GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Adolfina

(POLAND 40)

Sex

female

Age

63

Occupation

pensioner

Location

P

Date

P

 

transcript

Mrs. Pajak lives in a detached house with her mother. Both ladies were very kind to me and led me to the tidy, nice living room, where our conversation took place. The narratorís mother, named Ludwika, participated in our conversation from time to time, adding some interesting information. During the interview, the narrator felt relaxed, and ready to give me any information I was interested in.

Section 1
First, letís talk about you a little: where and when were you born?
My name is Adolfina Pajak, I was born on 21st of November, 1936 in Tarnowica Polna.

Have you got any children?
I have got two grown-up sons: Bogdan and Miroslaw. Bogdan with his family lives in Sieradz, Miroslaw lives not far from me, in Klodzko, with his wife and two sons: Pawel and Tomek.

What did your parents do?
Our farm wasnít very big. We didnít own any machines. The soil was very fertile: black-earth mainly. The crops were excellent. We grew hemp, flax, and of course wheat. We also had our own linseed, so we didnít have to buy oil, we produced it on our own. There was an oil-work in the village. My father used to take linseed there and they produced oil out of it. We didnít buy linen at the shop, either. My mom with my granny spun linseed. They gave the yarn to the local weaverís who produced linen for us. My granny bleached it for the whole summer: she put it on the lawn and poured it with water. I remember doing it myself. From that textile we made clothes: menís shirts, underwear, and bed-clothes. We didnít have electricity in our village, we had to use paraffin-oil for lighting. We never bought bread. We baked it at home in a big stove, we put the loaves on a big cabbage leaves.

Was the bread baked every day or did you bake more at one time, in advance?
The bread was baked once a week, 8 or 9 loaves per week. We also baked flitches (side of a salted hog), which we ate with potato soup. We didnít use to bake any cake, we couldnít afford it. The housewives made cottage cheese and butter on their own. The food was generally very plain, but fresh and healthy: free from chemical fertilisers. We made fertilisers on our own, from the dung. We led a healthy life: there were no cars, so the air was fresh. There was only one bicycle in the village. People used to walk, ride horses or go by horse-carts. We grew a lot of maize. At the time of harvest, the whole floor was covered with it, and we peeled it together. There were no machines for potato-picking; people did it with hoes, the potato-picking took up to three weeks, day by day. The poorer peasants threshed the hay with flails, the better-to-do ones used horse-driven mill. This is how I remember the life there.
Section 2
Can you tell me something about Christmas traditions?
Despite we never had Christmas tree, we had a lot of enjoyment during Christmas. We put some hay on the table and covered it with white tablecloth. We put a small sheaf of hay in the corner of the room, there was also a lot of hay spread on the floor where the children played.

What sort of meals were served on Christmas Supper?
The main course was kutia (the traditional festive dish served on Christmas Eve in the Ukraine) and all sorts of pies and raviolis: stuffed with cabbage, with fruit etc. We also had herrings and we fried doughnuts.

How did the children play? Do you remember your favourite toys?
We didnít have any toys, we were very poor. Parents couldnít afford to buy us toys. We used to play with spoons, lids or dishes. We didnít eat sweets, either. Just bread and milk for breakfast.

Did the inhabitants of Tarnawica Polna live from farming only?
There was poverty. There was no industry. People lived on what they made themselves. It needed a lot of effort to buy a plot of land, the ground was very expensive. Only the richest farmers could afford to buy a field on their own.

How many people did your household consist of?
We had one room and one shed and our family, which was five people, lived in it. All of the families had similar living conditions, regardless of how big the family was. Just before í39 some families started to build two-roomed houses. However, they couldnít get used to living in such Ďcomfortableí conditions, so they usually let one of the rooms to someone else.

Do you remember any customs or traditions from the East?
Yes, there was a tradition to buy new clothes before Easter to look smart at the church. After the mass, we started having fun around the church. This feast usually lasted till late night.

What was the landscape like in the East?
Plain area mainly, no mountains at all. The soil is very fertile: black-earth, without any boulders. People lived on agriculture only as the soil gave good harvest.

Were there any forests around?
Yes, there were forests, too.

Did you have any profit from the forest?
Yes, of course, we did. The houses were made of wood. The plaster for covering the walls was made of clay and straw, roofs were thatched.

I guess that such wooden constructions were the subject to fires, werenít they?
Yes, the fires were very frequent. Even the sparkle from the chimney would cause fire at times. The roofs were covered with straw.
Section 3
Were there any people in the village who would take a drop now and then?
No, in our nearest surroundings, there werenít any. However, the moonshine was produced of course.

