On the 13th of October 1944, my Babcia arrived in Zeithain camp outside of Dresden as part of a rail transport of some 1,400 remaining members of Armia Krajowa after the fall of Warsaw after the Warsaw Uprising. She was one of 400 female nurses & support staff that arrived coming from 32 small hospitals from across Warsaw. In the words of the Camp Historian from Zeihain who wrote me days ago……
Twenty-five huts were made available in a part of the camp that had been cleared especially to accommodate the Polish prisoners. The prisoners set up the ‘Zeithain Polish Army Hospital’ in these buildings. Within a short time, the 54 doctors and over 400 nurses succeeded in achieving a standard of hygiene that had never before been present in Zeithain.
The Polish prisoners were treated according to the provisions of international law until the camp was liberated. In contrast to the Italian and Soviet prisoners, they regularly received ration packages from the International Red Cross, which also conducted several inspections of the Polish hospital. Prisoners were allowed to send and receive mail, and officers and non-commissioned officers were exempted from labour.
In April 23rd the camp in Zeithain was liberated by the Red Army. After the liberation the Soviets started to clear the camp from all medical staff and from all sick and wounded people, with exception of the Polish prisoners, who successfully refused. In the following days the medical staff started to care about the heavily sick Soviet and Italian prisoners, who weren’t, because of illness, able to leave the camp. From May to August 1945, under the command of the Red Army Major Leontew, who cared about Poles, came through Zeithain on their way back home. In August 1945 they finally were allowed to return to Poland.
Almost 70 years later to the day, after Babcia fought bravely to defend Warsaw until the final moments, we will return to the city she left behind to hopefully find more about the history of her family. We don’t know much other than the life of her sister who left Poland behind as well some initial research we’ve done in preparation.
My mother & I will also return to Poland as citizens of the country. After a nearly year long process complete with tedious research & my fathers miraculous discovery of my Dziadzi’s original birth certificate — we’ve both had our Polish citizenship “restored.”
I only wish I was able to share this moment with my Babcia & Dziadzi who I know are smiling down at this moment, and not only at how bad my passport photo is, but at the fact that their wish to pass on their Polish heritage to me was not in vain. Not only have I been restored as a citizen of Poland, but for those who’ve known me since I was in Elementary School at IJP, I’ve been restored with the name they gave me, Alexander Kocielski-Uher.