About the diary

Poznań, 30 June 1939
Later in the afternoon, when I was in the Railway HQ, there was a German air raid over Poznań. Bombs fell nearby. The Barcikowski factory caught fire. A great blaze.
Rawa Ruska, 29 June 1940
... as a result of an NKVD order I found myself on a train from Rawa-Ruska – The Unknown.
8 July 1940, Kamajedka – Asewskaja – Nikomowo - Kodada, Eluza, Kuznieck
Lice, lice, lice, all the time lice. Everybody\\u2019s scratching. Impossible to wash. In the wagon packed person to person - 73 of us.
10 July 1940, Priyutovo
We are quite high now, after passing a few stations. Red clay, meadows fallow and wretched birch woods, no fruit trees near the houses
13 July 1940, Petropavolsk
We closed the steel shutters to keep the wind out. No change in the lice. General de-lousing. Sooner or later Russia will fall apart and the Germans will weaken. Poland will be born again.
Biysk, 16 July 1940
It is now the eighteenth day of our mobile imprisonment. We are endlessly halted, not given food or drink. The children are squealing with hunger and thirst.
19 July 1940, River Cumysz
It is difficult to describe yesterday's journey. Uncomfortable, yes, but magnificent, with obstacles. We crossed the river Cumysz.
Palestine, 22 December 1943
That was the last entry in my father's diary. Our further stay in Russia was one long battle for a piece of bread and a little food. My father, detailed to impossibly hard work, practically faded before my eyes.
July, August 1941
The taiga. Magnificent, unbounded, mighty. Through the shade of your cedars and birches, you remind me, taiga, of our forest, the same forest in which I played as a child.
After a long and hard battle, the Polish team won beating their opponent decisively.
Left - Tomson was a an official with Polish Railways. After the war he wants to go back to the railways.
Right - Berz. Ill with tuberculosis.
Guzar, May/June 1942

1940–46: the diary

The diary itself is a sewn, leather-bound volume measuring 120mm x 175mm. Within its covers and watermarked endpapers it includes 122 pages. Many pages have been removed by cutting close to the spine from parts of the book.

The content of the diary falls into three distinct sections.

  1. pp1–44: written record by Zygmunt Palka of the forced journey endured with his son, Jan Palka, from Rawa Ruska, Ukraine (formerly Poland) to a labour camp in a remote location north of Biysk, in the federal region of Altai Krai, Russia. This journey over a distance of 4960 kilometers took place between 29 June and 25 July 1940. Zygmunt made entries daily.
  2. pp47–89: content includes sketches by Jan Palka of life and people in the camp written in retrospect while in the army in Palestine, neat transcriptions of his father’s diary entries, poems, prayers, lists, scraps of news and English phrases to be memorised.
  3. pp90–121: numerous sketches and caricatures in pencil and ink by Jan Palka. In a variety of styles, these depict people and places he encountered during his journey after escaping captivity, and his service in British forces.

Explore the diary here