Mrs Hernacka-Azzi lives in Zouk Mikael, Lebanon, where she arrived on foot in the early 1940s along with an estimated 6,000 Polish refugees, mostly women and children.
Polish refugees in Lebanon. “We were welcomed in Lebanon but we had to depend on ourselves and worked very hard to survive. We had to rebuild our lives from nothing.” Courtesy The Kresy-Siberia Foundation
“I was lucky I had a mother who watched over me as we walked, and walked, and went on trains, buses and carriages,” says Mrs Hernacka-Azzi. Courtesy The Kresy-Siberia Foundation
An image of refugee children at the Tolumbat camp in Egypt using the sands as their blackboards and notebooks, and fingers as pencils because of a lack of school supplies, is an echo of what child refugees struggled with then, and today. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
We ended up in Isfahan,” Mrs Hernacka-Azzi says. “There were many Polish orphans who arrived there with us. I don’t know how long we stayed, as everyone was always moving. Some died, some disappeared, some got lost, some left.”
Figures and facts from that period have not been properly documented, with some reports that at least 40,000 refugees from Europe and the Balkans came to this part of the world to camps.
An original print of the Polish Refugee School that Przemysława Hernacka-Azzi attended as a young refugee in Lebanon in the 40s.
A photo Mrs Hernacka-Azzi’s Polish parents. “I think my mother and other Poles decided to come here cause it was a Christian country and they heard of how Jesus visited parts of Lebanon and it had churches where they could worship.”
At the age of 19, Mrs Hernacka -Azzi’s life took another major change of direction. “A handsome government employee, Fouad Azzi, came in a suit and a fedora to church one day. We fell in love right then, and he proposed,” she says. Together, the couple had four children, two girls and two boys.
Mrs Hernacka-Azzi and her friends at the beach in Maamaltein, Lebanon in the 50s.
Mrs Hernacka-Azzi, ’s late husband visiting the ruins at Baalbek in the 50s.
These days, Mrs Hernacka-Azzi regularly feeds refugees children that cross her path: “I have seen many tragedies, and sadly, we never seem to learn,” she says. “Refugees may have different names and nationalities, but they share and experience the same pain. So be kind to them. says Mrs Hernacka-Azzi.