1. Personal data:
Jadwiga Ciecierska, volunteer in the WAS [Women’s Auxiliary Service] Backup Center, 36 years old, married (wife of Lieutenant Wacław Ciecierski), clerk and typist.
2. Date and circumstances of arrest:
Forced deportation on 10 February 1940.
3. Name of the camp:
Szyszagowo [?], Arkhangelsk Oblast, near Kotlas.
Forced labor: logging, planing, and loading timber onto wagons.
Only those who obtained medical leave could be exempted from work.
4. Description of the camp:
The camp was situated in the woods. The exiles lived in wooden barracks, furnished with two-story pallets for the families. There were 14 families in one barrack, that is, 34 people; the place was cramped.
As for hygiene, it was very difficult to maintain. We had one bath per week.
5. The composition of prisoners:
There were approx. 700 people, including women, men, and children, of Polish and Ukrainian nationality.
The intellectual level was average, but the moral standing was generally good.
Mutual relations between the deported Poles were friendly. Relations with the Ukrainians, however, were tense.
6. Camp life:
The camp life was very primitive. Each day began with work from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., with a one hour dinner break. The working conditions were very hard, as the physical strength of the prisoners wasn’t taken into account; everyone had to work excessively hard to meet the quota, which had to be met in order to receive the prescribed payok [ration] of bread (600 grams) and soup. The quota was as follows: four people had two hours to load three wagons with timber. It was impossible to meet, as our meager food was deficient in fat and vegetables. The prisoners had only their own clothes to work in, and with time and due to hard work these clothes turned to rags.
The social life was thriving, but there was no cultural life whatsoever.
7. The NKVD’s attitude towards Poles:
They worked around the clock and systematically, constantly organizing meetings, propagating Communism, fighting all aspects of Polishness, and reminding us all the time that we would never return to our country and that Poland would never be restored. Presence at the meetings was mandatory; they were also permanently engaged in intercepting and eavesdropping.
8. Medical assistance, hospitals, mortality rate:
The medical assistance was limited to a superficial examination conducted by a female doctor, who would, in the case of a high temperature, give the patient a one day medical leave and provide him or her with the necessary medicaments. Although this was performed with due medical care, the death rate was quite high due to exhaustion, hunger, and low temperatures (which would fall to 60 degrees below zero): out of 700 people, 150 died in the camp. I remember the following surnames of people who died: Stanisław Swięciński, Roman Swięciński, Mr. Bałaniok, Mrs. Bałaniok, Stanisława Bednarska, Sutkowski, Rossa.
9. Contact with one’s country and family:
We received letters and packages regularly up until the outbreak of the Soviet-German War.
10. When were you released and how did you manage to join the army?
I was released on 26 August 1941, when the amnesty was proclaimed. Shortly afterwards, having sold the rest of my things, I left for Kuybyshev, and then for Buzuluk. I arrived there on 22 September 1941, and on 23 September I joined the WAS.