GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Maria

(POLAND 11)

Sex

female

Age

63

Occupation

former farmer

Location

Wilkanůw

Date

July 1999

 

transcript

The Muschiols received me warmly. You could see that they had prepared for the meeting carefully, wearing their best clothes; each room of the house was freshly cleaned and tidy. Mrs Muschiol offered us coffee, tea and a delicious home-baked cake. From the kitchen window, we could admire a beautiful view - Mount Maria Sniezna, Mount Czarna Gůra etc. The rooms and the garden were full of beautiful flowers, plants, shrubs, which gave the house a special ambience.
Section 1
Whatís your name?
My nameís Maria Muschiol, nee Urner.

Where and when were you born?
I was born in Roztoki near Miedzylesie in 1936. Iíve got a brother - my motherís son from her first marriage. My father died in 1943. Mother re-married. There was this man from Lvov - back then, it was obligatory work there (?). In 1946 my widowed mother somehow fell in love with him, I donít know how [laughs], married him, and later I had one more sister.

What are your recollections of the war?
We didnít have a war around here, only when the Russians came. They lived in peopleís homes here, but they didnít do any harm to us.

Your childhood - what were your favourite plays, ways of spending leisure time? What do you remember most?
Oh, well! We didnít have toys. We were quite poor. We didnít have much money back then. We had almost 10 hectares of the land. They were difficult times - two of us, not much in terms of dolls. Today, it is quite different. Now they have various wonderful toys. We didnít have anything like that then.

What values were cultivated in your family? How were you brought up by your parents?
Not much of that. Work was the most important thing. My parents didnít have much time for us. We didnít have any machines. All the farm work had to be done by hand. During the war, we bought some more land from our neighbour, and so there was even more work, as we didnít have any machines, we had to cut everything with a scythe. The grain, hay - all of it had to be raked with hands. Although I was very young at that time, I had to help, take the cows out to the pasture. Later, in Ď44 I went to the first Holy Communion, and to confirmation in Ď45, when there already were Russians. And then, it was a really hard time for us, cause they started deporting us in Ď46, the first round was in the spring.
When the Russians were there, it was awful: they took away our cows, they took away the radios. I remember, there was a large horse-drawn cart in the neighbouring yard, and we all had to bring our radios and throw them onto that cart, like hay [laughs]. There was this Russian soldier, drunk as a lord, and he wanted to come to one of the widows living there. There were no men around, so she locked herself in her house and wouldnít let him come in, so he broke all the windows in the house with his gun. We were so scared of that, and that lady ran away to the forest. Apart from that, I cannot say a bad word. They didnít do anything wrong to my mother or to myself. One evening, I was already lying in bed, and two Russians came, and my mother was terrified because they liked to rape women, and my mother told them that her daughter was lying in bed with typhoid. They were so afraid, they ran away immediately. Later, we went to school.
Section 2
Why did you decide to stay?
Well, we stayed because my mother had married that father from Lvov, so they didnít deport them. And we were their children - how could they deport us? And so it went slowly: autumn, summer. But we all had to leave the village. Although some stayed behind. There was this man, a lonely person, he had a very old mother. She was seriously ill, she was over 80 years old. She was lying in bed, so they couldnít deport her. And there was one farmer, he originally came from Upper Silesia, and he said he was Polish, I think he said his name was Nowak. All the others had to leave everything and go. Because it happened that the Germans were taking away with them anything they liked. But I didnít go through anything like that. My aunt told me.

What was the Polish settlersí attitude towards you?
I canít say anything bad. When we were going to school, they didnít make fun of us, only the following generations - when our children went to school, it was much worse.

