Poland glossary










Bystrzyca Klodzka


May 1999



Because the interview was with my aunt, my task was easier. We had an understanding from the very beginning. When asked if she would like to be interviewed, she said that she would certainly tell me whatever she remembers. She stressed that if I had come a few years earlier, she would have remembered much more, and recalled many more interesting events. The interview may look chaotic to the reader, but before the recorder was switched on, my narrator said that she feared she couldn’t express herself properly. She also said she didn’t want her personal data to be published, cause “’s a shame before the neighbours”. She often broke one story and jumped to another, as she didn’t want to forget what she was going to say, and then she would come back to the interrupted story. This sometimes made the text difficult to follow. The conversation took place in a living room, furnished in the modern way, similar to thousands of living rooms all over Poland.

Could you introduce yourself, say where you were born...
Section 2
What was that - that PUR?
PUR - it was [thinks for a while] PUR, I don’t know, the name of it was PUR, they brought all the repatriates there. And there, they appointed them places on the recovered areas. Here - this area used to be German, and only later Polish. And so they appointed us to go to Bystrzyca. And so we came to Bystrzyca, and in Bystrzyca, they sent us to Marianówka (a village at the foot of Mount Igliczna, in the Massif of Snieznik). My father obtained a farm and he became a farmer. We all worked together, but our father - it was a hard time as well, the reign of Stalin, we had to produce and give our quota, and so little food was left for us. Some milk and bread, and potatoes, cabbage - what we saved, we had, and we could eat as much as we wanted, but clothing was a difficult matter. And so each of us, wherever we could...
When I was 14, together with my sister, I went to plant trees in the forest. And we all tried to earn some money somehow, so that we could get clothed. And so I stayed with my parents until ‘50. Later, there was no other way, I had to go elsewhere to look for bread. And so I went to Bystrzyca. I stayed at my brother-in-law’s, cause my sister was already married - Julia Chrzan - and I stayed with them. I got a job at the Furniture (factory of Bystrzyca). And so I worked there. I started in ‘50. In ‘52, I got married. And so my husband and I… we had nothing, but there was a job, so it was much easier. Later, I worked there for 12 years, I had two children. Children went to schools - my daughter became a chemist, my son also graduated from a school in Wroclaw. And until that time I worked in the town, and we were, we lived in the town. Later, my parents - everybody had got married - and my parents were already old and they needed help, they couldn’t cope on their own. And although I had a nice flat in the town, I had to give it up, everything, and I had to come back to them. I had to give up my job. I had to return to them, to take care of them until they die.
Section 3
Where did they live?
In Marianówka.

Go on...
They were still living in Marianówka. And I stayed there for 10 years. Together with my husband, I renovated the house. We were quite alright by then. My husband had a job, all his life, for 36 years, he worked in the People’s Republic of Poland. And I stayed there for 10 years until - I don’t know what, who - the whole household was on fire. There was a beautiful house, everything. At one o’clock at night, a soldier - he just happened to be on leave - knocks on the door and says, “Get up, people, cause you’re on fire!” And so the house burnt down. Everything. All the belongings. Both our parents’ and ours. We were left with nothing. I stayed in those burnt buildings for another one and a half years. Later I went to Bystrzyca - Bystrzyca, Kolonia 5. And we bought a small farm again. And I worked as a housewife, and my husband had a job. In time, my daughter got married, and my son got married. And we lived all together, cause the building was large, and so my son, my daughter-in-law, my daughter, my son-in-law, we all stayed together. And one day my son-in-law got seriously ill - I don’t remember exactly what year it was - he got seriously ill and we took him to Warszawa, to the clinic. And there, he died after an operation, he died. He had brain surgery. And he died. Two years later, my husband got seriously ill. He had a cancer and died as well. Two years later my daughter got ill. She was so depressed after her husband’s death, that she got ill and died as well.
At present, I live in Bystrzyca and I look after my two granddaughters - orphans of the dead: my daughter and my son-in-law. And now I am ill myself. I am ill, but I thank God I can walk. Children do well at school. They go to school. And so my life has passed.

Do you remember anything from your childhood, when you lived in Swiety Stanislawów?
No, I don’t remember anything.
Section 4
Nothing? And when you were in Siberia, what was your life like?
Well, in Siberia, there was famine, I told you. Awful famine. I told you mom boiled a pot of water so that our bellies wouldn’t get swollen.

Did you know what was happening when they told you to leave your home?
What was happening? We knew they were taking us away, there was no mistaking it. They came with guns, and they pointed those guns and said we were to go. No arguments, nothing. Otherwise they would have killed us. They didn’t give us any food, they gave us nothing. The cattle was left behind. You couldn’t take anything with you. Everything was left behind. We couldn’t touch anything.
Well, I do remember something from my childhood. I went to - now they’re called kindergartens, well then they called them okhronkas - so I went to the okhronka. It was run by nuns. I remember the games we played, and they... organised performances for us. I remember that. That much I remember. And then I went to school. And later, I don’t remember anything. Yes, only what happened in Russia. I remember famine and poverty, nothing else. What was there to remember? You didn’t think about anything but how to get some food. And the Russians only went... All I know is that my mother wouldn’t let us die. She stole wherever she could. For example, garlic from the field of those - we were not allowed to go to Russian villages, but she would somehow creep there, to that Russian village, to the kolkhoz, steal some carrots, some garlic for us, mostly it was garlic.
We didn’t have any soap, there was nothing to wash with. Cause they wouldn’t give us anything; no soap or anything. Life was hard. It’s hard to talk about it. The way it was, it’s just unbelievable. They keep on talking what wonderful friends they are, and they aren’t. They made people suffer so much. From that time, in my family, nobody is healthy, nobody has teeth. Well, nobody. Our teeth just fell out.
I also suffer from what they call post-deportation neurosis. I keep shaking inside, whether I want to or not. It’s difficult for me even to talk about it, cause there’s that cramp in the throat. I say, when I saw, in Poland, that they gave us - when they brought us here - they gave us white bread, and I didn’t need any spread or a sausage or anything, only we ate that bread and we thought it was something extraordinary. Cause we hadn’t seen it before. Back there, we had only millet bread; that’s what they gave us. The distribution was: for us, children - 10 decagrams each, and those who worked, got 15 decagrams. And so if there were seven of us and two parents, nine altogether, they would give us - they called it such a [shows a small rectangle with her hands] small loaf, they called it a kirpicz. A piece of that bread, made from millet, oat flour, when you tried to slice it, it would crumble, and there was nothing left to eat.
People got swollen, they had frost-bitten legs. My brother got ill. He had a hole in his lungs; he went down with lungs. I remember my mother went to those Russians to ask them for help. And they killed a dog and they made lard out of it. And he drank that lard so that he wouldn’t die. And he got better, his lungs got better. She used that dog’s lard to cure him.
Section 5
How did he get that hole in the lungs?
From hunger and from cold. He caught a cold. Cause later, they made them work, they had to go 40 kilometres away in sledges to work, like slaves. We were not, as they say now, friends. We were not their friends. We were slaves back there. There were - how to say it, like you’ve got on the border, there were such posts - and there were soldiers with guns on each side, and they wouldn’t let you move anywhere. Later, we built ourselves barracks there, and we stayed there, I don’t remember exactly - three years, I think. I saw white bears, they would come close. We would run away, we didn’t know what it was. We were like sheep. The forest. It was beautiful there, summer lasted only two months where we were. There were rocks there, where they sent us, there was such a huge primeval forest, they called it taiga, and there were mountains - sky high on both sides, that’s all we saw there. And if you got to the Russian village, there was a river, the Manna, and you had to cross it on a raft to get to them. But we weren’t allowed to. Mother, when she crept there - she did a few times, in order to bring something for her children - and when she got back, when she was caught by the Russians, she was put to - there was something like a prison built there - she was put there for six days, a week, and she was given only water to drink. And she had to spend six days there. And so she died quite young, when she was 63, when she came back here with us, she was so exhausted. But she wouldn’t let us die.

