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II .- \ 
. II 





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10 interviews 
with people who migrated 

Polish students from 
Kolegium Karkonosze 
in Jelenia Gora 
their grandmothers 







'. .. 



. . 



Living Polish history in the kitchen: 3 generations in one 
house in Piechowice. Babcia with daughter and 
granddaughter. And Mathilde from Nemo. Not yet on the 
picture; but there is already a fourth generation! 



Babcia Halina Zaprucka making wholemeal bread 
following family traditions from Polish Ukraine 

Babcia, the heart of Poland 



Since 10 years we are trying hard to learn Polish. 
Not only the language, but also Polish nature, history, 
the way of life and thinking. We faced a lot of problems 
and barriers, like Polish grammar, tax rules and mining 
plans. But from the beginning our relationship with 
Poland started with grandmothers. Somehow there was 
always a babcia to welcome and support us. We learned 
that there is not 'one Poland'. There is an official Poland, 
of the politics, the media, the companies and institutions. 
And there is a 'background' Poland of grandmothers. 
We found out that the Polish grandmothers are the gates 
of Poland to history, taste, stories, emotions and even 
the local economy. It is a hidden gate, but leading to 
much more reality then the main gates. There is a Polish 
saying that males are the head, but women are the neck. 
But we feel the grandmothers are the heart of Poland! 

On the picture left: our first babcia with our son Machiel 
in 1997, the start of our Polish adventure. 
For our son she is still a real grandmother, and we love 
her. Later on we met our second babcia and neighbour 
Halina Zaprucka. She loved our Dutch flowers, and she 
made beautiful Ukrainian bread for us (see back cover) 
She was always happy to see us. It was such a shock 
when she died 2 years ago. We still miss her. In our 
village we know now a lot of grandmothers. They are 
cooking for our guests delicious meals, and they are 
making sernik and pierogi. In the village shop a 
grandmother is the social centre and helpdesk of the 
village. And we have even grandmothers as soltis and 
prezes rady. Poland should be much better off by a 
grandmother as president. Of course we do have a lot of 
partners, colleagues and relations. But the beating heart 
of Nemo is the Polish grandmother. That is why we are 
always coming back and we desperately love Poland! 
Peter Spruijt (Nemo) 

From Holland to Poland 
In Stara Kamienica, between Chromiec and Kopaniec 
the Dutch walking association Nemo has set up the 
international meeting point "Nemoland" for travellers and 
visitor who want to experience hidden treasures of 
Poland. Nemoland presents its region as a treasury of 
local legends and road map for ramblers and explorers. 
Lying in the borderland of central Europe, Nemoland is a 
crossing point for exchange and education activities 
focused on local culture and nature. 
Since May 2003 the existence of Nemoland was 
threatened by the devastating plans to open a 120 ha. 
mine in the nearby area. However, thanks to the firm 
attitude of the local community and local government 
these plans (temporarily) were rejected. Since the mining 
company is trying by all means to obtain a permission it 
is important to gain support for the projects of Nemo 
which offers an alternative to the mining plans 

Nemo is a Dutch association of nature-oriented walkers, 
founded in 1988. Aim of Nemo is promotion of rambling, 
sustainable tourism and protection of the countryside. 
Nemo means "nobody", a nick nam,e for travellers and 
ramblers, called after Jules Vernes Captain Nemo, and 
Windsor Mckay's cartoon-character Little Nemo. 


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These stories come from the project called "Other 
Places, Other Landscapes" which I have done with the 
first year students of English Philology at the Karkonosze 
College in Jelenia G6ra, Poland. The project was carried 
out in spring 2007 and it was inspired and assisted by 
Peter Spruijt from the Dutch Association of Free 
Ramblers NEMO. I once heard Peter say that the first 
and the most basic form of architecture was not a house 
but a path. This sentence could be a motto of the project. 

The students were asked to interview a person who has 
migrated, translate the interview into English and reflect 
on the project in a form of a short classroom 

The project turned out to be deeply meaningful and 
moving both for most of the students and for myself. I 
then decided to choose ten interviews which were 
conducted with students' grandmothers. All interviewees 
settled in the Lower Silesia. 

I changed the interviews into first-person narratives and 
corrected some mistakes in translation. I also attached 
the questions for the interviews and guidelines for 
classroom presentations hoping that the project might be 
of use to some other teachers. 

Ida Baj 
teacher trainer English language 
Kolegium Karkonosze 
Jelenia G6ra 
Lower Silesia, Poland 


Published in Amsterdam, 
October 2008 by 

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Association Nemo 
Nemoland, Miedzylesie 5. 58-512 Stara Kamienica 
tel. 0048-75-7693605 

De Braeck, Overbrakerpad 2, 1013 AZ.. Amsterdam, 
Holland, tel. 0031-20-6817013 



A. Before migrating 
1. Can you recollect any happy childhood 
memories? Can you describe them in terms of sights, 
sounds, smells, tastes or activities? 
2. Do you remember a very special place from your 
3. Do you know any local stories from your native 
4. Are there any objects and/or skills which used to 
be there but are not here? 

B. Transition 
5. What was your luggage like? 
6. Is there anything special- an object, a story, a value, 
or perhaps a memory - which you chose to take and 
keep with you? 

C. After migrating 
7. Could you compare landscapes and architecture 
in the place you left behind to the new place? 
8. What are some differences in the ways of life 
here and there? 
9. What treasure/value have you found in the new 
10. Where do you feel more at home and why? 

1. Interview a chosen person and record the 
2. Translate the interview into English 
3. Take a photo of the interviewee and scan some 
of his/her old photos 
4. Share your findings in the form of a short 
classroom presentation 


Give a short, five minutes' presentation reflecting on your 
interview with a person who migrated. Bring the visual 
documentation with you. Use the following questions as 
the guidelines for your presentation: 

3. How did you record the answers? 
4. How did you obtain the visual materials? Can 
you show them and explain their relevance to the 
5. Which fragment of the interview did you find 
most interesting and why? 
6. Was there anything that you found amusing/ 
surprising/ shocking? 
7. Which part of the project was the most 
challenging for you and why? 
8. What have you learned from this project? 

