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For us in Poland, war started on the 1st September 1939 after Poland was brutally attacked at several points simultaneously by German troops along its borders and in consequence, our president Ignacy Mo_cicki declared a state of war between Poland and Germany.
Although I lived in Lwów, in the south-east, very far from the Polish-German border, the first bomb hit us on 1st September at midday about 300 y. from the city Central Railway Station. The blast had thrown my brother into the entrance of the house opposite when he was coming home to collect his mobilisation card. He sustained some cuts and bruises that needed no hospitalisation. Later I went to see what damage had been done by the bomb. It was a pathetic sight. The whole front of the 3 storey house was sliced off, showing the kitchen on the first floor with shelves full of undamaged jars of fruit preserves on it.
Some years later, I saw much the same in Plymouth and Portsmouth - not to mention London, where on a huge area of devastated squares and streets lay a geometric massive pile of rubble; with untouched underground public loos and intact kerbs. One could imagine how many hopes and dreams were destroyed in a moment by the V- I's and V- II's.
My desperate tries to join, as an extra help, hospitals and other organizations failed. I was told that they had too many volunteers - perhaps later. On a site of a closed cemetery I joined volunteers in digging shelters, and later, on the west side of the city, I helped to erect barricades on the road with materials wrenched from pavements and fences. At nights I kept watch in the sky for enemy bombers. From our window on the third floor, I watched explosions at Skni_ňw on our military airfield Nr.6. On the 3rd September, a German bomb hit the Sprecher Spirit Refinery, about 500y. from our house. Unimaginable colours flared high into the sky, and briefly, one could forget the war and enjoy the view. On the 6th September, far into the night, I served tea, coffee or just water to the 6th Heavy Artillery Regiment soldiers staying for the night along our street, to avoid being bombed in their barracks.
On 7th September, with other onlookers I saw Gen. Maxime Weygand walking out of the George Hotel with a group of Polish Officers after the conference held there. My heart was filled with joy that we were not alone in our struggle. He was a dedicated friend of Poland, who cooperated with our forces during the Polish - Bolshevik war in 1920.
On the 10th September, just as I was walking up the stairs to our flat, a bomb fell onto the middle of Grňdecka Str., approximately 100 yards away from us, between the Tram Depot, and the Police Station and cut a deep crater. As it fell, the hissing noise was so frightening, and I froze in my thoughts. The same day I watched a long column of Polish Forces entering our city. Some had dressed wounds on their heads, arms or legs, and they walked in disorder. Somebody said that it was Gen. Sosnkowski's victorious Army, which successfully repelled German attack over the river Wereszyca. They were coming to help us. A thought flashed through my mind. If it was so successful, why weren't they going westward?
On 11th September, while staying with friends on Bema Street, I was carrying two heavy suitcases, full of things that Mother asked for, when an air raid alarm sounded. I stood with other passers-by at the junction of several streets, mesmerised, watching bombs falling . A small red car stopped there too. From it emerged a very tall Major to join the group, and watch helplessly. The bombs were probably intended for the city Central Railway Station, just about 300y. ahead. But they fell on Lewandňwka, to hit the house where my aunt lived, about half-a-mile from the Station. Coincidentally, 70 days later, the tall major (Eugeniusz _lepecki in charge of defence of one section of our city in September), in civilian clothes, under the assumed name " W_adys_aw Antonowicz ", marched with me in the first row of the column to Prison in Stanis_awňw, under Soviet guard. Two years later, he was my Commanding Officer in the 6th Division of the Polish Army formed in Soviet Union, where I enlisted at Buzu_uk in 1941.
On the 12th September, my Mother, who the day before received three-monthly salary payment and unlimited leave, divided the money in half between us - just in case we would be separated - and told me that she would like to see what damage was done to our beloved Lwňw. Walking by the statue of the famous Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz on Mariacki Square, we saw two lorries full of policemen going in the opposite direction, abruptly halt. The policemen from the lorry going towards the city's Army Headquarters shouted to the policemen going from the city's HQ: "Stop! Germans in Sygniówka!" We went to the Artist's Cafeteria, opposite the statue of Holy Mother, to telephone this news to my Drama Teacher and friend, professor Czes_aw Krzy_anowski. He scolded me for spreading malicious news. I told him that we were coming with Mother to see him and describe the scene. When we arrived, the Professor began, in his theatrical manner: "Shame on you Miss Zosiu! Do you really mean that Germans walk on our roads in the broad daylight, and nobody utters one word of protest..?." At that moment his telephone rang. His friend from Listopada Street, professor Lewartowski, told him that our forces were in hand-to-hand combat with Germans. The ashen-faced Professor directed the receiver in our direction, so that we could hear the commands in both languages..
On our way back home, at Zygmuntowska Street, another air raid sounded, and we were ushered into the shelter in the huge cellars of the District Railway Offices, already packed with 456 families. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Turski, an acquaintance of Mother's, arrived with an appeal for volunteers for the Railway First Aid Point set up in the offices over the cellars, for they had received an urgent message that our Academic Legion of volunteers was in a fierce battle with Germans on Janowska Str. and there were casualties. I jumped up from my seat to be the first one on the list, and another two girls, Jasia and Halinka, followed.. I regret very much that I never asked for their surnames.
Mr. Turski conducted us to the First Aid Point under the command of Dr. Józef Pietrzykowski , who told us that the first and foremost job was to organize some food supplies. Jasia and Halinka took their rucksacks and left to get them. Then he called his assistant surgeon Mr. Maksymowicz, whom I had known since 1936 when he worked for Dr.Adam Gruca, to teach me how to prepare emergency dressings, tampons and get the room ready. During our talk, I learnt that he was a brother-in-law of Mr. Bahyrycz, my Mother's friend and supervisor at work. He fled from the Bolsheviks in 1922, and had settled in Lwów. Apart from Dr. Pietrzykowski, there were on duty doctors Ambroz and Herminia Bart, both personally known to me also from 1936.
Working on dressings, by the glassed cabinet with surgical instruments, I felt somebody's presence, and felt compelled to turn round. At the open doorway to the corridor stood a soldier. I came towards him, and asked: - "Do you need help?" He looked at me with his tired eyes, and scratching his head behind the ear, asked me: - "How much money have you got?" - "385z_.." - I replied automatically, without thinking: This strange question made me look at him thoroughly, and I noticed a pip on his shoulders - so, he was a Sublieutenant. - " There are 456 families in the shelter. They need bread.. I have got 900z_, you are giving 385z_., it's not too much, but it'll do" - he mused on hearing my answer. - "Where is the bakery? - " Just round the corner, on Kazimierzowska Str. is a Jewish baker's," - again automatically I replied: - "I'm a stranger here, could you take me there?"- I asked Mr. Maksymowicz for permission, and when we arrived at the Bakery, the S/Lieut. asked for bread. The baker answered philosophically: - "If I had the flour, you would have the bread.." - "Where is the mill?" The baker told him the way to the mill, and we returned to the First Aid Point, He gathered his soldiers, took my money and with two carts they hurried to Podzamcze to get the flour. It all happened so quickly that I gave him all my money, and forgot to ask for his name. What would my Mother say? But there was no time to think about that now. I worked hard, preparing stretchers, beds, tampons. Jasia and Halinka returned with rucksacks full of provisions. By evening, a lovely aroma of freshly baked bread hit my nostrils. The magic S/Lieutenant. came with his corporal carrying bread, and asked me: - "How much money did you give me - 385z_?. There it is," - he handed me money with the basket of loaves of bread, and asked me: - "Could you come to the shelter and help me to sell bread that I could get my money back?"- When I wanted to introduce him to Dr. Pietrzykowski sterilising his surgical instruments, I said with embarrassment: - "I don't even know your name..? - -"What does it matter now? You have got your money back, people have bread, but all the same...Sublieutenant of Reserve, Stanis_aw Rusznica .from Stanis_awňw. An employee of the Polish National Railways. I lost half of my Platoon in a German attack near the city Central Railway Station and had to retreat. I have a few men left and two carts idle. We had to do something!" - Dr. Pietrzykowski gave me permission and praised his initiative.
Next day I phoned Prof. Krzy_anowski and asked him whether he had bread? He was silent for a few seconds and replied: -"I have many friends. Nobody asked me yet whether I have bread. We both with Maryn_, will be expecting you, and that brave Petty officer, Zygmunt _ukasi_ski". Later that day, and couple of days later, I went to get some tobacco, cigarettes and matches from the Warehouse, at Dzia_y_skich Street, not far from the city's Central Railway Station. From 17th September Soviet reconnaissance planes flew overhead so low, that we could see the red star on their wings. It seemed like a red-hot poker thrust into our hearts For ten days I worked at the First Aid Point. Jasia and Halinka didn't return from their shopping on the 19th September. All sorts of rumours were going round about the Red Army approaching the city from Winniki, a small town of about 15.000, situated 7 km eastwards. On the 20th September, while we were besieged by Germans, our last President of Lwňw, Dr. Stanis_aw Ostrowski declared the city open to the.... Soviets!