What did you do in Siberia? You were a small girl after all, weren’t you?
Well, I told you what I did. I the kolkhoz, I gathered spicules, in the field, they told me to.

What are those spicules?
Spic... Ears of grain. When they harvested, those ears would fall on the ground, and so we had to go to the field and gather them each. And potatoes. When they had dug them out and collected, we would go and look for the small ones that were left behind. And also there were other things, for example, sorrel. There was this kind of large sorrel, they called it a horse-sorrel. We would collect it and prepare sorrel soup from it. It’s not easy to relate all that now. Theirs is a rich country, but what they have done to it, God forbid. I tell you, it was awful. Well, I was such a small girl, 8 years old, but I returned without health at all. The joints - inflammation all over, and now, as you can see, I sit and I can’t walk too much [points to swollen leg joints]. Well, they gave a bit more of the Siberian pension, but what is that? It is... there’s no health at all. And so they gave me some money to shut me up, cause the health was left behind in Russia. And my younger sister, she was 52 - 50 years old when she died here, in Poland. My brother - 54 when he died. The older one, who was in the Army, he fought in the front, he fought, he’s dead as well. There is one more sister, but she’s not healthy either. Well, and we sit at home, no health. All of us have this, in the chest [looks for word]... asthma - all of us. And teeth, as you can see, from young age - I haven’t. When I was 20, my teeth started... When I was getting married, my teeth had already fallen out, we didn’t have any vitamins. That was terrible; I can’t even describe it to you what we did there, what they did to us.

Could you say a bit more about sanitary conditions, the hygiene, that you had back there?
Sanitary conditions? There were none. They didn’t give us any soap. Mother - ashamed to talk about it - we didn’t have any hair, cause mother cut it to the skin, cause there were lice, they were like ants on an ant-hill. They didn’t give us soap so my mother burned birch wood in the oven. When the wood had burnt, she would take the ashes, pour hot water over them, and leave it. After some time, it would become slippery, and she would use it to wash us, to do the laundry. There was no hygiene at all. No clothes whatsoever, we didn’t get any money, they didn’t pay us, so sometimes she would just sew something from a sack. And when she sewed something, we would wear it. Well, when we came here, and there was this man who came to see us from Marianówka - he’s already dead - he said he hadn’t seen such people as ourselves.
Section 6
Who was he?
His name was Szwed. He hadn’t seen. “What kind of people are these?” he said. “How were they treated? Cause”, he says, “they’re all wrapped in rags, in such a... even Gypsies look much better.” [laughs] One more thing. When the train had a stop in - when we were from Russia - the train stopped [tries to remember something], yes, Poznan! - I just can’t remember everything like that [apologetically] - in Poznan, and so we were on Polish land, and we were so happy, and we went out, the way children do, from the train, and I will never forget it, we were walking across this huge bridge. And there were Russians, officers, and they spoke to us in Russian, that we shouldn’t leave the train, we should go back to the carriages, but we spoke back to them “No, we’re not going to obey you any more, this is our country, we will be walking wherever we want to.” And they turned round and walked away, cause they were ashamed that we were so poor, they were such masters, we had come from their country. And people would take us to their homes and ask if we were on our way back from Russia, we said, yes, we were, so they took us, bathe us, gave us clothes, so that when we came back to the carriage, to our parents, they couldn’t recognise us, our own parents couldn’t.
Later, we were no longer hungry, I cannot say. They gave us food on the train, back in Poland, when we met someone on their way to work or something, and they had some food on them, say sandwiches for lunch, they would give it to us. They gave us everything. Wherever we went, children I mean, older people would say, “Take this, take it,” they gave us everything. And Russians would chase us away. They were ashamed. And my daughter, later, when she went to school, and she had to learn Russian, it was obligatory, she went to a secondary technical school in Wroclaw, and a Russian woman taught them Russian, and she said how well it was that the [Russians] liberated us, and all that, and I told her how poor and hungry I was there, and I said, come, I can give you this and give you that, and my mother couldn’t, cause there was such poverty, and so my daughter couldn’t stand it any more and she stood up during the lesson of Russian, and she said it wasn’t true. “My mother spent six years there and came back a poor child”, she said, “and she was hungry and bare-foot all the time.” And she was summoned later on, and was rebuked – how could she say that? And she didn’t lie, only she told the truth, but they didn’t teach them proper history then, they gave them lies, cause they couldn’t tell the truth that they did the same to us as the Germans. Perhaps even worse, cause the Germans killed people, and in those concentrations camps, they made people suffer, and they killed all those Jews and [unfinished thought], but we starved. There was such famine, we had such pimples all over the body [looking for word]... scabies. It itched so much, couldn’t stand it. And they brought us back to Poland with the scabies. And my mother went here, they gave us some ointment, and she would smear us, and only here, the scabies was cured. Here, in Poland. It was terrible.
Section 7
Did you celebrate any holidays back there?
Well, holidays, we knew Christmas and Easter. At Christmas, instead of the wafer, we used bread. Yes. And mother would cook some oats, a special kind, or some wheat. She would cook something, like some soup, and later, in the summer, a potatoes or something - for Easter. Yes, she tried to cook something.
Later on, when the Russians had given us the Polish passports, it was easier, much better, cause they no longer had those rights to us, we could choose to go to work, and to kolkhoz, no longer as they said, “You have to be in the taiga and that’s it.” We were free and it was much better. My father was a guard at a bakery, where they baked bread. But they didn’t give us as much bread as we wanted, cause, they said there was a war they said.

That was still back in Russia, wasn’t it?
In Russia. And so he would sometimes steal a piece of cake, sometimes some bread, and he brought it to his children. Mother got this job as a cleaning lady in a shop, so she would bring us some cereal, she would put it into her pockets and bring us, we couldn’t buy anything, we had no money. There was no way of getting money. Later on, they paid a little. Later they did. My oldest sister, Jula, she was from Poland, she was 17 when we went there. And she was, father sent her to learn, she was a seamstress. And when she said she was a seamstress, they took her to, what do you call it, to a company where she sawed shirts for the Russians. And so they took her to sew. And it was much easier for us then, she would bring pieces of textile home and she would sew something for us. And my brother - Piotr, he worked hard, very hard in a kolkhoz, very hard. And he later went to the army, to the Polish Army, and so we didn’t see him for six years. Later, when we had come back from Russia, we tried to find him through the Red Cross, and we found him. And he was with us.
And here, I cannot say a word. When we came here, to the so-called recovered land. Germans would come to us. On our farm there were no Germans, when we came, there already was another farmer, but everything had been looted. There was nothing left in the house, nothing, but where the Germans were still living, they would come and bring things. They were good people. My father received from one such Kraut, a cow, a machine, some other things, he brought us some bed clothes, a bed. They came and gave us things, but in Marianówka, when we came there, almost all of the Germans had left, they had been displaced. There were Poles only. No, there weren’t [any Germans]. Well, and so, my child, it was.

How did you communicate back there, in Russia?
There, in Russia, there were Jews, there were Estonian people, wherever the Russians went, whatever countries they conquered, everybody was sent to Siberia. So there were the Jews, and Germans, and Russians, and Ukrainians, and Latvians - and so we couldn’t communicate. Children all played together and we couldn’t communicate, so we soon started using Russian.
Section 8
How did you learn the language?
Well, I learnt it.

