Poland glossary















Section 1
Whatís your name?
Maria Pawlak, family name: Nagel.

Can you tell me something about your family?
I was the only child in my family. Neither brothers nor sisters.

Have you got any memories of your childhood?
I spent most of my time in Wroclaw, at my mumís parentsí. I never spent my holiday in Szalejewo. For Christmas we used to go to Wroclaw, to their parents.

What did your parents do?
My father worked as a miller in Szalejewo, my mother didnít work.

What was the relationship between you and your parents like?
It would be good if you now were brought up the way I used to be. Straight to church and straight back home, straight to school and straight back home. My parents kept a tight rein on me. They made me dress what they liked, I wasnít allowed to go out to a dance even when I was 16. They let me go when I was 18 but that was already the time of war and there werenít any more dances or parties. Even on my 18th birthday I couldnít go to a dance.

What did you like to play in your childhood?
At school mainly. Our school was good. For two years we learned how to cook and sew: we did a lot of good job at school. It had a high level.

Did you have any duties?
No, I didnít. When I was at school, my mother used to do everything for me. She was a housewife. My father got all his meals at work, so my mother cooked only for me and for herself. On Sundays, my father was always absent from home.

Did your parents have a farm?
No, they didnít. They only kept a rabbit for four years.

How do you recollect your friends from school.
Very well. There are sixteen of them left alive. I visit them whenever I go to Germany. The rest have already died.

What was the village you come from like?
It was beautiful. There were many shops, stations, farms, bakers, inns, a sugar-mill, a smithy. It was a fine village, it was very tidy as well. There was also a beautiful pond. There were village-fairs with merry-go-round. We had everything we needed in our village. We didnít need to go to town at all. I remember a big shop where coffee was roasted. They used to sell it by the weight in special horn shaped paper bags. I always bought this coffee to my mother as a birthday present.
Section 2
How was your family doing?
We couldnít complain. If we could afford my mother being a housewife for her whole life, it means, it wasnít so bad. Besides, my mother was very weak and sickly.

What did she suffer from?
It was a doctorís fault. She had an injection made in a wrong way when she had typhus, and then she nearly had her leg amputated. She got an infection: the wound was so deep that there was a room for a fist in it.
So, as far as money was concerned, we had enough. My granny was sewing shirts for my father, she knitted us socks and tights. I didnít like wearing those woollen things, I used to complain, it was too scratchy to me.

Were you falling in love at your school age?
No, not yet. I wasnít allowed. I remember once being slapped in my face by my mother. There was a postman coming from the village, he was two years older than me. My mother asked me to go and give him a letter to post. He gave me three cigarettes. There were high bushes in the garden. I told him to go there. My mother shouted: Ďhow can you speak this way!í and she slapped me in my face. The second time she did it to me was in Klodzko. I was beaten for my own stupidity. In one farm there lived a couple who hadnít had children for ten years. Once they employed a servant, the woman got pregnant. When the child was born, I went with my mother to see it in a hospital. I asked: ĎIs the baby girl pretty?í My mother said: Ďyes, she isí. I continued: ĎDoes she take after the servant?í Oh, goodness me! How she hit me! How I cried! Oh! If I had been cleverer, I wouldnít have said so.

What did you do after school?
After I had completed school, I was sent to a farm to work. It was a compulsory work. Children from the town were sent to the farms and village children were sent to town to work. It was an awful time for me. I had to get up at 4.30 a.m. and go to bed at 11.30 p.m. every day. Then I went to a trade school in Klodzko. It was a public school.

What profession did you learn at that school?
I learned shorthand typing. Then I had worked as a typist at an Employment Agency in Klodzko until the Russian came.

Did you have any plans for the future?
I wanted to move to Wroclaw to my grannyís. I liked it there. I wanted to be a hairdresser. My aunt used to tell me Ďare you going to scrap somebody elseís head?!í
Section 3
How did you react when you learned that the war broke out?
I remember: I was standing on a bridge, the bells were ringing. I cried, my uncles were killed... [tears in her eyes]

What did the Russian do when they entered this regions?
Itís better not to mention. Violence and force everywhere. My mother put cotton-wool under her kerchief. They were primitive: when the alarm clock was ringing they would say it was a phone. They were stupid: they put the watches on their legs.

Where was your father?
He was fighting at the war. He came back home on the last day of the war. The Russians entered in the morning and my father came on the night from eighth to ninth of May.

What was your reaction for the news that the German were to be resettled?
It was an order. The administrator of the village came and ordered us to get out.

Why did you stay?
I fell in love with a Pole.

Who was he?
Nobody. He escaped from the Russian camp and somehow he got to Szalejewo. He lived here together with me, and it so happened.

How did you communicate with him?
By signs, without words. Neither he spoke German nor I spoke Polish. He was my first boyfriend. I hadnít been allowed to meet any boys before.

What was your first date like?
What a date it was! How shall I remember something that happened 55 years ago? We went for a walk, and that was all. We quickly came home. I believed that children come from kissing. It was not as today: people make love without any fear.

Did you start going to parties then?
I went with my husband, but we had to escape because a brawl started. A Pole was dancing in a soldierís cap, someone took that cap off his head and they began to fight. On seeing that incident we decided to run away. That was the end of my first party. Later, I didnít attend any because I had a little baby and a lot of work.

