GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Maria

(POLAND 1)

Sex

female

Age

76

Occupation

pensioner

Location

Szczawina

Date

July 1999

 

transcript

Section 1
What is your name?
Maria Czeredys.

When were you born?
4 September 1923.

Where did you live then?
I lived in Szczawina, and I still do.

Where did your parents come from?
Same place.

What was their occupation?
They had a small farm.

What was grown or bred on the farm?
Well, grain mainly, the usual stuff, what was needed at home, and cattle.

Apart from that, did they do anything else for a living?
Well, yes. My father did. Wherever he could, he tried to earn some extra.

What kind of jobs did he do?
He delivered goods, to those who didnít have their own equipment, he delivered goods to them. In the field. He worked for other people.

And your mother, what did she do?
She looked after household.

Only the household?
Yes.

How did you parents bring you up?
[Thinking for a while] Well, normally. We went to school in Stara Lomnica (a village not far away from Szczawina), and after school, when you got home, you had to help in the farm, whatever we could do. Not too hard jobs, still you had to help.
Section 2
What kind of jobs were you expected to perform?
Washing up, tidying up, and in the garden. Yes, you did what was needed to be done.

And what was the social life like?
I would meet my friends only on a Sunday.

And on weekdays, couldnít you meet then?
No, how could we! That was impossible. We were free only on Sundays.

What did such friendly meetings look like?
Most of all we went for walks nearby, it was most crowded near the bottlery (Mineral Water Bottlery). There were lots of holidaymakers, there were guest houses, bathers, so on Sundays, there were real crowds. And cars selling ice-cream - we had everything here, on the spot. There were parties in the evenings, there were two inns. But that was when youíd graduated, naturally, not when you were still a student.

What kind of pastime did you like best?
Well, there were other girls living in the houses nearby, so we would meet, you know. We played with dolls, and we played together. Various kinds of games, whatever we could. We played all sorts of games. Skipping rope, you know, the way children are.

When you were a child, did you hike the mountains, did you like them?
Did I! In the summer, there was the bicycle, in the winter - the skis. We used to ski to school, and when you got back home, there was still time to ski a bit, nobody could live without skis. Without them, I canít imagine life. That was some sport.

What did the village look like? How many houses were there? There arenít many now.
They arenít many because ... erm, erm [trying hard to think]. There were some 30 houses, now they are probably 11. But above all, they were well looked after.

Was there a shop?
Yes, a grocery. There was a bottlery nearby, and it was here when I was a girl already. And people had jobs. There were baths as well, where people were treated, guesthouses, people were treated for rheumatism.

What were those baths you mentioned?
Baths? You know, waters. They received curative baths, and there were normal baths, for washing, where the bathers went. Twice a week a doctor came, for those baths were under medical control.

And what happened to those houses, I canít even see a trace of them?
Ha! Those houses! There are no traces, there are some ruins only!

Were there any other buildings that no longer exist?
As I say, those guest houses - not a trace, those inns that there used to be - not a trace. Later, nobody settled there because, you know, some people who came here were poor. Each went to such a house that had a piece of land, so that they could live on. Because, you know, everybody who came to settle here didnít have anything.
Section 3
How did you till the soil, after all its mountains...
Everything was done by hand.

Wasnít that difficult?
Sure it was difficult.

How did you cope?
Well, normally, only oxen. No tractors, no machines - no way; everything was done by hand - scythes, forks, rakes, here in the mountains we didnít know any other tools.

Did the fieldwork take long?
Sure thing, it is no machine. Everything by hand, it has to take time, but it had to be done.

Did the neighbours help each other?
No, no, everyone on his own.

What traditions were there in this region? What did you do at Christmas?
Christmas, I must say, looked very much the same it does now.

But wasnít there any difference, were the dishes the same or different?
Well, the dishes may have differed a bit, though, you know, things like Christmas trees, presents, or such like, were the same.

Tell me, please, what dishes did you have on the Christmas table?
Well, at ours, when I was young, we had poppy-seed cake, pasta with poppy-seed, you could say, the dishes werenít as many as they are now.

How many were the dishes?
Not many. First of all, there wasnít any meat, as the Christmas Eve was a lent-day. Apart from that, there werenít as many dishes as there are today.

Are you a Catholic?
Yes.

If so, did you go to the traditional midnight service after the supper?
Yes, yes.

