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Article about: My dad's travel document issued on his release from the GULag's of Kolyma. It was to allow him to get to Akmolinsk - but he never got there and thankfully joined the Polish 2nd Corps. Appare

  1. #1

    Default Udostoverenie

    My dad's travel document issued on his release from the GULag's of Kolyma. It was to allow him to get to Akmolinsk - but he never got there and thankfully joined the Polish 2nd Corps. Apparently these are quite rare.
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  2. #2


    Hello Polish2Corps,

    Yes indeed, a very scarcely seen document and chilling reminder of a terrible chapter of history. The document is every bit as scarce as those who were able to leave Kolyma alive after entering its gates. Your father was very fortunate.

    By coincidence earlier today while climbing the stairmaster and reading the 1951 classic A World Apart by Gustaw Herling-Grudziński I came across the paragraph posted below describing Kolyma.

    Thanks for your post!

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    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

    "Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne

  3. #3


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    I have read lots about Kolyma, and hope one day to visit. My dad's camp of Duskania was on a tributary of the Kolyma itself. I have written a book about his journey entitled "Two Years in a Gulag" (publisher's title - not mine) and even Ander's has a chapter in his book "An Army in Exile" entitled "Kolyma means Death". There are some great stories in Shalamov's "Kolyma Tales" but for me the best read on the subject was Vladimir Petrov's "Soviet Gold".

  4. #4


    I can also recommend the book: Man is Wolf to Man by Janusz Bardach.

    The link below is worth a visit:

    Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  5. #5


    Agreed - its an excellent book, as is "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich", the film of which can be found here:

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich [Full] - YouTube

  6. #6


    In 1946 the prisoner population of Kolyma increased dramatically with the arrival of thousands of former Soviet PoWs liberated by Allied forces or the Red Army at the closing of WWII because they were seen as collaborators with the enemy by being taken prisoner.

    Kolyma was described as "The White Auschwitz".

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    White Auschwitz of Kolyma

    Stanislaw J. Kowalski

    "...I saw our ranks dwindling every day. I witnessed the increase of empty space on the bunks. I saw my colleagues turning into human shadows to disappear like mist of emptiness of the eternal cold.

    My trail through World War II took me to many places of the globe to provide me with life threatening situations, which by any standards were rich in drama and adventure. Among them there is a segment of my past that is part of a tragedy of genocidal proportions. That segment was the forbidding land of Kolyma , the burial grounds of Stalinís political victims.

    This graveyard, suppressed by the war and postwar sub-culture of politics and intrigues, never came to light in full. Now, it rests peacefully buried under the debris of global wartime destruction. Three millon people perished in the arctic goldmines, now thatís no more than a myth to some, and an unheard of human tragedy to most. Twelve thousand Poles interred in the permafrost of the taiga and barely remembered by their own people. And on the other side of this grim balance, some 580 Poles who survived the ordeal, that is an infinitesimal value which weighs nothing on the scale of wartime history.

    There is more than statistics behind the past and present concept of Kolyma . Hidden in its name is the torture of misery, cold, hunger. and death of the unfortunate men who happened to live in Stalinís era and condemned as slaves to work in the Gulag empire. Behind it there was a system of persecution; savage, brutal, cruel, uncompromising and aimed at destroying the enemies of communism.

    It was a devilishly hostile system designed to control supply, maintenance and disposal of the slave labor. There was an army or secret police having its base in local militia, politruks, investigators and guards. There were thousands of prisons, always full of men awaiting their disposal to one or the other graveyards of the North. There were long trains of red boxcars to take the condemned to the distant regions of Siberia.

    There was a fleet of ships to carry the human cargo to Kolyma, Kamchatka and other arctic territories. Within this fleet, there was the slaveship Dhzurma which delivered me along with thousands of other Poles to the land of gold and death. This ship is one of the sore points in my prison memory. The Dhzurma had her morbid history long before I set my foot on her barb wired deck. Once she sustained a total loss of her human cargo to such a maritime hazard like the arctic ice, when caught by an early frost in the northern sea. Another time the slave cargo perished from a fire inside one of the holds, when the opening was blocked to prevent the spread of it. During my voyage, she was caught by a typhoon in the Japan Sea . As she was doing her crazy dance on the backs of the violent waves, the five-tiered bunks loaded with Polish prisoners fell down, burying hundreds of men under the debris and sending some to a tragic end. The survivors for the rest of the eight day journey had to bear with internal heat, a shortage of water, stinking latrines and thick polluted air.

    At the end of the voyage there was the promised land of Kolyma. Where open spaces were limitless, the air was as clean as the mountain stream and precious gold was waiting to be picked up in picturesque valleys.

