janina's Story

I am writing the biography of my mother in law, Janina Folta. It's not finished as  I am still researching her family history, but below is an extract.

 

I have obtained her father's military record from the Ministry of Defence Polish section. This amazing department keeps the records of the members of the Polish forces serving with the Allies in WW2. Jozef's record (handwritten and mainly in Polish) shows that he was decorated for his service, being awarded the Italy Star, the 1939-1945 Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal. His medals were only claimed by the family in 2018, when the Ministry of Defence issued them to Janina, freshly minted. The MOD has also provided a military headstone for Jozef's grave in Leominster Cemetery, which was previously unmarked. This was done in conjunction with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Jozef's War Medals issued to Janina by Ministry of Defence on 2 May 2018. L-R The 1939-1945 Star, The Italy Star, The 1939-1945 War Medal. Medals issued by the British Government to qualifying Commonwealth citizens and members of the Polish free forces.

Janina Folta aged about 12

Courtesy of Janina Folta

Jozef Folta in his Polish army uniform taken some time between 1942 and 1947.

Courtesy of Janina Folta

The Folta family spent five long years apart, whilst Jozef and Władek fought with the Allies and Janina, her mother and sisters were in Mexico. Janina remembers  one Christmas when a parcel came for her mother. It was a photo of all the family (see opposite). Ewa had  sent photos of herself and the girls to Jozef. He had taken them and added photos of him and  Władek. The letter he wrote with the parcel said that whilst they couldn't be together then, nevertheless one day they would be reunited. Until that time they would have make do with being together in the photo.

Jozef's new headstone at Leominster cemetery, placed courtesy of MOD/CWGC 2018

The Folta family clockwise from left: Ewa, Jozef, Władek, Maria, Janina, Mila.

Courtesy of Janina Folta

Janina Folta aged 79. She died on 11 April 2019 aged 83

extract from 

the windrush poles:janina's story

Chapter one : Old Poland

​When I was a child I lived with my family on our farm in South East Poland. There were my parents, Ewa and Jozef, then my sisters Mila and Maria and my brother Władek. I was the youngest.

The farm was surrounded by cherry trees. In the spring all you could see out of the windows was pink blossom. When it was autumn Władek used to pick me up and put me on his shoulders so I could reach the cherries. We had so many of them that my mother would often bake with them and make jam, which she kept in the cellar.

​I was alway sneaking down to the cellar, because there was so much food there; biscuits, home-made bread, ham hanging up on hooks and pickled cucumbers. Dad would tell me off if he caught me though. I was a bit scared of him as I didn't see him much, he worked in a nearby town as a government official.

​We had such a good life, we were self-sufficient.​Then the Russians came.

 

They knocked on the door at 4 o'clock in the morning and woke us all up. I was only three years old but I still remember how frightened I was. I remember looking through the bars of my cot and seeing the tall black shiny boots of the Russian soldiers. They were going through everything, searching for things they could take, and checking behind cupboards and under the bed in case anyone was hiding there.

 

It happened on 10th of February 1940. I know the date because there was a song about it. All the Poles used to sing about it for years afterwards.

My parents were given half an hour to pack what they could. Then my mother wrapped me up in a quilt and we were put on sledges to take us through the deep snow to the railway station. The soldiers put us on to cattle trucks. We were packed so tightly that we couldn't lie down; Mila and I had to take turns sleeping on Mum's lap.

​In the railway truck there was no toilet, only a hole in the floor. I don't suppose it bothered me as a little girl, but my parents always talked about it.

 

We were on the train for 6 weeks until we reached Arkhangelsk. I know it was six weeks because there was a song about that as well. 

​Some people didn't make the journey and they had to be buried in the snow when the train stopped at a station. The family would jump off to bury the body and then get back on board quickly. The train didn't wait for anyone and you never knew when it was going to leave.'

​© Jane Raca 2018