Henryka Milewska (Drobik)

Henryka Drobik was born in 1925 in Stanisławów (today Ivano-Frankivsk) She lived there with her parents until 1935. They moved to Brzeżany (Tarnopolskie voivodeship) when her father – a policeman – was offered a job there. He was responsible among other things for political trails which caused him to suffer from assassination attempts. In 1938 the family had to move once again for safety reasons. This time they settled in Kamionka Strumiłowa (today Kamionka Bużańska, about 40 km North-East of Lviv).

Henryka was 14 years old and was supposed to go to 3rd grade of gymnasium when World War II broke out in September 1939. She was spending the summer at a scout camp taking care of Brownies. The camp was interrupted by news of an upcoming mobilization. When she came home she was, together with other children her age, assigned to digging trenches and blinding windows. Her father was mobilized to the army and evacuated to Romania. Henryka and her mother moved to the countryside but return after a short period of time. After the Red Army invasion their apartment was confiscated by an NKVD officer and his wife. They found shelter in their neighbors veranda. Henryka’s father returned after some time worried about the fate of his wife and daughter. He was arrested by NKVD at the beginning of 1940 and sent to prison. He was deported in an unknown direction in March 1940 never to come back.

On the night of 13 of April 1940 NKVD officers entered the home where Henryka and her mother where living. They searched the house to find a Polish book which possession was illegal. They gave the women 1 hour to pack up to 100 kg per person. Their journey towards the East lasted for 18 days. They were traveling in overloaded cattle wagons with no knowledge of where they were headed and whether they would ever return. On the 1 of May the transport arrived in Pawłodar. They were then transported into the steppe to Sowchoz Chyornoe and next to a small quasi- farm 7 km from there.

Henryka had to work to make a living for herself and her mother who was a weak person and was often ill. She worked taking care of sheep and cutting grass during the spring. In return she received a very small amount of food every day and a minimal wage not sufficient to buy necessary basic food and clothing. When winter came there was no way to work because of intensive cold and snow. After 2 years she was lucky enough to qualify for a tractor driver’s course in sowchoz Chyornoe. For the next 4 years she was working as a tractor driver in wheat, millet and corn fields during spring time and during winter at a garage fixing tractors. She also took on additional jobs to earn money.

In 1946, after six years of no news from their family, Henryka and her mother received a letter from their relative living in Warsaw. It was an offer of help in case they would ever have a possibility to return to Poland. Their journey back to their home country lasted for over a month. They traveled by train in cattle wagons (open this time) from Sochwoz Chyornoe to Pawłodar, next to Biała Podlaska and finally to Warsaw. They returned in June 1946. In Warsaw thanks to her uncle’s help Henryka Drobik graduated from school and got a job at a bank. She then married and changed her name to Helena Milewska. She was working in the banking section until her retirement, in 1980. She died in 2013.

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