The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade
(1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa)
Journey To Krasnovodsk
Saying Goodbye To Lugavoye
A rumour, a word, went out that the whole of the 10th division was to be evacuated to Persia via Krasnovodsk. As confirmation came through that it was indeed true, sick men became miraculously healed and danced like crazy people around the room, singing, shouting, smiling!
Vodka, plenty of vodka, appeared from nowhere and we celebrated. We could not have been more deliriously happy!
Apparently, many of us would have the opportunity to go to Great Britain after staying a while in Persia to rest and recuperate and above all else escape Stalin. I liked the sound of it and made it my goal to go there as well. I wanted to get as far away as possible from Bolsheviks and Russia!
Some days later we prepared to leave the camp, everything was packed, spirits were high. The camp commander stood us all in line and told us what lay before us. We remembered those who had died at the camp and said prayers for them.
Then, joyfully, we sang and marched to the local train station to catch the train to Krasnovodsk. It was ironic that our stay in Stalins country started with a train ride and would end with one.
We jubilantly got on the train, it took hours for everyone to get on and things to be loaded that belonged to the camp.
This was the moment we had dreamed of! Could it really be happening? Once again I felt like a young fit man, full of renewed energy going to an unimaginable new world.
The Train Ride To Krasnovodsk
The exodus from the USSR started in March 1942.
The NKVD had arranged trains to transport us to Krasnovodsk. In total x trains were arranged. This was later to be known as "Wave 1".
On March 26th, 1942 10th division from Lugovoye was to be transported on a goods train through Dzambul, Arys, Tashkent, Dzizak, Samarkand, Bukhara, Tchardzhau, and Ashkhabad to Krasnovodsk. (As confirmed by Gustav Herling in his book "A World Apart")
The 10th division was made up almost entirely of those who had been released from the camps, mainly in Archangel and therefore the 10th division was the weakest and most undernourished division.
As a result of this, we would be one of the first to be evacuated to Persia. I wondered what Persia was like, it was hard to imagine somewhere hot when you are freezing cold!
Eventually the train left the station, a loud cheer went out. We got under way and passed through so many pretty places, it did our souls god to see something other than a hard labour camp. I saw storks flying, it lifted my spirits.
We stopped many times for a long time at train stations. The men didn’t complain as many of them still had dysentery and were glad of a lengthy toilet break. We were served soup and bread at the stations, we were royalty, or so it felt compared to repression under Russian guards.
Eventually the train pulled into a siding just outside Krasnovodsk.
A temporary camp for us had been setup nearby and we were to stay there until there was a ship allocated for us to go across the Caspian Sea to Persia on.
The NKVD made it very clear to us that we could not take any roubles out of Russia and must hand them over at once. Some men did, but I knew of many who did not figuring they might be able to use them in Persia.
Well, our time came, we were called and told to march to Krasnovodsk harbour and get on our boat. I was nervous and excited!
Krasnovodsk Evacuation Of The 10th Division To Persia
On March 30th 1942 we embarked on 2 ships, the Agamali Ogly and the Turkmenistan.
Well one of my fellow Polish comrades understated in his book: "(Gustav Herling): At Krasnovodsk 2 boats were waiting for us (March 30th embarked on 2 ships leaving the port Agamali Ogly and Turkmenistan.) Arrived Night of April 2nd at Pahlevi)".
The tension in the air could be tasted, this really was it, we really were leaving the Soviet Union, forever!