Poland glossary








army officer


Bystrzyca Klodzka


July 1999



Section 1
A conversation with Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina is pure pleasure. When I first met him to arrange the interview, I could see the enthusiasm in his eyes, a sort of joy at the idea that someone wanted to talk to him about his life, about how he found himself in this region. I think both of us enjoyed the conversation very much. Sometimes he had a problem finding the proper word. I was warmly received and invited to the living room, which was very clean and tidy, although quite basic. In the middle, there was a round table and beautiful antique chairs. There was also a chest of drawers on which various cups and crystal vases were placed: his trophies from various skiing events.

Your first name’s Stanislaw, may I use it?
Yes, naturally, by all means do. And what’s your first name?

Alright, Agniesia (diminutive form). Let’s get on with it.

To start with, I would like you to tell me your name, age, your occupation, education, the basic stuff.
Alright then, let’s start from the beginning. I was born at the beginning of this century, way before World War I, in August 1913, so I’m going on for 86 now. Before the First War, my father was in the Austrian Army, because Poland didn’t exist at that time, it had been partitioned. Stanislawów (a town in the East Borderland, now in Ukraine) was under the reign of Franz Joseph, and my father met my mother, fell in love with her, although he was an Austrian officer, born in Austria, and then he returned to Poland. Back then, in Stanislawów, there was Marshall, I mean, later to become Marshall, Pilsudski, he was organising Polish legions there. And he met my father there, my father joined him, and later, during the World War I, my father was in the legions and he organised all the legion’s artillery, cause my father was in the artillery originally. I even have a letter from Marshall Pilsudski to my father discussing some of their organisational problems. During World War I, my grandfather was working in transport, and so we were moved to Vienna, where my grandfather had a position in the Austrian Ministry of Transport. All my family, my mother, my sister and myself, we were living in Neilenbach near Vienna.
When the Austrian Empire started falling apart towards the end of the war, when the war ended, we left Austria and went back to Poland. And so we settled down in Zakopane in 1917. I was living in Zakopane until 1927. There, I went to school, I learnt to ski, made my first steps. But in 1927, the skis were in the school’s way (interefered with learning). My mother was working, my father was... my parents had got divorced, they were in separation, so only mother was looking after us, she had to work to support us. Well, I was living in such a skiing centre, everybody skied, people my age, so we thought about skiing more than about school, we didn’t want to waste our time learning - somehow I passed from one grade to another, but my mother told me, you will never make your living from skis, and they send me to Lvov, to a military school. I passed an exam there, stayed in the army for good, after graduation, I passed my final exams in 1933 and I was accepted in the school for artillery officers, after all my father was an artillery officer, so I went to artillery as well. Besides, all those officers knew my father, and they said, “Brzezina must go into artillery.”
So I became an officer, a professional soldier, I mean, in 1925 I became a Second Lieutenant in artillery. As an officer, I went to the front line in 1939, and I got shot. But that didn’t happen so soon, only on 23 September, and as becomes an artillery officer - by an artillery shell. I was lucky to have been shot, you know; all my colleagues were later taken captive by the Russians and got killed in Katyn. A day before they were caught, I was heavily wounded and they took me to hospital somewhere, they caught me and took me to hospital. It was a field hospital, some sort of school, I remember lying on hay. I don’t remember anything, you know. And then, after two months in various hospitals, I got out of it. I had to walk on crutches, though, the Germans gave such a belt [gestures], that I wasn’t fit for an oflag (prison camp for Polish officers), so I was released to freedom. I got better somehow, you know, I was a young man, of good health, you know, when we were young, there was natural selection, weak children - there were no miracles - those of poor health died, you survived if you were strong. I survived everything, you know [laughs]. Well, soon they started chasing us officers during the war, the way the Germans did. So I changed my name and went to Krakow, because when I was still ill - earlier, I met my future wife there. With the help of my friends, I got there, under a different name.
Section 2
What was the name, was it different from your present one?
Zarzycki. My name was Zarzycki then. My friends arranged for a fake birth certificate for me. It made me eight years younger, you know, that certificate [laughs]. But I was young anyway.

