With Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, World War II began. Shortly after, on September 17, 1939, Russia attacked Poland under a secret pact with Germany to divvy up Poland.
At four o’clock in the morning on February 10, 1940, Janina Ślarzynska and her five-year-old daughter, Mira, were taken by Soviet secret police from their small family farm in eastern Poland and sent to Siberia with hundreds of thousands of others. So began their odyssey of hunger, disease, cunning survival, desperate escape across a continent, and new love amidst terrible circumstances.
Arrested and imprisoned in Kozelsk by the Soviets, Lieutenant Solecki narrowly escaped death among over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals murdered by the Soviets in the infamous Katyń Forest massacres.
When Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941, Britain forced the Soviets to provide “amnesty” for all Polish prisoners, and Janina and Mira escaped through the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Saved by Lieutenant Solecki as they pursued the Polish Army’s Second Corps of General Władysław Anders, they settled in Tehran. Lieutenant Solecki was deployed to fight in the Middle East and Italy at the battle at Monte Cassino in 1944. During the war, Janina and Mira found safety in India.
Having witnessed Communism firsthand and fearing return to then Communist Poland, Lieutenant Solecki went to England after the war, while Janina and Mira left India for England as well. Communist Poland had come under control of Soviet Russia at the 1945 Yalta Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. In a chance meeting, Janina was re-united with her lieutenant.
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