Poland glossary












July 1999



Section 1
Could you introduce yourself, please?
My name’s Egidiusz Szamrowicz. I celebrated my seventy-second birthday not a long time ago. Most of those years, I’ve spent in the beautiful Silesian land. I came here in 1947. I was brought here by a relative of mine. She was a nun working in one of the local hospitals. I came here and I stayed. Here I found a job, here I met my beloved wife, Stanislawa. I like it very much here, and I’m a happy man. Now I’m on a well-deserved retirement. Practically speaking, I started my career in the hospital, later I worked in the Town Office of Bardo for a short time, and in 1949 I got a job with the District Co-operative “Samopomoc Chlopska”. I worked there as the chief accountant for over thirty years, until the retirement. My life has been a peaceful one. My wife and I have been happily married for over forty years now. Nothing wrong happened to us for a very long time. At first, for over thirty years, we lived in the neighbouring village of Przylek, and in 1973 we moved to this modest detached house of ours. We thought our life would be peaceful, without any unpleasant surprises. However, we were painfully touched for the first time in 1991, when our only son got killed in a car accident. And a few years later, in 1997, we were affected by the catastrophic flood that nobody had expected. We’ve been living here for over fifty years, and we’d never seen anything like that before.
That was in July 1997, that the misfortune happened. God knows where all the water came from. We had been warned to leave our house because a large wave was approaching. The local firemen warned us. We didn’t believe it would be that bad. Our neighbours didn’t believe that, either. We stayed at home, we didn’t obey the warnings, we thought that our cellar would be flooded at the worst, nothing worse could happen to us, it shouldn’t. However, on the 7 July 1997 at night, the water level was rising surprisingly fast and high. We observed it from the window of our house, we saw that water was rising. In the evening, we decided we would take turns observing the situation. My wife even went to bed for a while – without getting undressed – and I was sitting watching the water. When it was reaching our flat, I woke up my wife and I told her the situation was bad, it was dangerous, that the water level was rising very fast.
At first, we sat in the corridor, on a kitchen table, by the telephone, so that we could call help in case it was needed. And indeed, the water was higher and higher. The most paralysing moment was when we saw it entering the cellar and to the flat, through the main door, from the street. At that point, we decided to climb the wardrobe in the bedroom. We were lucky to have a small ladder, which we happened to buy only three days before. As deeply religious people, we believe that it was Our Lady of Bardo who protected us, and made us buy that ladder and put it in the flat rather that in the cellar, as we would normally. The cellar was already full of water.
Using that ladder, we climbed the wardrobe, and we sat there praying – for what else was left to us, what else could we do in such a situation. We prayed and we believed the water wouldn’t flood us altogether, we would not drown in it, we would survive. Sitting on the wardrobe, we were practically in the water anyway. The level of the water was so high – over two metres in the flat. The worst moments were at night, on the 7th July. We thought it was our last moments, the last moments of our lives.
However, at one point – I think it was at about two or three in the morning – we noticed a dark mark appearing on the wallpaper covered walls, meaning the water was dropping. We were very happy because we knew we wouldn’t die, we were safe, we wouldn’t drown. I was still a little afraid because there had been moments before that the level dropped a bit only to rise again. But luckily that wasn’t the case. Gradually, slowly, the water started dropping. And so we stayed on the wardrobe until morning, when the firemen broke our bedroom window to get in to see if we were alive. Our neighbours told them that we had stayed at home, that we hadn’t left the house. They broke the window, they didn’t know whether or not we were still alive. And so, through that window, they took us onto a boat, and took us to safety.
That operation was a bit dangerous too, because my wife weighs 105 kilos, but the firemen helped her get into the boat – one of them was standing on the roof, the other one on the boat. Luckily, they managed all right. On the “shore” we were received by our relatives, who took us to their place, not far from Zloty Stok. That was a terrible ordeal. I am a war invalid. During the war, when I was a soldier, I lost one leg. But the memories of those days are not as terrible as what we went through on that night of the flood. Back there, there were friends, I was a young man, a very young man, I was just 18. I perceived everything that surrounded me, that happened to me, in a different way. And here, we were all alone. There was no way out, no escape. We couldn’t run away, we couldn’t climb onto the roof, there is no such possibility in our house, there is no ladder. We just had to wait what the next hours would bring. Fortunately, everything ended well. After the flood, our house looked terrible, everything was upturned, the water destroyed almost everything, all the household equipment. The kitchen furniture dropped off the walls, everything fell apart.
Luckily, we had friends here, the Kwasniewski family – four people, a couple with their two daughters. Those people helped us a lot. Also our neighbours, closer and further. We are very grateful to them until this day. We received a lot of friendliness and help from everyone. How happy we are to have friends – at home and abroad – who helped us. Without those young people we would have never managed to recover. We are both disabled, my wife has a heart condition, first category disability, myself, as I said, without a leg. And thanks to those people who hurried to help us. We managed to dig ourselves out of the mud that was everywhere after the flood. And so, day by day, we tidied up our house. I am also full of admiration for the District of Bardo authorities – they were also very sympathetic and most helpful. Besides, our friends from Germany saw to us getting all sorts of household equipment and furniture. I went there and I brought a lorry full of various things. And so we managed to re-furnish and equip our house. Luckily, we were insured, so we received a few thousand zlotys damages from the insurance company. Every year, we visit our friends in Germany, so we insured our house in case it was broken into while we were away. The damages money was used to buy some new furniture. And so we returned to quite a normal life.
Section 3
How long did the house renovation take?
The renovation started in July, and it lasted until late autumn, till October, November, gradually. The little we could, we did on our own, but we received most help from Mr. Andrzej Kwasniewski and our Piotrus. And we are ever so grateful to them for it. So much about the flood.