How do you recollect your school, relationships between the teachers and the students. Perhaps there were some problems because of the language?
Yes, it was difficult, I didnít know a word of the language. There was an elderly man - a teacher - Picinski his name was. And there was another teacher, a woman, she was very strict, very unpleasant, but itís better not to remember that. But she was such a ragged, neglected woman. She was strict to everyone. I canít say she was vicious to me only. The Polish children - I canít say anything bad about them. Only when I got married in Ď63, and we moved here (Wilkanůw), we were strangers. People looked down at us, and when the children went to school, it was even worse. They were good learners. But others would say to them, you write in the Kraut language and thatís why you get good grades, you read in the Nazi language, thatís why learning is easy for you. Poles thought their stepfather was from Ukraine.
At the beginning, when they saw that mother decided to stay, they helped us a lot, they brought and gave us bedclothes, towels, crystal glass. What they could, they gave us, they were not rich themselves. They wanted to deport my mother, and they put my father to prison in Ď46, just when my sister was born. One day after the sister was born, they imprisoned my father and they wanted to deport my mother. They wanted to take all our belongings for themselves. A man - he was the mayor, quite a nice person, but who would have guessed what he really thought, deep at the back of his head - came to our neighbours, to a party. And while partying, they said to one another, more or less, you know what, you will take their land and we will take what theyíve got inside. And they were drinking. One of them had a gun - well, back then they had all that. And they quarrelled. One of them said, no, Iíll take everything that theyíve got inside and he shot the other one. Immediately they took him to prison, the police did.
Section 3
How did you bring up your children?
[doesnít want to talk...] Differently, well, I must say, everyone respects what theyíve got from their parents. At school, they were good students, later on they went to secondary schools, and they went to music school, they were good students, they received diplomas. But later, in Ď88, they went away. My daughter is a teacher of music. Other children went to their aunt in Germany and stayed there. Theyíve got jobs there, got married. But we brought them up normally, the Catholic way, to be good people. All our neighbours liked our children, the children always greeted everyone.

How was the problem of language in the church?
Well, we had to learn everything from the very beginning, even to pray. Somehow, slowly, we managed eventually. I donít know myself how this all entered my head.

What did this area look like back then?
Well, there were traditions. I cannot tell you much, cause I would have to have lived in it. You would have to ask my parents.

Was alcohol a problem or didnít people drink back then?
I cannot tell. In our family, the problem didnít exist. There were four restaurants in Roztoki. Itís such a small village. And always after the church, men would go in. Mother said that some women would go round the place so that they wouldnít meet them.

Your first meeting with your husband...
There was such a family in Roztoki, who stayed as well - they originally came from Upper Silesia. My husband lived in Waliszůw. And that man in Roztoki. They had such a large farm, a restaurant, a large house. So he didnít have to build any more, only buy some machines and go on working. And I lived a few houses away. And so we met. They didnít have a horse or anything, it was such a beginning. We had a horse, and they often came to borrow it. And so we met, but we werenít engaged for a long time. He was 29 years old, I wasnít young, either, I was 27. Three months passed and there was a wedding party, and so weíve lived somehow ever since. My husband is a good man, hard working, Iíve never complained. He doesnít drink, only heís got poor health because we had to work in a workshop with chemicals, varnishes, and it had an effect on the health later on.
Section 4
What was the situation in Polish public offices? Did you have any problems with changing your name?
We didnít have any problems, only in Silesia, they had. My maiden name is Urner, they didnít change anything at our office.

How did local authorities function back then, public offices?
I cannot tell you anything about that, I was too young. I never had anything to do with public offices, cause all the matters were fixed by my father. My mother didnít speak Polish and she never learned. My stepfather spoke German, he spoke quite good German.

What did this culture clash look like? Are German traditions cultivated in your home?
This was a poor area, we all lived simple lives. They had traditions in Upper Silesia. We were thinking only about work. There was a linen factory in Roztoki, they took poor people there, the others - the better-off ones - had their own farms. If someone had some more than others, they thought they were better then others. There were such differences back then. Now we know more about Polish traditions, I canít compare the two. We didnít go to parties or anywhere. We were careful. Because you know, if there were some talks about politics, it was always about us. We were trying to avoid that. Now it is not that bad - good morning, goodbye. People have got used to us, we have got used to them. So many years have passed now. Children have grown up, theyíve got their own families.

