Jan Talarko
Class 5
Elementary School in Laski,
Tyśmienica commune, Włodawa district
12 June 1946

My wartime experiences

I was six years old when the terrible war with Germany broke out. Poland tried to defend itself against the Germanic deluge, but it was to no avail. The Germans were the strongest in all of Europe and they wanted to conquer it.

At first the Germans were good to the Poles, thinking they would win them over. But later they began to persecute Polishness, for Poles were attached to the Polish speech, the Catholic faith and the land. They were forbidden to learn geography, history and nature.

Partisan units were formed; more and more people began to fight the enemy. They destroyed bridges, roads and railways, and burned sawmills to prevent the Germans from stealing wood and demolishing the forests. A train was blown up nearby. I thought we were all going to die, and I started crying from fear.

When I was nine, a band of thieves killed my mom. I was very afraid and miserable that day. Two years later, my dad fell ill and died; I was orphaned. My uncle took me in. Shortly after my mom was killed, when my dad was still alive, a band came to our house. My aunt was staying with us for the night. They started beating us, and I cried: “O Mother of God, save us!” Then one of the bandits ran up to me and hit me in the face with a revolver. They ordered me to be quiet.

The worst for us were the Ukrainians; they arrested Poles and deported them for labor in Prussia, as the Germans told them to do. The youth were hiding in the woods at night.

In 1945, Poles and Soviets drove out the Germans and Poland was liberated. Now we are allowed to learn all subjects and sing the national anthem. On 9 May we celebrate the liberation day. [The Germans] were very cruel and barbaric, but we will repay them in the future for our fathers, brothers and mothers who died at Majdanek.