During the Second World War, Zygmunt Wojtas joined the Polish Army while in the Soviet Union. With the army, he travelled to Iraq for armament and then to the front in Italy.
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Well, I was deported with my family to Siberia [in February 1940], and we were treated like animals by the Soviets. And it took two weeks before we got to the place where we had to work in the forest. The work was very hard. When going to work, the snow was deep, four or five feet, so we were walking on top. Coming back, it was soft, so we were wet to waist. But we managed to survive until the war between Soviet Union and Nazi Germany started in 1941 in summertime. Then they announce that we are free and we can join the army. And at that time, the Polish Army was organized in Totskoye [Soviet Union], where we went with about 30 people from the place where I worked and joined the army. The Allied commanders, I guess, decided that the II Polish Corps should be moved under British command. And that was in 1942 when it happened that we left Russia and went to Iraq. In Iraq, we received armament, received a full uniforms, everything, whatever we needed and, of course, we were having difficulty because we didn’t have very many people that knew how to drive. And the trucks and other vehicles which was like a part of our armament, somebody had to drive. So they shipped us for courses. And I happened to be one of them and when I went there, in that time, there was a change now for British system. And because of that, I did not return to my original infantry division or regiment, I should say, but I was transferred to anti-aircraft artillery. And that’s where I went, spent the rest of my being in the army on the front. We were shipped after the training to Italy in March 1944, to go to the front. And then the command decided that II Polish Corps is going to have a chance to attack Monte Cassino because of the previous attacks which did not materialize. And I did not participate directly in this attack, but I was waiting as a spare unit, just in case they needed us during the battle. And that was in May 1944, when we got the news Cassino was taken. We were returned to our regular units; and with those units, we marched to the centre, we transferred to the centre of Italy. And from there to the Adriatic shore, to places like Montefano, Osimo, Loreto, Ancona and then further down to Forli, Ravenna and Faenza. And there, I think we spent part of the winter that was, we couldn’t move very well because it was bad weather and the moving the equipment from place to place was very difficult. But that was a preparation for the final attack on German position early in 1945 and it happened in March and when we were marching towards Gaeta, Bologna, and the war ended at 8 May, 1945. If Poland was a free country, what we were fighting for, I would go to Poland definitely so. But Poland was under communist regime and I feel that if I go under communist regime, I’m going to find myself in Siberia again. Many of them, especially men that had families and stuff like that, older men, they were returning; and I heard news that some of them, they went to jail. They treated them like they said, oh, you’re the agents that left to work with British against the Russians, and stuff like that. And I was scared to go there. That was the reason why I came to Canada.