In memory of Lubomir Wojciech Orzechowski. 1st May 1923 – 8th May 2012
This past ten days has been amazing for three distinctly different reasons. A wedding at the Bay Hotel in Fife in glorious sunshine with Edinburgh in the distance across the shimmering Forth; a baby naming for a beautiful wee boy named Alastair, also in Fife and today a funeral for Wojciech, a wonderful family man.
When you walk through the streets how many people don’t you meet? So many faces, a walk amidst strangers; some seem familiar but only because you’ve seen them before. Then one day they’re no longer there so who were they?
When the Russians invaded Eastern Poland in 1940, the family was sent to a collective farm in Kazakhstan. Their home with all their belongings was taken from them, and they were given just one hour to pack. They were then put onto cattle trucks and sent to Kazakhstan. The three thousand mile journey took thirteen days.
Wojciech said; “It was the 13th April 1940 “We went to bed about 10.00 pm. Shortly after 12.00 there was a loud knock on the door. We knew right away what it would be at this time of night. In a way we expected that knock, but all the same, when it came it gave us some shock. NKVD always knocks at the door at midnight; so, it was our time. Three agents entered the room, told us to dress and pack.
As we had already lost our home and belongings, there was not that much left to pack. When our mother Paulina started to cry the NKVD man told her not to worry. We should be happy as we were going to the glorious Soviet Union, where our father Marjan was waiting for us. In our naivety, or perhaps hope that it might be true – we believed it, as our father was in the Russian camp at Kozielsk by that time. Outside, there were some soldiers with rifles waiting by a lorry. We got on, and were taken to the Railway Station. Of course we were not the only ones being deported to the Soviet Union.
There were many lorries with other families at the station. They put us on the train in a cattle wagon with one small barred window, there were no toilet facilities, just a bucket; the doors were padlocked.”
In fact his father Marjan was already dead by that time – he was one of the first Polish officers to be murdered by the Russians in the Katyn Forrest Massacre in the Spring of 1940 but the family did not know that until much later.
The last letter that the family received from their father in the Kozielsk camp shows that he was kind and full of concern for his family, and was especially worried about young Wojciech’s education. In fact, Wojciech never did get to complete his education.
Wojciech never expressed bitterness about what had happened to his family during the war and like his brother Swavek he received a letter from his mother all those years ago, advising him it was too dangerous for him to return to Poland he never did. The only subsequent physical contact he had with her was when she visited the UK.
Wojciech was a face in the street.