All Souls' Day 2020

All Souls' Day 2020

In the Polish tradition the beginning of November is a time of memories of those who passed away, a time of reflection on the passing of time and  on life that lasts, despite everything.

The All Souls’ Day was prepared by the Sybir Memorial Museum together with the Association of Sybiraks and the Podlasie Association of People Exiled to Sybir. This year we recalled our closest Sybiraks who had passed away from us in the last year (Maria Gulewicz, Mieczysław Pluta, Helena Kamieńska, Eugeniusz Malinowski).

Reaching back into the past, we also recalled people deported to Siberia who had devoted their lives to saving the most needy children (Hanka Ordonówna, fr. Łucjan Królikowski), as well as Polish artists who had experienced those tragic incidents (Bernard Ładysz, Zbigniew Chmielewski).

Hanka Ordonówna (1902–1950)

The great star of the interwar Polish cabaret scene, singer, film actress, dancer – Hanka Ordonówna, or rather Maria Anna Tyszkiewicz, was born on September 25, 1902 in Warsaw's Wola, at Żelazna Street, as the daughter of Władysław Pietruszyńki and Helena Pietruszyńska née Bieńkowska. Her music hits went down in history: "Miłość ci wszystko wybaczy" ["Love Will Forgive You Everything"], "Uliczka w Barcelonie" ["A Street in Barcelona"] or "Na pierwszy znak" ["At the First Sign"].

Her dynamically developing career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. In October 1939, she was arrested by the Gestapo and jailed in the Pawiak prison. After her release from prison, thanks to the efforts of her husband – Count Michał Tyszkiewicz, she left for Vilnius. After the annexation of Lithuania by the USSR, she was arrested by the NKVD and deported to a labor camp in Uzbekistan, and her husband was deported into the depths of Russia. During her exile, due to the difficult living conditions, her healed tuberculosis, which had plagued her for years, renewed. After regaining freedom, as a result of the Sikorski-Majski agreement, Ordonka initially organized a theater in the Polish center in Tockoje, and later organized help for orphaned children of Polish exiles. After the USSR broke off relations with the Polish government in 1943, she was evacuated together with an orphanage through Bombay in India, to Beirut in Lebanon, where she died in 1950.

Father Łucjan Królikowski (1919–2019)

Father Łucjan Królikowski was a Franciscan monk, priest, catechist,  spiritual father, confessor and retreatist, but above all a protector and friend of people. He became famous as a writer, an author of the book "Skradzione dzieciństwo. Polskie dzieci na tułaczym szlaku 1939–1950" ["Stolen Childhood. Polish Children on the Wandering Route 1939–1950"].

In 1938 he entered the Franciscan Order. He began his studies in philosophy in Lviv. In the summer of 1940, he was arrested by the NKVD and deported to Siberia. After the "amnesty" for exiled Poles, he graduated from the School of Artillery Cadets in Kyrgyzstan and traveled with the Anders’ Army to Persia and Iraq. In Anders' Army he served as a chaplain in Egypt. After the demobilization of the army, he worked among former Sybiraks in the Polish camp in Tengeru near Arusha in Tanzania. In 1949, while the British were liquidating the camps in Tanzania, he gathered 150 children and went with them to Canada, saving them from repatriation to a country overrun by communists. In Canada he dealt with their upbringing until they reached the age of majority and served as a priest among the Polish community. In 2004 he was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta, and in 2012 he was awarded the Order of the Smile. He died on October 11, 2019. In 2020 he was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle.

Bernard Ładysz (1922–2020)

He was born in Vilnius on July 24, 1922. He was 17 years old when World War II broke out. He participated in "Operation Tempest" in the Vilnius Region. As a sergeant of the Home Army of the Vilnius Region, he was imprisoned in Kaluga in the Soviet Union, where he stayed from 1944 to 1946. He worked felling the forest. Terrible hunger, frost and inhuman work caused his health to deteriorate significantly. After the war, he never returned to his beloved Vilnius, which was on the other side of the border. He came to Warsaw from the prison in Kaluga. This is how he remembered his return; “We drove into the city full of rubble. And this city welcomed us, because we were partisans and we came back from there. This poor Warsaw gave us its heart”.

He began studying singing in Vilnius in 1940. He continued his musical education in the years 1946–1948 at vocal studies at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw. He started his artistic career in the Polish Army Representative Group. For many years (1950–1979) he was a soloist of the Warsaw Opera and the Grand Theater in Warsaw. The turning point in his career was the singing competition in Vercelli in September 1956. He triumphed there, winning the 1st prize and gaining international popularity. He was successful on all continents – from Australia to the Americas and to China in Asia. He died in Warsaw in 2020, the day after his 98th birthday.

Zbigniew Chmielewski (1926–2009)

An outstanding Polish director and screenwriter. He was born in Słonim (now Belarus). Millions of Poles will always remember his series "Daleko od Szosy" ["Far From the Road"] and "Blisko coraz bliżej" ["Close Getting Closer"]. However, few people know that Chmielewski was a Sybirak. As a young boy, he was exiled by the NKVD to Norilsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai.

In 1956 he graduated from the directing studies at the State Film School in Łódź. He directed several well-known series, very popular in the 1970s and 1980s: "Dyrektorzy" ["Directors"], "Daleko od Szosy" ["Far From the Road"], "Ślad na ziemi" ["Trace on the Ground"], "Blisko coraz bliżej" ["Close Getting Closer"]. Chmielewski's directing oeuvre also included the films "Tabliczka marzenia" ["Tablet of a Wish"] (1968) - based on the novel by Halina Snopkiewicz, "The Angel’s face" ["Twarz anioła"] (1970) – in which he talked about the ordeal of children imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp in Łódź, and "Operacja Himmler" ["Operation Himmler"] (1979). He died on February 25, 2009 in Łódź.

