80th anniversary of the deportation of 1.7 million Poles to Siberia
Here is a passport size picture of my late mum – she was about twenty when it was taken. She was probably on her way to the UK to meet up with her father in around 1958. She had not seen him for 18 years, since they had both been separated and deported by Stalin to different parts of Siberia during World War II. She was only three at the time and she was in Siberia for six years, returning to eastern Poland in 1946, ostensibly an orphan. She thought her father, who had been taken elsewhere in Siberia, had died, just like her mother, only he hadn’t. He had joined Anders Army, went on to fight at Monte Cassino and then made it to the UK when the war ended. The Red Cross International Tracing Service put him and my mum back in touch. Around 1.7 million Poles were deported on cattle trains to Siberia in this way and there were four waves of deportation which started on 10 February 1940. This makes 2020 the 80th anniversary.
Come and join with us to remember
If you’re interested in history, in Poland and in the strength of the human spirit in the midst of unimaginable adversity, the deportations and those affected will be remembered on Sunday 9 February 2020 in London. Kresy-Siberia, a charity with an online museum devoted to keeping this part of Polish history alive, has organised a special lunch and programme of events at 1pm the White Eagle Club in 211 Balham High Road, London SW17 7BQ.
How to book
To book a place at this lunch (admission £32), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st February, or ring Iwona on 07973 792 253. All the proceeds from the lunch will go to the Kresy-Siberia virtual museum.
Love and solidarity
The event, which I have attended a couple of times now, is always full of love and solidarity. There is no other way of putting it. It’s tables of people with Polish roots (usually), remembering together, and getting to know one another over traditional Polish food.
Are My Roots Showing?
I’m delighted and honoured that at this lunch, I’ll be speaking about a novel I published in 2016 called ‘Are My Roots Showing?’ It’s a humorous novel about a British-born Pole, Magda, who goes to live and work in Warsaw and explore her Polish roots. While she is out there, she recalls how her Polish mother was sent to Siberia, and this darker thread is woven throughout the story. The novel will be available to buy at the event – you can look it here too.
Historian and author Roger Moorhouse
World War II historian and author Roger Moorhouse will also be at the lunch. Roger will be talking about his latest book ‘First to Fight, the Polish War 1939’. I am so looking forward to meeting Roger and hearing him speak.
‘My Mother’s Shoes’ theatre show
In August 2019, I wrote and performed a theatre show called ‘My Mother’s Shoes‘ at the Edinburgh Festival. It was about my relationship with my (late) mum and I explored the notion of walking in your mother’s footsteps. I included her deportation to Siberia and and looked at how that impacted her and our family life. You can read Edinburgh reviews here. The show is also available for booking and I will be doing at the festival Migration Matters in Sheffield in June if you would like to see it, the exact dates are TBC.
Mama. Tęsknię za tobą. Mum. I miss you.