Man is Wolf to Man
This is the story of a man who was destined to become a healer - who cheated death many times - and who lived to tell the dramatic tale of surviving Stalin's dehumanizing labor camps in Siberia.
Luck and a strong will kept Janusz Bardach alive to tell his story in a book titled, "Man is Wolf to Man, Surviving the Gulag." During World War 2, Janusz, A 20-year-old Polish Jew, escaped the Nazi invasion by fleeing to Russia where he was forced to enlist in the Red Army. Even though Janusz hated the Nazis, he was still considered a foreigner and not to be trusted, in the era of Joseph Stalin's paranoid reign of terror. Janusz was accused of treason and sentenced to death.
Janusz's life was spared, but what lay ahead felt like a death sentence: 5 years of hard labor in the Siberia of Siberias, Kolyma. A six month trek across Russia in crowded cattle cars and ships was only the beginning of his death-defying odyssey. In the vast, remote Kolyma region, where winter lasts 8 months, the slave laborers were forced to mine silver and gold in frozen earth. To get their meager daily food rations, they had to make their norm, meaning their quota. Not mining your norm brought a downward spiral of weakness, sickness, starvation and death.
With help from his brother, a colonel in the Polish Army, Janusz was released from the camps and admitted to a Soviet medical school. It would be the beginning of a distinguished career of helping and healing others. As a plastic surgeon, specializing in correcting facial deformities, now Doctor Bardach was invited to join the University of Iowa faculty in 1972 and became the chairman of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Janusz had made the transition from slave laborer to world-class plastic surgeon.
We interviewed Janusz in 2001, and it was possibly his last interview. He died in the summer of 2002.