"You forget about everything, you just want to go and move ahead to go to the, what you call victory, to win the war and go home."
My name is Tadeusz Telega. In English, it’s Ted Telega. I was born in Poland, in eastern southern Poland, Komarówka. I was living there until 1940. February 10, 1940, I was arrested and deported to Siberia by Russian police, KGB [Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, Committee for State Security: Soviet Secret Police]. They go that time to Komarówka. I spend in Siberia two years.
The worst time come after 1941 when Germany went against Russia [Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began on June 22, 1941]. That’s it. You cannot talk too much; you have to work, from 6:00 to 6:00, after they changed from 7:00 to 7:00, because that time, the Germans worked the people hard.
When announcement come from Moscow that we are free, we travel. We travel over six weeks: no food, no water, nobody ask you for anything. You travel and you’re fighting for every single piece of bread. [The] reason I go to the school, or to the army, reason only was to learn something and get something to eat because any transit come, any loose area, they don’t give you no food. In the army, it was good. The army had a good food, three times a day, but you have to be loyal to the army and you have to do what they says, commanding officer had lots of things to do in the army.
When you come to Italy, on my surprise, February , rain, snow, you ended in the middle of no place. You have only one single tent [with which] you can protect yourself. You cannot stay in a tank because of danger. When you are out, it’s raining, snowing, windy, cold, wet. You have to find yourself where you spend the night, where you’re going to [put the] tent in a safe place.
On the beginning, on fighting, you figure if they’re shooting, they’re going to kill you right away. But if you get used to it, to the shooting and fighting Germans, you know exactly where the bullets are flying. So if you’re lucky, you’re lucky. If you’re not, you’re not. It’s not so nice killing, but hoping you forget about dying. You forget about everything, you just want to go and move ahead to go to the, what you call victory, to win the war and go home.
On my private opinion, I figure what I wanted to do in Italian [Campaign]. I figure, when I go there, I’m going to shoot all the Germans and go back home. Never happens. Not so easy. It’s danger. And one my mission was, well there was a few missions, but one was very danger mission when we spotted German tank in a cornfield. Cornfield in Italy, the [corn] growing high. So anything show up on his front, he cut them up. So we get recommendation six times, go around, go from behind and destroy the German tank. And that was very careful mission to destroy German tank, come closer to destroy it. But we did it; we destroy it. Mostly all the Germans was killed because they never give up. They, and they are so stubborn, they never, if they give up, probably they will come out with a knife; and my idea was not killing the man.
I was always figure one thing: if I want to kill the man, man going to kill me. So I rather ask him to give up. And in tank, you have no choice. If you operating machine gun, and tank moving, you have to shoot. If you refuse shoot, that’s mean they could shoot you. So war, it’s not game.
Why I didn’t go back to Poland, because I don’t want to go back to Siberia. My house was destroyed by Russian police. So I travel by [RMS] Aquitania to Halifax [Nova Scotia] and I have in my condition, that if I don’t like Canada, in two years time, I am allowed to return to England without any cost. But I came to Canada, first off thing was make me very happy: there was big cars. Lots of cars. I wrote the letter to my father to England, you better pick the family and come over. So my family come to Canada two months later, on the same boat.