Can you tell me how old you are now?

How old are you at the moment?
86. Born in 1913, easy calculation, you know. Quite old [laughs]. You know, I was quite strong then. For example, when I was at the military school, I went down with scarlet fever, and back then it was quite a serious disease, you know. And they took me to hospital in Lvov, and one day, they said, “It’s getting serious for you”. Diphtheria. In addition to the scarlet fever. Diphtheria was a terminal disease, back then, especially in children, diphtheria, scarlet fever. So they moved me to another hospital, where there were only a few people. Later again, they said, what the heck, in addition to diphtheria and scarlet fever, I got the measles as well. So they moved me to an isolated ward. Apparently, I am the only one who survived something like that. That isolated ward had one window overlooking a cemetery gate. You know, it was the Lytchakhov Cemetery [laughs], and every now and then, the bell tolled - there were funeral parties coming in and out, but I didn’t care any more. When I got out of it, the head doctor patted me on the shoulder and said, “Look, man, you are a strong one, you’ve gone through all that and survived, look, you came to us on Friday the 13th in addition to all that, and you endured all that.” [laughs] I must have been really strong to have endured all that. And I spent the rest of the war at my wife’s mansion in Boleslawiec.
Well, naturally, all the time I was in the resistance, back in Krakow, I was in ZWZ (Polish resistance organisation), it was a normal thing to do, then I was in the National Army (an underground army). When the war ended, my wife had this mansion near Tarnów, north of Tarnów, there was her brother - my brother-in-law, and he was arrested, although he had been seriously wounded as a partisan, and, you know, it’s interesting, when he was so heavily wounded, we brought him home, all the villagers knew about it, they knew he was a partisan, that he got wounded as a partisan, and, for half a year there were the Germans because there was the front line nearby, nobody let on, nobody betrayed him, nobody. And when freedom came, the Russians arrived, and they arrested him, although he still had those wounds in the head, later on, he was later rescued from prison, and he had to leave, so did my wife - back then still wife-to-be - she had to leave the mansion, she went to Krakow, and I was taken to the People’s Army of Poland. And everything was alright, I was a teacher at the high school for officers, in artillery, it was the beginning of the Military Academy of Technology. In half a year’s time, however, they arrested me.
You know, the times were unforseeable. They charged me with unthinkable crimes, but first of all, it was that I had been in the National Army. They kept me in prison, in the Military Intelligence, for half a year. I was released after half a year. And when they were releasing me, there were those Russians, but in Polish uniforms, they were from places like Borysow, Smolikow, Jakonki, back in Siberia. I said to them, “Look, give me a paper certifying that I was imprisoned for half a year.” And they said, “No, you were not imprisoned, you were just temporarily retained.” I liked it a lot, “temporarily retained” for half a year! I said, “If I was just temporarily retained, then it is alright.” But when I was already released, they wouldn’t leave me alone anyway. I was interrogated and things. And I thought, enough of that. I had two friends from before the war, they were professors in that high school. I made an appointment with them to go swimming in the Wisla river, it was in Torun, we would always go swimming there. So I arranged it so that I had some civilian clothes hidden on the other side of the river, I swam across it, and I thought, if they found my clothes, they would start looking for me and finally decide I’d drowned, and I would be left in peace finally. I did what I’d planned, put on the civilian clothes, took a train and I left. And I came here, cause my father was living here, he had to escape, too. He was a colonel, you know.
Section 3
Here, to this area?