Maria Gulewicz (1930–2019)

Maria Gulewicz née Ostaszewska was born on October 19, 1930 in Rohozy, county of Hajnówka. The Ostaszewski family (parents and six children) was deported to Siberia on June 24, 1941. The conditions of transport in cattle cars were very difficult, because apart from crowds and heat, children were hungry because the family had not been allowed to take anything with them. First, her parents worked felling trees in the taiga, then her father was hired to load the goods onto barges, and her mother was employed at the mill. The children were involved in supplying the household with water and fuel, and carried out lighter works. Hard work, hunger, lack of mediciness and hygiene measures resulted in frequent diseases – the worst were typhus and malaria. After signing the Sikorski-Majski agreement, the family moved to Toguczyn, where Maria attended a Russian school. Brother Kazimierz was called up to the Kościuszko Division and was killed in combat near Warsaw at the age of only 20. The Ostaszewski family returned to Poland after more than six years of Siberian ordeal.

Maria Gulewicz worked for many years at the Museum of Sybiraks at the Church of The Holy Spirit. She often met young people and told them about her hard experiences in Siberia. She liked poetry very much, she recited many poems from memory, also of her own. She often visited the Sybir Memorial Museum. In the memory of people who met her, she will remain as a very nice, active and modest person.

Mieczysław Pluta (1930–2020)

He was born in Białystok on February 23, 1930. His father Wojciech was a legionnaire from 1920 and served in the State Police in Białystok. He also took part in the defensive war of 1939. He was taken prisoner by the Soviets, then was in a POW camp in Ostaszków and was murdered in Kalinin and buried in a mass grave in Miednoje in 1940. On February 10, 1940 Mieczysław, his mother and twin brother and his sister were deported to Kazakhstan (Sowkhoz No. 2, Czekat, Pavlodar District). In exile, hunger, disease, hard work, humiliation, persecution and a constant longing for the country were omnipresent. On March 16, 1946, the family managed to return to their homeland. His father, who was buried in a mass grave in Miednoje, and his grandmother, who died in Pavlodar, never saw their home country again.

Mieczysław Pluta was a very active Sybirak. He was active in the Association of Sybiraks, willingly participated in the ceremonies commemorating the anniversaries of the deportation to Siberia and in meetings with young people, conducting live history lessons. He attended all celebrations with an inseparable camera. He left behind many souvenirs from Sybir and recorded memories. It will remain in our memory for a long time.

Eugeniusz Malinowski (1931–2019)

Eugeniusz Malinowski's father Antoni, was a policeman and he served as a district officer in Wygoda in Białystok. On June 21, 1941, Eugeniusz was deported with his mother Maria to Siberia to the Altai Krai, Bijsk. He was 10 then. The father went into hiding and avoided arrest.

After a long and hard journey, the Malinowski family ended up in a kolkhoz in the Altai Krai. Mother was assigned to work on milking cows, and little Eugeniusz rode horses and worked on hay-mowing. They survived the exile and returned to Białystok in October 1945. After graduation, Eugeniusz worked in the dairy industry. He graduated from extramural higher education. He was the president of the Dairy Cooperative in Zabłudów and then in Białystok. He also worked as a provincial transport director. In 1989, after the reactivation of the Association of Sybiraks, he became a co-founder of the Association of Sybiraks in Białystok and the first president of the voivodeship branch. He worked as the vice president of the Circle no 10 in Białystok, which operated until the end of his life.

For his dedicated social and professional work, he was repeatedly awarded with state, department and union decorations.

Helena Kamieńska (1927–2020)

Helena Kamieńska née Półtorak was born on May 28, 1927 in Suraż as the daughter of Jan Półtorak and Bronisława Półtorak née Leszczyńska. The parents were quite wealthy farmers. Her grandfather took part in the January Uprising. Helena, along with her mother and brothers Franciszek and Antoni, were deported to Siberia on June 20, 1941. At that time, her father was hiding with his family near Szepietowo, and the eldest brother, Romuald, was in the army. The Półtorak family was sent to the Omsk region, where they stayed in Jurga from June 1941 to February 1942. In April 1942, Helena, with her mother and the youngest brother Antoni, in search of better living conditions, left with other Polish families to the Saratov Region. Meanwhile, Franciszek – the middle brother was arrested for failing to show up for work, and after his release, he joined the Berling’s Army. In the winter of 1942/1943, due to the approaching of front, the Półtorak family, they were once again resettled to the village of Malinowka in the Kirowski district. Helena's mother died of typhus there and the youngest brother Antoni was forcibly drafted into the army. He died a few months later. The orphaned Helena was cared for by Mrs. Falkowska. She moved to Kirowsk with Falkowska’s family. There Helena was elected the technical secretary of the regional board of the Union of Polish Patriots. She returned to Poland before Easter in 1946.

She was a very active member of the Association of Sybiraks, she served as a president of Circle 9 in Białystok, and later also received the title of Honorary President of that Circle. She actively participated in the organization of celebrations commemorating the deportations to Siberia. For many years she worked as a teacher. She had excellent contact with young people and often conducted live history lessons, passing on knowledge about the tragic fate of Sybiraks.

Do góry