Was the service different from what it is now?
No, you know, in the church, everything is the same. Be it Easter or Good Friday, those things are the same.

So you might say that Christmas wasnít different from today?
No, no.
Section 4
Could you describe the house you lived in? What did it look like inside and outside?
Well, lassie, you see, it was like that. I must say they werenít rich people, but the household was kept clean. That was above all. The houses were painted on the outside, and inside as well. Next to each house there was a flower garden. Such things were a must.

Did everyone do the same?
Yes, here you could go through the village, and there was no reason to be ashamed.

What did the houses look like inside then? Was there a certain tradition to be followed, or not?
No, no, I donít think so. Only, you know, we didnít have [central] heating, so everyone had stoves. But other than that, no, no standards. Everyone furnished their homes the way they liked.

And this stove here, does it date back to the Germans?
Yes.

How long has it been here?
Good heavens!

You donít remember?
No, but over 80 years for sure.

Have you got any furniture from those days?
Not any more.

Have these mountains changed since you were a young girl?
Well, the mountains havenít changed, only the trees have grown tall. Because earlier, when the trees had been cut down, they were small, and the whole neighbourhood looked different. Now the trees are tall and the view is not what it used to be.

Did you like the mountains more the way they were, or do you prefer them the way they are now?
The way they used to be.

Why?
Because we had a view. You could see everything in the distance, and now it is all obscured by trees. Now you have to go to Huta (a village situated higher than Szczawina) to look down, because now you canít see Lomnica from here.

Tell me, please, something about your school. What did it look like, how were you taught, what were you taught?
The school is the same you went to (Primary School in Stara Lomnica).

The same building?
The same building, and I went there for 8 years and sat in the same classrooms you did. The school hasnít changed, only the teachers.
Section 5
What subjects did you have to learn?
Well, German, mathematics and history, and geography, and all those you were taught.

Did you like going to school?
I did.

Did you go there willingly?
Sure I did. And I wanted to go on, but at home they didnít agree. They needed help on the farm.

So you couldnít continue your education?
I couldnít.

Did you keep in touch with you school friends later on?
Yes, until this day, until this day. When they come here on a trip, they always pay me a visit.

What plans for the future did you have when you were young? What did you want to be?
Itís difficult to say. I was 16 when the war broke out, there was no planning then.

But surely you had some plans?
I wanted to become a hairdresser or a seamstress, but my parents didnít allow me, so I had to stay at home and help them. And if I wanted to have some money of my own, I would go to the woods in the spring, in the summer I helped, there were guest houses, where you could make some money. I liked having some money of my own.

Did you plan to have a husband, a family, live here, or maybe go elsewhere, see the world?
You couldnít even dream about seeing the world.

Why?
Well, because the times were rather difficult, I simply didnít think about it. And at ours, in our village, we all met together. At ours, on Saturdays and Sundays, it was like in Lomnica.

Did people come over here from Lomnica?
They did. For walks, you know, there were lots of young people! On Sundays in the afternoon, there was a cafe, you could go to the cafe, because there was a guest house, so thatís how we met. But during the war, there was no parties or any such things.

How did you learn about the war having broken out?
We learnt about it not earlier than on 1 September, when it had already started.

What did you feel then?
Itís natural to be afraid of such things.
Section 6
Were you afraid as well?
Wasnít I!

How did your relatives react to the news?
Everyone was shocked, after all nobody wanted it.

Did anyone try to escape the consequences of the war?
No, no. It was rather quiet around here.

Did any war activities take place around here?
No, not this far.

How about Stara Lomnica?
Neither. Only when the war was over, there came some troops, but other than that - nothing.

When did the Poles start arriving here?
[Thinking] Immediately after the war. There were some who worked here during the war.

Poles?
Yes.

Here?
Yes. They were brought to the farmers, there were a few of them in the village. They didnít have a hard time here. They worked for farmers, in the field, they werenít locked or anything, but normally, they lived with the families they worked for.

How did you learn about Poles settling here, and the Germans having to leave?
Immediately after the war.

How did that happen?
That was established by governments between themselves: where the borders would be, who would settle and who had to leave. Immediately after the war.

What did you feel when you learnt you had to leave?
That surely wasnít easy for anyone. Thatís normal. And my husband was working in Germany and we met and stayed together, and my relatives left.

Your husband was Polish, wasnít he?
Yes.