You mentioned you arrived at Bardo in 1947, where did you live before that?
I was in hospital in Germany. There, I got wounded, and shortly after leaving the hospital, I stayed for some time in Pomerania, where I originally come from. And then, as I already mentioned, my relative, the nun, invited me to come here. Here, I met Dr. Gomerski, the then head of the hospital, and he offered me a job in the hospital office. And so my professional career began.

Why did you stay at home while almost all of your neighbours left their flats?
We simply didn’t believe, that was more than our imagination could digest. Where from could there be so much water out of a sudden. Especially that we had lived here for fifty years, and there had been no flood like that before, so where would this water come so that it would cover our house. We just didn’t believe it. Besides, I’ve got an artificial leg. When the water came, and it wasn’t even that high yet, I just couldn’t move about. There was no way out. And if we didn’t run away when there was little water, it was virtually impossible to do it later. We believed we wouldn’t get drowned, and we stayed at home.

What happened to the wardrobe that saved your lives?
The wardrobe fell apart later, when the water had dropped. But I brought a lot of new furniture and kitchen equipment from my friends.

You often mention your friends in Germany, where did you make friends with them?
They are my friends from the post-war times, from some ten-fifteen years ago. Very good, friendly people. As everywhere, you can find friendly, good people there too. I was lucky to have met such people.

Where did you meet them?
There, in Germany. Our son with his wife and children left for Germany about twelve years ago. In the meantime, my son got killed in a car accident, but his wife and the boys stayed there, in Germany. When we were visiting them, we met those German friends of ours. This friendship lasts until this day, That German couple were the first people to offer us help. A week after the flood, they were here, in front of our house. They brought what they could – some kitchen equipment, an electric cooker, a fridge, some other things, some food as well. They were the first ones, later others helped us as well.

Do you bear a grudge against anyone, the local authorities for example, about the flood situation, about the distribution of material help?
No, I don’t bear a grudge against anyone, including the local authorities. They came here, they took great care about us. We also received some assistance – not much, but it’s always something, one of the pieces of furniture. I don’t complain and I cannot say anything against them. They took care of us.
Section 4
What did the distribution of the material assistance look like in Bardo?
In our opinion, it was fair. What can I say? Frankly speaking, we never went to the District Office. For one thing, the poor health makes it difficult; for another – asking for help is not a part of our nature. We were grateful for everything we got, and we don’t complain. We cannot say anything bad as far as the distribution goes. True, there may have been people who were less affected but who demanded more. We just couldn’t. We are grateful for what we received. Also for the good word, for the words of sympathy from the parish, from the nuns – there are six nun communities here. They helped us a bit as well.

Do you know the history of Bardo? If so, had there been a similar flood before, perhaps centuries ago?
Yes, but we found out about it only recently, after the tragic flood. Apparently, there was a similar flood in 1938. They say it was not as tragic as this one, there wasn’t as much water as this time, in 1997. Maybe there had been other floods before, but I don’t know anything about it. Maybe there had been equally tragic floods before, but I don’t know anything about it. People said that there was a flood in 1938 for sure. What makes us a bit scared now? After the flood, there was a rumour that there was a man, Filipek his name was, who predicted this flood. He also said that when there are five nines in the calendar – that would be on 9 September 1999 – there will be another flood. It makes us a bit uneasy, but we don’t believe this will come true. We believe there will be no flood because what we are afraid of most is a replay of what happened then. That would be terrible. If the water, the flood was to take everything away from us again, destroy everything, it would be difficult for us to live through it. But I hope this will never happen. There hadn’t been anything like that for fifty years, why should there be another one right now, only two years after 1997?