What would our life be now, under this strange regime?! The stories of beating the heads with the butt of a gun, that I heard not so long ago on my drama lessons from prof. Krzy_anowski, for just speaking Polish - and from my own Father, how he was bayoneted to the ground during the charge of Cossacks on Saski Square in Warsaw in 1905, the tales that I read in the literature on public executions of our leaders, ran chaotically in my mind, as I walked through dim-lit streets... It all happened during the last Russian occupation! After the short spell of Poland's independence of 20 years, 9 months and 13 days, our cruel fate was repeating itself. Why?! Oh! Why? I watched huge Soviet tanks peppered with wayward soldiers raping the streets of my city that I had grown to love more than life. A stunned, speechless crowd was showered by them with boxes of matches and grins.. I watched our weeping soldiers smashing their guns and throwing them on a huge pile - by order of gen. W_adys_aw Langner, from Polish Army Headquarters. I heard that a young Polish Cadet-Officer shot himself at the foot of the pile with the last cry: "Long live Independent Poland!" I watched a human whirl of refugees fleeing from Germans, predominantly Jews, with children and bundle of clothes on their backs - treading to their unknown future.. At the First Aid Point, defenceless soldiers ripped off their bandages, preferring to bleed to death rather than submit to the Soviets.. And now, still with the Red Cross band on my arm I stopped opposite the three-spired St. Elizabeth's church in the flood-light, bedazzled amidst the noisy animated traffic, when a horse-driven cart, with three young men wearing red arm bands, pulled up by the kerb, and one of them shouted: " Sister, could you tend the wounded?" "Yes," - I shouted back, -" where is he?" " Climb onto the cart," - said he.
On the cart, when I opened my First Aid bag, one of them showed me a tiny scratch on his little finger... We all laughed! Perhaps that laughter was needed to offset the tension in my mind. They introduced themselves as: Marian Miller, Walter Beck, and Stanis_aw Konopi_ski, student-volunteers, working for the Christian charitable organization "Caritas", equipped with the new Militzia permit issued for Marian Miller and an unspecified numbered group. Would I join them in their relief work? A new life entered my bloodstream. Not all was lost as yet! I had a new purpose! To make it easier, we decided to address ourselves by our Christian names: Marian, Walter, Staszek and myself, Zosia. On the way to our first assignment at the City's Dairy, we stopped at the house where my Mother was temporarily staying with friends, so that I could inform her what I was up to now, and change into my mountaineering outfit, more suited for the new venture. Mother knew that it was pointless to argue with me, so she quickly prepared some sandwiches and with her blessing we went to the Dairy, just a couple of houses away, in the same street. It was still in Polish hands and the store keeper was Marian's friend. He loaded our cart with a milk churn, eggs, cheeses and butter. The horse received his fodder, and by midnight we set off to "Caritas" depot at Senatorska Street. By ill-luck, when we were crossing Grňdecka Str., two Militzia men stopped us at gun-point. They were not interested in our papers, and marched us to the nearest Militzia point on Szeptyckich Str.. Marian, Walter, and Staszek told me to stay in the hall, while they went to argue with the authorities. Their interrogation dragged on, and I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Then the side door on the right opened, and I couldn't believe my eyes, when Mr. Steinwurzel, our former neighbour, with a red arm band looked at me, and shouted with astonishment: "What are you doing here at this hour, Miss Zosiu?" I explained to him quickly that having a permit from Militzia to run relief work for charity, yet the same Militzia was preventing our work. Mr. Steinwurzel said to me:"Let's go in there." We entered the room on the left, almost blue from cigarette smoke, and he took the papers from the chief of the Militzia - who could not read very well - and after reading them, declared that the papers were valid, that he had known personally for a year this "Tovarishch" - pointing at me - and that we should be allowed to go free, otherwise the Militzia's authority would be undermined. However, they confiscated half of our supplies. On the street he gave us advice to stop this activity for a while, because everything was so chaotic - we could be in serious trouble - even go to prison. We sincerely thanked him, and sped on to "Caritas".
As soon as we unloaded and had some meaty gruel, we decided to explore the nearest village in the west, Sokolniki, to buy potatoes, flour, poultry, some fodder for the horse.. whatever was possible.. The peasants told us that the retreating Germans had grabbed as much as they could carry - but there was still a chance for us to do some business. Not for money though, because money was losing its value rapidly - but in exchange for salt, vinegar, candles, kerosine, soap and matches. The only place that I remembered was - what my Mother said - the Railway Goods Yard, where people were already breaking into the goods wagons and carrying home bundles of supplies, before the Soviets got them! So, we rushed back. On our way to the city, we noticed sacks of potatoes in the fields, ready for transport. "God, forgive us!" We lifted a few, knowing full well, that the Soviets would confiscate them anyway. We left the potatoes at the base of "Caritas" and hurried to the city's Railway Goods Yard - only to find one solitary armed Soviet soldier on the gate. None of us spoke Russian. I knew only a little Ukrainian and managed to persuade him - with a bribe of cheese, army biscuits, cigarettes, and some chocolate - to let us through for two hours to pick up what we could. Each of us went to different wagons. With great satisfaction we noticed that wagons were well looted. But we managed to get some goods. Back at Sokolniki, we were invited by the wife of one peasant, to their delicious meal: Ravioli with goulash and with thick cream on top - something I had never tasted in my life. We completed our deal, and our horse "Kuba", wounded by a bullet in front of the right leg, so that the vet had decided not to remove it, poor veteran, received some oats and a bale of hay. The peasants told us, that when Germans were leaving, they had told them that it was only a temporary retreat. They would be back to stay!!!" With this foreboding news in mind, we thanked them for this unexpected very tasty meal; and rushed back to unload again.
The same evening, Marian decided to go to Zubrza to his friend, who ran a small holding. Only Marian knew the way to Zubrza so, we were depended on him. We went up to the top of Stryjska Street, and when we came close to the city Electricity Board, Marian decided to have a word with the Chairman of the Board. He told us to go slowly straight on, and he will rejoin us in an hour or so. This expedition was doomed from the start. As we drove on to the main road, we ran into the pouring masses of Red Army tanks, artillery and infantry. Our horse "Kuba", blinded by the traffic lights, and terrific noise, was frightened and became unmanageable. Walter had to lead him on foot. When an hour had passed, we heard some shots, and Marian was running for his life! It was just as well that there was such a tumult and commotion on the road, because nobody could say where the shots came from. When he reached us, he jumped onto the cart and fell on the straw bed, exhausted. Walter climbed onto the driver's seat, and we went ahead at full speed. Marian told us, that the Chairman of the Electricity Board, Mr. Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski had been shot earlier that day, and the Soviets had tried to arrest Marian as a suspect - link. With great relief, we welcomed the sign for the turn-off to Zubrza, and left the main road with its hell. At dawn, Marian found a deserted smallholding with empty barns and no sign of life. Two little fox terriers, whimpering, came to great us. They must have been petted, because when I caressed them, they jumped around us joyfully. Through the broken windows of the whitewashed thatched bungalow, we saw traces of looting, and sadly. we left the farm.
Marian lead us to another road as the sun rose- the sun, that every Pole cursed these past few weeks for collaborating with our enemies, keeping our roads so dry, that both enemies could penetrate Poland easily from West and East. Before we could decide on our new assignment, out of nowhere, a Soviet soldier appeared with a skin-and-bone white horse, and ordered us to exchange it for our chestnut "Kuba". Regardless of our protest, he went on to unharness "Kuba". Marian jumped down and fiercely brushed him away. The Soviet went berserk, drew up his gun and pointed it at Marian's chest. Walter and Staszek jumped down to Marian's help and my blood went cold... Just at that moment I saw a red car speeding in our direction, leaving behind a cloud of yellow dust. I jumped down onto the road and outstretched my arms to stop it. It stopped. A tall, high-ranking Red Army Officer, with his face dreadfully scarred by smallpox, emerged from it, and. I asked him, in Ukranian, whether the Red Army soldiers were allowed to molest innocent people on the road? Grasping the situation in a single glance, the Officer turned to the soldier, took his name and regiment, and gave him the warning, that next time he would be shot on the spot for such behaviour. Turning to us, he said: "The Red Army came to liberate the Polish fellow-workers from despotism of their lords, not to rob and kill. It's unbelievable, that in such dangerous times you wanted to wander about on the roads?!" As we thanked him for our rescue, we looked at one another with surprise: "Who is wandering about, on whose roads?" Humiliated and exhausted, we turned back to the base empty-handed. On the way back - thinking - I suddenly realized what I got myself into, by joining this relief group!