Was it for his sake that you stayed here?
No.

How did you communicate with you husband?
In German, because heíd been working there for some time, and he could.
Section 7
Tell me, please, how you met your husband.
Good heavens! Thereís nothing to talk about. We met a few times and thatís how we got to know each other.

How did you relatives react to your decision to stay here?
They didnít mind, because he (the husband) was a good man , so they didnít mind at all.

How did you feel when your relatives were packing and leaving?
Well, you know, canít really talk about it. [She weeps]

Did a lot change when the Poles arrived?
Well, people changed.

But, for example, traditions, customs...
I will tell you, at first, everyone was left to himself. We didnít visit each other. I had to get to know everyone first, but I didnít speak Polish, so I didnít do a lot in terms of friendly visits.

How did you communicate with the Poles then?
I learnt a few words, and the Poles knew some words as well. We communicated as much as we could. That varied, but there were some who spoke German. Anyway, I didnít get any harm from the newcomers.

I heard some Germans did have unpleasant situations with the Poles. What was your experience?
Adults not so much as children. When my children went to school, they had some trouble with other children, but it wasnít anything serious. It passed.

How did you learn to speak Polish?
Only by talking to people, well, I wanted to, there was a course in Lomnica, for the illiterate, after all there were many Poles who couldnít read or write. But, unfortunately, I had small children, so I couldnít attend. Only what I learned at home from my husband, and later from the radio. I would turn on the radio and listen a lot. Later on I started reading. So reading is not a problem for me.

Was it difficult for you to learn the language?
Sure it was.

How did you feel when you were learning Polish?
I was curious, because I wanted to be able to speak it. After all, my husbandís parents sometimes came, they wanted me to be able to talk to them. They were very good to me, his relatives. Until this day, his sisters and brothers come over, we visit each other, write letters. Yes, his relatives didnít do me any harm, either.

How did you do your shopping at first, when you couldnít speak Polish?
In the first year, it was my husband who did the shopping.
Section 8
So you didnít go out at all?
I didnít. How could I go to a shop, what would I say? My husband did the shopping. And later, gradually, gradually, I ventured. Sometimes it was bad, but I somehow managed.

Do you remember any funny situations resulting from your inability to communicate with the Poles?
Well, it happened more than once, but to be able to relate it now, no I canít [laughing]. Sometimes there were very funny situations.

How did the Poles manage with farming here? After all, they came here from lowlands. How did they manage in the mountains?
It was very difficult for them, so many of them gave up and left the mountains.

Did your husband have problems as well?
He worked in the bottlery.

So he wasnít in farming?
We did have some land. So, if there was something to be done, I had to learn how to. Because he didnít have any land before, from his parents, so he didnít know anything about it. But he worked in the bottlery for 33 years.

How did he find it there?
He was a quick learner.

Did you work anywhere outside the home?
I bred some animals. There was some land. And I also spent 6 years in the bottlery. When children had graduated from schools, that is. Before that I couldnít leave everything and go to work.

Did the traditions of your husband and yours differ much?
We found a way of living together. He always told me how they did things, I told him how we did. So we cultivated both traditions. He accepted mine, and I accepted his.

Did you sometimes have quarrels about that?
No, no, I donít think so.

How did you bring up your children - the Polish or the German way?
At first it wasnít easy. It wasnít accepted for them to learn. At school, they only had Russian, German wasnít taught at all. And at home, I had to learn Polish at first, and together with the children. Later on the children couldnít speak German.

Did you want to teach them to speak German?
I did, but it isnít that easy. When you are busy with work, and you have to explain things to each of them, this how we say this, thatís how say that, it canít be done. And the school didnít teach them. Now they do, but it is too late. If they had had it in the primary school, it would have been much better.
Section 9
What language do you now use for prayers?
Maybe itís a shame to admit, but itís Polish.

When did you start praying in Polish?
When I had learnt it better.

How many years after the war?
At first it was normal, because I went to church, so I had to teach children to pray in Polish as well. So that they would go to church and knew all their prayers in Polish, so I had to teach them, and I learned as well. It may sound funny but thatís the way it is.

How did you make your confessions at first?
You know, there werenít Polish priests at first. At first I always went to confession when there was a German priest. And later, it was normal, I learnt it from the book, I learnt the catechism, it says everything there. And I had already learnt to read, so I learnt from it and I went to confession and did it in Polish.

