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PREFACE
 
KINDLE_THE_ROAD_HOME_COVER_-_COMPRESSEDI stepped out into King Street in Hammersmith, London, and nearly knocked an old lady over. I grabbed her to stop her from falling onto the pavement, and… that pince-nez, that grey hair done up in a bob, that grey dust coat… Good Lord – it’s my mother! That frail old woman – she gave me life; she nurtured me; she saw me and my two little sisters through the abyss of the Siberian steppes, through Iran and India. She pushed me through my studies… this dear, frail old lady was my mother! Right there and then I gave her such a big hug, and as I did so, a thought flashed through my mind: when was the last time I gave her a hug, the last time I kissed her hands? But I was only 42 at the time; I was busy! In fact, I had a meeting to go to that afternoon; I had a job to keep, a rat-race to run, a mortgage to pay, school fees to fund, a wife to love… and two years later she was gone! Just like that – gone! But I stayed – still busy with my life; and memories were fading…
 
But an oil painting hanging on the wall in my living room takes me back into the past every time I look at it. It has been hanging there for the past forty years; its gilded frame is now dark with age and neglect, and its paint is fading under a layer of accumulated dust. “Driven Out” by H. Ten Kate shows a mother with an infant in her arms and a child struggling against fierce wind in the open steppe. Why, this could be our family… Mother, Mircia and me! The title on the tag and the painter’s signature are also fading; every now and again, I remove the cobwebs from behind the frame but I cannot bring myself to have it restored – not just yet – for whenever I happen to look at the painting I become conscious of the great debt I owe my mother. And this painting sends another painful reminder. It shows a mother with two children, but we were a family of four when driven out of Poland; only three of us survived – my sister Ala, three years my senior, perished in Tehran.
 
Wilno and Postawy, both in Poland before the war, and so dear to my mother’s heart, were off limits to her after the war, and equally off limits to me for many years, so I grew up and grew old in England – happy amongst the English; and although I have lived and worked in the USA and France and Poland for a good number of years, something always drew me back to England, drew me back – Home. But one day, a simple question from a friend: “Jerry when are you going back home?” shook the foundations of this symbiotic existence. The time had come for me to go back to my roots, to see the place and its people from whence I came, and to come to terms with my place in my life. And though long overdue, I was now ready in my heart and mind to follow my mother’s footprints into Stalin’s “Garden of Eden” in the wild steppes of Kazakhstan, and out to a new life in England and freedom. I was ready to set out on a long journey of self-discovery.

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CONTENTS

 

A note from the author

Acknowledgements

Explanatory Notes                   

Preface             

Maps                                       

Illustrations page 21, 52, 94, 165, 184

 

 

ii

iii

v

vi

1.  DRIVEN OUT                                            New life destined for Stalin’s “Garden of Eden”

 

2. OUT OF STALIN’s “Garden of Eden”     Early memories from my trail to England

 

3. INTO THE PAST 

     On the road from London to Postawy

 

4. POSTAWY

     My roots buried in the past

 

5. ECHOES FROM THE PAST

     Fading footprints of Polish settlers

 

6. THE “GARDEN OF EDEN” - Revisited

     On the trail to Griaznovka and Maikain         

 

7. AND THE WHEELS GO ON AND ON

Tragedy in Lugovoy kolkhoz

 

8. THE CHANGING FACE OF POSTAWY

     Postawy revisited in 2008 and 2015

 

9. EPILOGUE           

                       

Bibliography

7

 

 

23

 

 

54

 

 

70

 

 

96

 

 

118

 

 

170

 

 

186

 

 

201

 

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