Wasnít it forbidden?
No, it wasnít.

And after you came here, didnít the problem of alcoholism exist?
No, it didnít. At least I donít know anything.

According to which religion traditions were you brought up?
According to catholic ones.

Recall the year 1939 - the outbreak of war. How did you and your family manage?
My father was taken to the army. We remained on our own: two little girls with mother and grandmother. We made ourselves a shelter to hide from missiles. Unfortunately, the shelter very quickly turned out to be of miserable quality: every little bullet would shoot it through, so we decided to move into the neighboursí one. During the front fights, the whole village was burning. In 1943 when the German were withdrawing their arms, they damaged everything. Those lucky ones whose houses survived, took the victims to their houses. That way, it so happened that in one house there were two or even three families accommodated. That situation lasted for more or less two years. There were hardly any men left (they all went fighting), so there was nobody to build the new houses. There was no possibility Ė it was war.

In which circumstances did your house get burnt?
All of us lost our houses at the same time: when the German were withdrawing their weapons, they burnt whatever they met on their way.

What did you try to save first?
First of all, our granny tried to save the cattle.

Did anybody help you during the fire?
No, there was nobody around. People got such a fright that, first of all, they wanted to survive, and escaped from the fire. My granny was the one who started the evacuation with saving cattle and a horse. Thanks to that, we were able to bring some cows here, to the west. After the fire, our uncle took us to his place. We lived there in one room; two families together. In 1944, our village was constantly attacked by the Ukrainian. We had hardly managed to take a breath after the war, when Ukrainian gangs started to appear in the village and murder the inhabitants. That was the time when men still kept weapon at home. They kept guard through the nights, while women with children (sometimes 10, sometimes even 15 families), gathered at one place, to feel safer. This situation lasted for one year. To make things worse, we couldnít even complain to any state institution, since that area didnít belong to Poland any more. If we wanted a peaceful life, we could have gone to the west of Poland. If we had decided to take Ukrainian citizenship, we could have felt safe.
Section 4
When did you learn about new border line and how did you react?
We were very happy. We were all very tired with the horrors of war: poverty, fear, death, etc. Poland seemed to be our promised land. We got ready at once and went to Otynia, where we were to wait for two weeks for the train to the west of Poland. We were afraid to stay in our village because of the gangs that were present there all the time.

What happened to your homes and farms, which you left in Tarnawica Polna?
Some of the farms got burnt completely. The ones which stayed, were lodged by new settlers from the mountains called Lemkowie.

What was your trip to the west like?
Some wagons carried cattle, the other ones, which were in fact goods wagons, carried people. One wagon could put 10 families, which is 20/30 people. We slept on the hay, lived on dry bread which we took with us. Those who carried their own cows, had milk which they usually shared among the others. In this way we travelled west-bound for two weeks.

Did you have any stops during which you could rest for a while, have a wash, or cook something?
Yes, there were a few, but they never were announced. Once the train stopped, housewives started cooking soups. Suddenly, the departure was announced, so we hurried to collect everything back to the train. If we didnít manage, we left everything as it was. The living conditions in those two weeks were really hard.

Which season was it?
It was July. We arrived there when plums were ripe. I remember a German woman shouting at me when I picked a plum from a tree. We lived with the German for a year.

Now, could you tell me a few words about the very beginnings; how did you organise your life there?
The German hosts were very kind to us. They gave us a room at our disposal upstairs. They served us all the meals: breakfasts, lunches, dinners. The German, on the other hand, liked our pies. Our German host frequently asked my granny to cook pies to them. We also worked together in a field. The German were very hard-working and they knew how to economise. They were very careful about everything. They mended the things which were damaged instead of buying new ones. They were also very punctual. The Polish mentality and style of work was extremely different.

Do you remember your first Christmas on the West.
Christmas Eve was organised according to the Polish tradition. We baked cakes. We shared the holly wafer, etc. I remember the Santa Clause. The German woman gave us Christmas presents. We were happy as we never used to get presents on Christmas.

The Germanís cuisine was different from the Polish one, wasnít it? Did you like it or did you prefer traditional Polish food?
There were some dishes we didnít know. Some of them were very tasty, but there were also those which we didnít like at all.
Section 5
Were there any children in the German family that you could play with?
No, there werenít. There were two women whose husbands went to fight in the war. They didnít come back.

How did the German behave when they were moving away?
They were very sad, they were crying. They could take whatever they needed. The German womanís luggage was heavy so she couldnít pack more. When she was ready, my father took her in our cart and brought her to the station.

