GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Franciszek

(POLAND 4)

Sex

male

Age

79

Occupation

former local mayor

Location

Dlugopole Zdrůj

Date

June 1999

 

transcript

Section 1
Can you, please, say a few words of introduction?
I am Franciszek Rokosz, born on 15 August 1920 in Borek Wieki, district of Debica (now in southeast Poland). I lived there until 1939, where I served at that... my uncleís.

He was some sort of an army officer, wasnít he?
No, he was an uncle... An uncle that was... I was only six years old when my mother died, and I lived with my parents until the age of 13, and later I went to service I told you about, I was at my uncleís in Zary; that was six kilometres away from my home village. And I... worked... on a farm... my uncle had a farm, so I sawed, ploughed, in the summer I... pastured the cattle. When the war broke out in 1939... I ran away as far as Janowskie Lasy (Forest of Janůw). And I returned from there when it was surrounded by the Germans. I managed to cross the San (river) back and I returned... home, but only to my father, cause I didnít have a mother, she was... dead. I returned to my father, to Borek, where I stayed until Ď40.

What happened next?
When I returned home, there were three brothers of mine and a sister, they were younger than me and they were... they lived together with my father. There were five of us. And in February, a German came along with the mayor; I donít know if he was German or a confidant or something, and they appointed me and my brother Stefan, heís dead now, to go to Germany... whether we liked it or not. Father had to agree, cause there were too many of us at home, and there were no conditions to live properly. So we went to Germany, together with Stefan, to Bavaria, where I worked in farming until Ď45. It wasnít that bad, the only thing was you were as if imprisoned... you had to work, couldnít go anywhere, we werenít allowed to do anything. But that was bearable, it wasnít that bad.

How about your family?
During my stay in Germany, I kept in touch with my father, I wrote letters, he wrote to me as well, and so I knew what was going on at home. Father was sent to prison for... they said... they said heíd stolen some straw mattresses, but it wasnít true, that was a plot. A plot to destroy... I donít know what, maybe the village, maybe, say, the people out there. And later some other German took his side, and he was released. He was in a concentration camp in Pustkůw... or in Pustynia? I donít know exactly where, but that was near Debica. A newly opened concentration camp. But it wasnít a proper camp, but something... it was similar to a camp. And from there, when my father returned, he was... a dead corpse... he was disabled. Heíd been wounded in the leg, the wound re-opened or something, they injured him.
In Ď45, using the first transport back from Germany, I returned home, cause I thought everything was all right there, the way I found... I left it back in Ď40. The house, the land. But it turned out to be different. Everything had been burned, destroyed, the land ploughed with artillery, there was no food, nowhere to live, nothing to do. Only later, in August, I got a job with the railway, for a month, as a fire operator on a steam engine. But I gave up the job, I didnít seem to like it. I went to a cart factory, where I drove a staliniec (caterpillar tractor). I carried timber from the forest, and later they gave me, cause you were not allowed to drive the tractor on roads, cause it damaged the road with its caterpillars. And they had to give up those... the tractors, and they sent me to work in a boiler room, as an operator, assistant to the operator. I started work at four oíclock, start the fire in the oven, so that there would be steam at seven oíclock, so that all the machines could be started.
Section 2
That boiler room, where was it? In some sort of a factory?
That boiler room, cause there was no electricity, it was in a factory, and that boiler room produced electric current, I mean... there were generators producing electric current and they lit and they powered engines... started engines... electric ones. They used those engines to saw timber, boards, and there were various carpentry machine tools running on it. When the boiler room wasnít working, it was dark, and there wasnít... nothing worked then.
[Despite my pleas and explanations, from time to time we were joined in our conversation by Mr. Rokoszís wife, Stanislawa (SR)]
SR: Say when you left Germany, how you got thereÖ
Well, so Iíve already said. In Ď45 I left Germany, didnít I? In July... and then... I worked in that factory till December 15th. And as my father had left for the West with all the family, to the village of Poreba, district of Bystrzyca... Bystrzyca Klodzka, I was forced to leave as well, give up the job and leave to join my father, again, cause I didnít have any means, nowhere to live, no flat, cause there was no flat... We were living in barracks, but when winter came... winter was approaching and you had to either stock up or leave the place, cause you wouldnít have been able to stand the cold, and also the wages I earned were so... minute. And so I came here, and my father had obtained a farm in the mountains. It wasnít anything so... too much... it was [not] attractive or interesting too much, cause the mountains were terrible. And there were also Germans living there in Ď45 to Ď46. So I helped on that farm.

