Waleria and Karol Marynowski. Their perilous journey, to their final resting place in Wrexham

Waleria Marynowska and Karol Marynowski

Wrexham Cemetery: Section C 15750

Waleria and Karol Marynowski were born in pre-war Poland. Their perilous journey, to their final resting place in Wrexham was typical of the hundreds of Poles who lie buried in the Cemetery and who were part of the large migration of Poles to the United Kingdom following the Second World War.

Waleria was born on 9.6.1918. into a farming family, near Lezajsk in south eastern Poland.

After the Polish Soviet War in 1921 Poles were actively encouraged by the Polish Government, with grants and loans, to settle and farm in the eastern territories – the “Kresy” region, of a newly independent Poland. Largely agricultural land, extensively multi-ethnic, the Kresy amounted to nearly half of the territory of pre-war Poland. Waleria’s parents, facing the harsh economic conditions of the 1920’s, moved to a village near Lwow as “settlers”, to make a new living as farmers.

Karol and Waleria’s wedding 1938

In 1938 Waleria married Karol Marynowski. Karol was born in 4.11.1912 in the nearby village of Dalnicz in eastern Poland.

In 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the secret Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact, to invade and partition Poland. Following the Soviet invasion in September 1939, being a “settler” became a crime under the Soviet Penal Code. “Settlers” like Waleria’s father were being arrested and imprisoned as “enemies of the people”. Her father and her brother went into hiding.

Mass deportations of Polish citizens to the Soviet Union, which included the “settlers”, began soon after. In June 1941 Waleria, her mother and three younger sisters were arrested by the Russians. Travelling in railway cattle trucks for three weeks, they were deported 4300 km. to Kazakhstan in Central Asia, deep in the Soviet Union. Karol, who had not been arrested, chose to accompany his wife into exile. Their Camp was Basa 33 in the Kirov District of the Iounjo-Kasakhstanaia Oblast. Like hundreds of thousands of other Poles, they endured severe hardship, living in primitive conditions, deprived of food and medicines, they worked as forced labour in the cottonfields of Kazhakstan.

Following the German attack on the Soviet Union and the dramatic change in Polish/Soviet relations, the Poles were granted an “amnesty”. They were allowed to enrol in Polish army units which were assembling in the Soviet Union. Stalin agreed in 1942 to evacuate part of the Polish formation to Iran, under British control.

Of the initial Deportees about 75,000 soldiers and 37,000 civilians were able to leave the Soviet Union. Karol, Waleria and her mother and three sisters left Krasnovodsk, in Turkmenistan SSR and sailed to freedom, across the Caspian Sea, to Pahlevi in Iran.

Waleria and her younger sister Bronia joined the Polish Army commanded by General Anders. General Anders’ army was transferred to the operational control of Great Britain and placed under British Middle East Command. Travelling through Iran and Iraq to Palestine they joined the new Polish Second Corps. Waleria became a driver in the all womens’ PWSK 316th Transport Company. The Polish equivalent of the British ATS. She eventually became a “Sekczyna” a Section Leader, equivalent to a Sergeant.

Waleria (right)with her sister Bronia, Middle East 1944

Karol also joined the Polish Army. He was posted to Scotland to strengthen and train as a soldier with the Polish First Corps which had been based there since 1940.

Her mother and two youngest sisters were sent to a Polish refugee camp in Southern Rhodesia for the duration of the war.

Waleria 1944.

The 316th Transport Company arrived in Taranto, Italy on the 4th May 1944, receiving 143 new American 3-ton Dodge trucks. The women were issued with Thompson revolvers. The Company had a strength of 324 and was based on the road between Bari and Taranto. They mostly drove along the Adriatic Coast carrying, food, fuel, ammunition and equipment.

Usually 7 or 8 trucks drove in convoy; the terrain was mountainous with winding roads and steep drops. To avoid enemy aircraft, they usually drove at night, without lights, following the truck ahead. In May 1944 the Company drove troops and supplies to Monte Cassino, the scene of a ferocious battle, bringing wounded soldiers back to the Polish Hospital No3. and German POW’s back to detention camps. During the course of the War billets were often in field conditions and food consisted of dry rations for weeks on end. The Company’s vehicles often found themselves within range of enemy fire. In 1945 the Company was stationed in Forli where it also supplied British and Canadian troops of the 8th Army.

Waleria (right) appeared in the Official History of the PWSK published after the war.

