II .- \
with people who migrated
Polish students from
in Jelenia Gora
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.
I t ''0
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.
teacher trainer English language
Lower Silesia, Poland
Published in Amsterdam,
October 2008 by
. . .
. - - I.... - -
,". o' ...
',:. . verenigi[1g van
. ., '. .,..... ".. vrve wandelaars
"')' i . .
Nemoland, Miedzylesie 5. 58-512 Stara Kamienica
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?
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
GUIDELINES FOR CLASSROOM PRESENTATIONS
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/
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
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
5. With her 3 children: Halina, Peter, Andrew
t . "?
, i .f
1. RED FIELDS OF POPPIES, BLUE FIELDS OF FLAX
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
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
1 1 I
2. A VILLAGE LIKE ONE HAPPY FAMILY
Natalia G6rak interviews her Grandmother Brygida Polerowicz
I . ,
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
3. NOTHING TO LOSE
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
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
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
... , .
.\ , ..
4. I HAD TO TAKE A RISK
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
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.
ClockWise from left bottom:
1. Zofia's wedding in 1961. 2. With granddaughter in 1989 3 With family 4. With village people
5. A VERY SPECIAL BOOK
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
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
6. SINGING WHEREVER I WENT
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
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.
. . I
.. . "
\ . \ ... J
With father and uncle
7. THE GIRL WITH A GOAT
Marta Sadowska interviews her Grandmother Katarzyna Flasz
I was born in R6wne (now Ukraine) in 1935. I am a
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
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
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
Clockwise from left:
1. Aunts ca. 1900. 2. As child 3. Parents in 19305 4. Parade
8. A DOLL LIKE SHIRLEY TEMPLE
Magdalena Siminska interviews her Grandmother Irmina Gnyp
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.
Clockwise from left bottom:
2 Family in 1950's
3. With parents, as child at 15 in the middle of the first row
4. With husband
9. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO TELL
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
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
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
10. FROM BELGIUM TO POLAND
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
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
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
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.