How did you find your interviewee? 
Was the interviewee eager to talk? Why / why 




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, I 






Clockwise from left bottom: 
1. Janina with crying baby 
2. The woman at most right is Janina 
3. With her daughter 
4. The woman at the most left is Janina, 19 
years old 
5. With her 3 children: Halina, Peter, Andrew 



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Magdalena Cierpka interviews her Grandmother ,Janina Cierpka 

I was born in Tward6w in the Wielkopolska region in 
1932. I went to the primary school at the age of seven. 
After two weeks the school was closed due to the 
outbreak of World War II. I finished the school after the 

When I was twelve, my Mother died of tuberculosis at the 
age of 35. I was the oldest child, so I had to look after my 
two younger sisters and work on the farm with my Dad. 
When I was 19, I moved to Lubari in the Lower Silesia in 
order to look after my Grandmother who was ill at that 
time. I worked there as a telephone operator and a dry 
nurse at the local hospital. Then I moved to the nearby 
Cieplice and took up a job as a gardener. Then I was a 
cook in a canteen and I also worked in a dairy. 

I will always remember the happy day when the primary 
school in my village was re-opened after the war. We 
could finally speak and sing in our native language! We 
were shouting with glee, laughing and dancing in front of 
the school building while our parents were looking at us 
and weeping with emotion. 

I had a very good singing voice and after the war I could 
finally join the church choir. I remember I had butterflies 
in my stomach before our first performance. Later I loved 
singing in church, especially that my family was very 
religious. My Father, who prayed each evening for the 
soul of his late wife, used to sit in the first pew during my 
performances and weep of joy. 

I remember that my favourite place in my childhood was 
my Grandmother's house. It was huge and old, with dark 
nooks, mysterious cellar and a large attic smelling of 
smoked sausages. With my face flushing with 
excitement, I used to eavesdrop on conversations of the 
adults. The house was often filled with the delicious 
smell of freshly baked bread. My Grandma often gave 
away some of the bread to the poorest people in the 
village. I loved spending time in the kitchen, learning the 
cooking recipes which were handed over from 
generation to generation. I liked to listen to old women 
who were working in the fields and singing songs about 
tragic events that had taken place in the village. 
Women played a vital role in Tward6w. Young girls were 
brought up in a very strict way. They were supposed to 
become model housewives. 
Light-headed girls had no chance to get married, 
because most men had farms and they needed wives 
who would be well prepared for work. I was taught to do 
gardening, sewing, cooking, looking after farm animals, 
working in the field and taking care of children. When I 
migrated to Lubari, I noticed that household chores were 
not done by children there but by parents. As a result, 
many girls at my age couldn't cook well or do the 
housework properly. 

When I was moving to the Lower Silesia, my luggage 
was small. I remember I took a handkerchief 
embroidered by my sister. My Dad gave me a new dress 
and a letter which included all the necessary instructions 
for a young, inexperienced girl who started a new life. He 
described how he expected me to behave. I also took 
some of my favourite books with a few flowers pressed 
between their pages. In my memory I carried the 
landscapes and smells of my childhood. I took a picture 
showing Mary Magdalene. The picture used to belong to 
my Mother whom I missed very much, especially when I 
was a teenager. 

The landscape in my native village was flat. I remember 
vast open spaces, red fields of poppies and blue fields of 
flax. The houses were made of red brick. When I moved 
to the Lower Silesia, I noticed that the houses here had 
stone foundations and half-timbered walls. I was 
fascinated by the Karkonosze Mountains and the hilly 
landscapes in this area. 

After the war we were very poor farmers. However, when 
I moved to Lubari, I got a job there and my life was much 
better. People in Lubari were very warm and hospitable 
and I soon made new friends. Still, I feel more at home 
back in Tward6w, because I spent there the most 
carefree time of my life - my childhood. I also have many 
members of my family there, some friends, some old 
neighbours. I enjoy my life in Marczyce, a peaceful little 
village near Jelenia G6ra, but I miss my native Tward6w 
and I visit it regularly. 




Clockwise from left bottom: 
1. Brygida (first left) with her sisters' family 
2.3.4. with her children and family 







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Natalia G6rak interviews her Grandmother Brygida Polerowicz 

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Brygida in early 1960s 

I was born in a small village Wronka near Toruri in 1939. 
Our family migrated to Lubari near Jelenia G6ra in 1949, 
because of better job opportunities here. I used to work 
in a weaving mill in Lubari. 

In my mind I have a clear image of my native Wronka. 
The village was situated among lakes, woods and 
meadows. The landscape was very beautiful, the air was 
clean and fresh. Everywhere you looked, you could see 
green trees and fields. You could hear colourful birds 
singing and smell the scent of flowers. 


When I was a child, I spent most of my free time in an 
old barn. Together with my siblings and other children 
from the neighbourhood, I was playing all kinds of games 
in that place. There was always something interesting to 
do or to discover there. I also remember the building that 
was considered haunted. All villagers were saying that 
the house was spooky. My mother said the place was 
dangerous for children and she never allowed us to go 
there. In fact she forbade us to go even near that house. 
All children kept away from that place, but I was very 
curious to go and see what horrible things I could 
possibly find there. However, I never dared to do it. 