How does the mountainous area influence your life? Perhaps you would like to go elsewhere?
At the beginning, I wanted to be among my own kin. Once we went to visit my aunt in Germany, that was in Ď74, and everything was different there. Everything was available in the shops, I was offered a job there, my husband worked a little in Germany, cause we wanted to earn some money. And because we could work there, our life improved a bit. But that brought about peopleís envy. It is normal, I think, because everyone would like to have a better life. We wanted to stay there, but it would have been difficult to leave all our belongings back in Poland. After all, we built all that with our own hands. Others came and found ready farms, we had to make something out of nothing. At my auntís in Germany, the area was more flat.
Why did we come to Wilkanůw? My mother-in-law lived here. For two years we lived at my motherís-in-law, later we bought the plot where our house is now standing, we bought it from our neighbour, and we built the house in Ď68. And so, slowly, slowly, unlike today - today, they want to have everything, TV set, virtually everything as soon as they move in - first we furnished one room, then the second one. We put paper on the floor, it wasnít easy for us. We were the first ones to start building a house in this area. Neighbours shrugged and said, you will be building, you will be building, and there will be a war. We were forced to start building, cause we couldnít live all our lives at the mother-in-lawís, all of us in one place, husbandís sisters, brothers, us. My husband said, we have to build our own nest. At first we wanted to buy something, but all that was available were old and expensive houses. At first we didnít have much money. We made hollow bricks ourselves. In the first year, we prepared everything, so later, everything went much more smoothly.
Section 5
What did you do in your respective family farms, and what when you had one household, after youíd got married?
My husband had hens, but then we were not yet together, and in my family home, there was just the regular farm activities. At first, when I was 16 to 19 years old, I worked at timber works, we manufactured fruit baskets. Some of us plaited the bottom, others the sides, and I, among others, did the handles. The factory was situated in Domaszkůw. In the summer, we went there by bicycles, in the winter - on foot. It was nice and clean work. Only young girls were employed there. It was a way of earning some extra money. Because there wasnít much from the farm. Because we had to sell all our crops for half price, for half its value. For example, on the market 100 kilograms of wheat cost about 50 zlotys, and we had to give it away for 18-19 zlotys. We were obliged to give it away.
One year, we had a lot of wheat, and it remained for the next year. But it wasnít that good, because over the year, some worms infested the grain. My father tried hard to clean it and managed to sell it. But when we went to the granary, the operator must have noticed something, cause some of the grains had holes in them. I had to always be with my father, cause he wouldnít manage to unload all the sacks to the warehouse. And the owner said, pull it, pull, and he looked, but luckily he didnít notice anything. If he had, that man might have been punished. That was back in the Stalin days.
We did everything together, we had to varnish everything, saw, heave. My mother-in-law also had a farm, she rented 3 hectares, so we helped her as well, and she had three cows which yielded a lot of milk, and later, there was that elderly couple, and they couldnít work any more, so my mother-in-law advised us to buy their land. I said, whoís going to work there. My husband, however, got convinced, and we bought four hectares. We gradually got into farming and, starting from one cow, we finally had three and four calves. We had 50 litres of milk. Later on, we sold everything, when times changed so much.

Back then, you kept various farm animals, farming was more profitable, wasnít it?
Yes! A lot of milk. In Ď83, Ď84 and Ď85 people sold a lot of milk. There were such little benches by the street, on which you put milk containers, and they would come from the dairy and collect them. But you had to hurry, cause later, there was so much milk, that there was not enough room on those benches. When I carried three milk cans, I... [silence]. I worked so much, but then I said thatís enough.

Are you resting?
Iím not resting, but I donít work all that much. My hands hurt, I suffer a lot.

What is it like now? Do people come back to the country or do they rather go to towns?
Oh, well. In the Ď80s a lot of people wanted to run to towns, because young people are like young people have always been, theyíve never wanted to work hard. And because life wasnít that easy in towns, either, cause the shops were empty, all you could buy was what you had coupons for... Some didnít succeed and later they said it was just as well they hadnít succeeded, now they came back and started building. In the village of Wilkanůw, there are a lot of new houses. But it is still quite unprofitable to work in farming, it is difficult to sell their products. Some of them still have the all wheat they harvested, they keep it in the attic somewhere. And thatís their sole source of income. They will not buy milk, either, cause the dairy in Bystrzyca is closed. I donít know why they do this. Well, we still have something to do, but my husband has just renovated his workshop, cause he doesnít feel well, and still he wants to do something for himself, cause itís always deadlines, deadlines, and you cannot do anything for yourself.
Section 6
Over the years, did you notice any changes in the natural environment in the mountains?
In the old days, we cooked, did the laundry, using the river water. We bought our first cooker in Ď62 or Ď63. Before that, we cooked on this plate. I went to the river to rinse the laundry, there was such a river nearby. Then we bought our first washing machine, but it still needed boiling - it did the washing only - you still needed to rinse it, but still people had time for everything. After all, we had 9 hectares of land, and all that had to be cut with a scythe. All the grain was cut with a scythe and then gathered by hand. Mother would gather it, I did the binding. Then we had to thresh it. It usually took the whole winter, but still we had time for everything.
Now we have automatic machines, all that stuff, but still there is so much work. Back then, we had only bicycles - sometimes we would go sightseeing, my friend and myself. There was no tradition, like there is now, that they have to go to Polanica, by car. We travelled by bicycles, but never too far, only to the next village, cause how far can you get by bicycle. We didnít have time to get close with the nature, admiring it. On Sundays, we had only two to three hours of leisure, then you had to milk the cows. On Sunday morning, we had to cook dinner, then, at 12 oíclock, there was the Sunday church service, dinner, washing up, and only then you were free. Thatís how it was at mine. Some parents did everything themselves, but I couldnít leave everything to my mother. She was already old, had problems with her legs. Then, we had to help in the cow-shed.