Did you try to find out what had caused the flood?
Shortly after the flood people said that it was the Czechs who had opened some water reservoirs, and that was the direct cause of our flood. Other say it’s not true, that there are no large water reservoirs anywhere in vicinity. Others say that there was a cloudburst somewhere near Miedzygórze, and that caused the flood. I don’t know what the real reason was.

Some people say it was a punishment from God...
To be quite frank, shortly after the flood, we sort of blamed God. As I mentioned before, we are religious people. We told ourselves we were not the worst of people, we’d never done any harm to anyone, so what would the punishment be for. But that feeling went with time, and now we don’t blame God any more for what happened. Some people said it was a punishment from God. There were some who said it was just as well that Grunwaldzka Street in Bardo was flooded because all the rich people live there, and that there should be even more water. My God, how mean people can be, especially under such circumstances, I don’t understand it.

Can you describe your emotional state when you were sitting with your wife, trapped on top of the wardrobe?
It’s difficult to describe. But I will tell you frankly that we were lucky not to get into a state of panic. We were very calm somehow. My wife said to me that if the water flooded us, we would just embrace one another and leave this world together. But deep inside, we hoped that would not happen, that the water would eventually stop rising, start dropping. We didn’t believe the worst would happen. We were sitting on top of that wardrobe calmly, hoping to be saved.
Section 5
In such tragic moments women usually burst crying, was it the case of your wife as well?
She didn’t panic at all. Absolutely. She was unbelievably calm. And I was grateful because, as I said before, my wife has a heart condition. Besides she suffered from dizziness shortly before the flood. The thing I was scared of most when we were sitting on top of that wardrobe was that she would have the same problems again. That would have been the end for us. She would have fallen off the wardrobe, she would have most certainly drowned, and I would have tried to save her and drown myself. Luckily, nothing like that happened, she bravely endured what was happening to us during that dangerous night. The flood affected our health a bit, both my sight and my hearing are now considerably worse. After the flood, in November 1997, I spent a month in hospital. But all that passed and we feel as well you can feel at our age.

How do you react now when there is a heavy rain?
We’ve got this fear now, when the rain falls for a couple of days, I go and have a look at the Nysa river to see how much the level has risen, if we are still safe. That unpleasant feeling has remained with us, and I’m afraid will be with us forever. During the flood, I stood in the corridor watching how many steps to the cellar were flooded. And now, whenever I open the door, I look down, in the direction of the cellar, I can see water there. That’s a very unpleasant feeling, but I must learn to live with it.

What were your feelings when you saw the boats with the firemen approaching?
We were happy. Our neighbours let the fire brigade know that the Szamrowiczes had remained in the building, and they didn’t know whether we were still alive. It turned out later that one of our neighbours didn’t believe we would survive, she saw our building being covered with water, and she already said prayers for our souls, as we were already dead. The firemen approached, they broke the window. I started shouting to them not to break the windows, that we were alive. I opened one of the window for them, covered in water up to my neck. But I did manage to open the window. They took me into the boat, for I was standing closer to the window, and then the proceeded to my wife. They were very careful. I don’t remember their names now, but they were the firemen of Bardo.
From a safe and dry place, we were taken away by our relatives, they took us to theirs, where we spent the next six weeks. Every day, we went to our house, to help a bit, to supervise the tidying up of our house. I forgot to tell you we’ve got a car that makes our lives a lot easier, it would be extremely difficult to live without it – such simple things as going shopping or going to the doctor would be impossible without it. The car was flooded as well. After the water had dropped, I had it cleaned and serviced in a garage in Kamieniec, and it is still running, serving us until this very day. Luckily, it did not get damaged from outside, although there were a lot of trees and heavy objects floating about in the water. And later, all that fell onto the car, but it didn’t get damaged at all. That must be some sort of a miracle as well.
Section 6
Where was the car then, in the garage?
No, it was in front of the garage, in the yard because I didn’t think the water level would get so high. Surely, I could have taken the car somewhere higher, to some friends in the mountains or somewhere else, where there was not so much water. But, as I said, we never believed the water would be so high. We thought that our cellar would be flooded at the worst, that we would be safe and nothing wrong would happen to us. If anything similar were to happen again, God forbid, we will not stay at home. We will run away to safety in time.

Your wife mentioned that earlier, in Przylek, you lived between two rivers. Were there any floods?
Yes, we lived in Przylek for over thirty years. There were minor floods, as we lived between two rivers – between the so-called Mill Canal and the Nysa Klodzka river, but the water was never that high. We sometimes had some water in the cellar, but never to an extent similar to what happened two years ago. Przylek was also seriously affected by this flood. If I had known that there would be such a flood when we were about to build the house, I would have found somewhere else to build, somewhere higher. The terrain is mountainous, so you can easily find a place on some elevation, where water would not be such a serious threat, but how could I know? Nobody foresaw that.

