European Memories

of the Gulag


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Stella Jankovska was the only child of a Polish Jewish couple and was born in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) in 1929. She spent her childhood in a comfortable home in that city, where her father ran a pharmacy with the help of her mother.

In the summer of 1939, as international tensions grew, Stella was sent away from Lwów to stay with a family in the Carpathians. After the German invasion, the country was split by the new German-Soviet border and she was cut off from her parents. Her mother did manage to get her back to Lwów, where she arrived in early 1940, while her father, an officer in the Polish army, had been taken prisoner. She did not stay long in Lwów. One morning in April 1940, NKVD men burst into the house, told them to pack quickly and escorted mother and child to the station, where others like them were put on cattle trucks for an unknown destination, which turned out to be Kazakhstan.

Stella spent the whole war there. Her mother first worked on a collective farm. Then after the amnesty for deported Poles announced in August 1941, the two of them moved into a town, where Stella engaged in bartering clothes and other goods, and her mother found a job as a teacher.

In early 1946, they were allowed to return to Poland and arrived after several weeks’ travel in the “new” western territories taken from Germany. Stella found her father again, who had been released, but received no information about those family members who had stayed in Lwów, who had died in the Holocaust. She began to study medicine in Wrocław, became a doctor, married and had a daughter. She is now retired and lives in Wrocław.