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Time Witnesses: Exile In Siberia

...The soldiers came on June 19, 1941, at about 2:30 am, an officer of NKVD and two privates. They just knocked and came in....

Romuald Lipinski tells of the night when he and his family were deported to Siberia.

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The soldiers came on June 19, 1941, at about 2:30 am, an officer of NKVD and two privates. They just knocked and came in. I remember, my mother woke me up and immediately I realized what was going on. They told us to take what we needed and be ready in one hour. It was night June 19/20, 1941.

We packed our belongings, some potatoes, clothing, etc., and my mother asked if she can take some medicines for the heart. The officer refused.

My mother asked if we can take the mattresses which were just made before the war. To our surprise the officer allowed us to take them. We were the last in their round-up for the night and they had some room on the truck, so he didn't object.

We were taken to a railway station, where on the side tracks were awaiting freight cars. There was a long freight train ready, the box cars with iron bars in the windows, and people were being brought from all over the area. Most of them were from Brzest-Litovsk proper but there were also some from the neighboring villages.

Most of the families were without men: they were either arrested earlier or separated at the time of deportation. In our case, we were lucky: my father was apparently too old to represent any danger to the Soviet Union. But yet, when I think about it now, I know of people in his age who were arrested or were separated from their families. I guess it was pure luck.

When I think about the reasons for selection of the deportees I get lost. There seem to be none. There were people from all walks of life: young, old, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, children (see above), grown-ups in other words everybody. There was a family of Russians, two sisters with their children, their husbands had been arrested before. Their husbands (at least one of them) were lawyers. They spoke among themselves in Russian. There was a Russian Orthodox priest with his son.

In our box car there were about 50 people. We were held at the station the whole day June 21. They let us out couple of times to go to the station latrines. When I went with my father (men were taken separately from women) we looked at each other: it was easy to run away and hide ourselves in one of the railroad employees house. But mother was on the train and we could not leave her to be all by herself. We went back. People were coming to the train bringing things to eat, clothing, expressing their compassion. But at that time our spirits were good. No despair.

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