And those Germans... were their farms taken away from them and given to you?
No... That was done in accordance with international agreements, and the Germans were displaced later, and we took over their farm. I didnít have a farm, cause I was with my father, and my father had a farm, and everything was registered as his property, and I was only such a... such a labourer at his. And later, my father could work no longer, cause you couldnít work there no longer, cause I got married... Father gave up the farm and moved to that little house. Within the farm there was such a small house, but itís collapsed now, cause they were... very old buildings they were and you couldnít live in there. I got married in Poreba and... my wife came from Bielsko... she was a shop assistant in the co-op shop, I met her and I got married and I moved out to live on my own. I started... I got a job with the District Co-operative as a warehouse keeper at first, later I was a supply manager... and so gradually, up to the position of President. They made me President, but it was a hard job, cause there were various deliveries arriving, there was no room, no transport to use. It was a hard job Ė no qualified people, no trustworthy ones... but you had to work somehow, didnít you? It could be fun, though, it could be very nice, people like my former wifeís work (Rokosz re-married at the age of 72) at the shop, cause she made every effort for there to be everything, I mean for the shop to be well supplied.
Section 3
How did you like your life here in the mountains, previously you lived in the lowlands, didnít you?
Quite interesting, quite interesting it was in those mountains, cause in the winter you could... you couldnít reach some places, there was... lots of snow sometimes, frost, and in the summer it was very nice, cause the place is some sort of a tourist place, Poreba was a tourist place. Beautiful village... Well, yes, in the beginning it was a beautiful village.

Did the tourists come from Germany or from Poland?
No, at that time nobody came, only Poles came, only Poles...
S.R: Only Poles came, such... looters.
Yes... looting only, so much that... there was no other open tourism here, no, no open tourism, only you could feel that, that this village was... the neighbourhood was so beautiful. And there were army troops passing through, the border guards. It was close to the border in Rudawa Ė a regular WOP (Border Guard) post, where they guarded the birder with the Czechs. Well and what else can I...

Did your neighbours have farms?
They did, yes, all of them were farmers here.
S.R: There were farmers only in Poreba.
There were only farms. There wasnít anything else, there, where sometimes someone had...
S.R: They went to work.
Yes, but few of them went to work, cause it was hard to get a job around back then, and also there were people in the towns, they had their own people to work in factories, where... in other places of employment or something... This place, Poreba, had only farms... very nice farms, a lot of cattle and poultry and pigs and everything. In the 50s, the 50s and the 40s, up to í55... yes, it was, farming flourished.

And all of them were the people who came over from the East?
They all came... they all came from that... from Central Poland. Most of them from... yes, from various places, and mostly, as far as Poreba goes, all of them were from Bielsko. There were lots of people from Bielsko. Well, it was a mix, some of them were from behind the Bug (river)... re-settlers, who had to be re-settled, didnít they? Cause, you know, Poland was divided into various zones... eastern zones and western ones... the eastern and the western zone.
Section 4
And those Germans, when they were still here, how did they treat you?
Well, the Germans treated us very, very kindly, very well, but in March í46, they started... then the displacement of them started, and that was, that was a bit sad for them, and perhaps for some of the Poles as well, cause they worked... they worked and the Poles only ruled and... and they drank and had fun, and they worked in the farms, they tilled the soil, and in March some of them were displaced, and the rest of them Ė in September. In September í46 all the remaining Germans were displaced to... to Germany... the Germans.

Did any of your German acquaintances stayed here, in the neighbourhood, perhaps theyíd got married?
No, no. Nobody stayed, all of them were displaced, all of them left. Maybe some individuals... somewhere, but very few of them, very few. Perhaps somewhere in towns, but in the villages, no... I would have heard about it, if somebody had stayed. No...