My luggage was very simple: I took some clothes and 
one toy. It was my beloved doll which my Grandmother 
made for me. She was made of linen and stuffed with 
sawdust. I also took some photos of my family and my 
native Wronka. Later the doll and the photos reminded 
me of my home and family. My mother couldn't take 
much from her home, because her parents remained in 
Wronka and she didn't want to deprive the rest of the 
family of domestic appliances or furniture. We had to 
start everything anew and buy all the things we needed 

Lakes and woods surround the village where I was born 
and spent the early childhood, whereas Lubari is a town 
situated near the mountains. Wronka was like one big 
house with one happy family in it. People knew one 
another and everyone was very helpful. My family used 
to work together and spend a lot of time together. 
However, when we came to Lubari my Mother found a 
job at a weaving-mill and we didn't see her for many 
hours every day. When Mum had been working on a 
farm, we could see her any time we wanted. In Lubari we 
couldn't do whatever we wanted because there were a 
lot of strangers around and my Mother was afraid that 
something bad could happen to us. When I grew up I 
also found a job in a weaving-mill. As a matter of fact, it 
was my only job and I worked there till I retired. 

The biggest treasure I have here is my family. I am very 
happy that we all live in the same town and we can visit 
each other any time we want. I am glad that none of my 
children or grandchildren had to migrate like me and look 
for a job somewhere else. It is important for me that we 
all found our home here. 

I can't decide where I feel more at home. When I left my 
native village I was only nine and I don't remember 
exactly what it was like to live there. I am happy in the 
place where I live now, because I experienced a lot of 
good things here. There are still very few job 
opportunities in Wronka. The only difference is that a lot 
of people have bought summer houses near the lakes 
and every summer the village is crowded with holiday- 





Clockwise from left bottom: 
1. 4. 1953, 1,5 year after migrating 
2. 1949, 18 years old. before migration 
3. being grandmother 









Renata Tyrawa interviews her Grandmother Cecylia Tyrawa 

I was born in Kazala Stara near Kalisz in 1931. When I 
was twenty, I left my native village and moved to Kudowa 
Zdr6j in the Lower Silesia. I was looking for a job and I 
wanted to be financially independent. I worked in a 
weaving-mill until I retired. 

Frankly speaking. I did not have a happy childhood. My 
Mother died when I was nine. I had to work very hard 
and look after my younger siblings. However, I 
remember one joyful moment when I caught a very big 
fish. We really needed it, because we did not have any 
food at home, so my happiness was enormous. I don't 
remember the taste of that fish, but I am sure I must 
have enjoyed that meal very much! 

I had a very special place in my village. It was the forest 
growing just behind our cottage. The forest was of great 
importance for me, because thanks to it I could earn 
some money. We used to pick mushrooms and 
blueberries there and then we sold them in a nearby 
town. I could also relax in that forest and forget about an 
unpleasant atmosphere at home. 

The village was small and of course every inhabitant 
experienced some more or less pleasant events in their 
lives. Later people spoke about those events for months. 

Kazala was a very primitive place. There was no 
electricity, the machines and tools were very simple. 
They used people's and animals' power. When I came to 
Kudowa, everyone had electricity and nobody could even 
imagine life without it. 

In Kazala, one of the most crucial tools was a machine 
which pressed oil. We made oil from flax and it was a 
very common occupation in that area. Another skill which 
was very useful was fishing. It was the main source of 
income for many families. Here in Kudowa people buy oil 
in shops and treat fishing as a hobby. 

My luggage was a small brown suitcase. It was rather 
old. Inside I packed two dresses, a pair of shoes and 
some underwear. I also took some cups, pots and a 
knife. A special thing I have from my home village is a 
medium size clay pot. When I left Kazala I didn't feel 
sentimental about this pot. but now it is of great 
importance, because it has been with me for almost 56 
years. When I was leaving my native village, I did not 
think about taking any special objects with me. I did not 
have enough room in my suitcase. Besides, I probably 
wanted to start a new life without looking back. 

Architecture in Kazala was so old and basic that it could 
have the same in the Middle Ages. Cottages were very 
modest with small windows and thatched roofs. The land 
was flat and the soil was sandy and infertile. Not many 
plants could grow there. The most characteristic thing in 
the landscape were peat bogs and lakes, the habitat of 
many species of birds and fish. 

Kudowa is completely different. For many years the town 
belonged to Germany, so in 1951 it represented much 
higher level of civilization than Kazala. The architecture 
was decidedly urban. The buildings - blocks of flats, 
factories, schools - were big and rectangular. Of course 
today people build many detached houses which are 
very attractive but also expensive. 
There are many shops and hotels, the roads are made of 
asphalt, the place is developing. On the other hand, in 
my native village time seems to have stopped in the 
1960s. As far as landscapes are concerned, Kudowa, as 
everyone knows, is one of the most beautiful places in 
the Lower Silesia. Here you can breath fresh air and 
admire amazing mountains, forests and historical 
monuments. To sum up, Kudowa is more interesting and 
richer, but Kazala had a special atmosphere of a small 
poor village. 

Kazala was located in an agricultural region. People lived 
on farms, their life was modest and not very modern. 
Kudowa is a small but industrialized town. Now it is a 
tourist and health resort, because some of the factories 
have been closed. The inhabitants of Kudowa lead a 
totally different life. 
Their days are not planned at all, they complain more 
often, though their flats are more comfortable and the 
salaries much higher. They don't work on farms but in 
hotels, factories, or they run a business. Their social life 
is also more active and interesting. People here are not 
afraid to think about pleasure, travelling or other 
enjoyable activities. 

The most important treasure I found here was my 
husband, who was an amazing man. I also found a job 
here and it was quite important, because it was the 
reason why I left my native village. 

I feel more at home in Kudowa. Here I started a family, 
my sons and grandchildren are here, also my brother 
and sister moved to Kudowa after me. The grave of my 
husband is here. In this town I started a new life, the life I 
could create myself from the beginning to the end. 
Initially it was not easy to change nearly every aspect of 
my life, but I had nothing to lose. After a while I just fell in 
love with this place and it is without doubt my real home 


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Paulina Batogowska interviews her Grandmother Jozefa Rozkiewicz 

I was born in Potok Stanny near Krasnik in Malopolska in 
1928. In spring 1948 I moved to Kowary in the Lower 
Silesia, a small town situated at the foot of the 
Karkonosze Mountains. After the war there were many 
job opportunities in the west of Poland, whereas our farm 
was too small to provide for all the family. Moreover, my 
sister, after she had come back from Germany, settled 
with her husband in Kowary and convinced me to move 
there, too. 