From someone?
As children we played together, and I somehow learnt the language. Now I can’t speak Russian any more, but I understand everything when I hear it spoken. I can sing in Russian, and I’m quite good at it, but I can’t speak it, it’s too difficult now. Well, I didn’t, there was no school, we were not allowed. All I could learn to read and write was from those brochures that we had brought from Poland, and that was all the Polish I could learn. And when I came back here, I was 14 years old, I went to school, but I was too tall and too old, and that headmaster - Burkiewicz his name was - in Idzików, he said, “I will take you, child”, but he didn’t put me in the first grade, where I would have qualified, but he put me to the fourth grade, took care of me, and so I did two grades in one year. One semester I was in the fourth grade, another semester I was in the fifth [laughs]. And so I did the school. And so I went there, and he gave me a sixth grade certificate, but I went to school only for three years [laughs again]. I can read, I can write, I can count, that’s what he taught me. And he said “You, child, don’t go anywhere else to school, cause you’ve got much too much to catch up with, you will never make it.” And so I never did. But in the year that the Russian invaded us, I was supposed to go to the First Holy Communion, but they sent us to Siberia. So I went when we’d come back here.
I went to religion classes, the First Holy Communion, Confirmation and all, I was 14 years old. There, they would only say “Grandma, are you praying?” - they said it to my mother. “Are you praying? You do nothing but pray.” And my mother would say, “Yes, I’m praying.” And they would say there’s no God, now there’s no God. And they would swear and blaspheme, each of them. And we said that there is God. And they said, “if there is God, show me, where can you see him? Can you see him?” And we, and I - children, we would say to them, “you are stupid, He can see you, he’s looking at you from high above, and He’s standing right next to you, but you can’t see Him.” And they would run away and say I was a witch, “she says he’s right next to me and I can’t see.” And they would run and we would laugh.
Later, when we were already free, as I said, it was much better, and there were many girls, and they would woo some of us, those Russians, to marry them, to marry, and some of the Polish girls stayed. Quite a lot of them, but my mother wouldn’t let us. She said she would bring us back the same way she took us there, they took us there. And so she did, and then we scattered.
I think they should give us something. Some sort of damages for the suffering there. What good is the rise we got, and 50% discount on public transport - I lost my health. I was a child back then, they should give us - the way the Germans do, some damages, we got nothing. They only say that having been to Siberia, we are entitled to discounts, 50% on the telephone, and I don’t pay for the TV, but my health is worth much more. TV, it’s 10 zlotys that I save, that TV of theirs. Well, I think we should get some sort of damages. And the land - they took it all away from us as well. Houses - we had a beautiful house and everything, newly constructed. Later, my uncle stayed there...
Section 9
In Swiety Stanislawów?
Yes, in Swiety Stanislawów, and well - my father’s brother, and we had this new house, and they, my child, they did nothing but dismantled it - new tin on the roof, everything new, and they dismantled it and took everything away. Everything.
I went there after the war. I wanted to see. But there are no relatives left there. I met a Russian woman there, a Ukrainian, and I said I would like to see it, cause I’d promised my father I would go and see the place where he worked so hard, and I would try to go there if I live. And there was this Russian woman who came to visit our neighbours, the Nowickis in Marianówka, and I met her there, and I said I would like to visit the place. I helped her sell the gold she brought - that was her business. And I said, “Irena, I come from there, I would like to see the place, cause I hardly remember anything.” And she said, “Alright, I will send you an invitation. After all, you’re as if a relative, born there.” In my ID card, it says I was born in USSR, although I’m Polish, but my ID says USSR, that I was born in Russia, I am ashamed to show it to anyone, cause I’m no Russian, I am Polish. And so she sent me an invitation, and I visited her, I went to Stanislawów - it’s a beautiful town, I went to Lvov, they called it “our Lvivek”, it was really hard to swallow. My husband, he comes from central Poland, from the district of Rzeszów, and he didn’t understand a word of Russian, but I did, and he would ask me what they were saying. And I said, “Can’t you hear, they say it’s their ‘Lvivek’”, and he said, “Well, their Lvivek, they will have a Lvivek when they draw one for themselves.” It’s a beautiful town, lots of monuments.
I visited a lot of wonderful places there. I went to Otynia, I went where the Ukrainians - there is a church in Otynia, and I went there with that Russian woman, but it was locked, and I said, “Oh, there’s a church, I would like to go to church,” and she said, “No,” she said, “It is locked, no-one’s allowed to go inside.” So I said I would just stand outside and pray a bit. And I stood there and prayed, and she got frightened a lot, you wouldn’t believe it - and she tugged me and urged to go, and she said, “I don’t know what the attraction is for you to stand here.” And she said, “Let’s go away from here, you like to stand here, cause probably those Poles can feel you, those who are buried here, cause - she said - the Ukrainians bid farewell to lots of them here, lot of Polish families, they murdered them here, and they are all buried around the church, and - she said – “Let’s go, there are so many Ukrainians around, they will see you are Polish, let’s go,” cause it started to get dark. And she took me away from there.
And so I saw the place. There used to be beautiful villages there, cause we went there - my grandfather - we went there as colonisers. My father originally came from the district of Rzeszów and my father… and they sold everything and went there - to the Eastern borderland, and he had 7 hectares of land there, and he was a coloniser. There were Polish colonisers, Polish villages, there was Swiety Stanislaw - it was such a name, there was a parish - Swiety Józef, they were rather large Polish villages, and they referred to us as colonisers, settlers. And there were German villages as well, I don’t remember what the name of the village was - Bredheim, and then there were Ukrainians, lots of them, the majority. And my father, as I said, he was a forester, there were several hectares of forest belonging to a certain Jew, and he was a forester there. And he had employees, they planted trees there, they cut timber, they sold everything, and so we were quite well-off, quite well-off, and that’s why they took us to Russia, cause they said, we were rich people, but they didn’t know that those rich people had seven children, all very small. They didn’t see that. Maybe it was just as well they took us away. The Ukrainians murdered people so awfully, they locked people in barns, set them on fire, burned them alive. And I went to that village. But the Russians, they were so stupid, there used to be beautiful orchards, so beautiful trees, but they uprooted every one of them, they used cranes to do that, those tractors of theirs, and they turned the orchards into fields for the kolkhoz.
Section 10
That’s where the house used to be, yes?
Yes. That field and those orchards got devastated. Polish villages, I mean that Polish village - it simply disappeared, there’s absolutely nothing now. But I saw that forest, and I remembered that, that road leading to the forest, where I used to run to my father’s foresters lodge, and I went there, but the lodge was no longer there [she got a bit upset], but I recognised that road and the forest. Well, it wasn’t the same forest, cause it used to be a beautiful one, cause the Russians cut down a lot of it, and there was hardly more than bushes. And that’s all, what more can I tell you? If you’d asked me earlier, I would have remembered much more, but now?