When you were climbing that wardrobe, did you think about anything valuable that would be worth salvaging?
No, I took nothing. The only things I took were my prayer book and a camera, but the camera was soon flooded. I had a film in it that I had just began, but all the pictures were gone. Generally speaking, everything was gone, a lot of valuable souvenirs, a lot of little things. Books, we had a lot of books, photographs – all that was devastated by the water. It’s a pity because you cannot recover those. You could now say we are people without a past. The most important thing is we are alive.

What did you feel when you were witnessing the water damaging all your belongings, things you worked for all your life?
That was indeed a very sad feeling when the water was rising. I was capable of lifting the doors from the hinges. The door would then fall, the glass would break. That was a most unpleasant feeling. But we were thinking only about surviving at that point.

After the flood, did you get broken down? Didn’t that tragedy take away your willingness to live?
No, we were not broken down. Perhaps because we were surrounded by young friends and relatives. On the first day, they hurried to help us, and when we saw their enthusiasm in helping us, cleaning, salvaging whatever there was left to save, that was most uplifting. And I think it was thanks to them that we didn’t get broken down. We were thinking positively, despite our old age, we knew that we would be able to renovate our house, re-furnish it. With the help from our friends. And indeed, when we returned home from our relatives’, when we had tidied up our bedroom and the kitchen, our first wish was to have a place to sleep and to be able to cook something in the kitchen. Although a lot was left to be done, we felt we were back home.
Section 7
Which one of you would you say was braver during that tragedy, you or your wife?
Both. We always hoped everything would be all right. When we recovered from the flood, arranged the house, a lot of people – friends and relatives – said that the house looked now better than before the flood. We didn’t like them saying that though, we were happy with what we had before the flood. But what can you do, we were forced to change the furniture and a lot of other things. Maybe some of them are nicer because they are new, but we were all right with what we had before as well.

So nothing was saved as far as household equipment goes?
We managed to save the TV set, VCR and the radio. And that was saved only because we had them serviced and dried immediately. And they work until this day. The TV set was floating in the water, but it works. And as far as the electrical equipment goes – vacuum cleaners, hair dryers – everything got damaged, they could not be saved.

Did any looters appear here shortly after the flood?
No, not here. Nothing was stolen from our house. We can’t complain that anything got stolen.

When you were sitting on that wardrobe, did you feel hunger, pain or any other ailments?
No, nothing really. We were not hungry or thirsty.

How many hours did you spend there altogether?
Since about midnight on 7 July till 10 o’clock on the 8 July, so that would be ten hours, maybe a bit more. But we didn’t feel tired or hungry. We didn’t feel that water that started flooding us, the wardrobe was all covered in water. Personally, I was a bit afraid that the water would upturn the wardrobe. There was water between the wardrobe and the wall. It was not calm really, there was some water movement there. I was afraid but I didn’t want to share my fears with my wife, I didn’t want to depress her any more, make her even more afraid than she was. But I was afraid the water night upturn the wardrobe, and we would get into the water. It would have been a sad end. Luckily, nothing like that happened. It was a strong, heavy wardrobe, it resisted the water and the weight. The water wasn’t calm, it whirled all the time. The whole of Grunwaldzka Street was a long river, as if another Nysa Klodzka river. When the firemen arrived in a boat on 8 July, and we left the house, the whole neighbourhood was just like one, large lake. Our house stuck out of the water by about one metre, maybe one and a half. Some houses, situated lower than ours, were totally covered with water. There was water everywhere. Our neighbours from taller buildings waved at us glad that we were alive, that we had survived. It was them who called the fire brigade and told them we were still at home. They didn’t know whether we were alive or not.

How long was the telephone working?
As long as we were in the corridor on that kitchen table, later it got flooded. Water covered the telephone so we could not use it. It got damaged, we had to buy a new one. But the material losses were not that tragic – the most important thing was that we survived. I know it was a bit careless of us to stay in the building, but please forgive us, we never thought it would be so bad, so tragic, we never thought there would be so much water.
Section 8
How many more people wouldn’t hear the firemen’s warnings?
Quite a lot stayed at home – the Golc family and many other neighbours. In the hotel nearby, there were holidaymakers, the hotel guests, later saved by Mr. Skrzyniarz. Apparently, he came to fetch them, risking his life, on his inflatable boat.

How would you judge the reconstruction of Bardo?
I thought water would not cause so much damage as, for example, fire. I thought that water would just drop and that would be it. Sure, the damages were extensive, but a lot of things still could be salvaged, more than during a fire. That’s what I think, at least. Our house, as a building, was not to severely damaged. There was a lot of dampness everywhere, although we started heating the house immediately, despite hot summer. We also used all sorts of other dryers – all in all, our house did not get damaged that severely. It is not that old – we moved in here in 1973 – but it must have been constructed very well. A good construction crew built it. Old buildings, the pre-war ones, they got damaged a lot more.