My childhood was the time of the war and many of my 
early memories are connected with it. I lived with my 
Mum and two sisters. My Father had died of kidney 
disease just before the war and we had to manage 
without him. Then, to make things worse, my oldest 
sister was taken to do compulsive work in Germany. My 
Mother was a strong and brave woman and she was 
willing to help people. One day she decided to offer help 
to a Jewish woman whom we concealed in our attic. 
When we wanted to enter that place, we had to put up a 
ladder and come inside through a hole in the ceiling. 
That Jewish woman was staying with us for some weeks 
when suddenly a German patrol came to search the 
house. There were three of them and they were armed. 
Seeing only women in the house, one of them wanted to 
leave us in peace, but the second German persisted and 
went directly towards the attic. He put up the ladder and 
started climbing. I remember hearing my own deafening 
scream that he shouldn't go there because then the 
ceiling would collapse. At this point my Mother was about 
to faint, she knew very well that if he found the Jewish 
woman, all of us would be shot. I was very brave for a 
thirteen-year-old girl. When the German started to climb 
the ladder, I grabbed his leg so that he fell down. He was 
furious, but I had no choice, I had to do something, I had 
to take a risk. He yelled at me in German, but the other 
soldiers were laughing. I think that the fact that I amused 
them so much saved our lives. They patted my shoulder 
saying that I was brave. Then they went away. 

The only place I recollect with a smile on my face is a 
pond. It was located on the estate of the landowner who 
was incredibly rich. One pond had a water-mill, the 
second was a fish-pond and the last pond was made 
available for the local young people to swim. The pond 
was rather small, square and it was surrounded by 
trees. Its bottom was covered with stones, so it was easy 
to hurt oneself, but the water was clean. I loved 
swimming in that pond, once I even endured five minutes 
under the water. Now it seems to be unbelievable that I 
was not afraid to jump into the pond from the tree 
branches or from high stones. 

I remember that once the whole village was nearly 
burned down. There had been a violent storm and a barn 
was hit by lightning. The flames spread out rapidly and 
soon many cottages caught fire. We had a serious 
problem with putting that fire out and in the end half of 
the village was burned down. 

I remember the washing our dirty linen. We used to dip 
the laundry in water and then hit it with wooden sticks. 
Then we rinsed it in the river. When I came here, we 
used to wash our linen in a big cauldron using a metal 
grate, which was much simpler. Although we were 
leaving our village forever, our luggage was small. We 
took all clothes, shoes, some precious things and 
souvenirs. There wasn't much of it. All my belongings 
were contained in a small back-pack. 

We were leaving by train on a beautiful spring day. In my 
fist I had a copper holy medal with Christ's Mother 
engraved on it. I was holding it very tight. 
I was saying goodbye to my native place and at the 
same time praying for good luck in the new place. I have 
to confess that I couldn't help crying. It was a difficult 
experience. I still remember trees, wild flowers and the 
hot, pleasant air. 

My native village was flat, whereas here I live near the 
mountains. After I arrived here I used to just walk around 
the neighbourhood and stare at the mountains for hours. 
The landscape was so new to me. The air here is much 
heavier because of numerous factories. In Potok Stanny 
the nature was unspoiled, only forests and fields, no 
pollution whatsoever. When I lived in the village, the 
people didn't pay much attention to the appearance of 
their houses. Cottages were small, low, with only one 
room inside. It was quite common that six or seven 
people lived in such a cottage. Windows were usually 
small, with shutters, and roofs were thatched. Those who 
were richer or who were helped by relatives living abroad 
could afford tin roofs. Near each house there was a barn 
and a pigsty, farther on there were only fields and 
In my village everything used to be made by hand. We 
raised animals, cultivated the land, made our own butter, 
baked bread, made clothes. We even grew our own flax 
to make linen fabric. Every Sunday the whole family 
used to go to church dressed in our best clothes. 
Everyone knew one another, we knew almost everything 
about one another's life. In case of some disaster, we 
could count on one another's help, of course. When I 
came here, I felt free, I was a stranger among strangers, 
nobody was interested in me, nobody judged my 
behaviour. In general, life was easier here. I was working 
in a factory, shopping, buying clothes. In the village I 
used to have something to do all day from the early 
morning. Some tasks were hard, some were light. but it 
was still work. But work is not everything! Here my life 
became easier, more pleasant. 

In the very beginning it was hard for me to live here. 
People were saying that the Germans would come back 
and take our houses. It seemed possible, because 
before the war this area used to belong to Germany. We 
were living in a constant fear, I was thinking of returning 
to my native village. But when I got married, I felt that my 
home was here, because it was here that I started a new 
life. My husband gave me so much happiness here that I 
could not even think about moving out. 





( 1 

.. . 

ClockWise from left bottom: 
1. Zofia's wedding in 1961. 2. With granddaughter in 1989 3 With family 4. With village people 








Agnieszka Kowalczyk interviews her Grandmother Zofia Lips 







As postwoman, 1966 

I was born in 1943 in a small village near Lublin, in the 
east of Poland. In 1964, together with my family I moved 
to find a new place of life in the Lower Silesia. Then I met 
my future husband Hubert Lips, I left my parents and 
started a new life with him in Swiezawa. 

In my native village we used to have a big farm where 
we kept a lot of animals: horses, hens, pigs, sheep, 
rabbits and dogs. I remember that it was my duty to look 
after the smallest animals, like rabbits and hens. Now 
when I see rabbits in a cage I remember my childhood. I 
remember a long road behind my house, lined with 
poplars and birches. The road was very special to me, 
because I could ride a bike there and it was my favourite 
free time activity. We had only one bike, so I had to 
share it with my siblings, we took turns to ride it. When 
one of my brothers or sisters was riding a bike, I was 
reading books. At the end of that road there was a huge 
tree, I suppose it must have been an oak. I loved sitting 
under that tree and reading, because it was pleasantly 
cool in the shade. Now reading books often reminds me 
of that tree. 