When you were in Siberia, do you remember what the relationships among the people who were sent there were? And what about the relationships with the Russians?
With the Russians? Well, it would be a sin to say anything against them. They were very good people, not the officers, policemen, but normal Russian people. They were very friendly and very good people. They helped us whenever they could. Later on, if they had a cow, for example, they would give my mother some milk or something. They brought it to us, gave us. They shared. They would share one cigarette among ten people. That’s what they were like. They didn’t have much there either. They were there, one could live, say 70, 80 years, die and they hadn’t seen a train in their lifetime. You can take it from me. They lived some 40 kilometres away from the nearest railway line, a main station. They used only horse-drawn carts. They didn’t have much themselves but they were hospitable people. And the way they played, sang, danced, though they may have been hungry, bare-footed, but they were ever so gay [with enthusiasm]. Yes, you have to give them credit for that. And when we were leaving for Poland, they saw us off, there was no end to farewells, we had made friends with them, and they cried and they said, “You’ve made it now, you will be much better off from now on, good luck to you, they said, and we will have to stay here and we’ll die here, agonise slowly.” And so it was, they didn’t have much either. Their houses were nice, I can’t say, very clean, the floors were ever so white, ever so clean, lots of flowers.
The natural environment back there is beautiful. You can’t even imagine how beautiful the nature there is. There, in those mountains, cause back there, where we were, there were such beautiful mountains, I don’t know what their name is, there were no trees on the peaks, only such a green moss and small plants, and some low growing flowers, and it was so, we were living 200 kilometres away from the border with Mongolia, can you imagine where we were? And when I saw that [short pause] - well, I’ll come back to that - those flowers, they were so beautiful that even if you plant them in your garden and tend them, look after them, they will never grow as beautiful as those growing naturally back there. And the nature there [as if enchanted], the landscape was so breathtaking, something beautiful. Yes, it was very nice [lowers her voice]. What was I talking about? I forgot.
Section 11
Something about Mongolia.
Oh, yes, Mongolia. So there were those Mongols, and those Uzbeks, slanted eyes, no noses. And I was such a small child. I saw this Mongolian child, such a naked one, and I looked and I said, “Jesus, Maria, what is that?” I ran back home and said to my mom, “Mom, come and see what strange people there are.” And she said, “Yes, they’re exactly the same as us, it’s just another race.” And they ate horse meat, you know, and so they were so resistant to cold. They would walk about almost naked and all... And I... all the same. Here, you have to clothe children and all, and back there, it was 50 degrees below zero, 55 to 60 degrees. Can you imagine, I had to put on valonkis (warm boots), some sort of fur coat and things. You couldn’t see the face, it was all covered, you would put a shawl over your face. You know, only eyes. Otherwise you’d have got frost-bitten. And we went downhill sleighing. There was so much snow there, and it was so that you wouldn’t fall into it. And the nights were so light, and because of the frost you could see such - well, something like fires - something glowing there before your eyes. That was a beauty.
And we asked each other in Russian, “what colour are my cheeks - white, or the nose?” Cause if they were white, it meant they were getting frozen, and you had to get some snow and rub it on the cheeks until they got red again. And we would ask one another about that. And all that in Russian. Well, there is something to remember now, isn’t it? All the children, all the nationalities you can imagine, and we - all together - we played and ran downhill.
And I’ll tell you one more thing. When you were queuing for bread, cause you had to queue for everything, stand there overnight - if you wanted to get some. Back there, when a boy met a girl, he would say, “Have you got bread today?” - he would say that in Russian, and she would say, “No”, so he would say “So let’s go to the queue, to get a piece of bread.” You had to queue. They didn’t talk about love, but about food, both of them would talk about food, that they were hungry. Well, that hunger, I can tell you something. They say that in the camps, like in Auschwitz, they would eat turnip-rooted cabbage. So did we. Horses - where available, we would eat horse meat as well, when there was a horse that was too old to work, they would kill it and eat the meat - if you were lucky to get some, you treated it as a delicacy. God forbid, my child. It’s difficult to talk about now. Take it from me, it is so far away, so terrible. We were sent to the heart of Siberia, they took us there, and we had to built our own barracks to live in. Polish girls, cause we didn’t have... they had their legs frost-bitten. We were some of the few that came back in the same number we had gone there. In some families, there were five children and eventually only one survived, some of them lost everyone, cause there are different people, some are stronger, some are weaker.
And my mother, in 1914 was sent to Russia with her father as well [hesitation], cause my mother some time in 1914, the Russians invaded us and she was also in captivity, working as a nurse, you know, a military nurse. You know. So when the Russians came to take us to Russia, she said, “Jesus, I was there in 1914, and they are taking me back to Russia again. With my children.” She had been there with her parents, and her mother died there - she was 32 years old - my mother’s mother and her brother died, and she was left only with her father and two sisters. And my father was taken captive somewhere there as well, I don’t know how, where, and they met there and they got married in Kiev. That was still under the Tsar, I don’t know, in ‘14, I hardly know the history; and they got married there. So when the Russians came to take us, she knew. Hardly had she seen the caps they were wearing [shows a conical shape], she knew. We would say they were shooting at God with those caps, cause they were such, the shape of [shows the same shape as before], they were wearing on their heads. And so it was, my child, so it was. And so I came here, and I keep on going.
Section 12
Would you like to go back to the town of Swiety Stanislawów?
No, not any more.

Did you want to before?
Before - I did. When I’d crossed... when I was going there, when I’d crossed the border, there was such a cramp in the throat, I couldn’t say a word to my husband. But later, when I was there, those Ukrainians... When was it? When Monika (older granddaughter) was... 8 years old, no she was 8 months old - my granddaughter. And she’s now 24, so it was, how many years ago when I was there? [thinks for a while] Well, I was. I don’t remember exactly.
But I would be afraid of the Ukrainians, cause there was a terrible manslaughter. When I was there, I asked why every now and then we passed someone without a leg, and this Ukrainian woman says to me, “It’s all the band members (Ukrainian gangs) - they cut them off. They like such slaughter. And so I wouldn’t like to be there. Well, back there, my relatives stayed there, my aunt’s husband, my father’s sister, back there. There is this boy, his son. And one day, the Ukrainians took her husband in front of the house and they put him on - you know, such wooden contraption to saw timber, have you seen something like that? - and they put him on it, and they started sawing him like a piece of timber, starting from the legs. And they took his wife outside, and his daughter, son, his son was 6 years old at that time, and they made them look at it, and so until this day, he has [looks for a proper word] psychic disorder caused by fear. And so they sawed him like that to death.

When was that?
It was when the Russians, together with the Ukrainians, when the Russians took away our land. Cause, you know history, don’t you, the Russians allied with the Krauts. And together they partitioned Poland. And they gave the Russians, those Ukrainians, freedom, the Germans did, so that they could do whatever they wanted, because they wanted Ukraine to be separated. And so they murdered everyone because they wanted to have independent Ukraine. And they stayed there, but they didn’t give them Ukraine, but they still live there.
Yes, I’d rather live there then here, on this land, cause those areas there are so beautiful, and they are ours, Polish land.
Section 13
So you don’t like it here?
Well, I do. I like it here, cause I have lived here long enough. I’ve got children here, grandchildren.

When did you come here?
I came... you mean in Poland in general?

Here, in this area.
Well, here, in this area - I came to Bystrzyca in 1950.

But you came to Marianówka earlier, didn’t you?
Well, yes, I came to Marianówka in ‘46, and I stayed there until ‘50 together with my parents, later I got a job and I worked in Bystrzyca until ‘62, and I got married, and then I went back to my parents, to Marianówka, cause there was no-one to look after them, so I had to make this sacrifice. And I had to give up my job. My husband had a job and I ran the farm. I ran this farm, it was quite a large one, in Marianówka, later on it got burned, so I bought another little farm in Bystrzyca. I didn’t want to go back to farming, it’s hard work, I’d had enough of that, I’d been in farming for 30 years, and now farmers mean nothing, have nothing, no [breaks suddenly], I worked really hard.

