REPORTS WRITTEN BY URSZULA AS EMBASSY DELEGATE IN AKTYUBINSK
I was lucky to be contacted by a researcher when he discovered some of Urszula’s reports in PISM, London. There are two folders with a total of 470 pdf files from different Delegatures to and from the Embassy in Kuybyshev. Several are signed by Urszula and her name appears in other documents. I cannot read Polish so have only read these four. If anyone is interested to look through the folders, I would love to know what other information is there.
The reports translated below are from the second folder.
P26-32 ACTIVITY REPORT 18-23 October 1941
From the Delegation of The Polish Embassy in Aktyubinsk
To the Delegation of The Polish Embassy in Buzuluk
Our Delegation has now been organized and works as per official recommendations. I have hired 2 employees from the previous civic committee, these are Mrs Bimikiewicz and Mrs Chreptowicz. The first of them runs the cash desk and the department dealing with those searching for families coming back from prisons and camps, the second one registers people who are in the military plus volunteers. I assigned Mr Zbigniew Kierski as secretary, he is a lawyer and understands the range of duties of the secretary. I manage the Delegation administration and deal with all the other matters not covered by the above departments. The secretary acts on my behalf when I am away speaking to groups, and organizes the registry of the Polish people living in this district. I arrange mediation with the Soviet Authorities involving general problems and individuals asking for aid.
The Delegation is involved with the local Polish community and administeres the registration for the election of Regional Liaison Representatives and regional envoys. The lists will be ready soon and I will be able to produce the relevant statistics. The elected Regional Liaison Representatives quickly come into personal contact with the Delegation – envoys will be designated once I manage to get the official stamp for the Delegation. The Soviet Authorities do not respect any documents without it. With the regular transports moving to the south I have to organize the feeding of these travelers at the station in Aktyubińsk in order to prevent them leaving the station to purchase food in the town. The Soviet Military Authorities only feed the army transports. These trips to the town cause terrible difficulties with accommodation for the people left behind. From today we sell bread to civilians on the transports at the station and in the near future I want to make a hot soup available for them. To make organisation easier I keep asking our office in Chkalov to inform us by telegraph about the approaching transports, the same way the military transports are announced. Moreover I have arranged a first aid point for passing civilian transports which is served by Dr Skopowicz.
My efforts to create a hospital for Poles in Aktyubińsk, of at least 15 beds, have ended with failure for now due to the lack of funds and the Soviet Authorities refusal to pay for the hospital. Further negotiations are under way.
I am preparing to opening a Polish shop in Aktyubińsk in order to help Polish people acquire essential products, because prices have rocketed and it is hard to even buy bread. We have to stand for long hours in queues and working people do not have time for this. So often they do not get any bread, apart from any other products.
Many people from kolkhozy come to us for financial aid because there are regions where their earnings are minimal or even zero. To help all those poor beggars we would need to spend a fortune, which I do not have. However this aid is essential so I ask you to organize it without delay. The announcement about opening our Delegation was gladly received and raised hope in their hearts for the near future. The news that Polish priests are coming to comfort our compatriots stirred up emotions and happiness. My contacts with the local community inform me that their dearest wish is to leave the USSR as soon as possible.
I use my authorization card during my interventions with the Soviet Authorities. It has been respected, but I think this is essential to have an additional document issued by higher Soviet Authorities, and instructing the local Authorities to respect my suggestions and implement them successfully. As an example of our relationship I can say that when I wanted to announce the Delegation activity in the district paper, and enclose our address, I have been totally refused. This makes it harder to contact Polish people. Please intervene in this case and help me to place this short announcement in the paper. I consider it breaching our rights guaranteed by international laws.
Delegate of the Polish Embassy in Aktyubińsk – Urszula Muskus
P18-25 29th Oct 1941
FromThe Delegation of The Polish Embassy in Aktyubińsk
Regarding transports for civilians and documentation for the Delegation employees.
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
The civilian transports for Polish citizens [trains carrying Polish families released by the order of the Soviet amnesty from their place of imprisonment] are still just as chaotic, exposing people to great distress and suffering, and causing many problems for the Polish Missions to sort out. The transports are not provided with food, the Soviet authorities do not provide the people with any money for the journey or their daily expenses. The result is that people get off at major rail stations and go into town in search for food, transports then depart and those who are foraging in the town are left without their papers and belongings. The Polish Missions have no financial means and are unable to provide these people with any food or a place to sleep. The Soviet Authorities do not want to take care of them and refer them back to the Polish Missions. This causes complaints for our Mission. Therefore I ask for the appropriate order that the civilian transports are organised on a par with the military transports, and are provided with food or food vouchers by the Soviet authorities.
