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With the lessons of our fathers... Print E-mail
Written by Marlena Maria Weber   
A radio operator in Gen. Tadeusz Anders’ Army, a man who has experienced Siberia and emigration from the country he has fought for. I met Mr. Piotr Sułek in the Polish shop as he asked me for help with choosing a cheese. We began to talk, and so I discovered the extraordinary story of the Sułek family...

Marlena Maria Weber - Another wave of emigration, and with it a lot of difference.

Peter Sułek- Pub...we sat in the pub on a Saturday. One of our Polish friends (because the English did not befriend us) just got an English citizenship and started to sit at a separate table. And so, sitting alone, an Englishman walks past him and asks why he doesn’t sit with the Poles, to which he replies that he has just received and English citizenship and is now an Englishman. For this the Englishman replies: "Maybe you do have an English citizenship, but to us, you will always be a Pole".  Between you and us, there is the difference that we built the Polish community here. Poland was still occupied and we Poles were 2nd category here. The thought of going back to Poland was frightening: we were automatically considered to be Western spies and anti-Communists.

MMW- Is this why you  never returned to the country?

Peter Sułek - Many of my friends returned. They promised that they would write, but no one wrote. And for this reason I was afraid to come back.

MMW- So you had to learn to cope with life here?
Peter Sulek-You have to cope anywhere. We, Poles, are able to work hard and are honest. But we must also be vigilant observers. Kurgan (Kurgan - peripheral city, in the eastern part of Russia, the Tobol - Irtysh tributary) spring came, and with it came the overflowing of the river. Building a bridge was necessary. They were looking for carpenters, because it was essential to firstly sharpen the hatchets, then work on the wood. I've never been a carpenter. I raised my hand, as I had walked with my father through the streets of Grajewa and seen men sharpening knives on the street. So I sharpened the hatchet as well as the wood .

MMW- But our conscientiousness is sometimes a downfall.

Peter Sułek-  When I was in a labour camp in Russia, there was a hut next to our barracks with Russian criminals. People said, that once they played cards over the head of the commissioner. The loser had to bring his head, or else they would be decapitated themselves. I heard a lot about it yet did not see it, but the commissioner’s head was in fact brought by the loser. One night one of them came to us and said "You Poles, a healthy race, you work too hard, we get told to work like you”. We were terrified, we told him that we're working for bread. However, this criminal was intelligent, he understood us, and we understood him. He said: “Do less, complain about work with the coal and iron”. So we started to complain, they believed us, and we started to slow down. No more Russian criminals came to us again.

MMW- So you survived.

Peter Sułek – The point in life is, to believe that you can survive. In Pietro-Pawłoski there were 12 of us:  Jews, Poles, Czechs, and blacksmiths were in need. Vaclav Cieslak from Bialystok raises his hand, so I ask him: "Are you a blacksmith?" And he replies, "No, but I know how to shoe a horse". So I also volunteered. They took us to the iron. In Siberia there was an electric system which pumped the air, and with this we made metal pieces (a metal square approx. 20/30 cm). During each shift 80 to 100 metal pieces had to be made. Night shifts lasted 12 hours, all for that 800 grams of bread and a cube of sugar. Our portion was the largest, the smaller ones were of 600g, 400g and 200g. And when spring came, we ate clover. Poor women from nearby villages came and sold the clover to us on our way to work. Ah, that clover smelled like onions...

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