When the water had dropped and you saw the effects of the flood in your home, what did you think? Can you describe that?
We were hoping everything would somehow be all right. We knew we wouldn’t manage to renovate everything on our own. We needed the help from our relatives, our friends. And I must say we do have friends around here. We are trying, we’ve always been trying to have friends among our neighbours. And we counted on them to offer us help. We were thinking positively. We never got depressed.

What did you hear when you were sitting on that wardrobe? Was it only the noise of the river, or did you also hear some people shouting? As far as I know, the holidaymakers from the Kos hotel shouted for help for quite a long time.
The only thing we hear was that unpleasant noise of the water. And the water was dirty, sort of brown. Through the window – for we could look through the bedroom window – I observed the movements of the water. I was watching whether it was floating back to the river, or whether it is rising, coming towards us. It was difficult to tell, cause it was rising and dropping all the time. Eventually, I noticed it had started dropping. That was a consolation.

Before the water reached Bardo, didn’t you hear what had happened in Klodzko?
No, we knew nothing. We listened to the radio as long as we could, they broadcast various notices. Also the firemen, as long as Grunwaldzka Street was passable, came here in their fire-engines several times, and warned through their loudspeakers that a really high water was approaching. They said the situation in Klodzko was tragic, and that the same would happen here. Despite all that that, we just wouldn’t believe it, we never thought it would be that bad. And later, as I said before, it was too later to escape, there was too much water. If we were young, could swim, there would have been that possibility. Or we could have climbed the roof of our house, but for us that was impossible.

Did you try to call for help in any way?
No, there was practically no one around. Mostly, people living on upper floors stayed at home, thinking they were safe. But the closest neighbours had left their homes, so there was no point in crying for help. As long as the telephone was working, I tried to call the police and the fire brigade, but no one answered the telephone there any more.
Section 9
Did you try to telephone your relatives as well?
No, I didn’t try my relatives because they didn’t have a telephone yet at that time. They knew what going on from the radio or TV news. They knew the situation in Bardo was serious, especially at Grunwaldzka Street, which was most affected. The firemen themselves later said that there were such water whirls that they had problems using their pontoons. They couldn’t reach some places – trying to get there would have been suicidal, and that wouldn’t have made any sense at all. When they were picking us up, through the window to the pontoon, the pontoon had to be fixed on a rope, otherwise it would have been taken away by the current.

Do you remember the reaction of the people who were standing on the “shore”, the flooded ones and others?
There were a lot of people there, including many of those who had been flooded too. There were fire engines, private vans and passenger cars. There were also our relatives, among others. Everybody was relieved, they were happy to receive those who had managed to get saved. There were a lot of warm feelings. But also a lot of tears. Our closest relatives also cried because they thought we had drowned. When they saw us alive, in the pontoon, they cried of joy as well.

You mentioned earlier that your war experiences did not influence you psychologically as much as the flood did...
Yes, you know, as a young man, I perceived all that differently, back there at the front line. There was none of the helplessness we experienced during the flood. I knew my friends would help me in need, they would drag me away, out of harm’s way. Besides, when you’re eighteen, you see the world differently, you understand it in a different way. And here? Here, we were helpless, we could not count on anyone’s help in the situation of that memorable night.

Which front line did you fight at?
Here, at the eastern front. But I didn’t fight there for long. You could say I was there for quite a short time – from July 1944 to February 1945 – a few months altogether.

What did you learn at war, apart from using the gun, obviously?
The war did not influence me. Psychologically, I mean. Even when I was losing my health, losing my leg, at the age of eighteen, I did not panic at all. I believed I would manage in life somehow. The doctors looking after me cheered me up saying I would be alright. Nowadays, you can hear about boys deserting from the army, committing suicides, I can’t understand it. I was a young man too, but I never thought about a suicide. Neither me nor my friends. Nothing like that ever entered our minds. I can’t understand it. I think – and that is my private opinion – that young people nowadays are of weaker spirit than us at that time.

Where do you think did get that strength from?
I don’t know – the urge to live? I didn’t want to die. When I was eighteen, I wanted to live. And no depressing thoughts ever crossed my mind. And indeed, I must tell you, I have always managed in life, despite the disability, being an invalid. I met a wonderful wife, I had a wonderful family, I managed at work very well. For many years, I was a chief accountant. I respected my superiors. My colleagues, as far as I know, remember me well, which all in all makes me glad of the life I’ve lived. I never did anything wrong to anyone. I have always been able to look everyone straight in the eyes.
Section 10
That urge to live, did you get it at your family home?
I don’t think so. My mother died when I was twelve, in ’38. My father was drafted to the army in ’39, and he never returned from the war. He got killed, I don’t know where. I was among strangers, I had to work hard. And that hard life made me strong, I think. I worked very hard, and I wasn’t respected for that. Nobody paid any attention to how young I was – whether I was 14, 15 or 16 years old. They used me. But that hard life prepared me to face other atrocities of fate.