Please send us instructions as to what the Soviet Authorities duties are in the above situations, or the financial support to feed civilians from the transports on our stations, because the current situation cannot last any longer. There have been cases of looting of food by the hungry and a number starving to death while on the transports.
Transports should be put under someone’s command. A commander must have an accurate list of people in the transport and telegraph ahead the time of arrival to the next Polish Mission. For now the local Mission can only provide for the purchase of bread at Aktyubińsk station. Bread is expensive because the Soviet authorities provide only commercial bread, which costs 2 rubles 30 kopecks per kilo – while the food stamp bread costs only 90 kopecks per kilo. Bread is sold at the station by the officers who are always on duty. They are working without pay at the moment, so when they find another job they leave the office, which is a loss because they are already trained. If we had some funds, and they could be paid for their work, they would remain in their posts.
The local Mission works in a very difficult situation. The local Soviet Authorities do not know the terms of the Polish-Soviet treaty, do not know how to respond to this Delegation of the Polish Embassy, create difficulties in all cases in which we intervene with them, and hinder our work instead of facilitating it by cooperation.
When our Delegate intervened in the Administrative Oblast of (illegible) we received a proposal from their deputy head to move our Delegation’s location from Aktyubińsk to this district. But the authorities required authorisation cards from all our civil servants, which we do not have. This situation is a typical example of their attitude to us. Therefore, I ask you Sir, to send us official authorisation cards in both Polish and Russian, particularly for the Delegate and the Secretary Mr. Zbigniew Kierski. We cannot do anything without them. I also ask you to obtain from the Foreign Office an instruction directed to the Soviet Authorities on the legal status of our Delegation, our privileges relating to international law (exterritoriality etc.) and their duty to reach a consensus in all cases when we intervene for our citizens’ rights.
I must also report that everyday there are cases of detention and prosecution of our citizens, both for alleged political offenses, as well as missing even one day of work, or being late at the kolkhozy [collective farms] etc. All these prosecutions are brought to court martial, are dealt with in haste, and any interventions fail to have any effect. Mr. Ambassador, please have a look into this matter and apply appropriate intervention in the cases described above because hundreds have happened in the past 2 weeks. Our citizens, especially on the kolkhozy, are treated like slaves!
Formation of permanent communication methods enabling mutual contact between the Embassy and Delegations would be a big advantage because we cannot rely on the post office. I think that a regular courier on the line Samarand – Kuybyshev, travelling on predetermined days, could collect letters for the Embassy and deliver writs and orders from the Embassy. This will contribute to uniformity of our institutions and their efficient working.
Among the Polish prisoners released by the Act of Amnesty there are common criminals, fraudsters and swindlers. These freed people have begun their reprehensible dealings anew, affecting primarily the Polish community which, exhausted by the living and working conditions, believes anyone who promises help. The shameful deeds of these criminals reflect on the overall Polish population and cause hostile comments from the Authorities and the Soviet population towards the Poles. There have already been a series of thefts and robberies in the Aktyubinsk District. A well-known gang of burglars from Lwow prowls here too. One elusive individual, introducing himself as a Polish Army officer, began to ‘organise’ transport to take Poles back to their homeland. Fortunately he was unmasked in time by our district Man of Trust (MĄŻ ZAUFANIA) and disappeared before he managed to swindle money out of anyone. I am sure he will try his luck again in another place.
The Soviet ignorance of the Polish-Soviet Treaty and The Act of Amnesty published by the Supreme Soviet makes our work and intervention here much more difficult. Please send us copies of both the foregoing Acts.
Delegate of the Polish Embassy – Muskus
Secretary – Kierski
P33-34 L: 15/41 25 Nov 1941.
From The Delegation of The Polish Embassy in Aktyubińsk
To The Polish Embassy in Kuybyshev [nowSamara since 1991]
Regarding the feeding of the transports.
The supply of bread for Polish transports, both military and civilian, passing through our station gets worse. It is not unusual that starving people depart from Aktyubińsk without bread, despite the fact that they have already spent a few days journeying without anything to eat. It is due to too short a quota of bread (900kg) apportioned to the whole town of Aktyubińsk. I asked the Central Soviet Authorities for an increase in the bread rations for Aktyubińsk by another 800 kg daily, and at the state price of 90 kopecks per kilo, stating that the purpose of this increase was for the Polish transports. There are bread coupons in Aktyubińsk and every day part of the Polish community is unable to buy bread due to the low quota. The appropriate arrangement from the Central Authorities should be directed to The Central Authorities of the Kazakhstan Republic, who make decisions on the bread rations for each town.