Was that your only source of income?
No. My husband had a job, it was easier. I bought everything. My son stayed with us, but he isn’t into farming for it’s unprofitable. He won’t work for nothing. I had milk, 25 hectares of land, I mean 14 hectares was our own, the rest was rented, so altogether we had 25 hectares, we had 18 pieces of cattle - 12 ,13 at least. I milked 5 cows a day, I sold the milk. They came here, from the District Co-op, to collect, for example 7 bulls for meat, pigs, everything. I sowed rape, they came, collected it, and so I bought tractors and everything. It was at the time of Gierek (Edward Gierek - Head of the Communist Party from December 1970 to September 1980). And now my son stayed as well, cause I am in town, in Bystrzyca, and he is in Bystrzyca as well, but 3 kilometres away from me - he doesn’t have any cattle. For he won’t go from door to door with a bottle of milk asking if someone would like to buy it. Besides, I told him, “Son, don’t let them humiliate you.”
When there was a milk purchase point, it was profitable, he would milk the cows, deliver the milk there, 60 or 80 litres and at the end of the month, he would get paid. And later, it became so unprofitable and he says, “Mom, what do I need those cows for?” Here, in Bystrzyca, at the housing estate, someone ordered 2 litres, someone else 1.5 litres, and he would bring the milk in a car and sell it like that. Eventually I rebuked him and said, “Go and look for a proper job. Find yourself a proper job and sell all the cows so that you don’t have to make such a fool of yourself selling milk by the bottle. You have to make your living.” And now he doesn’t have any cows, cause it’s absolutely unprofitable. When he needs a litre of milk, a piece of cheese, he can buy it. The state will not take it, there’s nowhere to sell it. He had some land as well, he sowed rape, wheat. Now the land is left untilled , he has to pay the tax anyway. Where would he sell it? He would have to go and ask for his work to be appreciated. Besides, it’s beyond the point, fertilisers cost more than wheat. So where’s the money to pay for the tractor petrol, everything - I ask? No point at all, absolutely. In the past, there was a purchase point, they purchased wool, there were sheep, and everything, you could make some money.
I bought two tractors - I bought them from the farming - I bought all the equipment, and trailers, and all. And now, if my son wanted to buy a tractor, he would have to sell the house, I think, there’s no money in farming. The whole economy is in ruin. And so he went to work, today here, tomorrow there, the daughter-in-law has got a steady job, she works in the forestry, she’s an accountant. And so they live. They would be better off, they’ve got good conditions, buildings and all, they could keep pigs, but where would they sell them? [gets a bit agitated] The prices now - it’s like giving away. They won’t even pay for your work. I’m not saying the pasture and all, it costs, you have to look after the pigs, work hard, they won’t pay even for that. So there’s no point doing it. They brought lots of goods, they buy them in the West. The farmer is nothing and has nothing. The farmer is totally destroyed. Such beautiful houses, and when I go to my son’s, when I went there before, it was so beautiful, the fields were yielding rape, there were hectares of rape blossoming, and now I go there and look, the heart aches. There’s nothing, no rape, no nothing, you can smell nothing in the air, fields are empty, covered with grass [gestures as if trying to show something], there’s no cattle, you don’t see cattle in the meadows. Now people don’t have more than one cow - for themselves. And so they live.
Villages are poor these days. In towns, if you have a pension, or you have a job, you can live somehow. But village people are very poor, sometimes people don’t have enough money to buy their children shoes, no money to buy books, sometimes even not enough to buy bread. And no way of earning any. Even you wanted, what will you buy fertilisers with? If you don’t fertilise the soil, nothing will grow. I spent 30 years in farming, so I know. You needed tonnes of fertilisers. The state was well-off and so were we. And now, what can you do? Such a government. They say Balcerowicz is to blame (present Minister of Finance), but I don’t know if it’s him who rules it that way. I always listen to the news, each news service. I am interested in that a bit. I don’t have proper education but I like being interested. I like politics. I have to know what’s going on where, how other states are doing. Teleekspress (TV news programme) is a must for me, and I know something. I can’t walk much, won’t go far away from home, cause I’ve got problems with circulation, weak circulation, I had an embolia, and I can’t walk much, so I sit at home and watch TV. Sometimes my son will give me a lift to town, you see, Bystrzyca is hilly, mountains everywhere. I could walk on even ground but not uphill. And so my life has passed. I’m happy to have grandchildren, cause it’s now 7 years since my daughter died, and the children - my daughters, as I call them - are good people. One of them is doing her MA now in Polish, the other one is studying at the University of Opole. That’s all the joy I now have from life. I’m happy to have them. Nothing more. And I cherish the hope. I love them very much and I’m happy for them. It would be good if they could make some more money, cause they’ve got this pension as well, but what kind of money that is, God forbid. They are studying, and they’ve got 4.2 million old zlotys each - what will that be in new money, how to say it? Oh, yes, 420 zlotys. But, thank God, we don’t suffer from hunger.
Section 15
When you were coming here - to this area - what did you imagine your life here would be? Did you have any dreams?
The only dream I had, my child, was to eat something, get washed and clothed. When I got hold of soap, I would take it - regular soap, not anything in the way of deodorants, perfumes, or other things I’ve got now - into my hands and smell it [shows it with a gesture]. We rubbed that soap into our clothes for the fragrance it had. Because back there, when we were already free, when we could travel around Russia, we did have soap, but it was a grey soap, no fragrance at all, that soap was made from bones or something, my mother used it to do the laundry. But that’s the most important thing - you can even be hungry - but when you are dirty, covered with lice and you have no way of washing, you don’t have clean underwear, that the worst thing in life. That’s a tragedy.
Later, when I was a lass, I used nail varnish, you know, it was all so modern. What is that? You didn’t know anything, you hadn’t seen anything. And later, it was much better, thank God. Back there, they hadn’t seen anything. The worst thing was sweets. For six years I didn’t see sweets. An apple? Although they say they are such an affluent nation, they’ve got everything, but where we were, there’s only two months of summer, in April it’s still winter, they sow in May and it takes only two months for the grain to grow; the climate is somehow different. Everything, potatoes. Later, we planted potatoes for ourselves. You know, before that, we were not allowed. The land was there, untilled, but we were not allowed. Well, they gave us, when they went to work, I don’t know how to say it, cause it was in Russian, it was 15, they gave 15 hundred - that’s the way they said - a piece of land you could have. And there, it was unlike it is here, you have to use fertilisers and things. There, you dug the soil, planted a potato or a carrot, and they grew so big, the soil is very soft there, you didn’t need any tools, you could dig potatoes out with your bare hands. Yes, the soil is very good back there, but there’s frost.
People living there are still poor, even now. They die even now, they don’t know what a car is, those people living in the taiga. They sometimes show it on TV, and I watch it and I think, “Good God, this is true, someone may live for a century but they don’t know anything, they know nothing.” When they come here, to Warszawa, they are so happy because life back there is so terrible. Well, I can’t say, in larger towns, Moscow or other places, they must be beautiful, cause when they show them on TV, they look beautiful, but the people are hungry even there. Who has some sort of a job, they show it - but it’s poverty. Well, now, after the war it’s quite different. But I would like to, although it was hard, I’d like to be there, where I was as a child, I would like to see the place, but I think I will see that after I die [bursts out laughing], cause I wouldn’t stand the journey, it is ever so far, so very far [thinks -my narrator speaks in short, often unfinished sentences, pause a lot to gather thoughts] What else can I tell you, my child?

When you came here, to this area - to Marianówka or to Bystrzyca, how were you received by those living here? How did you get acclimatised?
Very well. We were very happy, very happy. My father was so glad - my dad - cause mom could bake bread by herself, and when she did, they kissed the bread, they had enough of it. And there were two cows, a German man brought one, there already was one when we came, mother made butter and baked bread, father sowed grain, but there were no machines back then, they did all by hand, it was hard work. Father used a scythe to cut the grain, everything. There was a threshing machine, we threshed the grain, took it to the mill, and mother could bake some rolls. We had milk and bread and we were no longer hungry. And we had apples. And we had money to buy sugar.
Section 16
What were the relationships with the neighbours?
All the neighbours were good people, all of them arrived from somewhere. We didn’t know each other, but as one had one thing, another had something else, they all shared what they had. It wasn’t bad. They helped each other a lot, whether it was potato picking or a need to use a neighbour’s horses. Back in Russia, there were no horses, they only used oxen.

