European Memories

of the Gulag

BioGraphie

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Adam  CHWALIŃSKI

Adam Chwaliński was born in 1928 in Polesia (now in Belarus) to a family of civilian settlers. On 10 February 1940, his family was arrested by the NKVD and deported, along with the other 51 families in his native village. After travelling for a month, they arrived in the Arkhangelsk region and were settled in a village that had just been built by Ukrainian deportees. Adam, then aged 11, and his sister Ewa Gienia went into the taiga with their father and learnt how to saw lumber.

Gradually the children managed to produce the compulsory work quota: “2 squared-off logs, each 75 centimetres wide, 1.25 metres high and 2 metres long”. In the winter of 1940-1941, they were given the work of maintaining the collective baths and then they went back to the taiga. Despite all their efforts, Adam’s younger brother and niece died of hunger. In November 1941, hearing of the agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviet Union, the Chwalińskis left for Central Asia. Two of Adam’s nephews died on the journey.

In Kyrgyzstan he lost his mother. He and his two sisters were placed in the Polish orphanage in the town of Tokmak. So they were able to pick up their education. The family was repatriated to Poland in spring 1946 and settled in Szczecin in the “recovered territories”. Forced to earn a living, Adam resumed his studies and became a hydrology engineer.

In 1961, he and his wife settled in Opole, Silesia. Despite his insistence on mentioning his deportee status in his CVs, Adam had a brilliant career in his speciality.

See MEDIA
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His work in the taiga

 

In these two extracts, Adam Chwaliński describes how at the age of eleven and a half he worked sawing lumber in the forests of Siberia.

 

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Payment for special settlers

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Other work experience

In this extract, Adam Chwaliński describes his work maintaining the collective bath (banya) in the deportees’ village.

 
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War and amnesty

Hearing of the German invasion of the USSR, the Poles were amnestied and were allowed to leave their places of exile. They went to Central Asia.

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Illness and death in Central Asia

Poles living in Kyrgyz kolkhozes struck by an epidemic were expelled. Adam’s mother died in dramatic circumstances.

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In the orphanage

After his mother’s death, Adam was placed in the Polish orphanage in Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan.

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20th Congress

In 1956, Adam, a student at the Wrocław agricultural academy, speaks publicly of his deportation during the discussion provoked by the denunciation of the crimes of Stalin at the 20th CPSU Congress.