Somebody in "Caritas" spread the news, that in the Officer Cadet School, at Wulecka Street, the authorities had decided to get rid of their stores. Marian gathered us together, and we rushed to get something for ourselves and our friends. I had never been that way before, and with interest I looked at Nr.1 Officers Cadet School in the name of Marshal Józef Pi_sudski, the top man in Poland! It was true that they were disposing of their stores. I took two uniforms and overcoats. Later I regretted for not taking more. One of the overcoats I used myself. The rest I gave to Prof. Krzy_anowski. He lost all his savings when the Soviets grabbed the Polish Saving Bank, and had told me that he had traded his dinner jacket for two sacks of coal. Seeing his embarrassment, I told him how I came to have them. Then he asked me if we could help his friend's wife, Mrs. Maria Wojtalewicz, who was left with a bakery, but with no men and flour. In confidence he told me that Mr. Wojtalewicz had reached the Polish Army in France, and confirmation of this news was broadcast by the Radio Toulouse. The three of us: Walter, Staszek and myself went to see Mrs. Wojtalewicz, at Lwowskich Dzieci Str., and it became our second base from which to operate our relief work. Marian, with "Kuba"and cart, remained at Senatorska Street.
We explored the city's warehouses, but found them empty. The Soviets bought or confiscated all the goods. I saw Red Army officers carrying big bundles of goods on their backs in broad daylight. There was shortage of meat products and sugar. We travelled with Walter to Rohatyn to get some meat products, but my Mother desperately wanted sugar. We had to get it. But how and where from? Digging in my memory, I remembered, that in Chodorów was a refinery, that had belonged to Prince Lubomirski at one time.
On the 29th September 1939, we gathered sacks, and a group of ten students and myself travelled by rail to Chodorów. The trains were not punctual - at some stations there were long delays and we arrived at Chodorów after 10 o'clock in the evening. Again, the Militzia men picked us up at gunpoint, and drove us to the Militzia for interrogation. This time the Militzioner could read well, and found the papers in order. When we asked where we could get accommodation for the night, he said that nothing was available now, near midnight, but suggested the gym in the school opposite, and let us in. The floor was hard and well polished, but I noticed a ladder leading to the shelves with nests, and we spend an uncomfortable night sleeping on the nets with hard knots.
Saturday, the 30th of September, our first cloudy day, at 10am. hungry, we stood outside the gates of the refinery, fenced with spiky-iron bars, along with a crowd of people, who had the same objective. Our hearts sank. The chances of getting sugar seemed negligible. Fairly intelligent, young and talkative, the Militzioner guarding the entrance from inside the grounds, told us that the Soviets were taking over the refinery from the Chairman, Mr. Adam Korwin-Piotrowski. As he spoke, we saw a group of Red Army officers, assisted by the Chairman, walk out of the left wing, and enter the main building. A sudden idea struck me. On my visiting card with the family crest I wrote:
"Dear Mr. Chairman,
You may not recall immediately our acquaintance of last summer in Jastarnia, but on the strength of that, I beg of you to grant me 10 minutes of your precious time, to save me and others from despair. Please, trust me, that the urgency is great and genuine.
Zofia Janina Pó_kozic-Borz_cka"
I put the card in a small envelope, persuaded the Militzioner to deliver it to the Chairman, and watched him - how important he felt, that he himself, would speak to the Chairman ! Walter, looking over my shoulder to read the message, ridiculed it: "Attention! The Chairman drops Russians like a hot brick, and runs to see Miss Important!" He pointed to the palm of his - not so clean - hand, saying: "When the hair will grow on my palm, then he'll see you!" But in my mind, one thought prevailed insistently against his ridicule: "HE MUST SEE ME!" When the Militzioner came back, took out of his pocket a key, and opened the padlock on the gate with these words: "Please, come in. Mr. Chairman will see you." I looked at Walter to see whether hair had started growing on his palm! When we got to the main building, the Militzioner said to me: "Go to the room on the left, and wait there." In a few minutes the door opened. A middle-aged man, handsome, with thick dark crop of hair greying at the temples, and bushy eyebrows walked in, eying me in silence with growing astonishment in his brown eyes. And no wonder! I looked a real sight, in my Cadet-Officer's overcoat, with black beret on my head, and dirty boots. Quickly, and apologetically, I put my hands together, as if for prayer, and begged his forgiveness for using a trick to get his attention, and presented the papers, begging for 500kg of sugar. He watched me with a twinkle of a smile and sadly told me:. "My dear child, I haven't a grain of sugar to give any more. Everything is out of my control by now," - he sighed. But immediately his face lightened as he spoke: - "There is a slender chance that 'Polsot' in Lwów might have some sugar left. I'll write you a note..." - I produced the papers again, but he brushed them away saying: "Not for 'Caritas', and not 500kg. Some institution. Think hard.." "Kulparków! Mental Institution!" - I shouted. "That will do," - he said writing his note on his visit card. While handing it to me, he looked at me warmly, and kissed my hand, saying: "Poland will never die while people like you are still alive. God bless you all!" - Then he quickly left room, to go about his grim business. I thought that I detected a broken note in his last words. Our conspiracy of hearts was completed, and that was the first step of getting sugar!
On the following Monday morning I went to "Kulparków", to the main building, to see the Director of the Institution. I asked his Secretary to announce me, but she stood by the door and told me that Director wasn't seeing anyone.. I brushed her away saying: "But, he will receive me, " - and walked in without knocking. Dr. W_adys_aw Sochacki, sitting at his desk, showed signs of irritation as I walked in. Without an introduction, and not wasting any time, I asked him: - "Would you like some sugar?" - "Who wouldn't?"- he replied and invited me to sit down. I took from my pocket my student card from the Conservatoire, showed him the note from the Chairman of the Refinery, which read:- "It's imperative that you should sell to the Mental Institution of Kulparków 300kg of sugar through Miss Borz_cka." - the signature followed, dated 30.9.39., and explained to him how I got it. - "Should I get sugar, I'll sell you 100kg, but I must have the pass issued by you, Sir." Dr. Sochacki insisted that I should sell him 150kg. Reluctantly I agreed. He pressed a button to summon the Secretary, dictated the authorisation note, and told the astonished Secretary to bring it. When she left, he opened a drawer of his desk, took from it money box and asked me: - "How much money would you like for sugar?" - "I'm sorry, Sir, but I cannot take any money today. Times are so uncertain. You'll kindly pay me on delivery, and if possible, could you provide supper for the two men, who will carry it." Dr. Sochacki looked at me with surprise, and abruptly asked me: - "How old are you?" - "I know Sir, that my looks are childish, but I'm 23.." The Secretary brought the authorization, which Dr. Sochacki signed, and handing it to me, to my astonishment, said: - "Poland will never die, with such young people..."- I felt embarrassed. For the second time within a week I had heard praise. Yet I had not done anything heroic... Straightaway, I went to "Polsot" at Szajnochy Str. - almost opposite my Conservatoire, presented the papers, and was told to come back next day, on Tuesday, the 3rd October at 3pm to collect the sugar. Going back to tell Walter and Staszek, I noticed outside the Main Post Office two horse-carts full of young people looking around helplessly. Instinctively I felt that they probably need some help. I went to them and asked: - "Do you need some help? - "Yes! We fled from _uck and arrived today, but we don't know anybody here, and we don't know where to go.." - "Would you like to work in a bakery? - "Yes!" - they all shouted excitedly... I climbed up on one horse-cart, and told the second one to follow us. When we arrived at the bakery, Mrs. Wojtalewicz was so excited, that she called Eryk, her Manager, who immediately took charge of them, and they went to get flour for the bakery and some fodder for the horses. It also meant that I had transport for tomorrow to get my sugar.