I remember one local story which my Mum used to tell us 
very often. There was once a small boy who went to the 
forest hoping to see a big deer. He got lost and all the 
villagers searched the forest in order to find him. It was 
difficult, because it was raining all the time. They were 
looking for him for two days and they finally found him in 
a small cave near our village. He had been so scared of 
the rain that he hid there. My Mum was telling us this 
story, because she didn't want to lose any of us. 

We didn't have running water and my Dad built a well 
near our house. One of my duties was to fetch some 
water home. Every day I got up at 6 o'clock and pulled 
out two buckets of water. The water was used by my 
Mum to prepare meals. We also had a fish pond and my 
Dad used to sell fish. I liked going to the pond and 
looking at carps. 

The journey to the Lower Silesia was very exhausting. 
We rented a whole train carriage and put our animals 
and trunks with all our belongings there. We took our 
clothes, books, crockery. We all slept in that carriage, 
because the journey lasted three days. We were very 
impatient to see our new home, so the journey seemed 
to take ages. I remember that Mum was singing us a lot 
of songs to while away the time. 

When I lived in my native village I had a special friend, a 
very nice girl called Teresa. We used to spend a lot of 
time together. When I was about to move away, she was 
very sad. She gave me a special gift, which was the only 
book she had. I was surprised, because she was so 
proud of having that book. I still have this book. Now it 
looks old and dirty, but I believe it is the most important 
thing I have ever got from my friends. 

The landscape in my native village was quite 
monotonous. Here it is interesting, with a lot of 
mountains and hills. Also the forests here are more 
beautiful than those in my native village. The architecture 
here is also more beautiful, because this area was not 
destroyed during the war, unlike my home village. Here I 
can see many houses from the 18th century. In the 
country here houses are very big, whereas in my native 
village cottages were small and the farms were usually 
small, too. 

Here I have more free time. It's true that I have to work 
here, too, but I don't have a farm so work here doesn't 
need so much effort. I was a post-woman, so my work 
was very pleasant, I met a lot of people and now I have a 
lot of friends in my town. In my native village I used to 
work all day with my brothers and sisters. We didn't have 
much free time, but I think we liked that kind of work. But 
now I can't imagine myself working on the farm. Maybe I 
just got used to a more comfortable life. 

I have found a lot of nice people here. I have the kindest 
neighbours in the world! It was amazing for me, because 
after living on a farm where my family was almost alone, 
I realized that there were so many nice people around 
me. Another value is the fact that I found a new family: 
my future husband and his mother. My daughters, 
Dorota and Matgorzata, were born here 

It was hard to get used to a new, different place. Of 
course, I missed all my previous life, but I knew that in 
Swierzawa I have got all my family. Now it is easier and I 
don't want to go back - my real home is here. 









Clockwise from bottom: 
1. in 2007. 2. In 1940 in Chocian6w 3 With friends in 1980 




Paulina Dobrowolska interviews her Great-aunt Katarzyna Dziora 

I was born in Liczkowce near Tarnopol (now Ukraine) in 
1918. I left that place in December 1945 and moved to 
Chocianow in the Lower Silesia. The reason for my 
migration was the threat of displacement or murder by 
Soviet soldiers. 

I remember many places from my childhood. Everything 
smelled and looked very nice. Now I don't know places 
like that. Girls used to walk and sing wearing colourful 
skirts. Our blouses were embroidered, we had very long 
plaits, everyone said that we looked like beautiful dolls. 
We were dressed so marvellously every day that people 
here aren't dressed up like that on holidays. Young 
people were happy, we went to fairs where orchestra 
played music. There were also fire-fighters. Everyone 
was dancing and singing, everything was wonderful. 
Even now I can still remember the smell of flowers from 
that time. Now when the flowers bloom, they do not smell 
so lovely and so intensely as those in Liczkowce. We 
walked without shoes as early as March. And we were 
singing. All the time. 

We sang in Russian, not in Polish. In 1939 our choir 
went to Warsaw. As we got off the train dressed very 
colourfully, we immediately started to sing. All the people 
at the railway station were very happy and they sang 
along with us! We were there for two weeks, from the 
first to the fourteenth of June. 

When I was a child, we walked to the forest every day. 
There was a big rock in the forest, bigger than the 
church. There were lilies of the valley and cuckoos were 
singing beautifully. Nothing here compares to the places 
I remember from those times. 

I remember there was an army base in the nearby town 
of Zbrucz. The soldiers could hear a child crying, but 
there was no child anywhere. Finally, some soldiers 
came to the place where the cry was coming from. The 
sound seemed to be coming from under the ground! The 
soldiers started digging and discovered some human 
bones. The bones were so small they must have been 
the bones of a child. They built a small coffin, put the 
bones into the coffin and organized a proper Christian 
funeral. Many people came to the funeral, even artillery 
on horsebacks. After the funeral the child stopped crying 
Polish soldiers put up a wonderful tombstone of a Crying 
Eagle, but during the World War II the Ukrainians 
destroyed it and there is nothing left of it. Only the story 
of the crying child. 

When I was going to Chocian6w, my luggage was a big 
chest full of food. Bread, sugar... Only food. And on the 
top of that chest I had a pillow. We had left everything 
else in Liczkowce. Irons, pictures, cutlery. We couldn't 
take anything with us. Only food. And then even that was 
stolen. Even my shoes were stolen and I came to 
Chocianow without shoes with only one loaf of bread. 

In the past we had to share things. I shared everything 
with my little sister. Now people don't share. Nowadays 
people are greedy and spoilt. 

