Francis and Walentyna Jurko


One cold night in February 1940 my parents woke up to a loud hammering on the door. Russian soldiers burst in and ordered them to grab a few belongings and follow them. They had no idea of the horrors they would have to endure during the three week journey through Siberia. They watched children and adults die from cold, hunger, epidemics of influenza and infectious tuberculosis. Some of them just froze to death, only to be thrown out onto carts in the morning when the train stopped.


My parents, Francis and Walentyna Jurko, survived two years of extreme hardship and labour, only to be rewarded by a slice of bread at the end of the day. My only sister Anastasia survived seven months. My father baptised her and both parents with broken hearts chose a place of burial in the woods.


In 1942 Stalin finally agreed to release the Polish military with civilians, and under the command of General Anders, they crossed to Iraq, Persia and Palestine where I was born in 1943.  My father unfortunately had a complete mental breakdown followed by a sunstroke. He was released from the army and spent the rest of his life in hospitals.


My mother and I arrived in England in 1947 with one suitcase and lived for 12 years in the refugee camp near Fairford (Gloucestershire). When the camp closed in 1959 we moved to Swindon.


Written by their daughter Zosia Gorzala, nee Jurko

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