And God Was Our Witness
Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
I was only sixteen when my family and I were pulled away from our home and country. My name is Alicja (Moskaluk) Edwards. I was born and raised in Poland and now am 77 years old. For the last 17 years I have been writing a story, or rather memoirs of my family’s imprisonment in the Soviet Union during World War II, in Stalin’s bloody era. We were forcibly taken from our home in the eastern part of Poland to the Asiatic state of Kazachstan, where we were condemned to slave labor in the year of 1940. Over the three agonizing years we faced mistreatment and degradation, sickness, hunger and death, till our release from bondage and fight to freedom across the Caspian Sea to Iran, where I met my husband, an American Army lieutenant. My story was originally meant to answer many questions posed by my family and friends, but somehow the explanation of what happened to me and the other forgotten war victims grew into enlarged vignettes of nonfiction events and history, unknown or forgotten by the rest of the world. (I say unknown or forgotten because I have yet to hear or read about any of the atrocities inflicted on Polish survivors imprisoned in Soviet Russia during World War II ---- could I be the only one alive?)
"REST IN PEACE- JAN ZABLOCKI-1914-1939"
Read the sign above, inscribed with huge letters into the brass plate, whose fellow mate, a sturdy oak cross glistening with sharp splinters where it cracked in the middle, lay helplessly over the grass covered hill, as if to offer itself in a final gesture of protection to the one who, ironically, could no longer rest in peace.
The bomb did not spare the cemetery. The raid was over, for hours maybe. I kept reading the sign over and over again, the letters staring at me with their black engraving -"rest in peace"... the significance of it seemed a ridiculous contradiction to the violence around us. From now on, there would be no more rest or peace – for either the dead or living.
September 1939 ... unforgettable! Under the blue skies death ran hand in hand with fear and destruction – bombs, machine guns, explosions – the endless nightmare that tormented our country from the first day of war, seemed to hang on like a prolonged and painful illness to the very end, so incongruous with the azure sky and golden autumn. The nightmare persisted while the sun shone on, shamelessly, watching the end of a tragic drama – the death of Poland. History was repeating itself and I, who, just a few months ago, had studied the subject in a classroom, became an eyewitness to a new chapter. This phase, I thought, would remain in my mind like an etched plaque in remembrance of the past and oncoming cataclysms in thousands of tomorrows. Yet, in the years to come, the detailed reports would be reduced to the essential facts only.
The screams of horror will be expressed only in novels and movie scripts for a second-grade imitation of a true-life tragedy. The painful memories will be recalled in poems and plays with well-suited words and phrases, but as for the naked truth of the feelings, you could not recapture it and associated events you would not dare to recreate. Thus, the human Gahanna of the 1939 war will fade into a legend, except for short paragraphs and brutally official and cold statements; history will move on, patiently recording events ... a loyal secretary to God.
Someday seemed like another planet. Yesterday meant everything because it happened already and you were a part of it, living through each moment, cherishing it as some secretly stolen prize. Now though the passing time left the imprints of rapid events like a bloody tattoo, hurting deeply, it was the sign that you were still alive and that was the most important thing.
If only one could shut off the past, yet strange, how the fall of a first bomb carved the moat around the bygone days of the past month and lifted them high as in a dream, where I could look upon and long for them, but never reach and touch them again.
Somehow I knew there would never be another year or day like those that remained behind me. The remembered peace and secure life made them seem like an imaginary fairyland I once walked through ... the carefree moments stood out in memory like dimensional pictures, inspiring the yearning for them to come back and creating a Shangri-La out of something that was the happy days of my childhood.
I was born in a small town of Eastern Poland. My vivid recollections are of being raised in a comfortable atmosphere of tranquility and culture rich in art, theater, and music. The war brought unforeseen changes and the end of a peaceful era. When destruction from German bombs had ceased, the people in the east of Poland faced another danger, the occupation of the Soviet troops. Our father was arrested immediately as an enemy of the “ red regime” and a few months later we followed his fate. I was only sixteen when my family and I, were pulled away from our home and country. We were forcibly taken and sent away to the Asiatic state of Kazakhstan in the year of 1940, where we were condemned to slave labor for the next three years, facing mistreatment, sickness, hunger and death till our release from bondage and a flight to freedom across the Caspian Sea to Iran where I met my husband, an American army Lieutenant.
Before meeting my husband, my family and I, lived in refugee camps in Teheran, later after the death of my mother, I was married in 1945. At that time we lived in southern Iran, in Khorromshahr on the Persian Gulf till my husband was shipped back to the U.S., leaving me to wait for a permit to enter the U.S. which came much later in 1946, letting me arrive in New York. Barely acquainted with a new way of living in the great U.S., I was back on the trail, following my husband to Japan, where my son Chris was born. We spent four glorious years in the land of Rising Sun, then headed back to the U.S. to circulate in several army posts finally settling in Washington D.C. where my daughter Tina was born. Next came Germany, a short stint and back to Wisconsin for a while then a stretch of four years in a vacation land, a seaside adventure in La Baule, France.- In 1960 we were back in the States and a time of retirement from the army but still in touch with a government. Our son, Chris, had volunteered for Vietnam and my husband working as a civil service, followed him. One year in Saigon and then back to Chicago long enough to pack again, moving to New England, Ayer, MA. New life again, new friends and new interest in antiques. A few years and we were back Chicago with my husband enjoying a new profession.
It has been a glorious life, wonderful children, -no regrets except for the loss of my husband 7 years ago. I am back at the keyboard, to bring to life ou time refugee camps in Iran.
Throughout the years of our roaming the world, each return became a sentimental greeting with a warm feeling of being back home no matter what state or the corner of the U. S., it always was the safest place, the best, our land of Stars and Stripes and freedom.
n this fascinating and revealing book of the memoirs of a young Polish girl during World War II, the author recounts the emotional, haunting and sometimes whimsically humorous events that took place during the three years she and her family were forced to work as slave laborers in Soviet Russia. With a charming "foreign" narrative she describes what it takes to survive and champions the spark inside all of us, when we ask ourselves, "how can I go on?" Read this and find the courage and lest we ever forget how man's inhumanity to man can surface at any moment --- you must read this book.
Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
Sale Price $26.50