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