When did your father come back from the war?
My father was taken prisoner by the German. He was released in spring. We arrived here in August, my father returned in April. The German withdrew in autumn.

Did you keep in touch with the German woman you used to stay with?
No, we never wrote to each other.

How did you imagine your future after arriving here?
We foresaw our future very bright. We were very happy to see beautiful, well-furnished houses with electricity.

Were there any people who missed what they left in the East and wanted to come back?
The elderly people were sorry to leave their properties, but they were too afraid of the Ukrainian to come back there. We didnít have any opportunities to see our motherland any more. Later, if one wanted to go abroad they had to obtain an invitation. There was nobody left there from our family, so we didnít have opportunity to go. We heard some news of Tarnawica Polna: hardly anything has changed there. It is said to be still poor and dark.

Was it difficult to adapt in the new reality? Did you learn how to manage in such specific conditions Ė in the mountains?
We had to learn how to operate the agricultural machines which we didnít know. Women learned how to use spinning-wheel. The German left their sewing-machines. It took us a year to take everything up.

What did you grow here?
Rye, oat, wheat, potatoes, beetroots.

Did you take over any new traditions or habits from the German?
We brought and kept all the traditions from the East, but most of them were similar to the ones they had here.

When you were a teenager, what were your daily routines?
I had almost no childhood. My duty was to pasture two cows, three hours in the morning and three in the evening. I also had to pump water into the buckets and bring it to cauldron. Every single child had its duties.

Did you go to the forest?
Yes, we did. There were a lot of blackberries and raspberries, we also picked mushrooms.
Section 6
How do you like living here?
I am satisfied. In the East there were no machines. People did everything manually. At harvest time, women went cutting hay with reaping hooks, and every single straw had its value. People are more extravagant here.

How did it happen that you arrived to Bystrzyca?
We lived in Plawnica until 1958 Ė the year when my father died. There was nobody to work in the farm, so our granny bought a house in town.

What was Bystrzyca like formerly?
When we arrived, the park was beautiful, with a lot of trees, bushes all covered with flowers, neat paths and fountains. Every Sunday a feast was organised, so, young people gathered there to have some fun. Nowadays, this place is very decrepit. Besides, the town hasnít changed much. Of course, there used to be more old houses and the town was smaller because much more people lived in the surrounding villages, where most people lived on farming. Then, when collective farms came into being, many people left villages and moved to town. A new housing estate was built and a lot of people were granted new dwellings there.

At the time when you lived in the village, did you often go to town? Did you find it attractive?
The main aim of our trips to town was the local fair. We sold milk and cream there to earn some money. We used to go to church into town on Sundays. Granny always bought us ice-cream, which was a great attraction for us.

Was tourism flourishing here formerly?
At the beginning, there was no sight-seeing. It developed later. Once, people didnít think of relax, they spent all time working.

Have you noticed any changes in the mountain environment?
I can see that climate and seasons are changing. The severe winter with a lot of snow and strong frost was followed by beautiful spring. It was so warm that we used to go on the 1st May parade without stockings. Summers were hot and sunny, and then there was a typical Polish Ďgolden autumní. These days there is hardly any difference between particular seasons. Besides, the rivers were fresh: boys picked fish, women went to river to rinse the laundry. The environment wasnít as polluted as it is today; there were less cars and factories.

Do you remember you first impression at a new school.
When we arrived here, I went straight to the third class. I had no stationery, not even a pencil. For the first year the headmaster gave copy-books which were left at school by the German.

Is there anything you would like to add?
I think Iíve said very little about the life of a housewife in the East. They had a really hard life. They had to pick hemp, and prepared it to spinning, which lasted for the whole autumn [the narrator shows hand-made divans, cushions, etc.]
Women didnít buy textiles, they made them themselves, they had to know how to spin. Men helped their women in the kitchen a lot. For example, my grandfather had 12 children: when granny spun the hemp; grandpa dealt with cooking for children. Every housewife was able to sew shirts or skirts for her family. In the place where I used to live women didnít wear dresses at all. They wore skirts, aprons and camisoles. We used to walk bare-foot, except winter. In summer we put on shoes only when we went to church. When we learnt that we were moving to Poland, some women sold out their skirts to buy dresses instead.
Section 7
Were there any women in the village who wanted to look more attractive than the others?
My granny went to Steiermark in 1910, and there she noticed that women wore dresses instead of skirts and aprons. She bought one for herself and when she came back to Tarnawica, she put it on. When local boys saw her they started mocking and pointing at her, so she had to come back to wearing skirts. However, she preferred dresses, they were more comfortable and cheaper to sew. Life in the East was primitive. It is quite different here Ė much better.