1. [Personal data:]
Rifleman Mieczysław Szyłkiewicz, student, bachelor.
2. [Date and circumstances of arrest:]
I was arrested on 30 April 1940 while crossing the border. The reason – I tried to escape because I expected them to arrest me for underground activities in Białystok.
3. [Name of the camp, prison or place of forced labor:]
The Ukhta labor camp, Komi ASRR.
4. [Description of the camp, prison:]
Our job was to extract oil in a mine (we drilled underground to the level of 200 meters). The residential buildings (barracks) were situated a kilometer from the place of work. The barracks were full of bedbugs, dirty, and moderately warm.
5. [Social composition of prisoners, POWs, deportees:]
The prisoners were mostly Poles, arrested for disloyalty towards the USSR authorities. The majority of the prisoners (Poles) were members of the intelligentsia. The rest – citizens of the USSR, criminals. The atmosphere between Poles was friendly, almost fraternal, with the exception of some national minorities.
6. [Life in the camp, prison:]
Eight-hour working day (shifts: from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., from 4.00 p.m. to midnight, and from midnight to 8.00 a.m.). The miners were mostly Poles; Russians worked on the surface. The conditions were acceptable. The mine – the only one of its kind in the world – was really dangerous, given the experiments by Soviet engineers and the lack of experience on the part of the workers. In the learning period or later on when I worked as a locksmith fixing the oil shafts, there were no work quotas. The average monthly remuneration was 20 rubles. Food: a kilogram of bread, breakfast (soup), lunch (soup, fish), dinner (oats). We took our work clothes off after work and we put on our own after having a shower.
The relations among Polish people in the camp were friendly: they helped each other at work and when it came to food. Cultural life existed, despite the opposition of the authorities: during night shifts, in the absence of engineers and overseers, we spontaneously gathered in the mine to take part in discussions, make declamations, and sing patriotic songs.
7. [Attitude of the authorities, the NKVD, towards Poles:]
The NKVD were hostile towards Poles and assigned us to the hardest jobs. Avoiding work was severely punished (punishment cells, smaller food rations). Every month, there were obligatory rallies during which propaganda movies were screened.
8. [Medical assistance, hospitals, mortality:]
Doctors in the infirmaries and hospitals were mostly Polish and they provided special care to their compatriots whenever possible. Accidents were frequent in the mine; many people suffered from pneumonia, avitaminosis, and other diseases.
9. [Was it possible to keep in touch with the home country and your family? If yes, what contacts were permitted?]
We were allowed to send censored letters once a month, but we rarely received response.
10. [When were you released and how did you join the army?]
On 24 August 1941, we were all released at once (over 2000 Poles). We didn’t know where the army was being formed, so we dispersed throughout Russia. I knew that the majority of Polish deportees were in Kazakhstan, so I went to Pavlodar. From there, on 15 October 1941, I was sent by the military committee to Tatishchev. On our way in Kuybyshev, the Polish authorities directed us to the south, where the army was reportedly being organized at that time. In the south, we were sent to kolkhozes for mobilization purposes. Due to bad conditions, I returned to Buzuluk. On 22 January 1942, I was admitted to the army.