Did you catch fish in the river?
No, not us. I remember that there used to be trout in the river, my brother sometimes caught them, although we were not allowed to.

And how about the fruit of the forest - mushrooms, berries?
We didnít go mushroom picking, either, it was too far to the forest from ours. I was a bit scared, my mother was afraid to eat mushrooms [laughs], and my husbandís brother doesnít like mushrooms and he doesnít eat them. I, personally, like to eat some from time to time. Now, it is not far to the forest so sometimes we go mushroom picking. My daughter likes it and sheís good at preserving them, she will always find something.
Section 7
Seasons of the year - there are four of them?
Here, it has always been winter. When I came home, it always was all white, frozen, ice-covered. And now thereís almost no winter. Nor are there summers: it rains continually. All I know is winters. And in the summer, whether something was growing or not, we were not interested as children. But maybe itís different now.

Do your children often come to visit you?
They come every year. This year, they are going to come in the summer, on holiday. Last year, they spent Christmas with us. She also has a job there, theyíve got a small child now, two and a half years old, so they cannot come so often as they would like. But my son, whoís in Germany as well, he comes quite often, every three weeks. He got married here, with a girl, she was a teacher in Roztoki - quite a nice girl, and my daughter got married there, in Germany.

That is very strange. You have stayed here, and your children went to Germany.
My daughter said, ĎWhat you didnít do, I did.í It was hard for her. Without parents, without anyone. Not far from the French border, she got a job. She never admitted but I think she cried from time to time, but she wouldnít come back, it would be such a shame. Sheís been there for quite a while now, and she sometimes comes to Wilkanůw. She managed to survive, and then she met her husband. Sheís a music teacher, and so is his mother. They organised some sort of a teachersí party, and he came there, cause he plays the violin as well, and they met there. She works there, sheís got her friends there, maybe itís a bit easier for her now. But we are not happy about it, itís too far. We sometimes go there as well. Weíve been there twice already.

Did you observe the settlers here, those who arrived at your village after the war, how did they cope?
They didnít know how to handle certain things. They learned a bit from the Germans, cause they lived together for some time, they came in Ď45. The Germans had to work, and they only watched how things were done, they learned and drank a lot, cause they saw, theyíd obtained such properties, so they had to celebrate. Some of them didnít have the slightest idea what to grow, they didnít know how to till the soil. They had a lot of weeds in their fields, thistles. There were instances of the settlers moving again, to some other parts of Poland. Some of them stayed for a while, they took whatever was valuable, worth taking, and they went to the central parts of Poland. For example, on Mount Czarna Gůra, there used to be villages, but now you can hardly find a sign of life there, thereís only a small chapel. Generally speaking, thereís hardly anything left in the mountains.

The Germans who had to leave these areas, do they come back, do they still remember, talk about the old days, their native land?
They come here very often, they want to talk. Some people receive them warmly, but some only ask, what do you want here? But as far as Wilkanůw, quite a lot of them came. One year, there were three coach loads that came at a time. Well, itís because the surroundings are beautiful, the walk the mountains, go sightseeing, sometimes they get invited. Itís only the young generation that doesnít want to keep any contacts. The older generation does. They all do so little for the tourists. In the Ď80s, when the Germans came here, they said, Mrs Muschiol, we canít even get anything to drink. That was terrible. Or, if you go to Mount Snieznik, there used to be such a beautiful viewing tower; why should anyone want to demolish it, I donít know. It could be used for tourists, couldnít it? Or on Mount Maria Sniezna, everything is falling apart, and I think they could open some sort of a nice shop, a restaurant. They donít have such traditions around here.
Section 8
Did you or your neighbours think about opening an agro-tourist farm here?
We [laughs] didnít. There was too much work in the carpentry shop. From the very beginning, weíve been into furniture manufacturing, now we make doors. There was one German, he came here and was looking for it, itís always cheaper for them. And we had to do it precisely, clean it, file. They have always been satisfied.

Have you experienced any calamities here?
Yes, there were floods. In Ď41 or Ď42, there was a flood in Roztoki, everything was flooded. Itís more or less every 10 years that there is high water, but the one two years ago was exceptional. They say there was a similar flood back in the 17th century, but then it was 20 centimetres lower. Not anything like what happened two years ago. You couldnít see the road.

