89 Books about Poland | Polish War Graves in Britain
They came for Danuta Buczak in the middle of the night. Standing at her bedroom door was an officer of the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD) demanding that she get up and come with them. She was told to get dressed and pack her things.
The NKVD took Danuta and her baby son from their home in Stanislawow, Poland, and loaded them into a waiting truck. They were driven to the railway station and put on board a train of cattle trucks. The lengthy train with at least 50 people in each truck slowly left the station. Danuta's long journey into exile had begun.
Polish Army Lieutenant
In August 1939 life for 16 years old Danuta had seemed so promising. She was engaged to her sweetheart Polish Army Lieutenant Rudolf Gasior. Their intention was to marry in the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection in Stanislawow in October of that year. However a summer of rising tension between Nazi Germany and Poland, and with the threat of war imminent, it meant that they had to hurriedly change their plans. On the 28th August Danuta and Rudolf were married in a little chapel besides the Army camp in Stanislawow.
On their wedding night a soldier on horseback arrived at Danuta's family home. He had new orders for Rudolf: he was to go to the army camp immediately. In the morning Rudolf briefly returned to let Danuta and her family know that he was leaving by train for a position south of Krakow. His unit was moving there in order to block any German advance from Czechoslovakia or through Silesia. The following day Danuta's father, a Captain in the Stanislawow Reserves, was also mobilised.
On 1st September 1939 Nazi Germany attacked Poland. Danuta's family gathered round the radio and listened to the announcer.
Fierce fighting is reported in the Corridor. Several German divisions have been seen advancing from East Prussia. In Gdansk, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein has opened fire on the Polish garrison...Germany is launching massive attacks from the air and on the ground. (p. 55)
The Germans bombed Stanislawow. They attacked the army camp, railway yards and other parts of the city. Refugees flooded though Stanislawow in their attempt to seek safety in Romania. Danuta was now very worried for the safety of her husband and father.
Danuta's father had been sent by train to Lwow to help set up a defensive line. The train was bombed by German planes. He escaped from the train and managed to avoid being strafed by the attacking planes. Later he was ordered to head for Romania or Hungary where Polish forces would regroup. He was unable to get there and instead headed for home. Danuta's husband Rudolf also made it home. His artillery unit had been overrun by German tanks and he was wounded in the leg. On 17th September the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. They occupied Stanislawow.
Journey into Exile
In early December Danuta told Rudolf she was expecting their first child. Rudolf was not happy and told Danuta they had enough problems without bringing a child into the world. On 31 July 1940 Danuta gave birth to a baby boy called Zbisha. In the autumn Danuta and Rudolf were awoken by a loud banging on the door. The Soviet Secret Police (NKVD) had come to arrest Rudolf Gasior. They told Rudolf they were taking him away for questioning. In April 1941 the NKVD came back: this time for Danuta and her son.
Danuta’s train into exile headed towards the Soviet Union. At the Soviet border they were ordered to change trains. The train stopped several times a day to take on water or coal or wait in a siding for another train to pass. After about 10 days they could see the Ural mountains in Russia, beyond them lay Siberia. Danuta’s train journey didn’t end until nearly three weeks had passed when they were ordered off the train at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. For the Polish prisoners their life in a Soviet labour camp was about to begin.
Would Danuta and her child ever be able to leave the Soviet Union? Would she ever see Poland or her family again? On a snowy night late in 1941 Danuta slipped past the Soviet camp guards and set out on her quest across the vast Soviet Union to find freedom once again.
The book Danuta is a novel based on the life of Danuta Buczak.
The major events and key people in the book are as described to the author by Danuta Buczak during a series of interviews in the 1980s.