Our house in Liczkowce was white and made of clay. We 
could sit there all day long and we were happy. Fences 
were wonderful, unpainted but beautiful. There was a hill 
there were rocks and a small river. Next to the river there 
was a barn and next to it a haystack. Then a garden and 
a stream. And by the river bed, between two stones we 
were washing our clothes. There were two rivers in our 
village. One was just a common river, but the other was 
our secret river. There was a church on a hill and a rock 
next to the school. And the Community Centre - we were 
singing there. Girls and boys were always dressed up. It 
was a perfect village. But later, when the Soviet army 
started to deport people to Siberia, everything was 
ruined. When we came to Chocianow, we looked for a 
house with a barn, because we got a cow. The cow gave 
birth to a calf and we had a problem. At first we lived in 
Kolejowa Street together with a German couple- they 
lived upstairs and we lived downstairs. After some time 
our cousin said that we could move to his house in Polna 
Street and we did. 

Life in Liczkowce was happier. I was singing wherever I 
went. We had many friends there. Everyone knew when I 
was coming because I used to be quite loud. I worked in 
the garden and dried tobacco leaves. And here the mood 
was very sad. No such beautiful forests, no such 
beautiful rivers or meadows. I missed the landscapes 
and the people I left behind. 

1 haven't found any treasure here. Only pain and 
suffering. Here 1 worked my hands to the bone, 1 lost my 
good health. My younger sister went out with her friends 
but I had to work in the field. She helped me sometimes 
but not often. I also helped my Mother in the kitchen. 

I feel more at home there, in Liczkowce. I thought I was 
in paradise. If it hadn't been for that terrible war...Before 
the war we once went to Leszczyce, a town close to our 
village, and there was a great general Rydz Smigty. We 
were so excited. My three friends and me came up to 
him and gave him a big wreath. One of my friends was 
given a casket full of money. And he said: "Welcome 
girls, welcome!" And what a wonderful uniform he was 
And so many people were there... 

I also remember that some important people came to 
Liczkowce to plant oak trees there. They came there 
twelve times, year after year, but the trees wouldn't grow 
My friends and I tried to plant an oak and it grew. We 
had green fingers and I heard that the oak tree we 
planted still grows there. But words can't express 
everything... You should have been there and you 
should have seen it yourself. 







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With father and uncle 


Marta Sadowska interviews her Grandmother Katarzyna Flasz 


In 2006 

I was born in R6wne (now Ukraine) in 1935. I am a 
retired accountant. 
In 1942 I left my native town and moved westwards. I 
was forced to migrate, because Ukrainian nationalists 
were killing Poles. In 1945 I settled down in the Lower 
Silesia, first in Biedrzychowice and then, in 1970, in the 
nearby Olszyna. 

Even though my childhood was overshadowed by the 
war, I have some happy memories. Other children had 
dogs or cats, but I had a goat. I called her Mecka and 
she followed me everywhere. I fed her, watered her, and 
even sang songs to her. I also remember that was once 
playing with my friend who had beautiful, long hair. I 
pretended to be a hairdresser who invented a new hair- 
do and I cut her long plaits. Her mother almost fainted 
when she saw it and my Mum yelled at me. 

I remember a mixed forest situated near my house on 
the other side of the railway track. There were plenty of 
blueberries and wild strawberries there. I ate forest fruit 
and my goat Mecka ate the leaves. 

In my hometown we had beautiful wicker furniture 
which we had to leave in R6wne. Up till now I regret 
that we weren't able to take it with us. 

My luggage was a small cardboard suitcase. It 
contained a few blouses, some underwear, stockings, 
one skirt, one pullover, a scarf and a cap. We were 
travelling with our belongings in a freight wagon and my 
Mum put a pot of lard on top of our luggage. When the 
train stopped suddenly, the pot of lard landed on my 
head and I fainted. 

In R6wne, there were a lot of wooden houses, mostly 
one-storeyd with verandas, but our house was made of 
brick. When I came to Olszyna, in the territory which 
used to belong to Germany, I noticed that buildings 
were much bigger and higher, made of stone, with the 
so-called brick- nogged timber walls. The town of 
R6wne was situated in the flatland, with lots of mixed 
forests and meadows around, whereas Olszyna is 
located among the mountains, with coniferous forests 

When I lived in R6wne I was a child, I lived without any 
worries. My Dad was an engine driver. In those days it 
was a very well-paid job and my family had a good living 
standard. My parents used to go to the cinema, read 
colourful magazines, listen to the radio, go on bike trips 
with my siblings - all these things were luxuries then. 
Our lifestyle changed when we settled down in 
Biedrzychowice. My father worked in a factory, but we 
also had a farm and there was a lot of work to do. My 
siblings and I had to help our parents. My life wasn't 
carefree any more. In Olszyna everything changed 
again, because I found a job and had to take care of my 
own family. 

I grew up here, and here I became a woman. My dearest 
treasure I have found here is of course my family: my 
daughters. husband and grandchildren. 

Now I feel more at home in Olszyna. Here I have spent 
most time of my life. I have found a husband, I have my 
own flat. However, I have never forgotten about R6wne, 
and many times I look back to the place of my idyllic 


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. II 






Clockwise from left: 
1. Aunts ca. 1900. 2. As child 3. Parents in 19305 4. Parade 




Magdalena Siminska interviews her Grandmother Irmina Gnyp 

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I was born in luck, a town which belonged to Poland and 
now is in Ukraine, in 1932. I worked as an engineer and 
for many years I was the manager of the Dolwis Heat- 
Generating Plant in Lesna. In 1950 I also graduated with 
honours from Gliding School in LEi!bork. I left my native 
luck when I was twelve years old. In 1944 I migrated to 
Radom and then to Lesna in the Lower Silesia. 

My whole childhood, though it did not last long, was very 
carefree and happy. I remember a beautiful house with a 
garden full of flowers and my friends who used to come 
and play with me. luck is very scenically situated 
On the banks of the river Styr I can still remember long 
walks with my parents across grasslands covered with 
yellow marsh marigolds. The fragrance which I can't 
forget is the smell of the wind. Each time I was standing 
on the bridge across the Styr I could feel it. 