Here, to Bystrzyca?
No. Father was here in the mountains, near villages of Studzienna, Szczawina (near Bystrzyca Klodzka). There are mineral waters, you know. He found himself a place there, and I joined him. And then my future wife arrived there as well. They were looking for me back there - apparently those friends of mine came to the river, but somebody had stolen my uniform, my clothes, so they didn’t know what had happened. You know, if you’ve got a secret, you cannot tell anyone. My mother told my friend’s wife that I’d managed to cross the border and escaped to Switzerland. But told her not to tell anyone. And, of course, she did. She told everyone [laughs], you know how it is, don’t tell anyone. And so they stopped looking for me, cause they thought I was in Switzerland, I’d managed to escape. They must have been furious.
And again I was lucky, you know, because among the 10 officers who were later sentenced to death and executed, there were five of my friends, so I would have probably been sentenced too [laughs, to which I say he’s a very lucky person]. Immensely. Yes, and later, in 1947, my wife-to-be arrived here, we got married in Lomnica (a village nearby), a priest there married us. I managed to do it under my real name, although I was bearing another one, and I, you know, I disclosed myself in 1947. I arrived here in 1946 and disclosed myself in 1947. I got a job in an electro-energetical facility, and I worked there until 1950s ... They sometimes summoned me to the Security Office, but, you know, those Security officers were scared of those who had been in Military Intelligence, so they were very careful talking to us. They summoned me two or three times, but nothing happened. I worked until ‘53 or ‘52. I was in electro-energetics in Wroclaw, I was a technical inspector. I had finished various courses. But, you know, there was that personnel officer, he said that a pre-war officer could not work in energetics. And that director of mine, he summoned me and said, “Look, I don’t know what you’ve done, but that personnel officer, Radzilowicz, he will never leave me alone, he keeps pestering me about you.” And I said, “I will try and find myself another job, I’ve been in touch with all the major energetical works, so I will find myself a job elsewhere, and you will be left in peace.”
And it so happened, that there was a vacancy in Krosnowice (a village between Bystrzyca Klodzka and Klodzko), their main engineer got ill. I had been there a few times, and they said, “This main engineer of ours got ill, there’s a vacancy, you know our works, come here, there’s a job for you.” So I went to Wroclaw, to that director and told him I’d found a job in Krosnowice. On the next day, I had that job in Krosnowice. But he said to me, “Go and talk to the personnel officer there.” So I did, I had all my cv ready for him. He was a bit cleverer chap. I said to him, you know, I was a pre-war officer, National Army member, deserter from the Army [laughs], my father had been a legion officer, close friend to Marshall Pilsudski - you know, all the worst bits. You should have seen their faces. He scratched his forehead, because they had told him I was an excellent specialist, I had qualifications and all, there were two power plants there, one steam-powered, one water-powered, it was a difficult works, but I said I would manage. And he said, “You know what, you are an honest man, I will accept you, come and we’ll see.” And I said, “I can’t wait and see, I have to know if I’ve got that job or not. I will be a diligent employee and all.” He said, “Alright, you’re in.” So I started working there. I had one advantage that I had been working in Wroclaw before, I had been a supervisor of all the works in the region. I was a young man, I commuted to Krosnowice. I worked there for 18 years.