How did your neighbours manage in the farms during the various seasons of the year?
Well... they managed, they sowed... some of the land with winter crops... some of it with spring, cause winter crops were much better around here, cause on... on lower fields they sowed winter crops, and higher up, there were meadows and spring crops. Cause when there were snows lingering, the winter crops could stay underneath for longer. Well... they kept a lot of sheep, cattle. Yes... mostly that, cattle was quite profitable, cause you could sell the milk... or milk the cows... or sell the milk and get money... Yes.

How was life later, after the war, when the Germans had gone away?
Well, when the Germans had gone, the Poles started working. Thatís unless... They started doing what belonged to them, each to himself... yes. Each had their own hectares, they tended it and made their living...
S.R: If you hadnít, you would have suffered poverty.
Yes.

Did the people want to leave this area, go back somewhere?
No, nobody wanted to leave, cause they all came here to live and settle, well though there were such who came at the beginning of í45, they came here only looking for loots, but they were over by í46 and they never came back, cause they were either imprisoned or they just never came back to this area. They looted and went and never came back. Only honest people remained, working and those who were moved here from the eastern parts of Poland, and also such people who didnít have any means to live on in the central Poland, say... They didnít have opportunities or houses, or anything, cause the war destroyed everything theyíd had, everything burnt, so they came here, wanted to stay, settle down, work, they wanted to live.
Section 5
Were there schools, churches around here?
There were schools... and churches... people would go to... and I went and so... in each village there was a church and a school and it was different from what it is now, in each village there was a school. And now we donít have a school in Poreba, in Wyszki thereís no school, there is one in Ponikwa (Poreba, Wyszki, Ponikwa, Rudawa Ė villages situated in the neighbourhood of Duszniki Zdrůj), and even that is a small one, one or two grades they have... and in Dolne (Dlugopole Dolne Ė neighbouring village), and there are some more children. Other than that, they have liquidated them... and in Poniatůw there was a school, well...

Did they teach any foreign languages in those schools Ė German or Russian?
No, they didnít teach any foreign languages, only Polish... Polish only, cause, there were seven-grade schools, it wasnít eight grades, only seven-grade schools. And those eight-grade ones were formed much later.

Those children who were taught in those schools Ė did they want to go to the town or did they prefer to stay here?
Well, generally speaking, everybody ran to towns, they got married somewhere and so... only old folks stayed in the villages. Old folks... it happened very seldom that someone young stayed on the farm, those were exceptional... situations. Other that that, everyone ran to towns or somewhere... they moved away somewhere... to other parts of the country. And so... very few of us stayed behind. At present... now we could say... the villages are dying out here in the mountains... the villages are dying out... the land is not attended to, it gets grown over with bushes, weeds... There is nothing. I... I worked in the District Co-op until í45... í44, and in í44, I got moved to the district. It was the District National Committee, where I was... at first I was the secretary of the District National Committee... There was only myself, cause there was no Chairman, cause the Chairman had been put to prison.

Was that back there, in the east?
No, no, it was here, in Dlugopole.

In í45?
In í55! In í55, I made a mistake, didnít I? In í55... They made me Chairman of the District National Committee in í55, and someone else was appointed my secretary Ė such a young man directly back from the army. He came... and so we worked together until í61. It was all right, we achieved a lot together, we were respected by our superiors and by the inhabitants here... of the district.

Were the inhabitants good farmers?
Oh, yes, back then yes. They were good farmers back then, and everyone was glad to be... farming. Farming was good business back then, really Ė life was easy back then. Everybody was happy, cause there were also food production co-ops, and those co-ops later collapsed, they were closed down, cause it was back in í56, when Gomůlka came to power, and all that... it collapsed, they were back to individual farms, and... people got back to work. Immediately you could feel that there was more grain and milk and meat... to be sold. People were more satisfied, there were various events, parties of all sorts...
Section 6
And what did you do later, say, until the 80s?
But, yeah... until the 1980s... Well, later, when I had already been removed from the District National Committee and I went to the Spa, to work there, I mean... The District National Committee moved me there, with the assistance from the District National Committee I was moved to... the Spa, where I worked as a supply manager. I was pleased with the job there. It was a fine, good job. My wife worked for the Spa as well, I worked there, the children were small, they went to school. It was a bit hard, though, various stuff, life brings different situations, doesnít it? And was sometimes good and it was bad. But it wasnít the way it... I mean... today weíve got enough of everything, but then there were shortages, you know. You had to fight for... something to buy, had to look for it.