How long did it take for you to start thinking in Polish?
I donít know. You know, it all came in time, it is difficult to say. Thatís what everyday life brought along. They all spoke Polish around here, everything was done in Polish. It wasnít that a time came and I switched. It was all gradual. Later on, my husbandís sister stayed with us, and she spoke only Polish, so I learnt a lot this way.

Who do you now feel yourself to be: Polish or German?
Well, always German. Although now Iíve been here with the Poles longer than with my own folks. Who knows? [thinking]

Maybe fifty-fifty?
Well, you could say that.

Would you like to go back to Germany now?
If I wanted to, I would have done it a long time ago.

Havenít you ever thought about it?
No. Because Iíve got my children here. If we had left when the children were small, that would have been different. But they were going to school, they married here, hereís where they have their families and so I have my families here and here I am at home. No, I never thought about it. I went for visits, but I stayed there for one-two months and came back home again.

Do you often visit your relatives in Germany?
From time to time. Iíve been there a few times, but now I donít think I will have the courage. Iím not as healthy as I used to.

Do you keep in touch with the Germans who stayed behind as well?
My school friends and village people sometimes come over and visit me.
Section 10
Do you talk about the old days during such meetings?
Certainly, you do talk about good old days. That is normal.

Is there a memory that always comes back?
I used to have three girl friends, very good, close friends, and we have always written letters to each other, and they will phone me. Be it birthday or Christmas, we always wish each other all the best. I always know how they are doing, they know whatís going on in my family. Yes, I do have friends.

What did you do together, when you were young?
Itís only the school years, and at school, it wasnít a long time. During the war we could celebrate anything too much. That wasnít possible. We would only meet in the evening, we sat, knitted. Such hand-made stuff. We would sing together, tear feathers at other peopleís in the village, on winter evenings. And we did some embroidering, together with singing. We didnít have much fun during the war.

Do you remember a song from those days?
Donít expect me to sing for you. I have done my quota of singing.

Did you like singing?
I did.

And did you often sing?
Did I! While working, and in the field, and with children playing at swings, and everywhere. But thatís past.

Did everyone sing like that?
When we met with my girl friends, we sat and sang like hell. And that was already here. At first, there were more of us, but then some left for Germany. Some left the neighbourhood. So now I am the only one left in the village.

During the first days after you relatives had left for Germany, did you feel a stranger here?
Well, that was sad. Because if you know that you are alone, thereís no relatives, Iím on my own, I could only count on my husband.

Were there any neighbours left who you could visit, have a chat?
Germans - no, only Poles.

Did you make friends with them from the very beginning?
Very close, they used to come to my mother. Some of them spoke very good German. So, if I needed, I go and visit someone, or they came over to mine.

What were the relationships between the Poles like?
All of them originally came from the same village, so stuck together here as well. They helped each other out, because the times were hard. Same way our folks did before. The ties between them were much stronger. Now it is that one wants to have more than another. I donít know why itís become that way. Itís not the way things used to be, people liked each other more, respected each other, it wasnít the way it is now.
Section 11
I heard rumours that the Germans who were leaving this area would hide their belongings somewhere. Is this true? Did your relatives do the same?
They could take much with them, could they? All they could take with them was what they could carry. But my parents didnít hide anything, why should they? Others indeed hid stuff, because they used to say they would be coming back soon. Thatís what people said, they would come back soon. But, unfortunately, things went differently. But nobody said what they were hiding and where.

How long did you cherish the hope that the Germans would come back?
You know what, there was no hope at all. After all, we listened to the news, we read, only when they were driving the Germans away, people would say ďItís not for long, not for long, only a couple of monthsĒ. But...

Would you like those times to come back again?
You know what, you canít even think about it.

Why not?
Because it is impossible. How come? After all, the Poles have been here for so long, and how would that come about? And the Germans have their own lives there. The same way, the older people have now died, and those who were born there, have their homes there. Some who come over say ďYou know what, I wouldnít like to be here any moreĒ. Itís been so many years now. They have made their links with the people there, and thatís all there is to it. Nobodyís expecting it to happen now. Absolutely no one. They come to visit, they stay for a couple of days and thatís it. I havenít met a single one who would say ďI would like toĒ. These are childhood memories and thatís all.