Later, I decided I’d had enough of that commuting. In the Match Factory in Bystrzyca, they said, “Come to us, we don’t have an energetical engineer, we need you.” So I moved here. And I stayed there until retirement, in the Match Factory. You know, I quite liked my job there. When I hear people talking about some troubles, about inciting people against one another, I don’t know, was Poland really so bad at that time? Surely, the conditions were totally different, but we had been sold. Americans sold us and the English sold us, everybody knows that. You know, I don’t like it now, people turning their backs on each other. I think Poles should come together, hand in hand, we shouldn’t quarrel. You know, for example, I’ve been often told, “You were there, you were in prison, you were wounded, you should apply for some damages.” And I say, leave me alone, I work normally, I get my money for that, why should I want money from others? Why should anyone take from others and give me? Because I was in prison? I was, so what? I think it’s just as well that I did, I know what freedom is now, I can appreciate it more fully. My wife often said, “My husband is a fool, he was happy even when he was in prison”, you know [laughs]. I think life should be varied, there always should be ups and downs. I think it is normal.
You know, when I was this chief energetical engineer, it was a hard job. Sometimes I had to stay at work for 48 hours. Without proper sleep. There were two power stations to be supervised. In the Match Factory, it wasn’t easy, either, but somehow people respected me. Even those whom I often rebuked or something, they often said, after I’d retired, “When you were here, things were different.” They always smile when they see me. Back then, when I started working there, it was not long after the war, people were extremely poor, it was the first factory around to be opened. It was totally different to what it is like now. It was a fantastic factory, working there was real pleasure. You know, I’m a skier, a skiing instructor for the whole area here, so I dragged all the young people behind me. When they started those cross-country skiing races - “Bieg Gwarków” (skiing race) - back then, there was a directive from above, that every institution should send 10 skiers to the race. It was back in 1978, the first “Bieg Gwarków” race. And my director - Krzyzynski - said to me, “We have to send 10 people, take care of it.” We had been going skiing for some time then, we had our own ski-lift. I arranged for the skis, 10 pairs, cross-country wooden skis, took 10 people and we went. I also took part in the first “Bieg Gwarków” race. I was the oldest participant, I was 65 then. It was a funny thing, cause we went there, the 10 of us, and I said, “What distance are we taking?” The choice was 5, 10 and 25 kilometres. They say, 5, maybe 10. And I say, no way, we’re doing the 25 km distance. “Are you crazy, Stanislaw?” they said. And I said, “The 25 km distance is just a walk, if you take 5, there will be such crowds of people, it will be no fun.” And we all went to the 25 km race.
And the next year, the second “Bieg Gwarków” race, there was a new distance - 50 kilometres. And again, I summoned my people and asked which distance they wanted to take now. Obviously, we chose the 50 kilometre race. All of us did the 50 kilometre. Of all the “Bieg Gwarków” races, I took part in each. The last one, last year, it was the 20th race, I took part in it, I got a cup, the one you can see here [points to a cup on a shelf]. Cups and things, you know, people respected me like the Jews respect the rabbi, you can’t find a fool like me who would tick off all the races.
Section 6
Well, you keep fit...
Not that fit. And now I’ve received such a... you know, apart from that, I also ran in the “Bieg Piastów” races. A few days ago, I received an invitation from the commander of that race, Mr. Gozdowski, to take part in the 20th “Bieg Piastów” race. Last year, in March, I went to the 19th “Piast” race. Somehow I did those 33 kilometres [laughs]. They sent me a beautiful certificate, to show how they appreciate it, you know. As far as Bystrzyca goes, I sometimes go to visit my son in Warszawa, for a couple of days. The town is beautiful, they are so very nice, they’ve got a beautiful flat, but, you know, there is something in me that makes me uneasy [laughs]. They say, “Dad has already started looking out of the window, wants to go.” I don’t know, something attracts me back here. I often say, “When I come back to Bystrzyca, I feel like kissing the doorstep [laughs], I love it so much, this Bystrzyca of mine.” Well, you see, that’s how it is.

