The Pankiewicz family has its roots in the city of Wilno, the present capitol of Lithuania. Franciszek Pankiewicz worked there as a Railroad Stationmaster which at the time was a very prominent profession.
The Silnicki family has its roots in the village of Kletkieniki close to small city Lida in Belarus. Wincenty Silnicki was a farmer there.
Genowefa and Edward meet each other in Wilno during WWII. Russia invaded Poland in 1939. At the beginning of the war, Edward was in the Army and fought defending the Polish city of Lwow. He was shot in the leg and in the arm, and was taken to a Ukranian hospital as a prisoner of war. One of the nurses took a liking to Edward and helped him escape by giving him clothes and helping him get to Wilno, Lithuania, where he entered the Polish Underground Army (Armia Krajowa) in 1943.
In the autumn of 1944, the Russians occupied Wilno. At this time Edward was in hiding at the home of the brother of general Zeligowski. The Russians came to arrest the brother of the general, and took everyone in the house with them to the prison in Wilno. Edward destroyed all of his papers and the Russians did not have a formal sentence against him. Regardless, in January, they took Edward to the city of Workuta, a labor camp in Siberia. Fortunately for him the Russians did not find out he was a Polish officer and he was only sentenced to serve at the labor camp instead of a death sentence.
Workuta was a dreadful labor camp in Russia. The prisoners at the camp labored heavily, digging into frozen ground in sub-freezing temperatures. They had to complete a set amount of work each day in order to eat. One day, a young student was to weak to finish his work. Edward helped him out, but a soldier noticed the deed. The soldier took the shovel and proceeded to beat Edward, leaving him in the cold to die. That night, the other prisoners came outside and secretly took Edward back to the living barracks. He contracted pneumonia and began accepting his death. Coincidentally, he had just received an overdue package from his wife containing onions, garlic, dried bread, and tobacco. As there was a great demand for tobacco there, Edward exchanged some of his tobacco to a guard for food. The guard then told the resident doctor of what he had just found. The doctor befriended Edward and gave him Penicillin for some tobacco. He continued to nurse Edward back to health. Eventually Edward became the doctor’s assistant and learned how to administer shots. After two and a half years, he was released from the camp.
Genowefa, along with three-year-old Tadeusz, was already in Poland. It was not easy to leave the Soviet Union at that time. Russian officials did not know that her husband was in a concentration camp in Russia, and she pretended that her husband was in Poland. That way she was allowed to leave Russia for Poland. If the Russians knew that her husband Edward was in Workuta, she would have been sent to join him.
After returning from Russia, the Pankiewicz family settled first in Radzyn Podlaski, than in Chocianow, after that in Pilawa and finally in Swidnica. In Swidnica, Edward worked as a teacher and Director of Dormitories at the High School.