When did you move from Poreba to Dlugopole?
From Dlugopole to Poreba Ė we moved in í52. In í52... in October... and we lived there. [...]

Until when did you work as a supply manager?
Well... As a supply manager, I worked until, I think... í63 maybe. And later I went to a secondary school, which... I mean... I went to the secondary school, graduated from it. And I got this job as... as a transport manager and the storage place manager, and also they assigned the cinema to me. Well... in the cinema... I ran a cinema here as well... a spa, cinema, belonging to the trade union. At work... at work it was all right, I had peopleís respect. I had a lot of work to do, I must say, there was a lot of work, cause if you wanted to earn something, and run the cinema in the afternoon Ė on Sundays, holiday... there was no resting. And at work I had to... it wasnít like it is now Ė you had to... the carriages... a lot of railway carriages came with coal and various construction materials, which you had to unload, and there were no people to do the unloading, they sometimes fainted for exhaustion, cause there were lots of those carriages. And here... we needed a lot of fuel, cause everything we had here was powered by coke and coal... say... the ovens and heating and cooking. And there were lots of such buildings here in the Spa, in addition to the water bottlery, which was also coke-heated. So you had to heat the workshops and heat the water in the bottlery.

This Spa here... what do they do?
Well... the Spa... the Spa treats post-jaundice ailments... I mean... well, the common liver inflammation. It was a diet and, well, some sort of treatment that they received. But first of all it was a diet, a diet and some peace and quiet. I worked in the Spa until í80. In í80 I retired, but I kept running the cinema for another 10 years, but it was only the cinema. The martial law passed without any special events for me. I didnít feel any sort of discipline or any... some sort of terror or anything like that; I didnít know anything like that then.

Do bathers still come to this Spa?
Yes, they do. Some bathers come, but not as many as in the old days.

And what was the population of Dlugopole?
In Dlugopole itself, if youíre asking about the whole of the Dlugopole district, which was under my authority back then when I was working in the District National Committee, it was approximately 1,800 people.
Section 7
And now?
And now... I donít know how many they are now, but as far as the town of Dlugopole Zdrůj goes, it was something like 530-something, now itís about 700 people. In the 1950s it was 531... or 536. Thatís exact, cause there were counts in 1950. And it showed 560... 530-something people. I donít know the present number.

You used to be the mayor as well, didnít you?
Well... yes, I was the mayor for 12 years. That was back in the 1980s and 1990s... partially. And now I... Iím a cripple. Itís because of the leg... I canít walk.

What do you do now?
At present, I live in Dlugopole, but I would be glad to exchange the flat for one with central heating, smaller, cause my wife and myself, we are what you call elderly people and we canít like that... say... run the household and carry the fuel and all like... we did when we were young. But that is impossible now, cause we donít have any money for the exchange, or... there are no conditions here to... to exchange the flat.

Would you like to move to some bigger town?
No. We donít want to go to a bigger town, cause it... well, Iím not used to it.

Do you like living here, in the mountains?
Yes, living in the mountains is all right. We canít complain.

And how about your neighbours?
Well, neighbours like neighbours. Well, weíve got good relationships with the neighbours, we donít quarrel or anything, neither they have anything against us or we against them.

But I donít think there still anyone in Dlugopole who in farming, is there?
No, nobodyís into farming any more. There is... there is one farmer, but he doesnít look after his farm, heís neglected anything. All his land is unattended and... Heís got a horse and nothing more.

And what is the situation in Poreba? Are there any farmers left there?
Yes. There are three or four... four farmers there still are in Poreba, and in Ponikwa there are a few of them. Other than that I donít know, cause Iím not interested in that, I donít go there, I stay in one place, I donít ask anyone, cause I canít, because I... I just canít walk.

