Zofia Bocian was 10 when she and her Polish family were deported to Russia's Siberia region in 1940. They were among hundreds of thousands of Poles deported by the invading Soviets during World War II. Recalling the sub-zero temperatures, she told photographer Tomasz Lazar that "mothers would take their children's shoes together with pieces of skin."
Tadeusz Szumowski was deported when he was 3. He recalls the beginnings of his exile only from his parents' stories. They were given an hour to pack before being transported to the nearest train station. In the corner of every train car, there was a hole for them to relieve themselves. "One mother lost a child on the way, so the soldier took it and threw it through that very hole," he said. "The mother stood by that hole during this whole period."
Janina Grzeskowiak spent six years in exile during her childhood. "After returning (to Poland) you couldn't talk about being in Siberia. There was this sort of humiliation," she said.
"After returning to Poland, I looked as if I'd just returned from Auschwitz," remembers Michalina Guminska.
Teresa Janowiak recalled her family suffering from extreme hunger. They received 200 grams of bread daily. "One dreamed of eating one's fill," she said.
Ludomir Bocian remembers his first winter in Siberia. "There was up to 2 meters of snow," he said. "A lot of people died. Out of seven families which came, only four came back."
Jerzy Bergiel was deported at the age of 5. He remembers the Polish children having no time to attend school in Siberia: "Children were taken to collect cereal ears from fields."
Boguslaw Dokurno and his noble family were deported in 1940. His grandfather asked him to return home to Poland after his death to retrieve Polish soil and bring it back to his Siberian gravesite.
Celina Mochnaczewska remembers that "one wore the same clothes one slept in." She said she was "astonished that we managed to survive back there."
In 1942, Miroslaw Zurawski's family refused to sign an application for Russian citizenship. They were taken to a prison. "I didn't cry, I howled when they took mother with a sack," he said.
Jozef Pokora recalled living on melted snow for a time. "Man fears nothing when he's hungry. ... When he's hungry, he is even able to kill another man."
"I remember this hunger as a child," Albert Milaszewski said. "Everything was against humanity."