Mrs. Wojtalewicz, having a bakery and a big house, had her sister living with her to help her look after many officers, some of them colleagues of her husband, who were either trying to go to France, or to return home as civilians. One of them, a six-footer, Lieut. Antoni Leszek Winiarski, a born leader, but of an agricultural profession, was impressed with my story how I managed to get note for "Polsot", and on Tuesday, the 3rd October, when we were ready with Walter and one young man from _uck, with the cart to collect the sugar, checked the papers, unexpectedly, Leszek (he preferred this name), offered to go with us, and shouted: "Do not be afraid Zosia, I'll take care of you" - and to everybody's surprise he took authorisation signed by Dr. Sochacki out of my hands and put it in his pocket. I was to shy to protest, and looked at Walter, but he didn't say a word. We all went. When we arrived at "Polsot", I went to the office to pay for sugar, and was told to go to the queue and wait for the call,. Leszek, seeing the queue said: - "It might take some time before you are called.. I feel thirsty. I'm going for a glass of beer - I'll be back soon." The queue was diminishing very quickly, so I asked Walter to go out to look out for Leszek, because I had forgotten to ask Leszek to leave me the authorisation. Walter returned grim. After looking in the nearest three pubs, there was no sign of Leszek in the pubs, or on the streets. Then I heard a call: "Kulparkňw". We jumped the queue in the absence of one customer, and loaded up with the sugar. Walter was silent and angry. He would have preferred to have the authorisation in his pocket or in mine. We both knew that we had to go back now, before the darkness set in and Militzia started patrolling the streets. We told the cart driver to move and go slowly up the Kopernika Str., and both with Walter, worried, angry, and frightened, tried to give the impression of a pair of lovers when we approached the Militzia point, hoping that sentries would rather look at us and not at the cart. My lips were dry from thirst and worry, and I prayed to the Holy Ghost to stupefy the Militzia. In my heart I carried both worries, one for sugar and the other for Leszek. I didn't want to be the cause of his possible arrest. But, luck was on our side. We arrived safely at the bakery, and unloaded 150kg of sugar. I left Walter to guard it, asking the second young man to go with us to deliver sugar to "Kulparkňw" right away, as my instincts guided me. Again I was lucky. No trouble on the roads. Dr. Sochacki asked me for the price of sugar: - "I got the sugar at the normal price of 1.15z_ per kg. the total is 172.50z_, Sir." - "I think that I should give you a bit more, because of the depreciation.." - "Thank you Sir, for the offer, but we do not work for gain, and I'll accept only what I paid for it.. And thank you for remembering the supper for young men." Next day, Leszek Winiarski explained what happened to him yesterday; - "When I got to the pub yesterday, there were Soviet soldiers there. Because of my strange likeness to Stalin, and immaculate Russian, they took me for his son, working in conspiracy, and dragged me from pub to pub. There was no possibility to get away from them, until they were all drunk." He invited me for a glass of wine to the Wine Shop on Leona Sapiehy Str., and the owner of the Wine Shop hearing of Leszek's experience with the Soviet soldiers, didn't take money from us for vintage Tokay saying: - "It's better that you drink it rather than our new cursed rulers!.."
Another temporary lodger of Mrs. Wojtalewicz, maj. Jan Wasilewski, asked me whether I would be prepared to do something for him - "It depends.." - I said, but he interrupted quickly: - "It's not for me personally, but for our cause. For Poland." - "Yes," - I replied immediately. - "Go tomorrow at 2pm. to Nowak's restaurant. You'll find Lieut,Maj. Franciszek Borkowski, and two men in civilian clothes. He will explain the rest." Next day, dressed in my black winter costume and black skull cap with white spots on it, wearing clean black sports shoes, I met the men. Lieut. Maj. Borkowski, a tall, very handsome gentleman in a sports cap greeted me with a smile. He told me that he was relying on the personal recommendation of maj. Wasilewski, but emphasized strongly that peple's lives might depend on the outcome of what he was going to ask me to do, if I agreed: - "I fully understand, Sir, and I'm ready." - "Look at the faces of our companions: Lieut. Mieczys_aw S_oboda and Kazimierz Markowski and remember their faces." - I looked at them with a greeting smile and they smiled back. - "You'll meet them tomorrow evening at the Central Station, buy a return ticket and you all will go by train to Jaremcze in separate coaches, pretending not to know one another. At Jaremcze Station they'll be met by a reliable guide, who'll take them to the Roumanian boarder. You'll meet the guide, and as far as you can, judge his reliability. Then, return to report to Maj. Wasilewski. Do you know Jaremcze at all?" - "Yes, Sir. I spent the holiday there in 1936, and walked all the hills around it." - "Very well, then. Good luck, and thank you for coming." We all shook hands. I walked home with joy, that I can do something important, and that people trusted me.
The next day towards evening, I bought the return ticket to Jaremcze and saw on the platform the two men, making sure that saw me too. I boarded the train and tried to find a seat, but the only seat available was in the coach where the two men were, so reluctantly I remained there. Arriving at Jaremcze station I heard a man shouting: - "There are two men!" - It was a man called Jani_o, a collaborator with the new Soviet authority who arrested them both. Because the only other passenger leaving train at Jaremcze was myself, Jani_o arrested me as well. The men were taken for interrogation by Jani_o, and for me came a woman. She lead me to an empty room, and ordered me to take off all my clothes. Standing in the underclothes only and pausing, I heard her shouting: -"Take them off, shoes and stocking as well." Shivering from cold, I watched her examining every seem under the light, thoroughly going over with her fingers the winter jacket's pockets and underlining, shoes and stockings. Not finding anything, she told me dress, and began looking through the bits of reading material in my briefcase, my fountain pen, and letter-pad. Not finding anything incriminating, she passed me on to Jani_o, who started his interrogation after the preliminaries: name, age, address etc. - "Why did you come to Jaremcze?" - "Somebody dropped a note through the letter box that my brother Marian is in Jaremcze. He was going with his unit to Roumania, but being wounded in the left thigh, and not having proper attention, was left behind in Jaremcze. I came here to find my brother, and probably, take him home." - Jani_o didn't believe me, and shouted: - "That's your story, but it want help you. The other two men admitted already that you were going with them to Roumania." - "They couldn't tell you that, because they don't know me at all. We were just travelling in the same coach of the train, like many other passengers. " - Jani_o didn't believe me. I was kept over the night in that cold waiting room, with no water, nothing whatsoever to drink. Next morning Jani_o took the three of us in a black Mercedes to Nadwórna for further investigation. Meeting the two men, when Jani_o was opening the door, I looked at Markowski and he slightly shook his head to let me know that he did not betray me. I was told to sit in the front, by the driver, and the two men with Jani_o sat at the back. Not ever being in this part of the country, I watched with interest passing scenery, giving the impression that I'm not worried at all, but what was going in my mind, was quite another matter.
At Nadwňrna we were not in prison, but in a big room. It was difficult to identify what sort it was, school room or what, guarded by the civilian Militzia, awaiting interrogation by a Soviet investigator, all behaving like proper strangers towards one another. During the night, we slept in whatever position was possible on the floor. The next day, a Red Army squad arrived and the Interrogation started.. S_oboda and Markowski were interrogated before me, and when taken away by the guard, on passing me, again Markowski slightly shook his head to tell me that he hadn't betrayed me- and so did S_oboda. I never saw them again in my life face to face, but learnt that after the Amnesty in 1941, they joined the Polish Army. Then, it was my turn for investigation. Captain Popov looked through Jani_o's report and again asked me the name, age, address, and why I had gone to Jaremcze, and wrote it down. He asked me for my documents. I handed my student card with photograph from Conservatoire, valid for the new school year 1939 - 1940, and the railway document authorising me to reduced- price railway tickets, also valid for the new school year. He then asked me how I was going to find my brother. - "Because in 1936 I was on holiday in Jaremcze for a month, it was known to me well and I thought that I might try to look for my brother in some guest houses, go to the Militzia and ask them if they knew anything about my brother. But as soon as I arrived, for no reason at all, I was picked by that man. Jani_o, as a suspected companion of the other two male passengers that I never met before. Travelling in the same coach with other passengers, doesn't mean that you know one another..." Capt. Popow looked through my briefcase with notebook full of notes on the theory of music, with the resent dates, and handing it to me back, said: -"You're free to go." I asked him to give me a certification that I had been kept by Militzia and therefore couldn't attend ny lectures at the Conservatoire. To my astonishment he, took a small scrap of yellowish paper, wrote a brief note on it in Russian, that I was kept mistakenly for 2 days, and put a red stamp on it. Because it was late afternoon and darkness was setting, I asked capt. Popow to allow me to remain there overnight, because I don't know Nadwňrna at all. He firmly refused saying: -"In Soviet Union, innocent people are not kept under guard. In this hotel, there is a restaurant. You can spent the night there."