Have you retained any traditions from... from where you lived before, are there any you still cultivate?
I donít know. Some traditions? All those traditions are so unfashionable now... Generally speaking... there are no traditions... I have... well, thereís Christmas, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and thereís Easter, but otherwise... no other traditions have remained I think.
And what was that tradition of yours? What did Christmas look like? How about Easter?
Section 8
Perhaps some dishes?
Well, it varies, it varies. We didnít have what they do now, that, for example, they invite... old people to the Christmas table. It wasnít like that back then. Or... at Easter also... also... there wasnít this... invitation to the common table, well, thatís it... And now they do. It is, I donít know, some sort of new introduction, I donít know if it was there before, I donít know... precisely...

Are there any dishes you remember, dishes you had there...
Well, it depends, yes, it depends... Dishes? I donít know. Maybe the dishes now are different from what we had before the war. Before the war, I remember a little, it was somehow different, there was hay on the table, now you donít have it; there was straw... or a bunch of grain in the corner... in the flat. And today... today here... well, it isnít like that, cause back then at a farmerís... where I come from there were farmers, that was different. I donít know anything about the towns, but as far as villages... But now, it is all different even in the villages, there are no farmers, maybe at some, there is the hay, and stacks of straw in the corner.

Do you remember some sort of funny event, something that struck deep in your memory?
Well, generally speaking, maybe I do... I remember various kinds of events that took place here, such cultural stuff, you know. Everybody played, sang, and now it is... it all disappears, as if it was all disappearing a bit.
S.R: Not a bit, it is disappearing altogether!
Well, you could say altogether, but...

Who organised those parties?
They were organised by... various unions, various organisations... both party and trade unions and some other organisations... youth organisations organised them... or companies organised them for their employees, it varied, it varied indeed. And now, there is nothing, now people donít come, cause they are either scared or... Lots of violence, nothing else.

I would like to ask you about your journey here from Germany, or maybe you were brought to some camp in Germany?
As far as... the journey to Germany, well, we went from Borek, in a passenger train, but there was supervision. There was one confidant, I donít know if it was a Pole or a German, he travelled with us, he was supposed to take care of us, so that nobody wouldnít.... wouldnít escape or... I donít know. I donít know Ė so that nobody ran away or got lost, so that... so that they knew where to go to. Well, we went in a passenger train to Krakow; in Krakow, we were all accommodated in army barracks, we were fed, we had a bath, shaved, yes... And in three days we were put on a passenger train and we left for Bavaria. Via Germany Ė not via the Czechs, but via Germany we went to the Rhein... in the direction of Dresden, to Leipzig, Nimberg, to Amberg.
Section 9
And your journey back from Germany Ė how did you get back home?
Oh, that... that was awful, a most terrible journey, cause all the trains were overcrowded, on the roofs, on the buffers, on... on... It was so crowded, you couldnít sleep or, I mean... Well, it was awful, the journey in the í45, cause there were lots of looters and they... and the trains were overcrowded.

How long did they journey take?
The journey to Germany took about 1 day, and back from Germany it took us a day as well.

And from Borek here, to this neighbourhood?
Well, that... a few hours. From Borek here, to Poreba, it took Ė how long Ė 12 hours. Twelve hours and here we were. The trains were quite efficient back then, they were quite... quite fast, the way normal train are.

Werenít the lines damaged during the war?
Pardon?

The railway lines, werenít they damaged during the war?
Here, in some places they were, in some other Ė they werenít. The railways lines... or the tracks werenít damaged or anything.

Here, in the neighbourhood, there are lots of beautiful forests. Did you like hiking, mushroom picking, berry collecting?
Well, we did. We went both mushroom picking and partially Ė berry collecting, but mostly mushrooms. The forests are truly beautiful, but these forests are... they are getting thinner.

Are the forests cut down?
Cut down... They are cut down because they get attacked by pests, well... Too much... Theyíve got too many pallet producers (of transport pallets for export), and all that damages the... they all destroy the forests. All that will remain will be bare hills if it goes on like this. Unless they prevent it.