I want to highlight that Polish transports at the station in Aktyubińsk get only bread, which is their only food for the journey until the next supply point. That is why this matter is so urgent.
The Delegation of the Polish Embassy – Urszula Muskus
Secretary – Kierski
P35-37 (38-40 is a repeat) L.23/41 1 December 1941.
From The Delegation of Polish Embassy in Aktyubińsk
To The Polish Embassy in Kuybyshev
Report of activities by the Polish Delegation office in Aktyubińsk for the period to 1 December 1941.
During this period the activities included finishing the general registration of Polish nationals in our district, the registration of military personnel and conscripts, the registration of families of servicemen, plus aid to the Polish communities and individuals.
The general registration of the population is nearly complete, only the most distant kolkhozy, which are hard to reach, have not yet sent lists due to the lack of communication. The total today is showing 3922 Poles of whom 253 live in Aktyubińsk, the rest are scattered around on kolkhozy. Up to now there are 42 servicemen’s families entitled to benefit. However our list relates to the last 2 weeks only, and the number of servicemen’s families will rise. We listed 737 men and 39 women of military age, but who have not been enlisted yet.These lists have gone to the Army Staff. Many men from distant kolkhozy have registered with the Conscription officers making the rounds. Everyone who has registered is impatient for the call-up.
All military and civilian transports at our station are guaranteed a supply of bread at the moment. Continuous rosters at the station make sure that everybody traveling onwards from the station is leaving with bread. In the reporting period there have been 47 transports through Aktyubińsk and 83 organised groups with the total number of 25,200 people who have received 15,800 kg [627g each]. It would be helpful if the transports had separate papers for food, on which it would be noted what food the transport had received at the start and at the subsequent stations. In this way it would be possible to avoid the situation where one transport is taking too much and another too little. A Polish doctor appointed by us works at the station. In recent months he has attended to 264 cases of illness and he has taken sick people from the transports to hospital: 2 with pneumonia, 10 with measles, and collected 9 bodies of those who died during the journey. In addition the doctor has attended to the medical care of 160 Polish citizens from outwith the transports. Complete lack of medicines in local pharmacies is hampering his assistance.
I must describe the situation of the Polish community in this district as tragic compared to the situation last winter. Due to the excessive taxes on kolkhozy for the benefit of Russia the financial situation is much worse. Moreover the early winter and snow falls prevented our population from getting the fuel which is normally collected on the steppe. So people are freezing and often have no opportunity to prepare warm food. May I add that everybody has worn out clothes and are without footwear, this is the tragedy of their daily lives.
The flour mills which are motorised are standing idle due to lack of oil. People are left to grind cereals by hand quern, of which there are few, and these and are constantly in use by locals, and our citizens do not have access to them. The psychological state of Poles who have to live on kolkhozy also differs from last year. These circumstances are to blame. Due to conscription there have been personnel changes to kolkhozy’ management. The new managers of kolkhozy are either local people, who on coming to power want to be better than their predecessors and to keep their jobs permanently – or “Bieżeńcy” [Bieżeństwo refers to a mass immigration of orthodox Belarus nationals in 1915-1921] which take unfair advantage of their power, especially with Poles. They force naked and barefooted people to work, do not pay wages, and favour other “Bieżeńcy” from central Russia, with which all kolkhozy are packed. For “Bieżeńcy” everything is free – for Poles nothing is free, or available even when payment is offered, yes, even when people are willing to pay a lot.
The local Delegation office is flooded with letters asking for rescue from harm and abuse suffered by the Poles. Because the incessant complaints to the authorities have no effect, the Delegation has sent a letter to these authorities (which translated, I enclose). Please, however, intervene in this matter with the central authorities. Russian “Bieżeńcy” have dispersed scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, dysentery and typhoid epidemics on kolkhozy. These diseases effect the weakest most, especially malnourished Poles, and decimate them. Mortality, especially among children is frightening. A complete lack of drugs increases the death toll, and if we do not help all the children and a significant number of adults will die.
Thousands of Polish families are still waiting in vain for their fathers, sons and brothers to return from the camps and prisons, and are begging for help to find them. A man called Stanislaw Nowak, in the transport passing today, said that in the Kotlassky (Prywod) District of Arkhangelsk Obalst there are 20 families from Monastyrok (a village near Lwow) unable to leave. Also Prince Mirski, passing from the Komi ASSR Pieczorłag, says that in that area in settlements No. 104, 105 and 106 there are 200 men locked up and forced to work due to beatings. The Polish population living in the town, although small in number, are also in a deplorable state. Each day they lose work and earnings because factories stop production due to lack of raw materials. Poles loosing work immediately face starvation, lack of housing and fuel. Fixed monthly benefits for those unemployed are of extreme urgency. High prices rage on, a kilo of fat (if you can still get it) costs more than 100 rubles, a kilo of flour 5 rubles, 50kg of potatoes costs 500 rubles. At these prices a family with 1,000 rubles a month just eats vegetables, lies around, and lives from one day to another in miserable conditions. Thelocal wages are 200 rubles. In these conditions no wonder that everyone dreams of leaving the borders of the USSR and complains verbally and by letters to us. Without any information we cannot even give them hope to comfort them. Despair and doubt spreads amongst such embittered and displaced people.