I thanked him and walked away to find the restaurant, learning that it was a hotel.. I asked for a cup of tea or coffee, but unfortunately, there was only cold bitter beer, which brought me nearly to vomit. I was allowed to stay the night there in semi-darkness, and the bitter cold. The owner of the restaurant told me how to get to the station next day, and I returned to Lwňw. Suspecting that I may be watched, approaching Lwňw, when the train stopped at Persenkňwka halt, in the last minute before it started again, I jumped out of the train and ran the rest of the way to the city. On my way I dropped in to prof. Krzy_anowski at Mochnackiego Str. Nr.8, to tell him the story and to show him capt. Popow's note with the stamp.
We decided again with Walter to go to Rohatyn to get some sausages. This time a friend and colleague from the Conservatoire, Leontyna Trochimówna joined us, because she heard that her fiancé, Capt. Józef Grzyb was, or was passing through Rohatyn. We were all friends, and in the intended mariage of Leontyna and Józef on the 3rd of September, I was asked to be one of the witnesses. The marriage never took place, because Capt. Grzyb was appointed a Military Commandant in Sokal, on the 26th of August, and when it was taken by the Red Army, he then became a POW.. My intuition told me that he was not there, and looking for him would be a waste of time, particularly given the fact that Leontyna had already travelled to Vo_ogda and didn't find him there.. After our shopping was done, we divided ourselves into three groups, and each of us made inquires in different section of the street. Through my mind was going a question: how many streets are there in Rohatyn?. I didn't want to miss the train and, tried hard to persuade both of them that could come again, and spend the whole day. They wouldn't listen. I gave them their tickets and told them not to miss the train at 7.30., and rushed to the station.
In the waiting room there was only one man. I glanced at him, and noticed that he was pale and had couple of bags by his side. Time was running out, and there was no sign of my friends. The man noticed my anxiety, and asked me whether he could help me. I told him that I'm waiting for friends, and that it was looking like they would miss the train. We talked and the man tried to persuade me to go back without them, because it is the last train. I replied that my loyalty didn't allow me to leave them. Then the man asked me why, and bit by bit the man knew what we were doing, etc. And the train was arriving. The man quickly said: - "My name is Bartosz Szumowski. I work with my colleague Kazimierz Pesche at 19 Zadwórza_ska Str. Come and see us, if you want to work for Poland." He shook my hand and boarded the train.. I was left with my increased anger, intrigued by the stranger. Shortly after that, Leontyna and Walter arrived, and I am ashamed to admit to you, that I swore at them like a washerwoman, and told them to run and catch the train back. But then I began thinking how to get back to Lwów.. I went to the Station Master, but the office was already closed.. I caught a conductor from the goods train, and asked him whether any goods train is going to Lwów? He pointed at the cattle train, and told me that it is going there at midnight, but we couldn't go by this train because it's against regulations. Persistently I asked him whether there was room for three people. And when I showed him money, which always is persuading argument, he took it and said: -"Go along this train and find the pigs wagon. Half of it is empty, but I don't want to take any responsibility. The train goes at midnight, but remember, I didn't tell you anything.." We found the wagon. The stench was unbearable. but we thought that when the train started, there would be some fresh air. Being exhausted, we fell asleep. Next morning, we made a dreadful discovery. We were all covered in pig muck, from head to foot..
My Mother told me that she had found a new flat for us, because the house where we lived at number 23 Kulparkowska Road, had been hit by a German artillery shell. It had burst in the flat of Mr. & Mrs. Hecht, right in the centre of the house. No one was killed because, Mr.. & Mrs Hecht were staying with their relations, further down in the city. There was a hole in the house and the stairs leading to our flat on the third floor were bowed up, but one could still walk on them safely. I asked Walter, Staszek and Leszek Winiarski, to help us move our effects from Kulparkowska Road to Tokarzewskiego Str No.101, also on the third floor We stll had those two horse carts from the Bakery.. On the set day, directing the removals, on the junction of Kulparkowska and Tokarzewskiego Str. I noticed a primitive wooden cross with a pinned note, that hadn't there before. I run to read it. It caused the pang of deepest sorrow in my heart: "Here fell Lieutenant of Artillery Zygmunt Podgňrski..." In the kaleidoscope of pictures in my mind, I saw a tall, blond student of architecture in gold-framed glasses... with a wonderful smile. HE DEFENDED OUR HOUSE.
Whenever I came home to see Mother in our new flat at Tokarzewskiego Str., looking at the street down below I could see and hear the Red Army soldiers in the open lories singing their songs: "Katiusza", or "Moskva moja", going in various directions.. I couldn't bear it! I wanted to run away. but where to? To the Germans? Poland was sandwiched between our two enemies. Every day I felt more constrained by the lies, and abuse in the press of everything, which up to the outbreak of war, was so respected. At the back of my mind crept one thought: escape from this horrible reality.---- I suddenly remembered Bartosz Szumowski giving me the address and inviting me to visit them. Not telling anybody, I went to Zadwórza_ska Nr.19 and pressed the bell. Then, having doubts about the stranger Szumowski, I wanted to run away in a panic, but the door opened, and Bartosz Szumowski invited me in, and asked me: -"Could you go to Bydgoszcz, to my family with a message?" -That's a bit tricky. I have never been to Bydgoszcz, and it is in the part of Poland occupied by Germany. I imagine, that they more or less know local population, and I would be under suspicion in the trains as well. There's no guarantee that I'd get back safely. I prefer to work in the locality well known to me. Sorry, the answer is - no." - Giving him my reply, I took a good look at him. He was blond, blue-eyed, rather pale, slim, of medium height, but of a pleasant appearance. He raised his eyebrows and said: - "It was just a thought. I can see your point. It's true that there is no guarantee of your safe return - or that my relations are still there. I'm sorry to rush, but I have to go to a meeting I'll tell Pesche that you arrived, and goodbye for the present." - We shook hands and he left the room
Left alone, I looked around, but didn't have a chance to see anything in semi-darkness, apart from the writing desk in light oak, with about four drawers on each side and no chairs, which puzzled me. Not for long though. Kazimierz Pesche walked in. Rather short, dark- haired with dark bushy eyebrows joined in a lovely arch over his slightly upturned nose. Looking at me with his greyish-green eyes beautifully contrasting with his dark hair, he walked over to the writing desk, opened the first drawer, took out a revolver and pointing it at me said: - "If you'll say one word to anybody about this place, your beautiful head will fall off! My name is Andrzej Gola, Lieutenant of Artillery. As soon as you heard it, forget it! But one day - who knows - it may be of help to you..." - I was thinking; why does he tell me his name that I have to forget, as soon as I heard it? The answer to this question came many years later He put the revolver back to the drawer and continued: -"There is no time for ceremony, I am talking to you straight and hard, and you can talk to me straight back in the same manner. You can have flat on Legionów Str (posh area), money, lovers galore, just say the word.. How soon you can travel?" Everything what he was saying, before the last question, was so strange and in parts repulsive to me, as well as his coming in with the unbuttoned trousers, but I thought that it may be cleared later on, so I replied: - "Right away!" -"Good!" - He opened another drawer in the writing desk, took a bundle of notes from it and handing it to me said: - "There's a 1.000 z_otych for your expenses." - "It's too much," - I protested. - "This is Government's money. I cant spend it all myself! You might meet somebody who'll need help. We are trying to help all men ready to go to France and fight. You can include your friends too. You'll come next Tuesday to the restaurant in Mikolasch Passage at lunch time and look for me. If I want be there on Tuesday, you'll come next day - until we meet. Then, I'll tell you the rest. Would you like to work under an assumed name? - "No. If suddenly I'm called, I might forget, and then there would be trouble. My name and address is not under any suspicion so, I better stick to it!" - "That's fine. No problem. See you next Tuesday."
The meeting took place on schedule. I have never been in this restaurant. It was noisy with lots of people coming and going. Pesche was there and somehow, lots of customers, had some business to talk about with him.. But noticing me, he took me by the shoulder to the barman and asked: -"What will you have for a drink?" - "Absinthe, please." - Later I regretted it, because it was very bitter and nearly brought me to vomit, but I was too shy to admit that I wanted to know it's taste, because my late grandfather liked it . Then Pesche gave me instruction. - "You are the daughter of Maj. Zygmunt Dobrowolski from Ko_omyja, and you'll go to Delatyn and report to the Station Master Mr Styczy_ski, who will tell you where the man, a contact with the guide, lives. Mr.Styczy_ski has a Doberman dog, very friendly to everybody. Taking the dog for a walk, you will go to that man, to learn the way. After meeting the man, you'll come back and report to me or Szumowski at Zadwňrza_ska Str."