In Scotland Karol joined the Polish First Armoured Division. Equipped by the British with uniforms, weapons and tanks, the Division landed in Normandy in July 1944. Attached to the Canadian First Army it was engaged in a series of offensive and defensive actions in what was known as the Battle of the Falaise Pocket. The Division was involved in a desperate battle to trap the retreating German Army and SS Divisions. After the Allied breakout from Normandy the Division pursued the Germans along the Channel Coast, liberating towns in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, most notably Breda in October 1944. The Division’s finest hour probably came in May 1945 when it took the surrender of the German naval fortress of Willemshaven, capturing its entire garrison, together with naval vessels of  Hitler’s Kriegsmarine.

The citizens of Breda, Netherlands , thanking the Poles for their liberation in October 1944.

During the course of the War, as the Soviet Union became stronger the position of the Polish Government in Exile in London became weaker. The Yalta Conference in February 1945, between the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the USA confirmed the new Polish Soviet border and agreed that the annexation of Eastern Poland by the Soviet Union would be permanent. Poland would be compensated by former German territory in the West. Europe would be divided into spheres of interest and Poland would fall in the Soviet sphere. The exiled Polish Government in London strongly objected. Many Poles felt betrayed.

The final diplomatic blow came with the derecognition of the Polish Government in London by all the Western Allies in July 1945, who on the same day established diplomatic relations with the Soviet backed Provisional Government of National Unity in Poland. The growing popularity of the Soviet Union in Britain, as a powerful ally in the fight against fascism sometimes led to a negative perception of the exiled Poles. In September 1945 the British Government urged Poles to go home and asked for volunteers to return to Poland. There were few takers. With the deterioration of the political situation in Poland, the impossibility of complete repatriation of the Poles was recognised at the highest levels of the British Government.

By the end of 1946 and during the course of 1947 over 200,000 Polish soldiers were gathered in Great Britain. This included the Polish Second Corps, Polish Forces which had fought in north western Europe, the Polish Air Force and the Polish Navy. Of the refugees who were dispersed across the Empire, over 32,000 civilians, mostly dependents of the Second Corps were brought to the UK between 1946 – 49. Nearly all of these were women and children, many were orphans. Following the Polish Resettlement Act 1947 many settled in the UK. Others emigrated to the Dominions, South America and the USA. The majority of former Polish forces personnel remained in exile.

Karol and Waleria came to the UK in 1946. They were demobilised in 1947, from the Polish Military Camp in Wynnstay Park, Ruabon. They lived in Browns Lane, Cefn Mawr. Soon after Waleria became ill with Multiple Sclerosis and became a wheelchair user. She died of complications relating to her illness, at the Polish Hospital Penley on 29.4.1955. aged 36.

They had no children. Later Karol moved to Vernon St. Rhosddu Wrexham. He remarried in the 1960’s. He was a bus conductor with Crosville Motors until he retired. He died on 27.10.1986.

Bronia, Waleria’s sister also served in Italy in the 5th Polish Hospital based at Casamassima near Bari. She met a Polish soldier in Italy and they were married in Wiltshire, England in January 1947.They emigrated to Argentina in 1949.

Waleria(left) and Karol far right at her sister, Bronia’s wedding in Wiltshre England 1947

Waleria’s mother and her two youngest sisters came to Britain from Rhodesia in 1948. The sisters went on to marry former Polish soldiers. They lived in Wrexham. They too are all buried in Wrexham Cemetery. Her father stayed in Poland and died in 1956. They never saw him again. Her brother died in a German prison in 1941, aged 21.

Academics have written that the arrival of the Poles during and after the War followed a long history of immigration from Europe to the UK, most notably political exiles or those fleeing conflict or persecution. Some eventually return “home”, but for others particularly refugees their final resting place lay in what we now call Britain. Hence the poignant observation: “Many corners of British graveyards are for ever Poland, or Italy, or Spain.”

Sources

From Warsaw to Rome: General Anders ‘Exiled Polish Army in the Second World War Martin Williams

Trail of Hope. The Anders Army: Norman Davies

God’s Playground. A History of Poland: Norman Davies Europe in Exile: Conway and Gotovitch

In Their Country’s Service. Women Soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps 1941-46. Official History.

Man of Steel and Honour -General Maczek. CinC Polish First Armoured Division. McGilvray Polish Exiles of WW2- Danuta Maczka Gradosielska

Grave ref. Wrexham Cemetery Section C 15750

Grave photograph; Russell Jones. Mossfords Memorials (who restored the gravestone in 2019.)

Research by Fred Czulowski. February 2021.

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