Exhibit of the month: mementos of the Jasudowicz family - Muzeum Pamięci Sybiru

8 November 2022

Exhibit of the month: mementos of the Jasudowicz family

— When we were crossing the polish border, there was a late thaw. No one paid attention, people rushed to kiss the polish ground. Me and my siblings couldn’t say a lot in polish. We knew “Good Morning”, so we were screaming from the carriage left and right: “Good Morning!”, “Good Morning!” — that’s the way Mrs. Janina Rutkowska née Jasudowicz mentioned her return from Siberia to Poland in 1955. Donated relics are our November “Exhibit of the Month”.

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— By choosing the items related to the family, we try to remind that the Soviet deportations are related not only to the period of 1939-1945 — said Marcin Zwolski, PhD, from the Scientific Department of the Sybir Memorial Museum. — Although the story told by the Sybir Memorial Museum is mainly associated with the war period, we realize, that the soviet repressions begun in the 30s and did not stop after the war. In 1945 from the territory of the formally independent country almost 40.000 people associated with the polish underground were deported — explained Zwolski, PhD.

Mrs. Janina, together with her mother and siblings was deported in 1948, three years after her father was thought to be an enemy of the people and sent to a labor camp for 10 years. They returned to Poland in 1955.

— Before the war my father build a possession 9 kilometers from Kedainiai. I was born there — in October 1940 — and my younger siblings. The youngest brother was born in a bunker, the war was on. It was known, that the borders were moved. Parents decided to sell the house and move to Poland. They had to prove we were Poles, father was given a repatriation card. But someone said he told badly about the soviet authorities. On August 4, 1945 he was arrested and then the military tribunal in Vilnius sentenced him to 10 years of a forced labor camp. First, he was near Vorkuta, then in Kolyma, near Magadan. Luckily he kept his repatriation card — said Mrs. Janina Rutkowska. Her family’s house was confiscated, and the mother, together with the children moved to her relatives. She took two of the youngest children to the relatives to the village.

— Me and my older brother started our education in a Latvian school. said Mrs. Janina — but I did not finish the first grade… People gathered at the May masses and spoke that deportations were being prepared. That if someone is in a labor camp, then also his family will be punished. And truly — on May 22, 1948, six days after my First Communion, the Soviets knocked on the door. Mother talked to them, and me and my brother were crying in a bed, being scared of these people — the Sybirak shared her memories.  — We were taken to a command, there they found out mother had two more children, so some people were send for them to the city of our relatives. They were brought and then we were packed on a truck. We were going through our city and then our mother said: “Look children, you see it for the last time, probably we will never come back here”. On the right we were saying goodbye to our house…

— In Kedainiai we were locked up in carriages. Crying, despair, songs. Lithuania people sing beautifully… — Mrs. Rutkowska kept talking her story. — There were many mothers with their children.

— We got off near the Yenisei, in the middle of Siberia. Then we went upriver by a boat and we were taken deep into the taiga. The very first day my mother took me and my older brother to work so we could work for our bread allocation. I was 7, my brother was 9 years old.

— Siberian nature is very generous — the Sybirak said to the gathered teenagers. — many roots, buds, flowers to eat. But insects were a tragedy. We were bitten by fleas, and in the summer — by midges. We tried to make face masks, but because of bites we were getting swollen from bites so our eyes were invisible — said Mrs. Rutkowska. — Survival dependent on the fact whether a mother managed to get some food — our mother for four children.

— The soviet authorities reminded about us, children — that we should be taught Russian language. We went to school. We had no notebooks, no pencils. My brother, very clever, sharpened sticks so we were able to use them to write. We used the beetroot juice to make notes. Russians made their old notebooks available for us — we wrote between the lines.

— When I turned 12, I had to, together with my brother, work as an adult, in the summer hay-making and in the winter woodcutting. We were supposed to meet the daily standard, it was work beyond our strength. I remember that water was scarce — while hay-making I drunk water from a puddle…

Stalin died in March 1953. — Everything changed — the Sybirak said. — The number of those, who were keeping an eye on us was lower. We got a message from my father that he was set free from a labor camp and that he was given the sentence of “staying forever” in Kazakhstan, but he managed to come to us soon. Father, after Stalin’s death was a free man, but mother and me and my brother — we were still exiled people. Father became a chief accountant and our living was better. Once he met his friend from the labor camp and that friend reminded him about the repatriation card. And it did succeed: December 8, 1955 we were put into a carriage and taken to Krasnoyarsk. There were carriages with subtitles “Pafawag Wroclaw”… — she mentioned with great emotion. — Even strangers were hugging each other, because they all returned to Poland from hell. When we were crossing the polish border, there was a late thaw. No one paid attention, people rushed to kiss the polish ground. Me and my siblings could not say a lot in polish. We knew “Good Morning”, so we were screaming from the carriage left and right: “Good Morning!”, “Good Morning!”…

Mrs. Janina Rutkowska, a teacher for many years, ended her colorful and moving story, dreamed up by beautiful polish language with the words of saint John Paul the Second: — To all the people of good will, I repeat: forgive, and you shall feel relief. My parents forgave. Blame is on the war. War is something terrifying…

Mementoes donated by Mrs. Janina Rutkowska née Jasudowicz can be seen until December 2 in the hall of the Sybir Memorial Museum — free admittance. Presentation of the December Exhibit of the Month will be held on December 6, 2022. Welcome!

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