Pol­ish sur­vivor’s story

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

A sur­vivor of World War II’s forced labour camps in Siberia was awarded the Siberian De­por­tees Cross in Welling­ton yes­ter­day.

In Jan­uary 1940, 16-yearold Anna But­ler’s fam­ily of eight chil­dren was rounded up by Rus­sian sol­diers in the town of Radz­i­ule, East Poland, and sent by train in a cat­tle wagon to a Siberian labour camp.

‘‘ On the train we were treated like cat­tle,’’ Mrs But­ler (nee Baziuk), now 87, said.

‘‘ We were told by the Rus­sians we were go­ing to a bet­ter place. They let us go to the toi­let be­fore we left and guns were held over our heads. We were not al­lowed to say good­bye to any­one.’’

Those who died on the train were sim­ply thrown out of the car­riages and left by the tracks.

For two years Mrs But­ler worked as a slave labourer for the Rus­sians, saw­ing fire­wood.

She lived most of her later life in Toko­roa while rais­ing her own fam­ily.

Her fa­ther, Kon­stanty, and mother, Jozefa, sur­vived the war and re­turned to Poland but Mrs But­ler, who ar­rived in New Zealand in 1949, never saw them alive again.

Elder brother An­thony sim­ply dis­ap­peared.

Pol­ish Am­bas­sador Beata Stoczyn­ska pre­sented the award to Mrs But­ler yester- day at a func­tion at the Pol­ish Em­bassy in recog­ni­tion of her Siberian sur­vival.

Af­ter the Ger­man in­va­sion of Rus­sia the Poles were freed by the Rus­sians.

Af­ter their re­lease from Siberia the fam­ily had to travel through Kaza­khstan, Uze­bkistan and Turkestan.

‘‘We were told over the loud speaker that all Pol­ish peo­ple had to go to Turkestan through Tashkent.

‘‘We walked day and night in bare feet to get there. We had ter­ri­ble blis­ters and piggy-backed each other.’’

The fam­ily was then split up.

‘‘The youngest, Danuta, was taken to be an or­phan and sent to New Zealand,’’ Mrs But­ler said.

Mrs But­ler joined the Pol­ish Women’s Aux­il­iary Ser­vice, a Pol­ish cadet group and trav­elled to Pales­tine and Iran in late 1942. While in Iran she had con­tact with Danuta again and even­tu­ally fol­lowed her to New Zealand.

Mrs But­ler lived and worked in Hamil­ton in 1950 and met her fu­ture hus­band, Joseph John But­ler there. They mar­ried in 1951, set­tled in Toko­roa and raised five chil­dren.

She is now in a re­tire­ment home in Palmer­ston North.

Do­min­ion Post

SUR­VIVOR: Anna But­ler, who spent sev­eral decades in Toko­roa, will re­ceive a medal from the Pol­ish Govern­ment to­day.

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