A very special place for me was my garden. I had my 
own sandpit where I was playing with my friends. My 
playground was surrounded by beautiful flowers. My 
father used to take special care about them. In luck it 
wasn't common to grow flowers, because seeds were 
not easily available. Many Ukrainians, Jews and Poles 
lived in luck and all of them were friends and stayed in 
peace. I remember that once a Jewish friend of our 
family passing by our garden remarked: "And what are 
these paper flowers for?" It shows how uncommon it was 
to grow flowers there. 

I was born in the region called Volhynia, where the gap 
between the rich and the poor was very clearly visible. 
These were two different worlds. On the one hand poor 
and small wooden cottages, on the other hand 
magnificent, rich palaces surrounded by huge parks and 
stunning gardens. I remember many estates belonging to 
such magnates as Potocki or Radziwitt There were also 
many monasteries in that area 


When we were leaving luck, everyone believed deep in 
their hearts, that we would come back there very soon. I 
had a lot of toys, but the most remarkable was a doll 
called Beautiful Goldilocks, whose face and figure were 
modelled on the famous actress of those days, Shirley 
Temple. Every little girl wanted to have such a doll and 
so did I. One day my dream came true: my aunt gave me 
that doll as a gift. I still have this doll with me! 

I was the only child. I left luck with my parents Victoria 
and Victor and my nanny. The things we took with us 
were the most precious family belongings: rings, 
wedding rings, portraits of grandparents, family albums, 
a few dolls and my little dog. However, we had to leave a 
lot of furniture. Some of it we had given away to other 
people. I remember we also took some books and 
encyclopaedias. We also took a sewing machine. We 
really needed it, because my Mum was a great 
dressmaker and we never bought any ready-made 

When I came to Lesna, the difference in landscape was 
quite remarkable. All the houses here were made of brick 
with good sewage system. Here I saw a lot of tenement 
houses and villas. The land was hilly and the ground was 
rocky. The forests here were coniferous. Back in 
Volhynia the land was flat, the soil was very fertile, there 
were deciduous forests and vast, green meadows. Life in 
what was then the east of Poland was not modern, there 
was very little progress, there were wooden houses, little 
grey cottages. In the centre of luck there were tenement 
houses, of course, but there was no water in flats. 

I have been living in Lesna for 47 years now. Here I have 
my home, my own flat, a garden. I fell in love with the 
mountains here. I also like churches here. I am attached 
to this place. However, I often think about my native 
town, especially in spring, when nature wakes up to life 
and everything starts to bloom and blossom. Then I 
remember the meadows in luck and I miss them very 
much. I also think about my ancestors when we 
celebrate various festivals. Even during the war we never 
forgot about Easter of Christmas and we always 
celebrated them together, although there were food 
shortages and it was difficult to prepare special meals 
I visited luck a month ago. I wouldn't like to go back and 
settle there. Our house looks terrible now, like a ruin. 
Standards of living there are worse than what I have 
here. Of course, I feel very sentimental about that place, 
but people always want to live in better conditions. My 
home is here and I want to stay here. 







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Clockwise from left bottom: 
1. Portraits. 
2 Family in 1950's 
3. With parents, as child at 15 in the middle of the first row 
4. With husband 



Izabela Kobeszko interviews her Grandmother Alfreda Piotrowicz 

I was born in a village called Mitoszowice near 
Sandomierz in 1926. In 1960 I migrated to the Lower 
Silesia and settled in Zagrodno near Ztotoryja. I left my 
native village in order to look for better life for me, my 
husband and my children. Here I worked with farm 
animals, and though I had also worked on a farm back at 
my native village. my life changed considerably when I 
moved here. 

I decided to leave Mitoszowice. because I lived with my 
father, grandma and two younger sisters who had just 
set up their own families. I knew that there wouldn't be 
enough place for three families in our small house, not to 
mention the farmland. If we had divided the farm into 
three sisters, none of us would have been able to live of 
it! At the same time, I heard that there was work in the 
lower Silesia, as well as vacant houses, flats and land, 
you just had to go there. Although it wasn't easy and I 
didn't want to leave forever, I and my husband decided 
to go. He left first. later I followed him with the children. 

My happiest childhood memories are the moments when 
my uncles came back from the war. We were afraid they 
would never come back, we didn't hear from them and 
we didn't know if they were still alive. So when they did 
come back we were all extremely happy! The same 
situation was when my Father came back from France 
after 9 years. He had left for France before the war to 
earn a better living, then the war broke out and he had to 
stay in France until it finished. I also recollect very clearly 
the smell and taste of freshly baked bread and every 
Christmas and Easter when the whole family gathered. 

As a child I liked the orchard behind the house. It was a 
very special place. When the trees were in blossom, you 
could smell their scent even from a far distance. I and my 
sister used to pick fruit there. It was both a necessary 
work and fun for us, we were happy that we were able to 
do that. When people felt tired they simply went to the 
orchard and sat there for some time. It was such a 
secure place. Everyone loved to sit there. 

In my village there was a local story connected with one 
field. There were four larch trees and a cross there, to 
honour four insurgents from the November Uprising in 
1830 who had been killed in that place. The larches had 
been planted as a homage to those brave freedom 
fighters who dared to stand up against the Russians to 
fight for Poland's independence. The trees had been 
growing there for many, many years, until the time when 
the field was sold to a new owner. He decided to cut off 
the four larch trees, so that he could plough that piece of 
field, even though he knew very well that those trees 
were In honour to the insurgents. He was wealthy and he 
could have his way. He made sure that the trees were 
cut down. Soon afterwards he died, though he had been 
a healthy young man. People say that he died so 
suddenly because he desecrated the place of 

In Mitoszowice we used such objects as the spinning 
wheel or yokes that were not useful any more when we 
came to the Lower Silesia. Yokes were used to carry 
water in the buckets from the well. You had to put a long 
stick on your shoulders, with a bucket of water 
suspended on each end. It was important to balance 
these two buckets, and then you could carry them. In 
Mitoszowice we grew our own flax and we used spinning 
wheels to spin threads. We didn't do it here. 