Recently the Soviet authorities and NKVD began to urge Polish people to get Polish passports because the 3 month validity of their “udostowierenie” [pass] is ending soon. They have threatened us with fines and repressions if the passports are not obtained in time. They will take our “udostowierenie” and issue Soviet passports with enforced Soviet citizenship. The negotiations of our “Maz Zaufania” [Regional Liaison Representative] with officials in charge of the kolkhozy and in the regions are paralyzed by the lack of any official legitimacy.
The temporarily certificates given to them by the Delegation do not bear an official stamp and are not respected by the Soviet authorities. On the whole, therefore, our organization does not provide any benefit for Polish population which then falls prey to the Soviet authorities. Please, therefore, I ask you persistently either to send us a seal for the Delegation, or blank forms with the seal of the Embassy, to issue authorization cards to our staff in the form required by the Soviets.
A very important matter to be resolved is that of orphans and old people unable to earn a living. Children without a father and mother have no chance to survive, so they are directed to Soviet orphanages out of necessity. Placing each orphan is very difficult because the orphanages are so overcrowded. But the most important issue is that children given to the Soviets lose both their religion and nationality. So the formation of Polish orphanages is an urgent matter. Similarly the case of elderly and terminally ill patients is a problem. These cannot be placed in Soviet shelters because these places are overcrowded. The “Maz Zaufania” for the Dżurynski region, the engineer Mr Jan Pacak, who is full of energy and a dedicated social activist, intends to set up a small home for the elderly in Dżuryn. He already has accommodation and food delivery organized, and just needs of 2000 rubles to start running the home.Please grant him 2000 rubles for this purpose.
Recently the complaints of Poles from kolkhozy about inhuman treatment by the Soviet authorities have forced the Delegation to send letters to these authorities, which translated I enclose. One of these letters led to an invitation to our Delegate to a conference in Obkoma, where they demanded concrete facts. We have given these in writing, a copy is attached. Please also intervene with the central authorities about this matter.
Poles also cry out for a chance of teaching their children in Polish schools. There are lots of teachers in exile, please give us some instructions on what could be done in this matter.
Please send a substantial amount for relief payments, in fact the 6000 rubles already received was distributed within a few days to the needy. On this occasion I appeal once again that sending relief sums to individuals misses the point. A certain man called Kulik in Dżuryn has already received a sum of 1000 rubles twice, which he shared with other families. This causes grief to the Delegation. Please direct any support payments to us and we will divide it fairly with the help of the “Maz Zaufania” and with the involvement of the local committees elected by the people.
At the end of my report I wish to highlight how sensitive Polish society is, and to inform you that when news about the Red Cross and Government help spreads, it causes unexpected actions. Rumors spread that a delivery of aid and gifts arrived in Aktyubińsk, that all the donations were distributed by the Delegation to bourgeois families, and that a significant part of it appropriated by the Delegation itself.People collected signatures with a complaint to the Embassy suggesting new candidates for the Delegature, the “Maz Zaufania” and representatives’ posts. Nobody wants to believe that we have received no allocation yet. Unrest and discontent spreads. It is not hard to guess who has an interest in spreading these rumors and keeping them alive. Finally I inform you that on December 1stour Delegation office was moved to an apartment on 21 Karl Liebknecht Street. The previous place was difficult to heat. Enclosed is a postcard written from Chkalovsk oblast which does not belong to our Delegation’s territory.
On the 5th of this month we received a judgement of the case concerning the treatment of Poles that I raised with the local authorities, and of which I have written extensively above. We attach a copy of that letter, and repeat our request to intervene with the higher authorities in a more general way now. We expect that the order of the local authorities will bring a positive result, but the local authorities want the higher authorities to be unaware of the state in which Poles live in the local area.
I enclose with this report:
1) The letter to the Red Cross in Geneva, to be sent abroad if it is possible.
2) The letter to Fiałkowski St. for the same purpose.
3) 3 letters in which the settlement exceeds our scope.
Delegate of Polish Embassy – Muskus Urszula m.p.
Secretary – Kierski m.p.