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Local author pens book about his father

Paul Wojdak wrote a book called Escape from Siberia, Escape from Memory, after piecing together his father’s history. (Marisca Bakker/The Interior News)

A former geologist used his research skills to uncover his family history and crack open his father’s hidden past. Now, he has published a book about it.

Paul Wojdak started looking into his father’s story in 2001, to try and better understand where he had come from.

He said his father was reluctant to discuss his heritage growing up. His father grew up in Poland but he was born in Siberia in 1912. He was an orphan in Japan and America. That is all Wojdak had to go on.

“When I as a kid,” he said. “I asked my father, what happened to your mother, what happened to your father because I knew he was an orphan. He would kind of seize up, like he physically could not speak.”

Wojdak found documents to prove some things, including his registration at an orphanage in Milwaukee. He also discovered Second World War military records showing he was conscripted into the German army and defected to the Polish Army in Italy.

After military service in Italy, he was unable to return safely to a Poland, which was once again ruled by Russia. Like many other Poles, he went to the United Kingdom and subsequently to Canada.

Wojdak also went to a graveyard in Poland and found his family name on a stone. But with every rock he overturned, more questions emerged.

“I started doing kind of blundering around and pre-Google research and came out a story of hundreds of Polish children being rescued from Siberia to Japan, and some of them went to America. Well, that’s got to be it, and I pursued it from there.”

He explained that under Russian rule, the story of the Siberian children was suppressed in Poland and forgotten in Japan.

Wojdak decided to use the experiences of other Siberian children to relate what his father could not speak about.

To make things more difficult for research purposes, Wojdak’s father was not his biological father, so he couldn’t use DNA to track down his history or heritage.

Throughout the research process, Wojdak has connected with other families with similar stories. He has a trip to Japan planned with other descendants of Siberian children who were sent to Japan to better understand their journeys.

While Wojdak was able to connect a lot of dots from his father’s past, there are still some mysteries that maybe he’ll never know.

Wojdak’s book, Escape from Siberia, Escape from Memory is available locally at Mountain Eagle Books and Interior Stationery. It can also be bought online.

Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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