be to boil milk in them. There was such a small hole for spitting, and they thought it was to prevent the milk from boiling over. They didn’t know what a nightgown was! They put on nightgowns and when they had some holidays or New Year’s Day they were all dancing and enjoying themselves in those nightgowns. When they were coming here, the military were told that in Poland people were wearing shoes only on their backs and not on feet and that there were no matches at all: if you want to light something you need to rub stone against stone. The musicians said that when they came here they were quartered in flats. They realized that it was different than they were told. The musicians were two friends, Russians. They were not for communism, because their family suffered a great deal from the NKVD. They said that when they went to bed they saw white bedclothes. How to lie down on it? One asked the other: Are you going to lie down on it, you moron? And they slept on the floor.
Wiktoria Kisiel
[Drohobych, 1939] They deported families to Siberia. A man came to our place, opened the door and said: Mrs Kisielowa, off you go with the children right now. Right now. Don’t take anything, only coats, because they’re already coming to take you. Our mum told us to take patent leather shoes from the wardrobe. She had a shock. We should’ve taken our dad’s fur coat not the patent leather shoes. We put on our coats and off we went. Mum said: Go to Tokarska, tell her that we are going to Dublany. Go to Gerlachowa, tell her that we are going to Dorożów. Off we went with my sister, nobody said a word. My sister was three years my junior. Mum followed me along that small street down to the last house. There was such a family living there: the woman was Ukrainian and the man was a Pole, but she was already a Pole and even didn’t celebrate Ukrainian holidays. I had a friend at that house. We arrived there and my mum said: Mrs Sobolska, it’s up to you, I won’t be angry with you, I can understand everything. Maybe I could hide at your place, because they are to come to me. And Mr. Sobolski asked where we would hide ourselves. Mum said that I and my sister should stand behind the stove. It was a brick stove and there was an empty space to the wall. My mum pushed me in and then my sister. Mrs Sobolska was afraid that they would spot us there, and mum told her to cover the alcove with a wardrobe or a sideboard. We were standing all night behind that stove. Fear makes cowards of us all, we kept quiet, even though we were kids. In the morning Mrs Sobolska went apparently to the shop. There was one soldier standing downstairs in front of our house, the other one on the balcony with a gun and there was a car by the door. And mum was hidden in the attic at the Sobolski’s. She got there climbing a ladder, and then they removed the ladder. Mrs Sobolska came back, went up to mum and told her that they were standing in front of our house and that it was good we ran away, because they would have deported us.
Wiktoria Kisiel
They came and wrote down: if you had two, three cows and more than 10 hectares you were a kulak and should go to Siberia. They were taking everything away to Siberia, priests, too. My husband’s cousin was deported. They would not even let my brother say goodbye to him, as if he was a big robber … and he only had a bit of wealth, no big deal. They would not let say goodbye. God forbid! They took the kids away. Two little boys, already at school, and one was only three. And they took them away to Siberia. It was fear, and fear. You would go to sleep and hear somebody knocking on the door, perhaps they came to take us away? It was our life! We were poor, we had three cows. But when we heard that they were deporting people, we gave one cow away; there was a headmaster, so we gave it to him, so as not to … They did not deport poor people, only the rich ones.
Janina Mickiewicz
The uprising in Chortkiv was under the Soviet rule. Chortkiv boys attacked the prison and let those locked up go. Not many of them – some twenty, thirty people. There was my sister’s son among them, too. He ran away and didn’t go to the Russki army. My sister, instead, was killed by members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Then, they also finally caught him, killed him and threw into a well. It was a well near thee house where some German lived under Poland. It was several dozen metres deep. Some ten metres were filled in to cover those who were thrown into the well after they’d been killed. My sister’s son is buried there, too. Stalin was a hundred percent perpetrator of genocide. He was a bandit. If somebody said something they took him away. There was an inspection and they took him away, carried him away or killed. And a man is gone.
Leon Świrski
It was not after the war that I learnt about these priests, that they were murdered. They… how to say? They were murdered in prison, they were prisoners. And my father’s brother was taken by the Russians. I do not know why. We though he was murdered there, too. For a few days they were taking the bodies out and everyone was recognizing his relatives. Later they said that the murdered fathers were in the church. So we went there, we were walking, looking around. There were four of them murdered in the church, in the vestry. And four were taken out there to the Seret River, far away from Chortkiv. They were buried on the river bank. Later, when the church was given back to us, the priest took care of it and had coffins made and got the bodies, brought them to the church. They were in the church for two days, and then to the cemetery.
Maria Witwicka