What does the year 1939 mean to you?
I was twelve years old then. I was a boy curious of the world. I looked where things were happening, where there was a fire or something. I was not mature enough to think realistically. The way boys did, I looked here, I looked there, behind a tree, into a hole, where the troops were, what troops they were, are they still Polish or already German. The family with which I was staying was a German family, I was allocated to them after my mom had died. The woman was my mother’s friend. When you’re twelve years old, you don’t think about what’s going on around you.

How did you get to the army?
I volunteered. I was seventeen years old then. They wouldn’t have me, though, because I was too young, so I had to lie a bit. You know what it’s like during the war. I wanted to fight.

Was it because your older friends were already fighting?
I wanted to put on a uniform and fight. Maybe partially because my older friends were already doing it.

Do you still keep in touch with any of your front line buddies?
No, I haven’t managed to get in touch with anyone from those times. I used to have a contact with one of the war friends, but he later left for Germany and we lost contact.

Where did you meet your wife?
In Przylek. We were both working for the Co-op. We got our jobs at the same time, more or less, and it was there that we met. We were just friends for five years. My wife was trying me out, wanted to know what I was worth, and we finally got married in ’55. My wife also says she’s happy. She’s never complained. She says she never minded me being disabled. You see, we built ourselves a little house. I’ve had some aim in life all the time. I never smoked, I never drank, no bad habits at all. I never did anything that I would be ashamed to put in my c.v. I have always tried to be an honest man. I have never been greedy. I have never got involved in any murky affairs. As a chief accountant, I’ve had various offers from various sides. But I’ve always been far from that. So that I could sleep peacefully at night. I have never felt tempted. I preferred clear conscience.
The auditors who came to control our Co-op, and there were some who came several times, often joked, “Edziu, Edziu, when will they finally get you”. Obviously, it did happen that some of my colleagues got tempted to take some bribes or something. Some of them later landed in prison. I wanted to be free. I must say, I’ve never been locked up, even for half an hour. I liked my job very much and I did all right. I did so at school as well. First, I graduated from a secondary school in Legnica –distance school of economics. Later on, I did my studies in Wroclaw in a similar way, so I finally got the education necessary at my position. I am glad of myself, I haven’t wasted my life.
Section 11
Your wife’s homeland is the Lvov surroundings, do you sometimes visit those places?
My wife’s never wanted to return there. As you probably know, they did not actually get chased away from there, but the conditions that they were facing forced almost all Poles to leave. My wife’s parents had a house there, but they had to leave everything. And she never wanted to go back there. She’s got unpleasant memories, especially from the local Ukrainians. You know, bad things took place there. The Ukrainians murdered a lot of Poles, they burned down entire villages, that was terrible. I know that not only from my wife’s relations, but also from my friends. They ran away at night. Those people went through hell.

So your wife hasn’t been in her homeland since the end of the war, has she?
No, she just wouldn’t go. I have been with her in Pomerania, my homeland, when we were young. We went there by car. You know, I’m a car lover. I love cars. Women and cars. The car that I now have is my tenth. My wife used to say, “ How can I live with you if you have to change a car every four years?” First, I had a small fiat, I bought it in 1958, I think, it was an original one, Italian. Before that, I had motorcycles, motorcycles with a side car. You know, I was crazy about that. I am interested in the motor technology, and my son took that after me as well. My son and my grandchildren. I had four trabants, and this one is my fifth western car: three VW golf, one BMW and one audi. I imported two of them from Germany back when the disabled enjoyed custom preferences. I paid half the price for one of the cars, and the customs duty was next to nothing.
A lot of people are happy about this democracy we have now. I’m not, There are no privileges for the disabled nowadays. A lot of the preferences have been withdrawn, there are none left. That was not a right thing to do, there are fewer and fewer of us. That cannot save the state budget, or patch any holes for the few thousand zlotys that they take away from the disabled. I bought this one in Nysa recently. I always say it was St. Anthony who helped me, he’s the patron saint of the lost. If you’re looking for something, you have to turn to St. Anthony. We went to a doctor in Nysa, and ear specialist, and this car was parked in the street, with a for-sale note stuck in the window. I once went to a car rally in Klodzko with my son.

As a participant or an observer?
As a participant. My son was the driver and was the co-driver. You know, I’ve got such weaknesses.