And as far as cultural life goes... [my narrator interrupts me]
Oh, cultural life, well, I must tell you - we were living in the middle of the village, and there were four girls and three boys, and we lived in the middle, and we all gathered, and someone played the accordion, we danced, we sang - it was merry. And we - I will never forget it - there was a German band, and when they organised a party, and even as a child - I was 14 then - we would go there and listen. They played so beautifully, those Germans. One of them was so fat, he had such fat fingers but God, how he played! Beautifully. And we played, organised dancing parties. Life was merry. Oh, I would have forgotten - I had to join the SP (Service to Poland; Stalinist labour camp for young people) - obligatorily.

What was it - SP?
[Thinks] SP was something like ZMP (Polish Youth Association - a communist youth organisation). Don’t you know what it was?

Such an organisation, they said for internal defence of the country, so I had to go to this SP, obligatorily. We had practice meetings, and when there were May Day manifestations, we had to go; we had regular practice as if in the army. They took us to Psie Pole (now a district of Wroclaw) in Wroclaw, we lived in tents and had exercises. You know, it was all propaganda, and they photographed us, showed us on TV. It was all a lie. But it was obligatory so we had to go.

When was it?
Directly after the war.

When you were already living here?
No, that was when I was living in Marianówka. Well, that was... I went there only in ’50, and so until ’50, I was, I was... SP, SP. On May Day, we were wearing red ties, white shirts and navy blue skirts, white trainer shoes, white socks, and there was this rostrum in Bystrzyca, next to the cinema, and they all were standing there, and our commander was leading us and singing “Eyes right...”, and we were supposed to salute them. I marched like a soldier. Later we passed through the playing field and they gave us free food, you know, drinks. Well, and I went there, but I didn’t join the... they told me to so many times, cause it was UB (Polish Security Services) then, or DZP, ZMP? [can’t remember the name]. I joined the SP, cause it was obligatory, but I didn’t join ZMP, that communist party. Cause I couldn’t agree to all of them being on first-name terms. Imagine, I was such a young girl, and there was this bloke, about 60-50 years old, and he says to me, “you”, “do this,” “go there”, “come here”. I’m not a comrade after all, how could I say to him “you” [laughs]. You were supposed to address everyone with “Comrade”. And I thought to myself, he was about the same age as my father, and how was I supposed to use his first name to address him? But you had to get used to it somehow. You couldn’t say “Sir”, but instead, “Comrade, we’ll do this or that, it’ll be this or that way, will it be proper to do it this way should an enemy attack us...” and such. And you had to go and do what they wanted. And all that was obligatory. All what they show on TV, that series about how SP people were constructing new buildings, remember, that one in which that man played, Talar his name was, you know, he fell from the scaffolding. What was the name of the series? [trying to remember]. When I watch it, I laugh. It was directly after the war, it was SP, SP and they sang... [thinks] I don’t remember... [a pause].
Section 17
Do you remember your first friends around here? When you had already come to this area? Who was it?
I remember. When I arrived, I had a girl friend, but she’s dead now, and I had lots of friends; yes, I had a lot, the same age as I was. We were close friends.

Where were they from? Did they arrive here together with you?
No, no. We were the only family who came here from Russia to Marianówka, it was such a small village. We arrived here in ’46, no, in ’42, I remember the exact date, 26th May. And, you know, they all came here from Central Poland, cause, they said, this was the recovered land, and they came here, but there was no place for them any more, all the villages were full of settlers. I don’t know where they came from. Lots of people are from Tarnawica Polna, I don’t know, it’s probably also not far from us. And in Idzików and Plawnica (villages not far from Bystrzyca Klodzka), all of them were from Tarnawica Polna (a town which used to be Polish, later annexed by the Soviet Union). But not from Russia.
We had good relationships with the people. My mother was a very agreeable person, she was working in the hospital, she was a nurse, and so they often came to seek medical help, and she understood them, helped them. It wasn’t bad. Later, it was much better for us. And life was merry. The merriest time I remember was the first Christmas after we came from Russia. My mother had baked rolls, we had a Christmas tree, wafer, we cried so much and we even didn’t want to eat anything. It was such joy. Back there, you couldn’t even think about presents and things, and now we had food, and we had Christmas wafer, and you could go to church, and everywhere; it was totally different, you were free and there was nothing to fear.
Now I find things strange. And I’m afraid for my granddaughters, when they go somewhere, when I watch all that violence and... back then, you could stay out until midnight, one o’clock, two. Nobody heard about the robberies, murders, now something strange is happening. When I was young, I could go out whenever I wanted to, now I would never venture out at two am or at midnight; back then I was safe. These days one man is afraid of another. It was not like that back then. Sometimes you forgot to lock the door for the night and nothing happened, you could sleep safely, you were not afraid of those thieves, those robberies, you were not afraid you could get killed, mugged as you are now. Well, there were accidents, they happened, you know, for example, in Bystrzyca... Or drug addiction, only recently had I heard about drug addicts. We didn’t know anything like that before. Or some AIDS, who ever heard about AIDS back then? [starts laughing, and continues laughing]
Now I’m an old woman, but when friends visit my girls, I tell them, be careful who you talk to, who you meet, remember what they say about the dangers and all. I don’t even know what AIDS is. I know it’s an infectious disease, or there was this man in Wroclaw - you have to be on your toes all the time - in Wroclaw, there was a man who would pour acid on the seats in tramway carriages, I heard about it on TV - that’s terrible. Now people do awful things. I don’t know, some people say these things happen shortly before the end of the world. I say, there’s going to be no end to the world, there will be an end to people, mankind. Everything has changed now, the world used to be much more beautiful. Summers were warm and nice, you didn’t have to hide cause of the UV rays. I am old but I hide from the sun, cause you never know. Who knew about it then? We would go out in the hottest sun. Or the cockchafers, there were so many of them, the nature was so beautiful, now there are none, where have the cockchafers gone, what’s happened, they’ve destroyed everything. There’s absolutely nothing. We had fun when we were going somewhere, now you’re afraid to. Now I keep warning my granddaughters, or my grandson [coughs], don’t go there, came back on time.
[The telephone rings, my narrator answers it, comes back and continues her story]
There was a lot of work here, in the villages as well. There was a smith, he had a workshop, people had jobs, there were toys, companies, there was a clothing company in Bystrzyca, they sewed clothes, now there is the match factory. There was a lot of work. Products, carton, furniture, no problem, as long as you were willing to, the director, when I was working at the very beginning, would come from Wroclaw and say, “Work, work, money is waiting for you.” There was a lot of work, you couldn’t complain, who wanted to work, could work.
There was a park in Bystrzyca, now look how neglected it is. Back then, it was a nice walk in the park - you could breathe fresh air, there were flowers, it was clean and nice, there were parties in the open air, if you wanted to go to [them] - ice cream. On Sundays we went to park in Bystrzyca and made a day of it. When I had children, I went to the park, we could buy various drinks there, men could get some beer, there was a band playing, not a tape, but a band, you could dance, there was a swimming pool, you could have a swim. And now everything... well, there’s no money for anything, now it’s all dead, everyone goes to work, if they have jobs, they are afraid the company may go bankrupt, get liquidated.
People live under great stress, back then it wasn’t like this: everyone knew that if they worked, they would be paid, and how much they would be paid. There were certain norms, quotas, if you met them, you got what you deserved. And now they often say, “I’m afraid they’re going to close down the company, what will I do on the benefit?” They often come to me and say, “If you’ve got some stuff, some clothes, left over from your girls, can you give them to us? We have no money to buy clothes for our children, my husband doesn’t have a job, the benefit is over, and we need stuff to send them to school.” It’s books most of all, they are ever so expensive. It’s unbelievable. Simple things like pencils, notebooks, and all, everything is so expensive. If they gave us western wages, if it is already the west here, let them give us western wages - the way it is now, we’ve got western prices and Polish wages. What is it? Like my girls, they get 400 zlotys orphan pension. That’s nothing. What would they do without me?
I don’t understand the world now. Not everyone can be a businessman, [the] majority are poor people, older people. You go to the doctor and he says he would prescribe something to you, but you say I can’t afford buying it, so the doctor has to find something cheaper, but what can you do if you need the more expensive medicines? And so I go there, I buy them and then I think how to live for the rest of the month on what’s left. That’s not the way it used to be. You could buy medicines, you could afford being ill. When my parents were still living, you had to pay for the hospital, but it was much cheaper. When my father was ill, I had to pay for the hospital, but I could afford paying for it, and for the medicines and the nurse... now you can’t afford anything, all the prices are so high. You can’t afford anything. Now a pensioner will get some 500 zlotys, sometimes they get only 300, how could anyone live on that? It used to be much better. I don’t know what they’ve done now. I don’t know whose fault it is, is it that the country gets richer and so we should get richer as well.
Section 19
Do you remember any traditions you brought back from Russia?
What traditions could they have? In eating? Well, no. There, you cooked a pot of cabbage, potatoes, added some sour milk at that was it. Well, traditions, do you think they had such puddings as we do now? Do you think anyone had ever seen a layer cake, or any cake at all? [laughs]. Who would have baked it, from what, we didn’t have any sugar. They didn’t have anything. Thank God, my child, back there, all the delicacies we had was when you managed to steal some potatoes on kolkhoz’s fields, such small ones, you collected them, washed them clean, and there was this plate - you know, no gas or anything, but a simple plate in an oven - and you put those potatoes on that hot plate, and you turned them over with something, there was fire in the oven, they baked, and you ate them with the peel. Those were our delicacies. That was something for us. Lemonade or tea or coffee? In winter, you brought some water from the river in a bucket and you drank it. And it was good. Those were the delicacies. It wasn’t like it is now, here. You go and buy what you will.