Do people still want to move away from here?
No... I donít think so. People wouldnít like to move away from here, cause they want to be here, live, only there are no jobs, some sort of additional work. If only something was developing here. The way it is now, the Spa is declining, and the FWP (Employeesí Holiday Fund) had been liquidated, and lots of other places of employment have been liquidated. There was such a beautiful timber works in Domaszkůw. No... thereís nothing. There are... there are buildings, but what of that, they are closed. Everything is closed, they donít saw timber any more, people donít have work, thereís nothing. Railway is also declining, fewer and fewer people travel, less cargo. And in Bystrzyca, also everything... Matches (Factory of Matches in Bystrzyca) so beautiful, you know, enterprise, one of the few, you donít know what... Timber Works, now Paper Products (of Bystrzyca Enterprise), POM (State Machine Centre), Furniture (factory of Bystrzyca)... everything else... so that... some of them are still breathing, but how much longer will it take, nobody knows. Unless something changes for the better, but there are no prospects for that. There are more and more unemployed, more and more people complain, thereís no money. They live cause they have to.
Section 10
There was a flood around here in í97. Did people move away from here during the flood?
No, they didnít move away. People stayed here, cause the flood wasnít that terrible here, some were flooded but later they restored their properties, insurance damages were paid so they renovated their flats, put them back to normal, so that... and both enterprises suffered and people suffered, but their restored the original condition, the way it was before the flood. This flood wasnít that awful, water overflowed, indeed, but then it receded and everyone went to work , and they got money from the state. They helped... the state constructed pavements, repaired the roads, regulated the rivers, so that now you cannot tell that there once was a flood.

Do bathers still visit the Spa?
Yes, bathers still come here, they do. Yes, bather come to the Spa, but not as many as they were before.

And what do you do now?
Well, now I stay at home, watch television, go for a walk if the weather is nice, cause when it rains, Iím scared, I could slip and fall, and my wife does everything, carries coal, timber, goes shopping, cooks, cause there is no other way, I cannot do any of these. Here... I only walk on crutches, two crutches. Well, thatís what Iíve come to.

Is there good medical help should you need it?
Yes, there is medical help... you cannot complain, itís not bad. Well, you canít complain about it, that... Yes, and as far as neighbours go here... from this building here, everyone is so nice to each other. If they see I canít do something or what... they help me willingly, they help me get up, carry things, if Iím carrying something, or do something, I canít say that any of the neighbours arenít willing to help.

Are they quiet neighbours, donít they start any quarrels?
No... They donít, nothing of that sort.

And what about drunkards, maybe somewhere around here...
No, as far as drunkards, perhaps... very few, you canít say there are many of them around... Maybe there are some drunkards, but you donít get to hear about them in this corner of the worlds where I live.

And what about your cinema? Who runs it now, whatís going on?
The cinema has declined totally. It is run by that... operator... there was an operator, but it is open only once, twice a week only. Sometimes there are whole weeks that itís not opened, cause there are no...people donít go, they are not interested in the cinema. In the old days, at my time... when I was running it, well, people were interested and so they came in crowds. And children had their own films, and older people a lot... and the bathers, cause there was also an FWP and... and there were bathers, I mean in the Spa there were bathers, and so there were people interested in good films, and the room was full. And now? Now it is only 5, 6 10 people a time. The only film that gathered more was ďOgniem i mieczemĒ (ďWith Fire and SwordĒ Ė based on historical literature), so perhaps there were a bit more people.
Section 11
Is there anything you would like to add?
Well, I donít know. What could I add, what could I add... If the weather was better, if I were a bit healthier, if only it was a bit better. Other than that... I lead a quiet life, nobody does me no harm, and... my daughter visits me, other people as well, my granddaughter (Karolina Tomczyk) comes to visit.
S.R: Twice a year. [laughs]
But she will come. What can you do?

Thank you very much for the time youíve spent on the interview.
Well, thank you, thank you.

Chronology:
15 August 1920 - birth
1926 - mother dies
1933 - service at the uncleís
1940 - returns home
February 1940 - sent to work in Bavaria
1945 - returns home and starts work in the cart factory
December 1945 - arrives to Poreba
1952 - moves from Poreba to Dlugopole Zdrůj
1954-1961 - works in the District National Committee
1961-63 - works as a supply manager in the Spa
Approx. 1965 - graduates from a secondary school
Approx. 1966 - transport manager and cinema operator
1980 - retires
Approx. 1980-1992 - works as a mayor
1997 - flood
1999 - present day