On the way back home, I thought that Pesche had forgotten that I wanted to work under my own name, but I thought that after this time, I'll insist to work under my own name. At home I took the things needed for travelling, and packed them into my brief case. Afterwards I went to the Bakery to tell Walter and Staszek that I'll be absent for couple of days. I asked Leszek Winiarski if he would be interested in going to France? He said yes, but he would need some civilian clothes and hadn't got the money to buy them. I gave him 200z_ from the money received from Pesche. Then I went home for the night, because our flat was very near the Central Railway Station.
Next day after the breakfast, I went to the Central Railway Station, bought a return ticket to Delatyn and boarded the train. During the trip, passing various stations, in my mind rushed the pictures from my childhood in Stryj, Morsztyn, and further on, from my holidays in years past, but on comparing it with the present journey, they seemed like a dream from a fairytale. At Stanis_awów I had to change the train and having time on hands, I wandered around to know it better and returned to the station, to have get some refreshments. Using my childish looks, I took from my briefcase a schoolbook, and sitting at the table, pretended to study it, but looking around sharply from time to time. After a while two soldiers from the Red Army sat at my table. They were agitated by the fact that they drunk one bottle of methylated spirit and had no money to buy a replacement. While they were talking about it, they constantly looked at me and introduced themselves; I am Misha Grybov and he is Pave_ Zubov. I didn't want to draw too much attention to me so, I took from my pocket a 2 z_ Coin, and gave it to them to go and buy the bottle. Misha grabbed the money, but Pave_ was worried how they would repay me. Misha had already gone. I said to Pawe_: - "Don't worry. You might help somebody in future, even if you'll not see me again. - "I know that you all dislike us coming here to your country, but we had to go where we were ordered to go. My profession is a ballet dancer. When we were touring western countries, talking to a colleague, I was careless as to express my admiration for their high standard of living, and the Politruk sent me to the Red Army," - he sighed..
I looked at him with interest. He was not a handsome man with his protruding and repaired teeth. But he showed intelligence. I thought that he wanted to unburden himself from guilt, not his own, but his country's. How strange! Our talk was interrupted by Misha's return,.who proudly showed us the botte, and bought two cups of milk I was pretending to read the book and they talked and laughed that their superior will have 4 bottles of methylated spirit, and they wouldn't get punished. Then with the 4 p.m. coming, I gathered my things and thought of parting with them, but they wouldn't have it. They were going to Nadwórna, which was one station before Delatyn. On the platform, I met unexpectedly another courier from ZWZ, Ewa Korabiewska, a colleague from our Church choir. She was going on the underground job to Worochta. Ewa was beautiful. Blonde with blue eyes, humorous, with lovely dimples in her cheeks when she smiled, Misha immediately showed interest in her, and regretted that she wasn't going to Nadwórna. I was stuck with Pawe_. We talked about the weather, but I was glad to see them go at Nadwórna. At the time, I didn't realise that meeting those two Red Army soldiers would play a significant part in the not-so- distant future. Ewa was rather glad of their company. She regarded it a kind of protection from other suspicious eyes. Delatyn was next station, and we wished each other luck. We never met again .
I went to see the Station Master, Mr. Styczy_ski, and the game of playing part of the daughter of Maj. Zygmunt Dobrowolski was over. He asked me to be open with him, because I do not resemble her in the slightest. Pesche probable didn't know, that Mr. Styczy_ski knew her from birth. Oh! How glad I was to act in my own name! He invited me to his flat upstairs over the station, because he had couple of hours to spare before next train's arrival. Mrs. Styczy_ska welcomed me wholeheartedly, and with the dog I found an instant affinity. I met there also two gentlemen who were also going to France. One of them, Tadeusz Majewski, knowing that I was returning to Lwów, gave me a verbal message for Colonel Pe_czy_ski at Tarnowskiego Str.. The message was: "Everything went according to plan." During our conversation, we found that prof.Marian Stecków was our teacher of Polish language, and that he had seen him the day before he set out for this dangerous "excursion". After the instruction given to me by Mr. Styczy_ski, I took the dog, called "Rex", and very easily found the bungalow, where the man (I never knew his name) lived. We talked briefly,.as my role was only to learn the way and remember it. I thanked Mr. & Mrs. Styczy_ski for their friendly reception, caressed "Rex" and caught the last train to Lwów, and next day, I went to Tarnowskiego Str., knocked at the door in order to deliver Majewski's message to a nice looking lady, who told me that after the Colonel returned, she'd immediately tell him.
Pesche told me that the group, including my three recommended friends: Leszek Winiarski, Marian Petrycki and Zygmunt Kaczy_ski was ready, and told to go again to Delatyn to stay with Mr.& Mrs. Styczy_ski. From Delatyn, daily go to Stanis_awów to look for them, because Pesche wasn't quite sure on what date they'd arrive - owing to some visa problem. When they arrived, I was to go with them to Delatyn, fetch the dog and walk like a stranger to the bungalow of the contact with the guides, and, of course, the group would follow. Twice i spent the time in Stanis_awów waiting in vain. It was harrowing to try to kill few hours of time, going for a cup of cocoa at the well known café Markewka, quite a distance from the station, and wandering around. I didn't want to be seen too many times sitting at the station, because it was on the route to the borders: Roumania and Hungary.. Finally, they arrived. I could see familiar faces of my three friends and boarded the train. Quickly I fetched the dog, and left for a walk. All went smoothly, and after a while, we arrived at the bungalow of the trusted man. When the guides arrived:- forester Jan Guzik and his assistant Wojciech Fura, I left the group and Leszek Winiarski gave me an old rusted key to give it to Pesche Walking briskly to the station, I was glad to catch the last train, and go home to deliver the proof as soon as possible
In October, one day, when I visited Mother in our new flat at Tokarzewskiego Str. suddenly I had a visit from Stanis_aw Rusznica - the one who organized bread for 456 families last month. He told me that when all Polish soldiers were reported to the Army HQ already in Soviet hands, the Soviets marched all Prisoners of War and civilians on foot to the ZSSR. Rusznica and his brother Tadeusz, with Stanis_aw Matuszkiewicz and Stanis_aw Flis were together. Rusznica tried to persuade his brother, Matuszkiewicz and Flis to escape and return to Poland. But they were either too tired or too afraid to risk it, and eventually, he escaped alone. He asked me to go to Stanis_awów and tell his wife that he had escaped, and is going to France. I wished him luck, and went the next day to deliver his message, but at the address given to me by Rusznica, I was told that his wife left without giving a new address.
In November, the new Soviet authority announced a general election. To me it was a personal tragedy. My first rights to vote in such terrible circumstances! Voting was compulsory. On the list of candidates there were unknown names, mainly communists. But since it was secret ballot, as far as I know, we, and all our close friends, wrote nasty words, or propositions. The result was unanimous. In 99. something % their candidate had won!...
Towards the end of November, the second group was ready to go, and I was allowed to go with them to Hungary, on condition, that I should contact Rev. Bombas, get from him $1.000 for his (Pesche's) work and only with the next group I'd be allowed to go for my soldiers fleece. I said goodbye to my friends Leontyna Trochimówna, Walter Beck and Staszek Konopi_ski, to prof. Krzy_anowski.and prof. Stecków, especially thanking him for tolerance, and help over the last nine year saying: ".. Perhaps I shall never see you again.." - but he replied: "If the Captain returned, why the girl should not return?" - He was a captain in 1918-20 War. Even if I had returned, I wouldn't have met him again, because he was arrested by Soviets in 1941, and took a cyanide capsule in Prison, called "Brygidki", to avoid torture. He was 56 years old. It was an irony of his fate. Inheriting the furniture and other effects after his mother's death, he promised his mother before she died, that he will also keep on the housekeeper, Maria Piróg whom he passionately disliked. Maria Piróg belonged to a Christian society, where the uneducated spinsters were persuaded to buy a wedding ring, on the assumptions of being married to Christ! She vowed never to tell lies, and being uneducated she could not perceive that the war needs might require a distinction between the lie, and not telling the truth, while interrogated by the enemy who invaded her country. When asked by the Soviet interrogator, who visited Professor and whether he had any sort of armament, Maria Piróg told them "the truth"...
I said goodby to all the sad streets, stripped from their former gaiety, that I loved to run through in the old times, and finally leaving home, I left my Mother 300 z_,and anxiety about my fate..From Pesche I received Belgian pistol FN 7.35 caliber and two hand-granades, for the group's protection. The group consisted of 8 men; Maj Jan Ka__aur, Jan Raszkowski (por. Witold Brocki), Wac_aw Chomicz (por. Placyd Chomicki) Tytus Micha_owski, Kazimierz Górka, Witold Rychter or Richter, two men that I never knew their names, and Roman Wi_niewski, 18 years old son of my Mother's friend from Stanis_awów that I visited on the 1st December 1939 and told him about the possibility to go to France. He was the Scout and new the whole range of mountains very well.