What is your attitude towards these mountains here?
I like the mountains very much. But to be quite honest, it was my aunt, who inspired me to come here. I was planning to stay for a couple of days, and return to Pomerania. I happened to meet Dr. Gomerski, who was the head of the hospital then. I was 20 years old – a young boy. The doctor looked at me and asked who I was. My aunt introduced me, and he said, “You know, boy, you’ve got honest eyes. I’d like to give you a job.” I wouldn’t listen at first – me? a clerk? No school? What sort of a clerk would I make? But they managed to convince me eventually – both my aunt and the doctor when I came across him again. And I started learning. As I told you – secondary school first, studies later. Distance learning. And I managed somehow.
Section 12
I understand your condition does not make it possible for you to hike in the mountains nowadays. As a young man, did you hike the mountains at all?
A bit, yes. You know, when I first went to the Mountain Chapel, to Mt. Calvary, I wasn’t living in Bardo or in Przylek yet, I was a bachelor, will you believe what I did? I had a small bottle of vodka. Nice, eh? Going drunk to Our Lady. But that was only in order not to feel the pain, the leg was hurting me a lot. I was a bit stupefied, and I was able to make it thanks to it. The next time, I was totally sober, but then, I drove a bit by car, as far as a car can get from the side of Janowiec, the neighbouring village. But I didn’t drink at that time. My first vehicle was a bicycle, I pedalled with one leg only, with the right one. Children often shouted after me, “One-legged cyclist”. You know, the way children will. But I didn’t mind, I rode on. Later, I bought myself a motorbike, then another one, and another one. Later, it was a motorbike with a side car, and finally a car. Those vehicles helped me immensely, and they still do. Today, it would be a problem to go shopping, to get some bread or a newspaper. But the golf will help arrange everything. I pat it and stroke it everyday, saying it’s our best friend, for it takes us everywhere.

Which area do you like more – the mountains or Pomerania?
The mountains definitely. I love watching them. Wherever I go, like to Germany, where there are mountains as well, I say to my wife, “Let’s go back home, our mountains are more beautiful.” I like the mountains. I didn’t hike much because I can’t, but I can’t imagine my life without them, either. The scenery is much more interesting than in Pomerania, it’s mainly flatlands, lowlands, monotony. Only the forests are interesting there, the Tucholskie Primeval Forest, where I was born. I don’t blame the mountains for the flood they brought on us, though some people do. I don’t blame anyone at all.
There is so much unhappiness in the world, it happened to hit us as well. Let’s hope to God there will be no replay. Maybe the authorities should do a bit more, to protects us, to strengthen the riverbanks, maybe the Nysa Klodzka should be tidied up. There’s always the lack of money everywhere. I’ve never had any problems with the police, either. On the contrary, I’ve got friends among them. I was once coming back with my wife from our friends’, we were stopped by the police. The only thing they said was, “Oh, Mr. Szamrowicz from Grunwaldzka Street, thank you, go on.” The next day I told them that they should have checked me, I might have been drunk or something. They only laughed. It is nice to live among such people and behave in such a way that nobody thinks you’re a hooligan or a suspect. It’s called trust. It’s is worth a lot in life. To have friends, and to be trusted by people, these are the most important things in life. Money is much less important when compared to people. Generally, my relatives like me as well, maybe it doesn’t sound modest enough, but it’s true. I’ve got no enemies.

Is there anything else that you would like to achieve?
I’d like to buy a new car. If I won – for I play with the Reader’s Digest magazine, they offer 170 thousand – I would buy a red BMW. I remember well my old BMW, although it was second hand and old. My son had an accident in my car, so I had to buy another one. But the car was unbeatable.
Section 13
Didn’t your son’s death put you off driving?
No. You know, I don’t know how that happened until this day. My son was a professional driver, he drove various cars, including heavy lorries. He went to Germany with his wife and children. My wife encouraged them, she said there was no future for the young here. So they left. Later, when he came to visit us, he had troubles with his wife, she had met someone else. Life brings you that kind of surprises. He came to us, he hoped she would return to him, he still hoped. And, in the meantime, that accident... No, he wasn’t drunk, he was sober. He had gone to our relatives near Zloty Stok. At one point he looked at the watch, it was almost 10 p.m., and he had promised me to be back by 10. He wasn’t driving very fast, the road was wet after the rain. There were two young people with him, he took them, they were from Bardo.
I don’t know how that happened. He was truly an excellent driver. He drove in Germany as well, he traded cars, had a business with a friend, so he was a pro. I think there must have been something that distracted his attention. Maybe the ones at the back seat, they may have been tipsy a bit, maybe they started some trouble. He hit a tree on a bend, not too dangerous one. I don’t know how that happened. My wife says it was probably the way it was meant, there’s no point despairing. But no, it did not put me off driving. I don’t blame the car or anyone else. I think something must have happened, something must have drawn his attention, something the prosecutor wouldn’t talk about. His close friend, who was with him in the car, also got killed. The other two, at the back seat, were just slightly wounded, practically nothing happened to them.