    This valley of gold, surrounded by the eternally white mountain peaks, was to us the point of no return. I thought of my end every day, every hour, every minute, whenever I glanced at the frozen mountain tops, at the glaciers running down their crevices, at the naked boulders hanging precariously over the dwarfed pines and at the cold icy stream winding at my feet. But the full consciousness of helplessness was coming to my mind when I dug the dirt glittering with particles of gold.

    Even the shine of the gold got tarnished quickly when I touched it with the shovel, the pick and the wheelbarrow. It acquired a morose view when my stomach turned upside down with hunger, when millions of pestilent flies invaded my swollen eyelids and when the scream of the guards forced me to do the job for which I was physically unfit and mentally unprepared. My mates, the strong Russian men, soon recognized my shortcomings. They asked the guard to replace me with a stronger and healthier slave. To them, I was a spoiler and I could jeopardize their food allocation. So I was given the job of moving rocks from under the butara the crude gold panning arrangement. It was a hard job - a job that kills fast. One has to try moving rocks all day long to know what it means.

    In the middle of the short arctic summer a shy stream of sunshine peeped into the valley through the opening of the white mountains. That sunshine was meant only for us, the Poles. The treaty concluded between the Polish government in London and the Soviet Union made us eligible for freedom. As the first snowflakes started falling in the taiga, I and a few other Poles were shipped from the goldmine to Kolyma ís only port, Magadan. In all, about 500 Polish men were assembled in the transit camp. Still prisoners, but men with high hopes, perhaps too high for what the persecuting system was willing to deliver.

    While waiting for shipment out of Kolyma we grew impatient. One day under the impulse of brewing discontent we committed a honible crime ó we refused to go to work. The written or unwritten law provided the penalty of death for such an offense. For some reason no drastic measure of that kind was applied to the rebellious Poles. Instead, the system designed for us was a slow machine of death in which cold, hunger and disease were to be our executioners.

    One cold October morning, in 1941, surrounded by the guards and barking dogs, we were led to the camp called 10th OLP, which meant hard labour camp. My stay in that hell lasted just over two months. It was a cruel, painful and bitter experience, all the time bordering on the thin line between life and demise. Day after day grey ghosts, beleaguered by frigid cold or snow storms of purga moved out of the camp to shovel the snow, dig frozen ground and pile heaps of logs for the benefit of the privileged.

    I saw our ranks dwindling every day. I witnessed the increase of empty space on the bunks. I saw my colleagues turning into human shadows to disappear like a mist of emptiness of the eternal cold. My mind was focused only on one thing: that my space on the upper bunks would stay filled with my body as long as possible. It was nothing as lofty as common sense that kept me alive. It was something as lowly as the instinct of self preservation.

    One day, when assigned to the task of clearing snow off the road to the cemetery. I saw the diabolic picture of humans exposing themselves, ahead of time, to the still living phantoms standing in the blowing snow. It was the burial procession of two drivers, two horses and two sleighs loaded with the naked corpses. The stiff frozen bodies in the deadly embrace all too graphically epitomized the system's brutality which promised to eventually consume the spectator as well.

    At the time I did not know about Auschwitz and the smoke above Birkenau, but if I had known and somebody asked me I would have answered without hesitation - Kolyma . In exchange of view we would have asked one another:

    What could be worse than death in crowded gas chambers and the dehumanizing disposal of bodies in fiery crematorium? What could be worse than prolonged suffering from cold, hunger and disease before the body gives in to the white icy crematorium?

    In December of that year, after the Polish leader Gen. Sikorski visited the Soviet leader in Moscow, my day of salvation came suddenly and unexpectedly. That day some 60 Polish names were read in the camp of those scheduled for freedom and mine was among them. I was stunned, speechless and I could not believe it. But it was true.

    The next morning, holding a piece of paper in my hand, I walked out of the camp. No longer a slave. I left and I walked quick in fear that an invisible force would take me back to hell. Once on the main road, I took my last glimpse of the place of human misery."
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  7. #7


    I use that quote in my book. I corresponded with Stan and he told me of a picture taken in the cemetery at Magadan in which my father was present. The picture is in Anatol Krakowiecki's book "Ksiazka o Kolymie".

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  8. #8


    Interesting photo! Presumably taken after the so-called "amnesty" and by a Pole with a camera....which in itself much have been incredibly unusual at that time and in that place.
    Thank you for posting.
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  9. #9


    After the 'amnesty' and they were released from their camps, they were given better clothes and a little more food. Some even got jobs with pay. Lucien Aksnowicz in the picture had a job in various cafe's in Magadan whilst waiting for a ship back to the 'mainland of Russia'. He used some of his money to buy a camera and there are several photos of his including this one which was taken by their NKVD minder. On the back of my dads Udostoverenie are some food stamps for use at the Kolymsnab store. I like to think its the store in the attached picture.

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    Last edited by Polish2Corps; 03-05-2014 at 02:14 PM.

  10. #10


    Another fascinating snapshot of history...thank you for posting
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.


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