Wouldnít you like them to come back here either?
What good would that be to me? I canít tell you either way. How could I say ďI would like you to come backĒ if I know life is easier for them there. Sure it is. They have made their living there. And those who left here, many of them have already died. A lot. This is going to end soon, a couple of years more, and there will be no-one left of those who left here.

What do you feel when your former friends come here?
Iím simply happy. This is natural when you seen old friends, we hug and we are glad to be able to see each other again. Because you never know if it isnít the last time, if you will manage again. You never know.

Have you got a memory that is deep in your heart?
You know what, I donít really think that much about it. Those early years of ours are so twisted because of the war. We are happy when we meet, but I donít think there is something we really want... All you now think about is you health. This is the most important thing at the moment.
Section 12
What do you think, if there hadnít been a war, would your life be different from what it is now?
Sure it would. If it had stayed the way it was, this village would look the way it does now.

What could it look like?
Back then it already was a small spa, and it would have been developed. You could make money here, but now it is too devastated.

Why has it all declined so much?
Because nobody looked after it.

Is that the Polesí fault?
Whose if not theirs? One after another, guesthouses were left empty, they came at night and looted the place, then it all collapsed.

How did you feel when it got gradually devastated?
It wasnít a nice feeling.

Didnít you want to save it somehow?
And what could I do? Was I to walk the village at night and guard the empty houses? That was impossible. You canít imagine it now. Anyway, pity itís the way it is. If somebody had been living in all those houses, they would have been looked after, and thing could be different now.

Whatís your attitude towards the mountains surrounding your home, with you ever since you were born?
They are mountains and they will be mountains and I will be with them as long as I can.

How do you feel about these mountains?
This is, you know... My home, and around it there are mountains and thatís the way it has to be. Nobody will remove them.

Can you imagine living in flatlands?
Yes, I could live in flatlands, but not in the city. After all, you know, on one hand it is a hard life. Now, now it is hard for me, because when I was young, I didnít mind the mountains, but now it is much more harder to me. Despite that Iíd rather stay. Here, where Iíve been for so many years, I will endure till the end.

Do you hike the mountains?
Thereís no way.

Whatís your favourite pastime now?
Now? I try to be of help within the household, whatever I can, in the garden, but now you have to rest. Thereís no more jumping about.
Section 13
Do you still read German books?
I do. If get hold of a newspaper, I read it. Various brochures that they send me, I read, but I also read in Polish.

Do you like reading?
Yes. I read both Polish and German papers. As long as I can... Usually in the winter because now (June) - not so much. Now I help as much as I can, but mainly I sit.

How do you help?
Well, in the household. Cooking, cleaning and some gardening, whatís needed. Some feeding, whatever there is, some animals. But other than that, not much. These days itís... Iíve been working all my life.

They say that where there are meadows now, there used to be fields yielding crops. Is that true?
Yes.

But they are no longer, why?
Because there is no one to work there. Where there used to be farms, now there are no houses. There is no owner, all of this belongs to the State, so who is to plough or harvest? A lot of land is forest-covered, they plant new forests, bushes grow there and thatís all. It is no longer profitable. Animals do a lot of damage, and then you have to pay taxes anyway. Whoís supposed to be doing it?

Donít young people want to live here?
They donít.

Why?
Because it is easier in the town. All the young people have gone to the town. And the old people have either died or left the area and thatís all.

How about your children?
My children are here, in the village.

And theyíve never wanted to leave?
My children didnít want to go to the town.

Why?
Because they donít like it there. They donít like the noise and they have their houses here and they are in the village.

And your grandchildren?
I donít know that. For the time being, they are here, but I donít know what they are planning to do, it depends.

And what would you like for them?
I would like them to be well.
Section 14
Regardless of where they decide to live?
Yes. First of all I want them to be well. If things donít improve in the country, young people will not stay. No way.

Did anything change in farming during the war?
Everybody worked the usual way. The way they did before, everyone attended to their stock.

Did partisans hide in the nearby forests?
No, nothing of that kind. It was quiet around here. In the whole neighbourhood, there was nothing.

Could you feel in any way that there was a war going on?
Only because they took away young men and sometimes farmers as well. Women and children had to look after the farms themselves, but as far as war activities or something like that, no.

Was anyone from your family enlisted?
My brother was for a short time and he got wounded. He was even eighteen when he was taken away.

Where did they take him?
Well, he was in the Klodzko barracks for a few days and then on the front in France. But he has already died [sighs and asks to finish the interview].