You were born in the Eastern Borderland, weren’t you?
Yes, in Stanislawów.

Do you remember people being sent to Siberia in 1940?
No, I don’t remember that because I was born in the Eastern Borderland before World War I. Later, we moved to Vienna, and then again from Vienna to Zakopane. I never returned to the Borderland, well, I was in Lvov, but that was in the period between the wars. And when those events were taking place - that was towards the end of World War II - I was then, I mean, those hospitals, first, the Soviets came, then they withdrew, the Germans came again, that was after the war ended in 1939. And so all the hospitals in which I underwent treatment, during the war, I mean, they were all under the Germans. On the Bug river, I was on this side of the Bug river, so you know, during the occupation period, I was in the German part, where there was German occupation, you know, here, in Poland. Well, but I know what terrible things took place there.

Do you remember anything from your childhood, do you have some memories?

Some memories from your childhood, have you got any?
You know, from my childhood, I have memories from the Military School, I’ve got beautiful memories. It was a good institution, a military one, the youth there prepared for the army since they were 14 years old. The drill that they had, it was unbelievable, there were the cadets from the Lvov Corps, they took part in all the Silesian Uprisings, you know, those in 1920 and 1921. Three of them were killed there, there always were celebrations to commemorate, we went to Silesia, to those celebrations, we had meetings, manoeuvres and all. Well, you know, we had to learn, the drill there was sometimes unbearable, you know, like in the army, the pre-war army at that. We skied. You know, later, when I was in the Military College, the skis helped me again. We went to a skiers’ meeting, and there was a horse-riding instructor who found it rather difficult to ski, so I helped him, trained him a bit. Back in the College, I was given the best horse, each of us had a horse, so they gave me that beautiful mare. Nadzieja (Hope) her name was. And thanks to the fact that I had a good horse, and I was quite good at horse riding, you know, I was quite a good rider, I won a number of horse-riding competitions. Besides, they put a lot of stress on fencing.
Back then, before the war, there was this competition, I mean, what is now called modern pentathlon, back then it was called officers’ pentathlon, it included horse-riding, fencing, rifling, swimming and cross. You know, I was quite good at horse riding, I had learnt to fence very well at the Military School, I had practised it a lot with our instructors, well, rifling (shooting), that’s normal for an officer, swimming -I learnt to swim in the Military School and then at the College, I was good at that as well. You could say I was quite fit all in all, I was among the best 10 Polish pentathlonists in the period between the wars, I was very fit, exceptionally fit. And I went to various competitions. Later, the last nine months before the war, in ‘38 and ‘39, I was at the training for horse-riding instructors in Torun, I had fantastic horses, and my results were outstanding as well. There was this competition in Gniezno, it was called the Jumping Power Competition, I won it, I remember, all the Olympic team was behind me, you know. That was my life, you know: every moment I could feel I was alive. That was marvellous.
And during the war, it was the same. I mean, it was difficult during the war, sure it was, but there, in Tarnów... You know, during the Warszawa Uprising, they shot down an English plane, and two pilots jumped off it on parachutes, they got caught, but they managed to escape the Germans, and they came to that mansion, to that land possession, where everybody knew were the National Army people: the owner of the land, myself, another man, the whole local resistance, and those two English pilots joined us there. One of them had a broken leg, the other one was alright. And then, you know, when the front line was 12 kilometres away from us, and the Germans came, a lot of them, you know. So, that mansion housed three National Army people, two English airmen and about 18 Germans, you know [laughs].All of us were staying in one mansion, and we somehow survived. Later, one of the...
[at this point the cassette ended, and Mr. Brzoza-Brzezina started talking about something else although I asked him to repeat the last sentences]
Well, as far as my work here, in the west goes, as I said, I liked my job in the energetics, and in Krosnowice, you know, I came there, back in 1956, it was like in 1980. It started when Gomólka (Head of the Polish Communist Party 1956-1970) came to power - that works (factory) in Krosnowice, a fantastic works. It was run by a woman director, she was a very wise person, she knew she had an energetic engineer, she had the main machinery engineer, she had a technical manager, and she never interfered with what we were doing, and we worked, you know, it was one of the first, the first cotton works, although it was relatively small. When 1956 came, somebody got a kick out of what was going on at the top, and they wanted to get rid of the director. But she said, “I will not fight you.” She took what was hers and went away. After that, the works was managed by the troublemakers, and everything went wrong, it totally collapsed. The same thing happened in the Matches in 1980, exactly the same. They didn’t like that director Brzezinski. I wasn’t working there any more, I had retired by then, in 1978 I was 65 and I retired, so I wasn’t there in 1980. And what good did they do? They started the same thing, and look where they’ve brought the works. It’s going bankrupt now.
