And here is where my grandfather’s album starts with a photo which is, most probably, a unique historical evidence. Uchtizmlag was a labor camp for political prisoners near Uchta some 1,300 km to the north-east of Moscow in the Komi Region. It was where the Soviet authorities kept many of the Polish POWs.
The “amnesty” and the release from the detention camps was the reaction to the German onslaught on the Soviet Union in June 1941. The Polish POWs now became an ally in the war against Nazi Germany. Most of them joined the newly established Polish army in the USSR (the so-called Anders Army, after the name of its commander, general Wladyslaw Anders).
Departed for Tockoje on 1 September 1941 and joined the Polish Forces 1 September 1941 and joined the Polish Forces in USSR on 18 September 1941
Tockoye, some 1,200 km to the south of Uchta near the border with Kazahstan, which used to serve as an another camp for Polish POWs, became now a main mobilization point for the Anders Army.
Release from the Uchtizmlag, Uchta, 1 August 1941. My grandfather is standing in the middle. On the right: a Soviet document certifying that Jozef Cymer was released from the Uchta Camp and is free to travel within the USSR except for restricted war zones (Source: Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA)
Tockoje, December 1941. My grandfather is on the right.
My grandfather in the Uchta Camp