Is there anything else that I haven’t asked about that you think would be worth mentioning?
I would like our grandchildren to have good lives, as I had, I would like them to avoid any bad habits, drug addiction, God forbid, that is the worst thing nowadays. The younger one smokes a little. I often say this to them, but will they listen to their granddad? I have always been a granddad for them, the other one has always been a grandfather, their mother’s father. They have never called me anything but a granddad.

How do you now spend your free time, you must have a lot of it?
Yes, I’ve got a lot of free time. But I always find something to fill it. I don’t sit in one place, the only thing I do is I usually have an afternoon nap. That’s following my friends’ advice. It’s seems to be good for me. Such a 15-minute nap regenerates my strength a lot. Other than that, I always try to find myself something to do. I work in the garden a bit, I do things by the car, I like it very much, I read a bit, but I must admit I’m not much a of a reader. I prefer some practical things. I help my wife with the household chores. My wife had a stroke last year, it upset me a lot. We were planning to go to Germany, but we didn’t go. But she’s recovered somehow, and no traces of that have been left, only the hearing is a bit impaired. But no paralysis at all. I’ve got a friend who also had a stroke, and now he’s paralysed down his waist.
What other dreams could I have besides that new BMW? We would like to be healthy and together for a few more years. What I fear most is that I could remain alone one day. Stasia and I are so attached to each other in our matrimony that I just cannot imagine being alone. The most minute matters are always discussed together, it’s impossible for one of us to go out without telling the other where they are going. Whenever I go downstairs, I tell Stasia I’m in the garage or in the garden. Whenever we buy something, even the smallest of things, we always decide about it together. It’s not that I’m the head and I rule. Smaller or larger expenses are always discussed and decided upon together. We also discuss what we are going to do tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We have never quarrelled, never bore a grudge against one another. We call each other ‘daddy’, ‘honey’, ‘mommy’ – it’s the only way we address one another. My wife often says she doesn’t know what she would do if she was to remain alone. Therefore, we ask good God to let us live together for a few more years.
Besides, our engagement years ago was an interesting thing. We were just friends for five years. I would have decided much earlier but my wife was most careful. She often remembers how her father turned some suitor down because he was too poor, or something else was wrong. So I thought he would turn down a cripple as well. But later, everything turned out all right. I kneeled before her mother and father, and I asked them for her hand. They didn’t mind, they had come to terms with the fact that she would have a disabled husband. But I never let them feel it. I built a house, and generally, I looked after all the household matters.
I must sadly admit that I’m no longer the same person. When I was younger, I was full of energy, I could do everything. You know, being a chief accountant is not an easy job. You have to deal with the banks, financial departments, various other institutions. Sometimes one had to sit up at night and calculate the balance, especially in January, when people were off on doctor’s leaves. A friend of mine once joked to his boss, “Two of my women colleagues got married and they are now pregnant, so I don’t know whether I will manage to do the balance on time.” It’s now to hear nowadays, “Edziu, if your times could return...”
When I retired, I still helped them for one more year, because my successor could not manage on her own – it was her first job as a chief accountant. When I was a bachelor, I would give my earnings to my friend, Stasia, so that I wouldn’t waste it, especially that friends would nag me, “Come on, Edziu, let’s have a jar.” I thought, “They are trying to get my money, and I want to achieve something in life, for example I want to buy myself a watch, a radio and other things.” And thanks to that, I didn’t spend half my salary on drink. And that was good, for I was able to buy myself a motorbike. And, after five years, we got married. Stasia’s relatives tried to discourage her. They said I would work with my head and she would have to carry furniture.
My wife was a slim, pretty girl. At first, I thought she didn’t want to be my wife. One day she said to me that getting used to another person is a way to love. And so she got used to me and I got used to her. A year after the wedding, our son was born, he was not prematurely born. Gosh, how much I’ve told you! I opened up before you. But I prefer open people. We’ve got very good neighbours here, the Jaremiczes. Before the flood they tried to convince us we should run away with them. They wanted to break the fence cause the water was already in the street. They ran away, they had a large dog, it was getting upset by the water. Perhaps it could feel the danger coming. We could still run away. I think I would have been able to walk those few steps. I can tell you now we did the stupid thing. I must also add that never before did I feel I was a cripple, not at school, nor at the University or at work. When I was coming back from the hospital, I thought my brother would help me, he was older, but it turned out to be me helping him.
Section 15
Thank you for the conversation.