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Iwona  Świętochowska

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Swoop to the orphanage
Iwona Świętochowska, photography by Urszula Mazurowska
 

Iwona Świętochowska was born on 8th May 1930 in Stanisławów, near Lviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine). Her father, Stanisław Tomaszek, worked as a doctor and was a popular social activist.
After the invasion of the Red Army on Poland, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in a lager as a counter-revolutionist. Several months later, on 13th April 1940, Iwona Świętochowska, together with her brother Jerzy Tomaszek, their mother and grandmother were transported to Siberia. The families of the officers murdered in Katyń were transported on the same train.

The Tomaszek family lived in a kolkhoz in Pieszczanka village. After several months they managed to escape to nearby Presnogorkowka. Their grandmother, Stefania Szumska, died there. After announcing the Sikorski-Mayski agreement, Iwona’s mother, Zofia, decided to go back to Poland. When they reached Turkmenistan mother had to make a difficult decision and left her children at an orphanage to save them from the turmoil of the war. Due to the efforts of Polish diplomates, there was a chance of releasing Polish children from the USSR transport and transferring them to an orphanage in India. This facility was established due to the efforts of Jam Saheb Digvijay Sinhji, the Maharaja of Nawanagar. Iwona Świętochowska, with her brother and hundred and twenty other children, went to India to live in an estate for Polish orphans in Balachadi, Jamnagar district.

During her separation with the children, Zofia Tomaszek started working as a medical aid in the second Polish Corps. After several months she managed to join Iwona and Jerzy. In 1943, the Tomaszek family decided to move to a Polish refugee camp in Africa. Thanks to the assistance of the Zamenhofs, they reached Africa via Pakistan and lived in camps in Kidugali and Kondo, Tanzania, as well as in Tangier, Morocco.

The return journey from the war displacement took them almost 7 years. On 17th February 1947, the Tomaszek family returned to Poland and settled in Bytom. Iwona Świętochowska became a doctor. She worked with the professional liability spokesperson in the Silesia Medical Society, as well as in the Historical Committee. She and her brother were awarded the Cross of the Association of Siberian Deportees.


Interview by Olga Blumczyńska in October 2014 in Bytom

interview excerpts
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"I won't run away"
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In a dug-out
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Under my brother’s care
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Heartily welcome to India
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From a hospital in Bombay to a camp in Balachadi
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Maharaja’s connections with Poland
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Children’s camp in Balachadi
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Cruise to Africa
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