WW2 Polish passport from the Soviet Union
A very interesting location for a war-time issued passport: Kuibyshev was the temporary capital of the USSR.
During the period of late 1941 and 1943, the capital of the Soviet Union was moved from Moscow to another city: It was decided that the new capital should be moved to the eastern city of Samara (known as Kuibyshev between 1935 to 1991), and this was done due to the fear that Moscow might fall into the hands of the advancing German army. So all government facilities, organizations, party institutes and foreign missions were evacuated to that city. The city was the hub for central war production as well: aircrafts, firearms and various types of ammunition were produced. And in the summer of 1943, the city ceased in being the alternative capital, and everything moved back to where it was before 1941: back to Moscow.
A massive influx of refugees fled from former eastern Poland into the Soviet Union in 1941, following the German invasion notoriously known as Operation Barbarossa. But already before the invasion, thousands of Poles were forced out of their villages, towns, and cities and deported east, out of occupied Poland (now annexed to the USSR) and those caught as well in the former Baltic States, those who did not manage to escape. Overall 1.7 million Poles were arrested at the beginning of the war. Majority transferred to Siberia and Kazakhstan, placed in Gulag camps, other facilities, deep inside the country. Their position was unclear and seen as enemy of the state. This changed after June of 1941.
The Soviet Union and Poland signed the Sikorski–Mayski agreement on July 30th 1941, after negotiations where conducted between the Soviet Ambassador to the UK, Ivan Mayski and Sikorski. The Soviets where in desperate need for help from other countries opposing Nazi Germany, and this led to the re-establishment of Diplomatic ties between the two, culminating into the singing of the Sikorski–Mayski agreement. Following these events, thousands of civilians and former POW’s were set free from captivity. Such a release led to the re-issuing of new travel documents and passports to those who were now trying to find a way to leave. The issuing of passports was done at the newly established Polish “consulates”, or branch offices, over 20 of them (these were shut down after July 20th of 1942 when the Soviet authorities cancelled their permission to running them), and the type of document can be categorized into mainly 2 types: official passport used to travel outside of the country and a “temporary” passport meant to be used ONLY internally, most likely to enable the holder to reach the border and from there, with other set of papers, to cross over (this was mainly the case with those who managed to be evacuated to neighboring Persia in 1942).
One such lucky Polish citizen was a Jewish elderly woman named Eker Pepi, aged 59. She obtained her passport at the Polish embassy in Kuibyshev on November 4th 1942. The passport was issued and hand signed by Aleksander Mniszek, personal assistant to the ambassador Tadeusz Romer (he managed to escape to the west and hold key positions in the Government of Exile). The passport was valid until December 31st 1943.
She managed to get evacuated to Tehran, where make shift refugee camps where erected. There is no actual clear date to when she arrived in Persia. But the earliest record that we have is of a financial aid booklet being issued to her by the Polish Legation in Tehran on April 9th of 1943, this was issued to her inside Polish civilian refugee camp No.1.
She applied for the entry visa into Palestine at the British Consulate on March 14. Being extended further on October 21st to the end of the year 1943.
Eker Pepi arrived in Palestine December 22nd, at Haifa port.
Evading the horrors of war and fleeing was not an easy task at all. We learn from the various travel documents that we find that the routes that individuals took at times surpass our wildest imaginations. Today, we at times cannot believe what they went through in order to survive. But the will to live and do so freely is stronger than any cage or prison erected.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.