Nobody believed that War would last very long, so I took only two pairs of underwear, the usual toilette set for travelling, my prayer book - the first one given to me when I was ten years old - a German book by the author Jan D_browski that I was studying lately, my Autograph book with so many friends there, a few photographs of my Mother, and other members of the family, a fountain pen with letter pad, money, and of course, some provisions in my rucksack. The night before, I sorted out my papers, tore to shreds my memoirs and burnt them, in case unauthorised person read them - later to regret this very much, many, many years later. On the 1st December, I said goodby to Lwów's Railway Station forever - as a free person. Next time, in a cattle wagon, with many other Polish prisoners, we passed through the Central Station, to be shuffled to Kleparów halt under the Soviet guard with the vicious dogs, and shuffled again on Christmas Day to Podzamcze station, from where, on Boxing Day our Cattle train moved all the way to Odessa Prison.
At Delatyn, at Mr. & Mrs. Styczy_ski's flat, I met Dr. Jerzy Cyga, a lawyer from Kraków. Unfortunately on my arrival, I became ill with angina, which inflamed my throat so much, that I couldn't swallow a thing. Mrs. Styczy_ska looked at my throat, and told me to prepare myself for harsh treatment. She had a last lemon in the house. She took a peace of linen cloth, squeezed a lemon on it, dipped it in a crystal sugar, and rubbed my throat so thoroughly, that I saw all the stars. But the treatment was very successful. Afterwards, she told me that unfortunately, I'd have to share room with Dr. Cyga.. They are two single beds. Dr. Cyga asked me to go first because I need rest, and he would come up later. Having experience of travelling and sleeping in mens' company, I didn't undress, and kept all my things packed near me.
About 3 o'clock in the morning Mrs. Styczy_ska suddenly broke in, to tell us to leave quickly, go out through the back door, jump the fence, and go to the Parish, because Bolshevicks were searching the whole station. The Parish was closed, so we went to the bungalow of the man where I met the guides. He took us to the empty, dark, and cold holiday hut with two beds full of straw and millions of fleas. It was so cold, that we could hear the clicking of our teeth. Dr. Cyga said to me: - "I wouldn't like to be misunderstood, but I can hear our clicking of teeth. I propose in these unusual circumstances to drop the curtain on ceremony.. I'm Jerzy and you are Zosia. We should sleep in one bed, and keep each other warm with our bodies. Please trust me." - And we did so. . Each day I travelled to Stanis_awów to meet the group. On the station, I saw a colleague from the Conservatoire, Jerzy Broszkiewicz, who was at an advanced level of piano study with Professor Zdzis_aw _adomirski, and I asked him to drop my quickly scribbled note on my visiting card into my Mother's flat at Tokarzewskiego Str. Nr. 101 at the third floor. Eighteen years later, when my Mother visited us in Havant, she showed me that note.
On the 4th December, I went to St. Joseph's church in Stanis_awów, and asked the priest to hear my confession, and administer holy communion. The Priest said impatiently: - "Are you out of your mind? At three o'clock in the afternoon holy communion?" Even when I suggested that I know the rules, but this is an exceptional time, and I could be in danger.. The answer was: - "Out of the question!" - and he walked away.
Filled with sorrow I looked at the picture of Holy Mother, the witness of my misfortunate attempt, and regretfully left the church, standing for a moment by the street iron water pump- just outside the church - to think what to do next, when out of the sudden a taxi carrying drunken Soviet soldiery hit the water pump with such a force that it was bent down, and forced me to the ground. In the commotion I got up and quickly returned to church, to avoid attention and to find out whether the right shoulder was broken. It was badly bruised and painful. After a while, I went to the station. Romek Wi_niewski was already there, and my group arrived as well. We got on the train to Delatyn, got out on the wrong side, jumped the fence, and got to the road over the Railway Bridge leading to the woods, to reach the bungalow, already so familiar to me.
We waited a very long time for the guides. Forester Jan Guzik and his assistant Wojciech Fura, not only that they arrived late, near midnight, but also bargained for a very long time about the price. At last, we were on our way, leavingone after the other. Jan Guzik was heading the convoy. I followed, after me came Romek Wi_niewski, and then all the rest of the group, while Wojciech Fura brought up the rear. The night was cold and frosty, and there was deep snow, so we walked briskly. Nearly everybody had good boots, only I couldn't get solid mountain or ski boots, because the Soviets had robbed all our shops. My sport shoes were covering the foot up to the ankle only, and already the were full of snow. Wearing the plus-fours, I had to lower them to cover my shins.
Walking in the thick forest during the day is problematic enough, let alone at night, and in unknown territory, where suddenly you are hit by the branches. In the pitch darkness, I wondered how on earth I'd remember the way back? Going straight on, then turning right, then left, and again right, all the while listening carefully to discern whether there wasn't a trap on the way - it would require a genius to remember the way accurately. We walked through the knee-timber. Our ankles suffered when suddenly trapped between hard branches. Not a sign of a bird, squirrel, fox or hare. The day didn't help to see how we were going, we saw a small area of sky. All the trees looked pretty much alike. We asked our guides how far it is to the boarder, but their reply was reasonable - that we couldn't take the shortest route, because those paths were guarded by Soviet military patrols. We had to believe them. After all, they were sharing the same difficulties and danger, eating our food supplies, and smoking our cigarettes!.. Another night was falling with the same pattern. During that night, my group suddenly realised, that I was in the group, and Maj. Ka__aur came to me, to suggest delicately, that they'd wait for me. Just about time! My bladder was bursting! I noticed that the sole from my right shoe was ripped at the toes, and took string from the rucksack, to bind it round the foot. I could hear men talking about the sport of shooting grouse, and their singing in the mating time, but my thoughts were far from joy. The cold was getting to me, and being behind the guide, I wondered how does he know the way himself, in the darkness? At last, another day, welcomed with sunshine, and more space. We saw some stone pillars and the guide told us that they are the border marker- stones. There was even a mountain river with crystal clear water, which reminded me of Prut in Jaremcze. The gentlemen from my group thanked the guides, paid them the agreed money, and the guides told them, that following the current of the river, we would be in Hungary.
All the men took their shoes off, and washed their feet. Witold Brocki started singing French national anthem. I didn't share in their rejoicing.. My intuition was telling me that I must check. I told them that I would go down river to find out, because surely there would be some house near the stream. Witek Brocki said that he'd not permit me to go by myself, and volunteered to go with me. We walked down, until we came to a wooden bridge. On the slope opposite on the left side was a white bungalow, but in the stream was a man washing his horse. I asked him what is the name of this place and country. - "This is Zielona in Poland..."- he replied in broken Polish, and came out of the stream. I felt shivers going down my spine, because I knew that guides had cheated us. I asked him who was living in the white bungalow?: - "That's our house but half of it is Militzia. They are not there at the moment, because this morning they received the information that 10 people are going to Hungary and they went to catch them." I asked him whether he would be prepared to take us to Hungary, and that he'd be well paid. But he replied that if he didn't have ill mother, he would gladly do so, and go himself, too. I asked him again if he could sell us some bread, and without a delay he went, and returned with half of a huge round peasant baked brown bread. We wanted to pay for the bread, by he refused to take the money. Finally I asked him how to get to the boarder, and he gave us directions, and told us which way Militzia had gone to search for us. We thanked him very nicely both for the bread and the information, and he wished us luck saying: - "Go with God."
We rushed back to take the grim news to the others. Romek Wi_niewski listen to the direction and said that he will follow it, because he knew this range of the mountains, and I thought that going to Mrs. Wi_niewska and including Romek into the group, though not scheduled , was a kind of a schedule by destiny. Who knows?