My luggage included some clothes for my children who 
were very small then. I also took some clothes for myself 
and some pillow cases and sheets. How could I start a 
new life without linen? These things were very necessary 
to have. My husband had left a few days earlier in order 
to find us a definite place and work, so that we were 
going in a particular direction with precise plans. 

Differences in architecture were striking. In my native 
village there were wooden houses with thatched roofs 
whereas here I saw brick houses with tile roofs. Besides, 
even villages like Zagrodno had blocks of flats, whereas 
in my native area only bigger towns had them. In myoid 
place there were mud roads and simple paths, but here I 
noticed that most roads had been asphalted. On the 
other hand, my native area industry hasn't destroyed the 
landscape and natural beauty, which unfortunately has 
happened in many places in Silesia. There is also a 
difference in climate. In the Lower Silesia the climate is 
not as severe as in the area near Sandomierz. 

In terms of work, life was easier here. Ever since I 
arrived, there have been more machines and labour- 
saving devices here and therefore life was easier. The 
living conditions were better. But also people have 
different mentality here. Everybody who came here, no 
matter where they were from, wanted to look for new life 
What values have I found here? Hmm... the most 
significant thing is that the Lower Silesia is a real melting 
pot. After the war people who had lived in Ukraine, 
Belarus, Kaszuby, Kielce, Germany, Podkarpacie and 
many other places settled here. Therefore, when I met 
new people I got to know various cultures, traditions and 
dialects. We shared our heritage. It is a great lesson of 
tolerance. Therefore the Lower Silesia is such a special 

Nevertheless, I feel more at home there, in Mitoszowice. 
Although so many years passed, my children grew up 
here and my grandchildren were born here, I still feel 
strong emotional bonds with the place of my childhood 
and youth. If it hadn't been for economic survival, I would 
have never left my native village. It's true that life is 
easier here, but I'd rather stay at home and work as hard 
as I did when I was very young than leave my home and 
change my life completely. I'm glad you are interested in 
my story. 
There is so much more to tell. But maybe we'll have 
another opportunity to talk about it. 



OCOlATj 61AC i 


ClockWIse from left bohom: 
1. WIth sISters. Janina at the nght 
2. 1936 In Belgium. WIth tam. Janina in the 
mldde ot the first row 
3. Janina sells sweets in Belgium. 19305 
4 Her schoolclass In Belgium 


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Hubert Tretalski Interviews his Grandmother Janina Tretalska 


I was born in Sosnowiec in 1927 When I was nine our 
family emigrated to Belgium because of poverty and high 
unemployment in Poland. We lived in the city of 
Jemappes. In 1945 I came back to Poland and settled in 
Kowary, a small town at the foot of the Karkonosze 

I remember the journey from Poland to Belgium and I 
was aware that I was leaving Poland. but I was only nine 
then. I perceived the journey from Belgium to Poland as 
my real migration. 

I remember the amusement park which I once visited 
with the whole family. It was breathtaking. I can still 
recollect the laughter of a clown and the taste of chips 
The second memory is connected with my school. When 
I was 14 or 15, a missionary from Congo visited us. I 
must tell you that I was attending a very strict Catholic 
school. It was so wonderful to listen to his exotic stories 
He was talking about African landscapes, wild animals. 
uncivilized tribes. At that moment I wanted to be a 
missionary, too! 

In the centre of the city of Jemappes there was a huge 
monument with a rooster on the top. The name of that 
rooster was Coque Goulois Ikok golual and it was the 
emblem of Jemappes. We were visiting that place almost 
every day. 

I scarcely remember the first migration. The only thing I 
remember was that we were travelling via Berlin and the 
city was bathed in lights. In 1936 that place was busy 
with life and energy. 

When we were coming back to Poland in 1945, our 
luggage was enormous! I took everything I had. I could 
hardly walk carrying my bags. We knew we would never 
come back, so we took everything we could. 

I keep the memories of my schoolmates and classmates 
For me all those people are still a symbol of my youth. 
When I left Belgium I was 18 years old, almost a grown 
up woman. 

The journey back to Poland in 1945 lasted the whole 
week. It was just after the war and the railway was badly 
damaged in some places. When we were coming back 
there was no Berlin. The whole city was ruined 

The first winter in Poland was a huge shock. We came in 
October, but in Belgium autumns and even winters were 
quite warm. Not in Poland. During the first winter we 
were terrified. It was extremely cold and we have never 
seen so much snow! Never! 

The landscapes were very different. Jemappes was a 
centre of mining and metal industries. The whole city 
was generally grim and dark. There were mining 
slag heaps everywhere and there was very little 
unspoiled nature. Too little. But in Kowary everything 
was green. The landscapes were, and still are, 
breathtaking. I was surrounded with mountains and I 
wanted to climb each one immediately. In the mining 
area in Belgium there were only blocks of flats Only the 
church and the city hall were typical for Belgium. They 
were high, beautifully ornamented and of course gothic. 
In the Lower Silesia I saw German residential districts 
everywhere. But generally in Belgium architecture was 
better and more modem. 

Food was also different. In Belgium we used to eat 
mostly vegetables and exotic fruit. In Poland there were 
no exotic fruit when we came back. We had to learn to 
eat fatty food. Another thing was people's mentality. In 
Belgium people treated us very kindly and we 
assimilated very quickly. In Poland we were called -a 
separate population" for many years. And generally, in 
Poland people had a negative attitude to life. Probably 
because of the war and the communist regime. 

Now I perceive Poland as my home. Here lives my 
family, my beloved husband. I have spent more that fifty 
years here. When I was younger I wanted to go back to 
Belgium - it was the land of my youth. Now I love Poland 
and I love Kowary. I want to stay here for the rest of my 


Left: Haltna Zaprucka making bread with her grand 
daughter, according family traditions from Ukraine 
Right; Prepanng meal for Dutch guests with her 
daughter In law on her farm In Mala Kamlenlca.