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Archive for Sunday, January 5, 1992

POLISH HOME LEFT LONG AGO

January 5, 1992

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Teresa Jurkowski moved to Kansas from New Jersey in September after her husband's death, but she left her first home in Poland as a 9-year-old under the orders of Stalin.

Then, Mrs. Jurkowski recalled, she, her mother and younger brother were taken in the middle of the night by Stalin's troops, put into cattle cars and sent by rail to southern Siberia.

During the trip, she said, there was little food and water, and it was extremely cold. A number of their fellow refugees died.

In Siberia, they lived a precarious existence. At one point, the children were separated from their mother without knowing whether they would ever see her again.

Eventually, the family was reunited, though, and the American Red Cross helped them get to Tehran, Persia (now Iran), via a freighter. Many of their fellow refugees died on that trip as well, she recalled.

Mrs. Jurkowski's mother had a secret cache of grapes, though, which she rationed to her children to keep them from drinking salt water, and so they survived.

In Persia, she said, the native people were good to them and the Red Cross gave them clothes and started sending smaller groups on to other destinations, including Africa, India and Lebanon.

Her family went to Lebanon, where they lived for two more years, until World War II was over.

They couldn't go home, however, she said, because Poland had become Communist, but England agreed to take in Polish soldiers, so they decided to settle there.

Her mother and brother lived out their lives in Nottingham, England, but after Mrs. Jurkowski's marriage to Zdislaw Jurkowski, who had been a Polish soldier, the young couple moved to the United States.

The U.S. government, she explained, had offered to take some of England's Polish soldiers, and her husband qualified for the trip.

They arrived in Newark, N.J., in 1955 via the Queen Elizabeth passengerliner with 1-year-old Krystyna and $40 in their pocket.

"It's true," Mrs. Jurkowski said of the $40. "I still have it down on my passport."

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