When you were in Siberia, did you see Russians drinking a lot?
Do they drink! There, when a child is five years old, they already give it what they call horilka. They give their children that moonshine to drink. They don’t buy vodka back there, they can’t afford it, but they somehow produce it from potatoes. I said to one of the Russian women there, “What are you doing?”. Even now, when I was back in Poland and I went to visit them in Russia, they will sit together, and I say, “What are you doing?” They drink vodka, and she pours half a small glass and gives it to a five year-old. “Let him have a drink as well,” she says. “It’s to health.” There is no culture or anything. They don’t have plates, they won’t give you a plate, maybe somewhere like in Moscow or something they do, but those simple people, when I went there with my husband, I saw with my own eyes, there was one huge bowl full of broth, another bowl with potatoes, some meat or something they have, and she would only give everyone a spoon. And all of them like this. They eat from the same bowl - children and adults. And my husband was sitting next to me, and I was clever, I quickly took some meat, cause I thought when they put their dirty hands into that bowl, I wouldn’t eat anything from that, and so I had at least some meat [laughs] And my husband was sitting next to me and he said, “Stefa, how am I supposed to eat it?” And I said to him, “You go ahead and eat, otherwise you’ll be hungry. [laughs] Get some.” And that Ukrainian woman noticed and she asked what he’d said to me in the ear, and I said, “Well, you don’t have plates, you’ve been to Poland, you’ve seen how we eat. He won’t touch anything.” And she said, “Well, because you’re like lords, you’re like lords.” And so she gave him a separate plate, cause otherwise wouldn’t have eaten anything.
Later, after dinner, she asked us if we wanted some coffee. I knew what was going to happen so I said “No, thank you,” but my husband said, “Yes, please.” And she made him some coffee in a tin pot, you know, and she brings the coffee to him and he says to my ear he won’t drink it. I say, “Now you have to… don’t say anything, now you’ve asked for it, drink!” They don’t have any culture as far as eating. They’ve got nice flats, houses. The make moonshine, they kill themselves with that, they drink a lot of vodka. They go to that kolkhoz, they dance and sing and play. They drink vodka everywhere, that moonshine of theirs. Yes, and they still do.
Section 20
When you moved here, did you notice something similar to that? You know, it’s in the mountains, and they say that mountain people like to drink. Was it similar here?
Well, I say, they did drink as well, like they do now. People drank as well. Who liked, he drank. It was the same as it is now, but nobody’s ever heard about giving vodka to children. It’s some other culture. I’ve never seen anyone giving vodka to children. At theirs, it happens on everyday basis. They say it’s a medicine. Back there, you get up in the morning, you get a drink, to dinner, all the time. My husband liked to have a drink, and I had such fun with him there, cause they don’t drink from small vodka glasses, no, they use large glasses the size of mugs, they call them stakanek, and when he was holding one, I was laughing like mad.
On our way back, we’d bought some gold, and we didn’t know how to smuggle it through the border. Where to hid it? I wasn’t that afraid, I can speak Russian and Ukrainian, but my husband was so scared, so I gave him beer and I said, “Drink.” And I put all the gold into his pockets, and I put only one ring on my finger - that’s what you were allowed to have. On the border they came and asked if we had any gold. And I said we didn’t, that my husband was happy I came to take him back home, cause he couldn’t stand that horilka, he got so drunk. And they left us alone, and we laughed when we got home. Back there, it’s vodka, vodka and pirogis (small Russian pastries). They were quite good, especially when you fry them. When I came back, I never tried to cook them the way they do. Well, it’s their tradition. They say we are lords. In the poorest home here, well, if it is not a drinking dive, culture is higher than back there. The woman I visited was a teacher, she taught in a school there and they ate from one bowl, with children around, and she was a teacher. Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything to them. They are poor as well, they don’t make much money. What else can I tell you?
Section 21
How did you meet your husband?
Well, I met my husband in the factory, when I was working there. I had a job there and so did he. And we met, but we didn’t date for too long. Well, soon we decided we would get married. In those days, you wouldn’t have a boyfriend and things. He was my boyfriend and we decided to talk to the parents and get married. And my father said, go ahead. And so we did. He was poor and I was poor. He had one quilt without bedclothes, I had a feather quilt [laughs again]. And we got married. And we both worked. Day and night. At that time, we were in the toy factory. We manufactured those dolls, and not only did we work in the factory, we would take some work back home and work at nights, so that we would earn more. There was so much work - why has this changed? And we exported our products as well. They were beautiful toys. I don’t know if you had any of those, but they were beautiful. Well, so we got married, we were poor things working hard, and eventually we had a household and everything.
We bought a radio, we were so happy. No people have VCRs, satellite TV. If my father could rise from the dead and see our television, he would say it’s some sort of a miracle to be able to see people on TV. So we bought a radio and we were happy, and we listened to it. And we bought other things, on instalments. It was easier than now, food was much cheaper, you could go to the butcher’s, buy whatever you wanted, there were no fridges, no freezers - only later, there was nothing, queuing for everything, coupons, I don’t know how, who took all that away. People said that all the stuff was sent to Russia. In paint tins there was meat sent to them. And we had to queue. And I was going to tell you, I don’t want them to arrest me for what I say [laughs]. I only say what I heard people say. Life was easy, we had a merry life with my husband. True, we worked hard, but on Saturday we would go to a party, all night long, there were such dancing parties, not what you’ve got now. They organised balls, for example, in May, there was a flower ball.

