Siberian Exiles Cross Medal

metal cross with Polish Eagle in centre
metal cross with Polish Eagle in centre

On February 10, 1940, both sets of my grandparents, as children, awoke in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers, and along with 1.7 million other Poles they were loaded onto cattle cars and deported from their homes in Poland to Russian slave labor camps in Siberia.  On June 22, 1941, the Polish Government in Exile reached an agreement with the USSR to release the Polish prisoners.  Freedom meant traveling through Iran, family separation and eventual reunion in India where they lived as refugees until the war ended. She started a new life in Manchester England, met my grandfather, had my mother and immigrated in 1954. Traveling aboard the U.S.S United States to start again in North America and move past the fractured childhood spent over 3 continents.  This medal is the Siberian Exiles Cross awarded by the Polish Government to my grandmother and numerous other Poles worldwide that survived Russian labor camps and their displacement during WWII. It honors their commitment to the ideals of freedom and independence. These are the migration stories that have shaped my upbringing and our family history of survival in uncertain times. Today I remember, and I carry those stories because this medal represents our family history, the strength of our Babcia and the strength we have inside us. She had nothing when she left Poland, but this medal shows that she was not forgotten. 

Place(s): Poland, Siberia
Year: 1954

– Alison Urban

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant