Poland glossary










Bystrzyca Klodzka





Section 1
Could you introduce yourself briefly, please?
My name is Franciszek Wasowicz. I was born on June 26th, 1931 in Chodaczków Wielki, province Tarnopol.

When did you settle in Poland?
We arrived in the village Stara Lomnica in 1945.

Where did you live before you came to Stara Lomnica?
In Chodaczków Wielki.

Can you describe the village?
It was a large village with about a thousand houses. There were a few streets: Tarnopolska, Mazurówka, Dluga, Cyganska, Chatki, Kolejowa, Zacerkiewna. We had a railway station in the village. The distance from Chodaczków to Tarnopol is 14 km. Our house was at the main road from Tarnopol to Brzezany.

Which crafts were performed in the village?
There were four smiths. My father was one of them. He was good at his job, so he was popular around the village. Before each harvest he used to sharpen the sickles for the local farmers. Even the farmers from more distant places, some 20 or 40 km, would come to my father. He worked from early morning till late night during such periods.

Were there any forms of entertainment in the village those times?
There was no entertainment for teenagers. I remember the Community Centre, which is something like a Culture Club nowadays, being built. It was a very big construction, but was not completed because the war broke out. Besides, in the village there was a seven-class primary school and a large, modern church which was built just before the war. There were a few shops: one of them was Jewish, with the owner called Szmila. Another one, near the church, belonged to Mr. Fudal. In the village there was also a Russian co-operative not far from the co-operative shop. The Ukrainian community were united in that co-operative.

Was the village inhabited by both the Polish and the Ukrainian?
Yes, there were a few mixed married couples. It is worth mentioning that there were rather few Ukrainians; the Poles were the majority.

What were the living conditions of you and your family like?
My father had a smith’s work. He was able to construct a completed cart within four or five days. For the construction of such a cart he earned approximately 56-60 zlotys. It was quite a big amount of money, since the price of a cow that time was 70-80 zlotys. I can say, we were a rather well-to-do family. We could afford an affluent living. Besides, my parents used to own a few morga (unit of land = 5,600 m2), which also gave some profit. They kept two cows, two or three pigs, some hens - a typical, ordinary farm.
Section 2
What did your mother do?
My mother dealt with farming and bringing the children up. Apart from me there were four other children in my family. I am the eldest one.

Tell me, please, something more about your family.
We had good living conditions. We did not lack anything. My parents intended to buy a house, but it was before the war. When the war broke out we lost everything, all our savings, went to the dogs.

What was the relationship between the parents and the children like?
Well, my father did not have much time for us, but on Sundays or any feast-days we always used to go to church together. My father led us. My family was Catholic, and we were brought up according to the Catholic spirit.

Until when did you live there?
I spent there all my childhood. I lived there until the year 1944. Then the war broke out. My father had not yet been taken to the Polish army. Then, the Russian occupation began. The Russians came and, among others, they shot dead a Polish soldier directing the traffic at the crossroads of Tarnopolska and Mazurówka streets. The Russian soldiers caught him and shot him just round the barn of Mr.Biernacki’s. And then, during the whole period of the Russian occupation we stayed in permanent fear, as the Russians detested us desperately.

How long did the occupation last?
A year, because after that the Russian-German war began. I remember my family sitting with bags full of hard tack. We were preparing for the departure. They were taking us away to Siberia. That was about the year 1941.

Did you go to school?
I completed two years of primary school. I began school in 1938. The Russians entered and we were all turned one class back.

Because they introduced a new system of education. And, they were trying to teach us everything in Ukrainian language. They gave us the certificates with the final grade ‘very good’. When the German entered in 1941, I damaged the certificate. Then, the German closed the school, and young people did not attend school at all until 1945.

What were the teenagers doing then?
Helping their parents. I pastured cattle, looked after the farm and helped my father at his smith’s work.
Section 3
Which teaching methods were used by the teachers?
Corporal punishment for anything. The teachers would rap us over the knuckles with some reed. I remember the priest named Hablo use his stick for that purpose on the religion classes.

Did you experience it many times?
I was beaten maybe twice. Once I made a pinwheel wound with a piece of rubber or something, and I threw it against a girl’s face, just under her eye. To my misfortune, that was priest Hablo’s niece. The second time, I kept making a nuisance of myself during the lesson. I was talking, disturbing, etc. So I got a rap on my knuckles again.

Which educational methods did your parents use?
Just orders and bans. When a neighbour or some guests came, the kids were not allowed to sit at the same table, we were obliged to stay somewhere in the corner. We were not allowed to participate when the adults were talking. My father once gave me a sound trashing for smoking cigarettes thus curing me of smoking for good. I was twelve then. Besides, sometimes mother hit me with a dishtowel and that was all. We did not experience very severe punishments. And we, the children, were very respectful towards our parents. Their orders were always obeyed. It is totally different these days. When I ask my granddaughter to do something for me, her usual reply tends to be something like: ‘in a minute’, ‘later’ and such like. Formerly, it was not possible. Once there was an order and you had to do it.

Do you remember any games you used to play in your childhood?
What I remember best, is my favourite toy - a little steam engine made of wood. I carried little coins in it. Then, I used to go to the shop, buy some sweets for myself and for my fellow boys and girls. And then, during the war, we did not have any fun. Just poverty and hunger. We used to go fishing, to catch little roach, in order to have anything to eat.

Which sweets do you remember?
Drops mainly. In various colours and flavours. There was also a very tasty chocolate called ‘Puksa’.

What was the saddest thing you remember from your childhood?
When the Ukrainian militia (police) entered our houses, searched our premises and robbed. We had to dispose of our corn. Also, for a long time, the illicitly distilled liquor was a popular means of payment.

Did the problem of alcoholism exist in your village?
Yes, it was a big problem. It grew much bigger during the occupation period.

Did you yourself face the problem?
Rather not. I saw the unhappy families afflicted with alcoholism, they led a really poor life. The ones to drink were usually men.

What is the nicest memory of your childhood?
I do not remember any. However, the greatest fun had always been Christmas.
Section 4
Please, tell me something about Christmas.
We were dressing the Christmas tree. We did a paper sleigh, decorations of tissue-paper: toy-birds and animals, we put some chocolate decorations. The Christmas Eve was a very solemn day. After Christmas dinner our neighbours used to come, we sang Christmas carols together and went to church for the midnight mass. We kept this tradition except for the occupation period because it was forbidden to stay out in the evenings. That time we went to church at six in the morning. Christmas was always spent in family circle. The family ties were very close among grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We visited each other every Sunday. Sometimes we went to the grandparents’ for Sunday lunch straight from the church and came back home late in the evening.

What were the winters like in the East?
Winter was very severe. The temperature exceeded –30 degrees Celsius. The snow-drifts were so high that they touched electric wires beside the road, sometimes three, four metres high. The snow drifts were removed gradually.

How did it happen that you moved away from there. What event caused such a solution?
We were under the German occupation. In January, the Russian entered. The German settled their arms 30 km away from my village. In Tarnopol a big military troop was surrounded. For four months from January to April the Germans were trying to recapture that troop. The tanks came very close to Chodaczków, a military train arrived every day. We suffered heavy bombings and air raids all the time. My village, Chodaczków, was badly damaged. Out of a thousand houses, maybe a hundred remained. Everything got destroyed and burnt. Both the Russians and the Germans threw bombs in turns. The Germans fought about a week for a 2 kilometre-long plot of land. Only (just) on my backyard three tanks, a military vehicle and a few horses were damaged. The Russian transport consisted mainly of horses. Then, around the beginning of May, the Russians resettled all the inhabitants of Chodaczków about 20 km back because they were trying to deliver an assault. They intended to push the Germans ahead. For three months we stayed at the village called Gucniowa, which is about 9-12 kilometres from Chodaczków.

Was that resettlement an obligation?
During the front fighting it was obligatory. One could not say “I do not agree”. Only some elderly people remained. In January 1944, when the Russian entered, they took all the effective young men to the Polish Second Army.

What was the minimum age of army capability?
At least seventeen. My father was taken to the army, too. I stayed with my mother and three other children. The youngest sister was two years old. I had to look after my younger siblings. From the horrors of war we managed to save our two cows. One of them was tied to the cauldron of the field kitchen, but a brother of mine somehow managed to untie it. After having taken us to Sniowa, after the period of three years, we came back to Chodaczków, just for the harvest. It was the year ’45, so we just managed to get in the crop and then the transports and resettlements began.

What did you feel during those events?
All of us were extremely sorry to leave. We simply had to face the unknown. One had to leave their field and property. People were closely tied to their farms, and now we did not know what would happen to us. Earlier three other transports had left the village, I belonged to the last one, at the beginning of September. We were waiting for our transportation about a month and a half, on the platform of the railway station. They constructed sheds for us, a kind of a hut. We stayed there with all our property day by day. Either me or my cousin stayed on duty. We had to watch our property. We slept on the sacks full of corn. Then, our carriages came. It was a goods train, with open wagons. A few families were loaded on each. Sometimes there was enough room for four families, sometimes five, it depended. We made the roofs for those wagons on our own. We had some wooden boards, I do not know where from, and on those boards we put some hay that we had for the cows. We were travelling with all our belongings: people took cows, horses with them. But my family house together with the entire farm was completely burnt during the war. The only property to survive was the smithy. And after the year ’44 I, with the help of my mom, rearranged the smithy for a dwelling unit. The building had a tiled roof and was situated aside (at some distance?), which might have been the reason why it had not got damaged. So we lived in this building together with one more family: a woman with her two children. Her husband was taken away during the war.
Section 5
And what was going on with your father that time?
My father served in the Second Army of the Polish Armed Forces.

Did you stay in touch with him?
Every now and then we received letters on this size piece of paper [the narrator demonstrates]. This sheet was a letter and an envelope in one. Such a folded triangle. Every second or third night, despite that I was a little boy, I had to stand sentry. We had to keep an eye on the banderowcy (members of Ukrainian organisation fighting for independence). The Ukrainians robbed and murdered the Poles. We were walking around in groups of 10 – 15 people along the streets. Tarnopolska street had its own guard; Cyganska and Mazurówka theirs. Our commander, I mean the leading person was Father Hablo. And so, this way we survived that winter till spring. In the neighbourhood a Russian field airport was located. The soldiers were lodged in the quarters nearby, so we were better protected against banderowcy. Banderowcy were afraid to attack the places where they could meet Russian army. Anyway, there was an incident that a woman was assassinated together with her children because her house was in a fair distance from the village. This is what I remember. The other (next?) day the Ukrainian tried to attack our village from the railway station’s side. We all had weapons. We were well armed.

Was keeping weapons at home legal that time?
The Russian allowed us to keep arms. I had got different sorts of arms including an automatic rifle. We also had grenades.

Did you often use this weapon?
We fired the guns a lot. Sometimes at nights there were so many shots that the priest on his preach (sermon?) called us to stop, ‘cause one never knows whether there were some bandits coming round, or what was going on. Every night you could hear the shooting.
Section 6
Were there any other assassinations registered that time?
Rather not. The only victim I can recall was that woman with her children. However, there were many unhappy accidents following the manipulations with misfires. The local teenagers, my acquaintances, put out the fire and put missiles in it, and before the missile turned hot, which took a long time, they would come closer to see what was happening, and that was the moment of an explosion. There was an accident that one boy was torn to rags and then his remains were found even on the trees. As for me, I needed some wood. There were dug-outs, you know a kind of bunkers covered with wood. I put a few mines into the bunker and stimulated an explosion. The wood got blown up to the air. There was also an accident that my own mother escaped being killed by a hairbreadth. A piece of a missile from a mortar fell into the garden just by my mother’s side. And the explosion took place maybe 500 metres away from the garden. Fortunately, nothing happened to her. I had my hand wounded by the explosion of a little rifle bullet. My hand was torn here. [The narrator shows his palm].
In 1945, when we came out of the East, we travelled in those goods wagons for the whole month. We arrived in Bytom, in Karbie and they were doing the reloading from the wider rails as the Russian rails are than ours. And they threw us out onto the platform in Karbie, Bytom since there were no longer the wider Russian rails. I remember going io Bytom to get some hard tack or bread. It was like that: my mother with my siblings was in the second or third wagon from the engine; my cousin and I in the same wagon where the cattle were kept. We were sitting on the roof, lying on the boards. I was on the last but one wagon so I did not always managed to reach my mother’s compartment to get some hard tack. Then we were travelling in starvation. I milked the cows and drank the milk or sometimes one of my siblings carried some milk to me.
Once I went to Bytom with my cousin and when we came back my father was already with us. My father was quartered in Gliwice and he got ex-serviced. He happened to be walking along the platform to learn where the transports were from. He did not know we had been there, he just came across. He asked someone where they were coming from as he was afraid of coming back to the East. He heard that the Ukrainians assassinated the Poles. So before I came back with the bread, my father had already been with my younger siblings and with mom. Father took up my duties and he fixed a wagon very quickly. He decked (?) my grandparents, his sister-in-law and us. We were first brought to Nysa. We were kept there for about a week, as they considered leaving us in Nysa for good to settle. The idea did not work because Nysa was very destroyed. I walked round there and it was nothing but ruins. And we were brought to Bystrzyca and left on the siding. At the station in Bystrzyca people saw the rocks (rocky, mountainous soil) and people did not want to get off, they started to shout, to lament: “from the black earth they had left on the East, they had come to rocks!” People did not want to stay here. They said they would not settle.
The whole transport was turned back to Gorzanów. And there, no matter if you wanted or not, everyone was thrown out of the wagon. My father was still in the uniform so he went to the village, he brought two German carts on big rubber wheels, both with horses. And we started to go ahead. Instead of staying in Gorzanów we went further. Gorzanów was called Grafendorf and Lomnica was called Alt Lomnic, Bystrzyca held a name Hawelschwerz. It started to rain so we stopped at the first barn met in Stara Lomnica. The farm was very poor. There were about 30 women there who escaped to that family. The housewife’s name was Maria Wecel. Since there was nowhere to sleep, the German hosts gave a little kitchen at our disposal and we lived there all together: grandparents, their daughter, my aunt with her two children and my family. We all slept on the straw.
Section 7
What was the Germans’ attitude towards Polish people?
The old German woman was extremely hostile in fact, but that time nobody would pay attention to it because we just had to live somewhere. What is more, that was the beginning of autumn and it was freezing at times. But, as far as I remember, we did the potato lifting together with our host farmers.

How did you communicate?
Mostly by signs. I remembered a few words, which I acquired during the occupation period. For example, that messer stands for ‘a knife’.
On the farm there was only one old horse and one draught-ox. Both animals were harnessed together. This is how the field was worked on. The field was very devastated: spear-grass mainly. After the landlord had been taken to the army, only the women remained to work on the farm. With those women there also lived a Czech family who was expatriated – in other words, there were Polish volksdeutsche (literally, German folk), so there must have also been Czech volksdeutsche. In this case, that was a Czech man married to a German woman. In the farm, as I noticed, there was great poverty: the German ate barley bread since they did not have grain. We had about 10 metres of rye and a little wheat. My father went to Gorzanów, made some flour and that was us to feed the German.

So you, the Polish, were friendly towards the Germans, weren’t you?
Yes, we were. My parents knew what poverty was like and realised what means to be sent away from one’s own home. As in the East, people were sent to Siberia - we knew that an awful harm was being done to them. The Germans kept their own household and we kept ours, but they used our grain. My father bought two piglets in the meantime. We were breeding them together, so then we gave them one. The Czech man killed and dressed the animals in due time. We baked the bread together since there was one stove only. The Germans burnt straw or little sticks brought from the forest. Sometimes father went to Slupiec and bought some coal, and then we were able to burn coal together with the Germans. On the farm there were some kids: two boys aged 10 and 5; and two girls at the age of 9 and 10. We used to roast potatoes and run round together. They taught me to speak German I rode them on my bike. I let the younger boy ride mainly. The elder one was rather unfriendly towards us.

How long did you live together with the Germans?
We lived together for one year, until autumn ’46. Then there was a time of compulsory displacement of the Germans. My father loaded all the property of the German family on the cart and drove them to the railway station in Miedzylesie.

How did the German village impress you?
I was very impressed. In the east we got used to small, chimneyless cabins with a hole in the roof for the smoke. Here, each house was big and made of brick. Moreover, we did not have electricity in the East. We used kerosene lamps. And here we had electricity! For the first few days, me and my brother were queuing who was to be the first to turn the light off. We enjoyed turning the switch. Opposite the church there was a shop and there one could find box-boards full of light bulbs. We used to throw the bulbs and observe them banging. I saw a few grand pianos and cottage pianos lying in the ditch.
Section 8
Why did the Polish destroy German remains?
We listened to the London radio. There was propaganda: we were to stay there for three or four months and come back to our places in the East. That is why we did not care about anything. People did so just to spite the Germans. They said: ‘This is not mine’, ‘If the German could destroy all our possessions there, we will destroy theirs, here.’ As it turned out later, that was not necessary. We keep on living here, till now. None of the farmers grew fruit trees, nobody did anything. The only thing we did was work on a field. There were compulsory amounts of grain we had to work out, for which the farmers were paid dirt cheap. We had got about 27 hectares of field. It was completely weed-grown. I worked with my father in the field from early morning till late night. The cart-ox had a habit that on lunch time it used to hurry straight home, and there was no chance to stop it. No matter whether it pulled a plough or harrow, it hurried straight to get its meal.

What did you do once you learned you would not be coming back home, there, to the East?
I myself wanted to go to school very much. Yet, my parents did not care about that. My father was convinced we would come back. I kept begging them to let me go, so they finally sent me to an agricultural school to Stara Lomnica. At school we studied a little, but our headmaster made us work on a farm. I decided to give it up as I had the same chores at my own place. Then I started my practice at a private craft in Polanica. I used to get there on a bike. There I was responsible for sweeping and for looking after the owner’s children. After some time my boss had an accident in which he was killed. I was still out of school and work.

What was the village like?
It was clean and tidy. There were a few shops, two Gasthouses (pubs/restaurants). When I was a teenager I used to attend the parties there. The parties usually ended with brawls.

Some of the inhabitants were from the East and some from central Poland. Those from central Poland called us ‘the Ukrainian out of the river Bug’. There were groups of teenagers who fought against each other. We, on the other hand, called them ‘the Mazurian’. I can remember the ‘games’ when we met against each other with axes and pipes to fight. In order not to be able to call the militia, we would cut the telephone wires. The light was turned off and then we began fighting. We did that for no apparent reason, anyway some got severely wounded. Once, an acquaintance of mine came to the dance. He was very well dressed and he danced with all the girls from Lomnica. Our local boys did not like that, so they started to beat him. He happened to have a grenade on him. When he put it out, some of the present managed to escape from the hall, some hid behind the bar. Then he got out of the hall, threw the grenade, which exploded outside. Then he continued dancing and having fun, and nobody even tried to touch him. The manager of the club pretended to organise the dances on behalf of the PCK (Polish Red Cross) thus taking all the profit for himself.
What else I do remember? There were a lot of robberies in Stara Lomnica, Nowa Lomnica and Gorzanów in the years 1945 and ’46. When a farmer sold a cow, he was forced to give the money up. I remember a woman with a child being murdered. One of my acquaintances took part in such hold-ups and then he was sentenced to death. I myself could have become a member of such a gang, since they were all my friends. But that time I went to Bytom and there I had a job practice (apprenticeship?) as a mechanic in a radio workshop. My master’s nephew attended school and he gave me his notebooks. I studied a lot on my own. I stayed there for a year. Then my boss found a new job for me: one as a projectionist at the cinema. I enrolled for school but they did not let me enter more than the third class. As I was already 18 then, I did not agree.
Section 9
In 1949, I came back to Lomnica and started attending the local trade school. First, as a volunteer and then one of the teachers enrolled me on the list of students. We had three days of learning and three days of practice in the workshop. I finished that school after three years and then I was taken to the army.

What sort of memories do you have from the time spent in the army?
I have quite nice memories. It was only [one] week when I was beaten black and blue, but then I was moved to the technical section where there was no drills; just work in the workshop.

What was the new settlers’ way of farming after you came back from the army?
They behaved the same way as before: when the roof got damaged on one side, they would move to another part of the building, claiming that was not their own possession so they did not have to feel responsible for the mending. As it was a border zone, we were not allowed to move freely from one town to another. We were obliged to hold a pass. Every move was controlled by the Army and the UB (Polish Security Services). So when I came back, there was still the lack of an economy. The farmers were under pressure. They were obliged to turn their corn and some amount of meat over to the state. We suffered poverty.

Was it worse than in the East?
No, it was not worse. Living in the East might have been easy for me, but the others lived in a great poverty. So, generally, I can say that living in the East was more difficult.

How was your family getting on in Stara Lomnica?
We did not suffer at all. I could afford nearly anything I needed. Mother took care of everything: she always kept a lot of hens, ducks, geese and a few pigs.

Were the new settlers still so sceptical about the area where they arrived?
The strange thing was that those who used to be the poorest in the East wanted to come back most. I did not understand the mentality of those people. They were granted very nice farms, good houses. They could not appreciate all that. Anyway, they wanted to come (go?) back there.
Section 10
What was the difference between the German village and the Polish one?
The main difference was the development of the German village: dwelling conditions, hard roads, etc. In the town I used to live in the East, the only street covered with stone was Tarnopolska Street. When it rained the streets were so muddy that one could not walk. In most of the huts, there was no floor, just the dirt floor.

As you mentioned before, there was a problem of alcoholism in the East. Were any of those habits brought here?
Of course. We produced gut-rot. I did it twice myself, for my birthday. I made about 30 litres of it. I invited all my neighbours and friends.

What did your father do here?
My father worked very little. Some people who knew my father’s qualities from the East used to come to him to have their horses shoed. But father did not have good conditions for his work here. He did not own a smithy. He had so little room for his work here that it was a miracle that it all did not get burnt. The ceiling was so low and we kept hay on the upper floor. As I said before my father used to be a very good smith, and as far as shoeing was concerned, he was simply the master. Then, he slowly gave up.

Did your family face the problem of alcohol addiction?
Yes. When father got drunk, nobody could stand out [against him]. He felt himself a ruler. In 1945, when we arrived from Bytom, father was very careful about us. When we needed clothing, he used to go to Klodzko, to Bystrzyca, and he bought anything he could. Later he started meeting friends more and more often. When a neighbour came with a bottle of vodka, they would drink without end. Such a situation lasted for a few years.

Did the Poles learn anything from the Germans?
Those who wanted to, yes. Especially those who felt themselves real farmers. On the other hand, those who drank vodka did not learn anything - they did not find it necessary.

How would you briefly define the Poles and their style of farming in this area?
They were reluctant and careless. Those who felt themselves real farmers and were taught to be respectful to common property, remained respectful to what they got here. But those who came from trashy circles did not change, either. They did not care about anything here.

What was the people’s attitude towards nature?
The same. They did not care about it at all. They cut out the trees. If it had not been forbidden, they would certainly have cut out all the trees in Lomnica. I think the people’s ignorance was the consequence of the lack of education. Most of the inhabitants were illiterate. They did not progress. They opened their eyes when they came here. I think, the fact of coming here influenced them positively.