Where was that organised?
That was here, in Bystrzyca, in “Marysienka” restaurant. You know where it is, the large building, there was a large hall. Companies organised those parties. Various companies organised them. Every Saturday it was a different company’s party. It was something beautiful. In May they had this flower party, so the whole hall was decorated with flowers. And it is a large hall, now it’s a furniture warehouse, so you can imagine how large it was. There were flowers on every table, evening dresses obligatory. Men - nobody would come wearing a sweater, but all in suits, well ironed trousers, a tie. The dances were very nice, nothing of the sort you now have. What show on TV. It was very nice, we danced waltzes, and polkas and all. There were fancy dress parties as well. My husband once went to ask a woman to dance. She looked beautiful. Only later it turned out it was a man dressed as a woman. We had fun. When a boy wanted you to dance with him, he wouldn’t come to you and say, “Let’s dance” they way they do now, no. They would come, bow, you danced with him, he would see you off to your seat, kiss your hand, thank you. Now people say it’s the 20th century, that I’m old-fashioned.
They can call me old-fashioned alright, but I think there was much more respect people had to each other. You wouldn’t see a girl drinking beer, or one who would be drunk. Maybe there were some exceptions, but overall it was different. People would say she was perverted or something, nobody would dance with her and all. And if you wanted to kiss or hug, it wasn’t like it is now, they do it everywhere and all the time and how they do it. No, you could kiss and hug and things but it was not in the street [gets very emotional]. And now, you go to a bus stop, and there is that couple of young people virtually licking one another, yuk! And they say I’m old-fashioned, it’s the 20th century - maybe it is, but these things were different. You walked with a boy properly in public places. After all, you’ve got flats for that, to kiss and hug and things, not while walking in the street. This is the first time I’ve seen such... such love. I don’t like it. I don’t know why it’s happened like this. I don’t like it. And they say there are so many diseases, so many crippled children. These are the consequences. How come a girl should take a mug of beer and drink? Or in front of shops as they do. They stand there, drink, fall down, God forbid, you can drink beer if you like, but not like this, this is not the way it should be. Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s the parents who don’t mind? Or maybe this is the way it should be, I don’t know. And so it is. What else can I tell you, what else do you want to know?
Section 22
How were the Germans who stayed here after ’45?
They left, they cried a lot.

But I mean those who stayed behind, how did you live with them? It was alright. We lived in peace. Some of them would come to my parents’ and all. The most difficult thing was how to communicate with them, cause they didn’t speak Polish and we didn’t speak German - we used gestures, but we were good neighbours. I can’t say. We were sorry for them. My mother - when one of them was leaving - went there, took some bread for her, she gave them. We cried as much as they did, cause, you know, my parents, the Russians chased them away from their home as well, so we knew what it meant. They had to leave their own homes as well, they left all their belongings behind. Personally, I - when I was in hospital - there were those nurses, cause I’ve been ill all the time since I came back from Russia, so I went to hospital and there were those nurses. They were ever so nice, they were nuns. And I said to one of them, I hoped I would never come back to hospital again, and she said she hoped so too, but even if I did, they wouldn’t be there, they were going to be replaced by lay nurses. I don’t know where they went. Everybody was so sorry, cause, can you imagine, you work all your life, and somebody comes and throws you out of your home, it’s terrible. And when those Germans were leaving, they cried so much. But they are better off now - so I’ve heard, cause one of those Krauts used to visit us on the farm we were.

The one who lived there before?
Yes, the one. He came here, entered the yard, he didn’t know if he could, if he would be well received, cause apparently people didn’t receive them that well. He was with an interpreter. I went out, welcomed them, and he said, “Are you the hostess here now?” I said yes, and he introduced himself, he said he used to be the host here. I invited him in . He was very glad that I did. They were very happy, they said how nice I was. I invited them in, offered them coffee, and I had some plum cake that I had baked, so I offered it to them. He wanted to know if it was baked in the oven that he had built. It was so. I could see he ate this cake and liked it so much. Maybe not because it was so good, but for him it was important that the cake was baked in his oven, the one he had built. And he wanted to go round the household, see what it looked like, and I let him in everywhere he wanted, and kept saying, “Good Frau, good Frau.”
I had made some alterations to the household, I had put some tiles on the walls in the toilet, renovated the house facade, turned a part of the farm buildings into bedrooms. But he liked it. He was glad and he asked if he could come back again some time. I said, yes, of course he could. And there were those apple trees that he had planted, and he wanted some apples from those trees of his. He took those apples all the way to - I forget the name of the town - far away anyway. He said he would distribute them among his grandchildren. Apples from the trees he planted. You’re more than welcome, I said. My husband helped him picking those apples, I gave him some eggs from the farm of his, I mean mine, and some butter, and some cheese, and he was so very glad. He also brought us some presents. And later he came from time to time, they took photographs on horseback, as we had a horse at that time, he asked if he could take photographs. Later he came with one of his granddaughters, and she mounted the horse, I still have those photographs. Some time later, my granddaughter was ill, she had a severe allergy, and I couldn’t get proper medicines, so I wrote to him, sent him the prescription the doctor had given us, and he sent us the medicine, that German man. When they came here, we would sit and talk and we were all sorry that it had turned so. I told him it wasn’t our fault that we were here, we had also been chased away from our households back in what used to be Poland and now is Russia, I said, they took everything away from us and sent us away, all our belongings were left there, and now they sent us here, and what used to be yours is now ours, but what can we do about it. We have to agree to that. This used to be yours, now it is ours. In Russia it was, I said, where it used to be Poland, now there’s Russia, and what can you do? I am ashamed to show my ID, cause it says I was born in USSR. I wasn’t born in USSR [gets agitated], cause I was born in Poland. What can I do about the Russians having partitioned Poland together with the Germans, it is not my fault? I’m no Russian. Wherever I show this ID, it says USSR. They shouldn’t even write it. They should mention somehow that it’s not USSR. They make a Russian out of a Pole. Yes, what else do you want from me?
Section 23
Is there anything else you would like to mention, some sort of memory?
There are no more memories to talk about. Memories. I have memories when my family was as a whole - my daughter was still alive, my son-in-law… they died so young. I have nice memories, but now, it’s been seven years since my daughter died, and now my life is sad. I talk and all, I’m happy to have those granddaughters, one is 24, the other 21. I’m glad I’ve got them. My joy of life, you know, is no longer there, I only live for them, cause I love them and I want them to get educated, start their own lives. They now work very hard, at that university, and later, when they graduate, there may be no work for them. I can see it now, so many nights without sleep, what good will their efforts be? My parents died when I was young, when my father died, I was 28; two years later, my mother passed away. [silence] Later, I remained like that, the house burnt down, all the belongings, I was left like that Gypsy in the field, without a roof over my head. Later, I bought this here. It was alright, I can’t complain.
When my children were alive, before they got married, we had a merry life. I liked dancing, I liked walking. I liked receiving guests. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I was hospitable. People liked me and I liked people, I like company. I know how to share with another man, I know what it means to be poor, to be hungry. My granddaughters sometimes say, “Grandma, there are just three of us, why are you cooking so much?”, and I say, “Someone might come with a visit, so how would we receive them?” And I always prepare too much. Now I’ve got enough, but I will never forget the hunger. And I always have to have something to share with other people. And now, what am I? I am a grandma. Maybe God will let me see my great grandchildren. I would like to see them get married, find good husbands. That’s my wish now. And I would like to live long enough to see them well-off. What else can I wish for? Yes, I’d like God to let me see my great grandchildren, although I can’t walk any more, I would gladly play with them, I would help them bring them up, cause otherwise, they’ve got no-one else to turn to, they have to count on themselves, when they get married - they’ve got just themselves, they don’t have parents.
Section 24
Thank you for the conversation.
[At this point another side of the cassette finished; my narrator had nothing more to say.]

1914 - mentions her mother being deported to Russia
1932 - my narrator was born
10.02.1940 - deportation of the whole Salach family to Siberia
1946 - return to Poland, arrival at the “recovered land” (Marianówka)
After she arrived to Poland, in 1950 she was forced to join a communist organisation
1950 - arrival at Bystrzyca Klodzka, beginning of work in one of the factories there
1954 - gets married
1962 - gives up her job in the factory and goes to Marianówka to help her ageing parents
The Marianówka farm burns down
Purchases her own farm in Bystrzyca Klodzka
A trip to the eastern borderland, to see her family village
Makes friends with a German man who owned her farm before 1945.