DAVIN, W.Va. — More than 70 years ago, Davin resident Irene Paynter, 90, was forcibly removed from her home in Stanislav, Poland, by the SSR German soldiers during World War II. That day was the last time she saw family alive.
Taken with only the clothes on her back and a picture of her mother with her brother and sister, Irene, then aged 14, was sent to Germany where she was forced into slave labor.
“I had to wear an armband,” Irene said. “It was blue with a large yellow “P” on it.”
Irene said she worked in an ammunition factory during the winter months and during the summer she was sent to work for German families on their farms.
As the war progressed, Irene corresponded with her family through letters. After the war ended, her last letters home went unanswered, leaving Irene to think her family had not survived the war.
Irene decided with no family to return to, she would take the offer to immigrate to Canada. While waiting for approval from the government, Irene worked in a laundry mat in Germany. There she met her husband, Shelby Paynter. After their marriage, Irene immigrated to the United States in 1946. She and her husband moved to the Man area where she has lived and raised her family of three children, Ernest Paynter, Linda (Gary) Cline and Janice Rakes. She is also blessed with eight grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Irene continued to search for her family through various agencies to no avail. Thanks to various types of services offered through computerization, her son Ernie and granddaughter, Erina Lyall, found some sites on the Internet listing Irene’s maiden name Ruszala. Her son traveled to Ukraine to investigate and came back home empty-handed but he was told to contact the U.S. Embassy in Washington DC.
After months of telephone calls, last December, the family’s search ended when Irene received a telephone call from her brother, Roman. Roman then called his other sister, Krystyna who lives in Wroclaw, Poland.
Krystyna told a Polish newspaper that when her brother phoned her and told her to sit down, she thought that he wanted to tell her about something bad. She was sure that someone in their family died. When she heard that her sister is still alive, living in the United States and she is fine, she could not believe him. She thought he went crazy.
“I started to shout at my brother and also I berated him. Then I told him to calm down. I thought he lost his mind,” Krystyna told the newspaper.
A few hours later she realized that her brother was telling the truth while she was talking with Irene on Skype.
Irene’s family lived in Stanislav (now in Ukraine). After Irene was taken, her family moved from Stanislav to Przemysl, and then to Wroclaw. Krystyna reported to the newspaper that the family had tried to find Irene with the help of the Red Cross. She said twice they received messages that they had no information about her.
“In 1992 they informed us that my sister was dead. She (Irene) had wrote letters to us at the address in Stanislavav. When she did not get the answers, she thought that there was no longer her family,” Krystyna told the newspaper.
Due to their age and health, the siblings cannot meet face to face, but are in contact through telephone calls and Skype. Irene’s son, Ernie, traveled to Wroclaw to meet the family and brought Irene back photos of her newly found family. The siblings keep in contact with telephone calls and Skype.