The Second World War was devastating for Eastern Europe. Again, borders were redrawn as the Soviet Union absorbed many of the old Polish and Ukrainian territories and states. In the areas of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of people were sent to work camps in Siberia. They were torn away from their homes and were loaded onto boxcars, often in the dead of winter. Many froze to death or died of starvation and disease, especially the elderly and very young. Families like the Romankos and Hauptmans endured extreme hardship during this period.

In 1941, when the Soviet-German War broke out, a general amnesty was declared and huge numbers of Poles were released. Many of the refugees moved south to join the newly formed Polish Army, which was heading for Persia (Iran). When they arrived, conditions in the refugee camps were dismal. The already weakened people suffered greatly from disease and malnutrition.

The stay in Persia (Iran) was short as the threat of Soviet conflict grew. By late 1943, some 33,000 refugees had moved on to Lebanon, Palestine and India. Thousands more were sent to Africa and still others found themselves in Mexico and New Zealand. After the War, many of those who were in British controlled regions of Africa were sent to Britain, Australia and Canada. By the late 1940s any Ukrainian immigration to Canada was from the Soviet Union and most Polish immigration was through countries like Britain or refugee camps in parts of British Africa.


Joseph Hauptman when he joined the Polish Army. Courtesy of Adam Hauptman.