Did your parents go to Germany?
My mother wanted to go and my father didnít. So we stayed.

Did your parents object to your marriage to a Polish man?
When German girls met Polish boys people would shave the girlís head bald.

When did you get married?
In 1948, two years after I had met him.
Section 4
Did you learn any Polish words in the meantime?
I was trying. I learned on my own. I spoke incorrectly: I had troubles with word endings, I mistook genders, I spoke as if I was a man just repeating the forms after my husband. But then, I realised that it sounded funny. I read a lot of Polish newspapers, and step by step, I improved myself.

What did you have most trouble with?
Nothing. I just had to be able to do everything. I used to go to the offices, I managed to arrange everything I needed to. Once I even went to Poznan to the consulate.

What was it like at a church?
We had two churches in our village. And there had been a German priest, until the German had to move away.

Did you have any trouble with the confession in front of a Polish priest?
I confessed in German but I committed my sins in Polish.

What was the occupation of the German areas by the Polish like?
The Germans were just chased away. Sometimes they were given a room at the top floor. The Polish wouldnít give us anything to eat; not even milk from the cow. Some of the Germans were very poor then. Maybe not all of them.

How did the Germans treat the Polish?
As enemies. How would you treat someone who entered your private possession and said: ĎGet out of here!í? They took the most valuable things.

How did the Polish treat the Germans?
Some of them got on well with the Germans. It depended on the particular personality. There were a lot of Poles who lost everything as the Germans did. In our village the Polish were generally very kind.

How did the Polish economise after capturing the Germanís properties?
When, for example, a German farmer left 20 cows in a cow-shed, there were 2 left in a short time. They would exchange everything for vodka. Another example: a German farmer stocked hay in the loft; a Pole who took over the farm, put the fire on it, just because it was German. The war grabbed us everything.

What was Christmas like?
Different from today. My grandparents from Wroclaw belonged to evangelic church. We didnít abstain from meat on Christmas Eve. My granny used to go to the butcherís that day bought meat, the best sausages, etc. We cooked cabbage, we had roast goose, pies, coffee and cake.

According to which tradition did you prepare Christmas lunch after getting married?
According to Polish one. There were 12 courses and 12 glasses of vodka. This all needed a lot of preparation. You had to taste everything, at least a little.
Section 5
Did your parents take over the Polish tradition?
My mother had Polish citizenship, my father was a stateless person. They cooked for themselves. We used to meet at Christmas, but apart from that, we didnít meet very often, we didnít get on very well with one another. My parents used to serve lunch at 12.00. I had to change my habits into Polish ones.

Tell me about your children, please.
I have one son, who was born in 1971. When he was 14, he moved to Wroclaw. There, he finished school, then he studied for two years, then he was in the army, got married, and he stayed in Wroclaw.

According to which tradition did you bring up your son?
I brought him up in Polish tradition because he had to go to school. He picked up some German from his grandmother.

What is your citizenship?
Double: Polish and German.

Who do you feel to be?
If you stayed here, among the Polish only, for 50 years, what would you feel? Whenever I go to Germany, I feel different. When I am here, I donít think about it.

Do you often go to Germany?
Once a year. I mean, since I have belonged to the club.

Have you got a family in Germany?
All of them have already died: my aunts, uncles, everyone. Only some friends sometimes visit me.

Would you like to live in Germany now?
What would I do among the strangers? Suppose I sold everything I own here, what would I begin with there now. I would have to start everything from the beginning.

Do you regret staying here?
Sometimes I do.

All my friends from Germany have a better life. They have their own houses and live like ladies.

If you could, what would you change in your past?
I wouldnít like to be young again. I wouldnít like to experience again what I have experienced.

Do you have so bad memories?
I had my ups and downs.

What was it like?
I donít want to recall some things. There were some family affairs. When I recall my youth, there was work mainly. I had a child, a field to work at, we kept a cow and a pig, so we had to get up at five in the morning. That was my youth. I worked at a sugar-mill. I worked in Szalejewo for seven years, and thanks to that I have my pension now.
Section 6
What is your worst memory?
The entery of the Russians. We had to tidy up the castle in Szalejewo. It used to be very beautiful but the Russian dirtied it from top to bottom. We had to clean it. If we hadnít escaped from there, me and my friends, we would have been raped by the Russian soldiers. The Russians made a lot of harm to the people.

Do you keep in touch with other German people?
Sometimes some visitors come. They stay for a week or so. These days they come rarely, and if they come, they stay at the hotels as lords. A few years ago, they used to stay for the whole summer at my place. They paid me for accommodation. I entered the club in 1993. I am an accountant there. The members meet, we can have some talks in our own language, we sing songs, etc. The Polish also visit our club, especially when they have to fill in an application form and they need a language help. We help them willingly. Two weeks ago, a bus drove a group of 40 visitors from Germany. It was not for the first time. We serve them coffee, cakes, we sing together, we have a good time.

What is your attitude towards the mountain, in which you live?
I like the mountains very much. When I was younger, I used to do a lot of climbing here and there, we used to go skiing to Zieleniec...

Thank you for talking to me.