by Stefan Weydenfeld
On August 23, 1939, Germany and Russia signed a secret non-aggression treaty known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. According to the terms of the agreement Poland was to be divided between Russia and Germany, roughly half and half, with the western division going to Germany and the eastern portion to the Soviets. On September 17, 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland. While we are well aware of the oppression the Polish people suffered under the Nazis, we seem to be less familiar with their struggle under the cruel repression of the Soviets.
The Ice Road is a non-fiction account of one family’s fight to survive the deportation, forced labor, illness, and countless other hardship that so many Eastern Europeans had to face. Stefan Waydenfeld was 14 years old and living in eastern Poland when he and his parents heard the expected but dreaded pounding on the door in the middle of the night. They were told to gather their belongings, and they were taken to the railway station where they were loaded into cattle cars filled to overflowing with other unfortunates. They were locked in and left for hours to wonder what lay ahead for them. Finally they were told that they were being sent back to German occupied Warsaw. In the morning, however, the rising sun told them a different story. They were not traveling west to Warsaw, but east into Russia. Their destination, unknown to them at the time, was a Stalinist labor camp