Romek took us to Siwula, Again we had to go through knee-timber, and continually somebody yelled when their feet were trapped painfully. I looked at Romek with admiration. The youngest of the group, and taking the command of the route! Every so often coming down, he took us up to see the range, and checked the direction given by the kind peasant, carefully registered in his mind. I was so cold, that I felt as if I had walked on some wooden sticks fixed to my hips. Not only that was painful, but it so happened that I had started menstruation, which was painful every month because of the bent neck of my womb. In the early afternoon, we reached the top of the mountain Siwula, about 300 m high, to be greeted by a strong cold wind, which froze our tears. From the top of Siwula, looking south-west, we could see some strange squares spaced along a line, and we thought that it might mark the Polish-Hungarian border, which later proved to be true. Coming down was easier, sliding on our backs. but not less cold, and it was not only I that suffered from cold. Even men showed traces of watering eyes, frozen moustaches and eyebrows, and on our feet again, we had to shake our arms vigorously, to get the feeling back in our fingers. My shoes and stockings were in shreds and naked toes protruded. Towards sunset, we reached the bottom of mountain Doboszanka,. and followed the track which led to a few unfinished brick huts. On the right side of the track, we saw a big red board with the white Polish emblem of the Eagle and, in white lettering, information that this was a boarder line,and the boarder was1˝ km ahead. We looked at the walls of the two huts,and red the written messages. Some philosophical, some personal, initials, and either good or bad wording,with swearwords, regrets or hopes. We then decided to rest for the night, in one of the unfinished huts, with a brick stove. We gathered with Romek some dried wood and he lit the fire, which produced a lot of smoke inside the hut.. Somebody had a tin mug, and we could melt the snow, and drink warm water. Not a crumb of bread was left. I had only salt and pepper left. Somebody drying socks, burnt one. Not a dull moment! We sprawled on the floor, close to one another for warms, but couldn't go to sleep. With Witek Brocki, we commented on the writing on the walls of the other hut, and wandered what had happened to their authours. He said that I should survive, would it be possible to tell his family in Grudzi_dz what we had gone through. Eventually I fell asleep with my head on his arm and with my knees leaning on his belly.
We got up very early next morning, to avoid being found by the patrolling armed Militzia, assuming that this area must be known to them. Our route was again up the hill on this track. On our way on the left hand track, we found a beautiful shepherds shelter, made of soft green darn, and covered with dry branches and darns. Each one of us sat on the comfortable darn seats, just to find out how comfortable they were! I suggested to Romek, for no reason at all, to make plenty of footsteps in all directions, and then slightly to brush them with snow, but I left my own untouched. Much later I thought - was it another intuitive action of mine, scheduled by destiny?
Our group split into two: Rychter, Micha_owski, Górka and two other men unknown to me by name, swore, and decided to go back to Jaremcze. It's an old truth, that when men are hungry, they get cross! Nobody was responsible for dishonesty of the guides. The rest of us:Maj. Ka__aur, Witek Brocki (assumed name Jan Raszkowski), Placyd Chomicki (assumed name Wac_aw Chomicz) and Romek Wi_niewski, continued towards the boarder. We reached the tourist's track leading to the boarder. We both with Romek suggested not to go by this track, but that we should rather try to go a bit further, through the knee-timber and hide behind the fallen trees waiting to be cut in the saw-.mill. But we met with the strong opposition of the majority who decided in broad sunlight, to go down the hill. So we came down just about 100 or 200 m from the border, that could then be seen from the top of the tourist track. It was 8th of December. Digging into extra strength, hungry, not expecting the slightest trouble, we strolled ahead. - when suddenly we heard command in Russian:" Hands up! Lay down! " Two armed soldiers hidden in the bushes jumped out and stood across the track.
* * *
Then, interrogations, prison, sentence of 3 years to Karaganda lager, revised case and second sentence of 5 years to lager in Potma, Amnesty, enlisting the Polish Army, under gen. Anders command at Buzu_uk, The marching with the Army: Tock, Persia, Irack, Palestine, again Irack, Egipt, and finally Liverpool. But that's a long story too!
I was exiled from Poland in 1940. Reading the book 'Gulag' by Anna Applebaum, brought back many sad memories for me from World War II.
I was nine years old, when my family, my parents, and my brother who was eleven, were deported for exile in February 1940 to a labour camp in Arkhangielsk in Russia. We lived in a small town called Beresteczko, in the Wolyn district of what was then Eastern Poland. And I remember that one winters day, the NKWD, the armed Russian Police, arrived at our home at 5 o'clock in the morning. My father was held at rifle-point, while my mother was told to pack what she could. We were then all loaded onto a horse-drawn sleigh and taken to the local village school, where most of the families from the village had also been taken. We were the taken on to the railway station to be put into cattle trucks on a train bound for Siberia. Our crime was that my father was an officer in the Polish Army during the Polish uprising. We lived on the train for three months before we arrived in Siberia. When the train stopped at stations, people would run to buy food for their families. We were not sure where we were going, or what would happen to us, or if we would ever be allowed to come back.
When we arrived at the labour camp, which was somewhere in Siberia, we were put into a wooden barrack. The barrack was roughly made from round wooden logs, and the gaps between the logs were filled with moss to stop the bitter winds from blowing through. The barrack was a single room, and in the middle of the room there was an iron stove. It was the only heating, and five families had to live in each barrack. For beds we had wooden benches, there were no mattresses. There was one large bench for each family. In this room, we live together, male, female, and children. Children went to school to learn Russian, but everyone over 14 of years had to go to work in the forest that surrounded the camp. That included both my father and my mother. Sometimes, the workers had to walk several miles to where they chopped trees, the work was hard and poorly paid, wages went to buy bread, sometimes soup was available in a canteen. They worked long hours, and the food was very poor, people became thin and weak. We lived like this for nearly two years. Summer lasted 3 months, then the snow arrived again in October, and it lasted 6 months.
In July 1941 the amnesty was granted by Russia for all Polish citizens. We were free to go, but no help was given to us by the Soviet authorities. My father left to join the Polish forces, to fight the German army, leaving us in the camp. Somehow, the exiled families bought coaches on a train which headed south to Khazakstan, a journey of several weeks. It was chaos, whenever the train stopped, people ran to get bread and food, and sometimes the train left and people were left behind. It was during this journey that my mother died, leaving me alone to look after my brother on the train. I do not know what happened to my mother.
It was at this time I believe that many polish officers were executed in a camp called Katyn (crime of Katyn wood). General Anders, the officer who had been imprisoned in Lubianka, labour camp for the previous twenty months was named the commander of the new Polish army on Soviet soil, although the Soviet authorities refused to give us any help after the amnesty. Not many people knew which direction to go to join the Polish army units. The soldiers coming out of the labour camps were in a very bad state of health, and needed help with medicine, clothes and mostly food. The soldiers were in the same clothes that they had been arrested in, two years ago. A lot of us were sick, run down but the hope to be free again kept us going.
The Polish army was based in Kazaksthan, in places like Kuibishew Buzuluk Buchara. In the chaos, many Polish soldiers and civilians had been left behind, some later joined the Kosciuszko division, and some had to wait for the end of the war to be repatriated back to Poland. When so many officers failed to return to join the Polish army, General Anders changed his plan and instead of marching his army west towards the front line, he won permission to evacuate his troops out of Soviet soil altogether. It was a vast operation. 74,000 Polish soldiers and 41,000 civilians.
We were sent to an orphanage, and I became very sick with typhus, I was not able to travel and was sent to a poor Russian hospital. One day, my father arrived at the hospital in uniform, he insisted that I had to leave, determined that I should not be left in the hospital on my own, even though I was really too sick to travel. Everyone was able to travel, was leaving, soldiers and civilians. We left on trains to the Caspian Sea and then were put on to boats to Iran (Persia), another long journey. Although not an orphan, I had no-one to look after me, and I was put into an orphanage, and we were sent to Uganda, boys and girls were separated, and on the journey sailing to Karache, my brother became ill and died.
Polish soldiers who recovered in Iran, were sent to join the alliance forces in Europe, travelling via Palestine, and they later fought in Italy, the battle of Monte Casino and other battles. The civilians were sent to various places in the British Empire. Some went to India, some to east Africa, I was sent to Uganda, and lived in an orphanage for several years.
Eventually, when I was sixteen, I was able to leave Uganda and join my father who had arrived in England in 1946. We learned that our home, which used to be in Poland, now belonged to Soviet Russia, and we were too afraid to return, in case we were sent to back to another labour camp to die. I had to spend several years in Uganda, in an orphanage, my mother died in Russia and because my father was in the war, I had had little contact with him. I had only a few letters now and again. Being separated for such a long time, we hardly recognised each other. Father and daughter but we were complete strangers, he had got older and I had grown up. My father bought a house in Bradford, Yorkshire, where I joined him, and where we lived on the small Polish war pension he received.
When I was eighteen, I left home to train as a nurse, I learned English, and eventually I would marry and have my own family in England. In 1970, my father died and he is buried in Bradford. My father won three medals in the war, for his bravery in fighting the German army in Italy, but he was never able to return to his home in Poland.
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