Rafaela Wróblewska

* 1923  

  • "God willing, somehow we survived, 1934, 1935, to 1936. In 1936, it was around the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the 8th, but we were expelled on the 6th. They gave us three days, and it’s time for you to go! They took our passports away, they took our documents away, Stanisław did not have his passport yet, only a birth certificate. My sister Józefa and I were in our mum’s passport as children. Clear off, they are throwing all people out for transportation to Kazakhstan! And they threw us away. They came at night, took away what our mum had, a bit of everything. At night they brought us to the train to Kamianets, filled the train and we left in the morning. We were travelling 18 days. Such a freight train, not the one they have now, maybe one that carries rubble. Shelves , some people here, others there, with small kids. They closed the doors and the militiamen stood around to watch that nobody jumps out, that nobody runs away. Eighteen days passed in this way. We were eating bread and lard and drinking water, and, then, we ate all the bread and only hardtacks were left, and, then, we could not eat any more. People were dying terribly, small kids, old people, they would die right away. So many of them died that only few were left. They expelled us from our village…; it was the village of Janczyki and not Kolybaivka… There was a piece of a small meadow, from the khutor, from the statue, such a small piece between cottages. They expelled 87… It was a bunch of people with children, elderly people, altogether. It was a big train, all packed. And they threw us all out on the snow, it was already white there, snow, cold. Children were crying. Cossacks came to us on such ox-driven carriages with caissons. They put us on those carriages and drove 100 kilometres into an endless steppe."

  • "When we arrived, there was snow, winter. Sometimes it is cold on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin on the 8th. And we were sent on the 6th. We lived in such small peasant cottages, dugouts, with no roof, simply a heap of earth. It was snowing, frost. There were cows, everything people kept, and people. We slept on the ground. I will tell you, it was great poverty, but thank God, we have endured it all. As my mum said: if we were to be in prison, it is prison for me here, too. There was not a single room, some chauffer built it, he was there a year or six months and we paid 180 roubles for it. A small place, perekhodchik and a cow was standing there. We used straw as a fuel, and when there was no straw, because the harvest wasn’t good. There was no well, there was a big lake, seven kilometres, and we went there to take water. In winter, we would break the ice and drink water. We would go to the lake and komish we carried straw and used it as a fuel. It was steppe. But they would not let us come closer to the woods. Nobody was allowed to come any closer, it was five kilometres, but nobody would come any closer. There were 20 people, and they brought us. There were the Iwanicka, the Baranowska, two families, the Szkwarski, three, the Żubrycki, four, the Lipski, Tarnowski, Piątkowski and we, eight. Poles and the local people, too, who were also sent, exiled like robbers to Kazakhstan."

  • "I used to clean filters and wetted my hands, it was crackling cold, my skin got frozen and then … it was war, there was no help, nothing to spread with. Living hands. And a sister, not a doctor, nurse, but a sister had to cut them off, do the surgery, because there was nothing. But I did not fell. To die, today or tomorrow, does not matter. With or without hands, to stand before God with an examination of conscience. It was difficult first, but I got used to it. First with my mum, then my mum died, and I was left alone.'

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    Kołobojułka k. Kamieńca Podolskiego, Ukraina, 17.05.2008

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Living hands And a sister, not a doctor, nurse, but a sister had to cut them off, do the surgery

Rafaela Wróblewska
Rafaela Wróblewska
photo: Archiv - Pamět národa

Born on 6 November 1923 in the Polish village of Janczyki (now Kolybaivka) near Kamieniec Podolski (Kamianets Podilskyi). Her father was a fairly wealthy farmer; her father’s brothers owned a wagon factory in Kamianets. In 1930, her father died, and, in 1932, a kolkhoz was established in the village, and her family farm was compulsorily incorporated into it. Two Rafaela Wróblewska’s siblings died during the Great Famine (Holodomor). Rafaela Wróblewska attended a Ukrainian primary school after the Polish school had been closed. In 1936, her family was deported to Kazakhstan together with other Polish families from the village of Janczyki. For 12 years Rafaela Wróblewska lived in the village of Woronicz (Akmolinska Oblast). During World War II one of her brothers was called up into the Polish Army. Rafaela Wróblewska worked in the local kolkhoz; she worked in the field and also cleaned filters in agricultural equipment. During that work she lost both hands injured by frostbite which had to be amputated. In 1948, Rafaela Wróblewska returned to the Ukraine to her home village called Kolybaivka then. Her house was occupied by Ukrainian displaced persons and could have been bought back only after a few years following numerous interventions with the local Communist authorities. Since her mother’s death in 1974 Rafaela Wróblewska has been running a small farm on her own in spite of her disability.