Did the flood affect you directly two years ago?
Well, we had water in the cellar. But we managed to get the cars further up. Where the workshop is, there was only 10 - 15 centimetres of water. The whole road was demolished. On Sunday came the first wave, and on Monday night came the second, and it took away half of our garden. At our neighbours, it was close to completely destroying quite a new house.

What were the peopleís reactions when faced with such a danger?
Everyone was alright then, only later, when the assistance was distributed, there was envy, hatred. Some got it, others didnít. There is one neighbour, who lives upstairs, doesnít say good morning to her neighbour who lives downstairs. She says those various things that they got will last them for a lifetime, and she will never be able to afford them, and she never got anything. Although she should be glad she wasnít affected, she didnít lose anything. We had problems as well, but thereís nothing to talk about.

How do people explain to themselves the causes of the flood?
They say itís a punishment from God, but I donít think so. God doesnít want to punish anyone.

From what you say, I gather youíre quite a conscientious, hard-working person.
I have always worked, cause you cannot manage on your own in a workshop. You have to turn things, bring, take out. And those doors can be very heavy - 80 kilograms. Some people, when they come to collect them, they say, donít carry them [laughs], theyíre so heavy. Or when building. Normally, you would say, women donít have to assist in building. And I was. I wanted to have a place to live in, I helped with the concrete, and I could see the effects, the wall is here that wasnít here before, thereís one more room, you know. I have to be where things happen. People always take off their shoes when they come to us. I always say, you donít have to take off your shoes. After all weíve got water, rags, we can clean it. At other peoples itís out of the question. When my husband comes in from the workshop, cause heís forgotten something, he will not take off his shoes. Iím not going to fly, he says. Thatís not what I built it for. We built this house together with my husband, but the man is the head anyway.
We have such a beautiful view, thereís the Maria Sniezna church, there is Mount Czarna Gůra, there is Mount Snieznik. There, you can see a construction site - a new school is being built, a modern one. We will see what comes out of it [We approach the window, Mrs Muschiol talks about what we can see]. They complain they donít have enough money. The Germans help a lot in the construction. Even my husband applied for those machines, diggers to remove the flood damages, and they brought three machines.
Section 9
What do you now think about your decision from 50 years ago?
I made a mistake, cause everybody left, all the village.

How did you keep in touch with your relatives?
At first, they couldnít come to visit us. For the first time they came in Ď73, and still they needed an official invitation. Iíve got a cousin, a distant relative, sheís got the same name as I, and I invited her as a sister, and so she was able to come then. Somehow they found out she wasnít a sister. That was back in Ď65, they were quite well-off - they lived in West Germany.

From what your relatives told you, how did those deported ones accommodate to new conditions, their new home?
They had to start from scratch as well. They were not welcome there, either. When they first arrived, they had to live in some sort of a shed for two years. Someone told me that the gaps in the walls were so wide, you had to fill them with rags. They didnít have much space, either. If there was a larger family, they would get a better room. But they were laborious (industrious) people, they soon bought houses for themselves, partially from the damages that were paid to them for the properties left behind in Poland. Our neighbour told me that his daughter wrote to him that the father died from nostalgia. After all, heíd had a nice farm, heíd had horses and things. And now he went there, got a small room, back here, heíd had freedom. But that was the war. They wrote letters. My mother wanted to go there on holiday but that was impossible. The border was closed.

What do you and your brothers and sister feel to be - Poles of Germans?
Well, my brother speaks very little German, he married a very nice Polish girl, my sister married a Pole as well. I donít even ask them how they feel.

And you?
And me. I am German and I will never be Polish. Itís impossible. Nobody will convince me. You see, when they came here, those, asking questions, they told my husband to shut the door. And he said there was no need to shut the door, the wife would hear everything anyway. We donít have secrets. They wanted to ask him questions. Why do we feel to be Germans? And my husband said, why donít you feel to be Russian? After all, my mother was German, we all were, so what do you expect me to feel. Everybody says we are German, Krauts, no matter whether we say we are Polish or not. It will never be different. How would you feel?
I prefer speaking my dialect, itís more difficult to speak clean German. But I manage, we keep in touch with the Germans. They always asked how come I still speak such good German.
Section 10
When you decided to stay, how did you imagine your future?
I remember, I always listened to such a song from a gramophone record. It said, I want to have a house with a garden. Thatís what I dreamt about, and my dream has come true!

Thank you for the conversation.