Veteran Interviews – Kazimerz Barut

Kazimierz Barut was born July 22, 1924 in a small farming town in eastern Poland. This land had shifted between Poland, Russia and the Ukraine and after WWI it officially became part of Poland again. As Kazik’s father was a veteran of the Polish – Bolshevik war of 1920, he was given a land grant in this new area to start a farm. So the family uprooted and moved to start a new life in the East.

Kazik spent his boyhood years going to primary school, helping with the family farm and then moving onto secondary school also known as “Gymnasium.” At the outbreak of the war Kazik was too young to serve. It wasn’t long before the Soviets moved in and took control of his town. Shortly thereafter ethnic Ukrainian paramilitary forces were authorized by the Soviet authorities. These units systematically destroyed and killed many of the prewar Polish settlements and their families. On February 10, 1940 the Barut family was deported to the USSR by the NKVD. In a way they were fortunate to be deported as shortly thereafter their extended family members living near by were killed by the Ukrainians.

The Barut family was placed in a labor camp near Archanglesk in Northern Russia, over 1400 miles away from Warsaw. Life was difficult here for his family was used as slave labor to free massive logs from four feet of the frozen river. These logs were to be floated to ports where ships could then transport them as raw materials for the war effort. The family was almost lucky in that they were housed in barracks, originally built by deportees of Stalin’s first purges in the early 1930’s. They therefore had a roof over their heads and a stove for their floor. At this time Kazik was officially too young to work by Soviet regulations and so he spent his time scrounging for extra food to supplement their starvation rations and fuel for their cast iron stove. Due to malnutrition, poor living conditions and over work, disease ran rampant through the camps. Little or no medical treatment was available and even the local civilian doctor had no supplies to work with if you were lucky enough to see him.

During this time Kazik showed himself to be rather resourceful and unconventional. During one of his daily scrounging missions he came upon a small pond in which two ducks were sitting. Fresh meat as a precious commodity and so he took a stone and was able to throw it with enough accuracy to hit and kill one of the ducks. The problem was of course that the duck was in the middle of near freezing water. Undaunted, Kazik rolled up his trousers retrieved the duck and then boldly sold it to the Soviet Camp Commandant. The extra money helped the family however he paid for his escapade by developing a very bad cold. Being young and resilient Barut recovered but only after two weeks of constant nursing from his mother.

After the general “amnesty” was declared by the Soviet government the Barut family began their journey to the newly formed Polish army marshaling depot. The trip was not easy and consisted of several thousand miles of rail and foot travel. During this time sickness was still rampant and Kazik now developed a form of pneumonia. At this point he was separated from his family. After many weeks of recuperation and further travel he arrived in the port of Palhevhi. His family had already sailed with the first batch of refugees. While waiting to depart the Soviet Union Kazik was assigned to the newly formed 7th Anti-tank regiment in December of 1942. After his arrival in British controlled Iran he followed the rest of the 2nd corps in refitting, rebuilding and training. His travels took him through Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and then onto the continent of Italy where his unit was deployed into the front lines.

Kazik’s reputation for resourcefulness and scavenging made him a favorite of his company commander. So during his time with the regiment Barut had many, varying duties. He acted as a vehicle borne courier, radio operator and eventually a tank commander. Kazik was constantly in action from Monte Casino through the drive up the coast to Ancona and then Bologna. While on duty he attended NCO school and was promoted to corporal.

Upon separation from the Polish army Kazik continued his education while working various jobs. He eventually immigrated to the United States and began a successful career as an electrician. His wife is also a Polish Kresy deportee who suffered through the hardships of life in the Soviet Union and the exodus there from.

Barut is now retired in Massachusetts and is very active within the Polish community.

Kazik Barut 1942

* Postscript – Kazik was originally interviewed in 2005 and has since passed on to his join his compatriots forever*