Jan Penkali

Korean War


Jan Penkali's story

I was born in 1937 in Ukraine somewhere near Kiev, not sure where. Russians were governing Ukraine, very badly. The Germans arrived around 1942 or 1943. The Russians were going to take my father away to work in the labour camps in Siberia. My father was a wealthy man, a landowner. To stop going to Siberia, my father joined the Russian Army. He was killed after twelve months being in the war. I remember him holding me.

My mother was made to work for the Germans. In 1944 we arrived in Germany through Poland. My mother was running away with me. When we arrived in Germany they put us in the rural area, near Stuttgart. We were in a farm for almost 6 years. But they will not let me go to school. After the war, the Russians came and wanted to take us back to Ukraine. Mother didn't want to go back; she had remarried a Polish man. We become Polish citizens.

About 1948, we become known as DP, displaced persons. Mum wanted to go somewhere, didn't know where. Australia took us. We arrived here in 1950. We came by boat and were dropped in Fremantle. We were helped by IRO, the International Refugee Organisation. They later became the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We were running away from war. But when we got here, there was a war also.

I didn't know anything about Korea and the war. We were taken to Northam. The huts were made of corrugated iron and there was no running water. We left Europe in the middle of the winter and arrived in Northam in the middle of summer. We were getting 10 shillings per head to spend.

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