When I was still there, I liked working there a lot. It was a fantastic factory. The job was hard, the main energetic engineer has to be on his toes all the time, you know. Sometimes at night as well, if need be. But the social side of it, it was fantastic. The director built a sauna for us, we had our own ski-lift. Winter holidays were organised for children, all of them learnt to ski, we divided the kids in groups and taught them to ski. They brought us some soup. Later, the children’s mothers asked me, “What kind of soup do you give the children that they say even their mothers don’t cook such good soup as the one they were given in Spalona?” [laughs] They’d had a lot of exercise, so they liked whatever they got, especially if it was hot. It was all very nice. When the holidays were over, those kids would say, “How much we love you, you are such a wonderful fellow.” It was all different than it is now, the children learnt something.
Good heavens, obviously there were problems, but it’s unfair to say everything was bad, now you can often hear such voices, especially in our Parliament, in the Senate. Hold on a minute. Somehow I don’t like it all, I don’t like it, it could be different. Maybe we will learn in time, but Poles have always been like that. And now, I lead a peaceful life, you know. Now I’ve got a problem, but God, that’s a normal thing, if you were born, you have to die one day. That’s normal. But, you know, if you’ve spent 58 years together, it will always be a shock when the other persons passes away. Well, but gradually, you have to get used to it. You have to go on living. Nobody knows for how long more, but life is so beautiful, it’s worth living.
Section 8
How did you find yourself here, in Bystrzyca Klodzka?
How I found myself in Bystrzyca Klodzka? Well, when I ran away from the army, my father was also, they arrested him too. I mean, they were making his life difficult at first. He was living near Warszawa, he was retired. You know, my father was in the Polish legions, he was the commander of the whole artillery. In 1939, he was the commander of the 50th Infantry Division, that’s what he himself called his Division. And he - back in 1939 - he was in the so-called Kleberg Group, and in October, the Russians suffered a lot from him, you know, they were on one side, the Germans on the other. So he fought the Russians at night and the Germans by day [laughs]. So they were making his life difficult because of that. You know, the legion member, a friend of Pilsudski’s, the Kleberg Group member, he’d fought the Russians. And so they wouldn’t leave him alone, so he moved away from there and settled here. So, when I ran away, I came to join him here.
And later, when I got married, my father had been in the energetics before, he advised me to go into it as well. You know, in the artillery, there was a lot of mathematics, a lot of science, so it wasn’t difficult... I went to various courses, and soon I was alright as an energetical engineer. And so, from the mountains in Studzienna, now Szczawina, I came here, and I started my life here. I was lucky, because there was a house belonging to the Energetical Works, and when the works was moved to Klodzko, the director here said to me, “Come on, take it as a flat.” So I came here, and I’ve been living here since 1948. And so, slowly, I’ve done three places of employment: Energetical Works, Krosnowice and the Matches.
[At this moment, Stanislaw’s grandson, Michal entered the room to say goodbye. I switched off the recorder for a while, after which we continued the conversation]
Section 9
Could you tell me how you got accustomed to living here, in the new environment?
You know, if you’re asking about Bystrzyca, I really liked working here, I like living here. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m the sort of person who doesn’t usually have enemies, I’m a good mixer, you know. Really. I have already mentioned how glad I am to return to Bystrzyca whenever I’m away. When my wife died, I went to the parish priest to arrange things, my son was with me then, and the priest said, “You know, I’ve never hear of a person in Bystrzyca who would say a bad word about the Brzezinas.” It is nice to hear that, isn’t it? Well, really, I don’t have enemies at all. I like my life here. You know, maybe it’s because I was one of the first to infect Bystrzyca with the skiing bug, and there were lots of people who followed. And when I was already in the Matches, the skiing in Bystrzyca was really at a high level. And it was not only cross-country skiing, I was into downhill skiing as well, I was a ski instructor, I ran courses, I liked it.
You know, last year, I had my 85th birthday, on that day, I climbed the peak of Snieznik (the highest peak in the Eastern Sudety mountain range, 1,425 metres above sea level) [laughs]. I went to Snieznik and I took a bottle of champagne along. I got to the very peak, and there were some people there. We opened the bottle, we drank a bit, and they asked me what the occasion was. I said it was my birthday, they wouldn’t believe, they asked me how old I was, and I said 85. “Stop kidding,” they said [laughs]. You know, I would be most ungrateful to be complaining about my fate, really. You mustn’t at that age, you mustn’t. There’s nothing wrong with my health, I can’t complain. You know, during the war, when the Germans got kicked on the eastern front, and, first of all, there was the epidemic of the spotted fever, it decimated them. And there were those transports of them coming from Lvov to Krakow. Lice all over them. At that time I was in Tarnów, and I happened to be travelling by train as well, I got bitten by a louse, and I went down with the spotted fever as well, you know. There were no medicines at that time, nothing. I was lying, helpless, lice all over me, everybody thought my end was in sight. For a few days, I think about five days, I had a fever of 41 degrees Centigrade, who could stand it? I did. And now, the fact that I am so immune, that no illness can get me, they say it’s because back then I developed some antibodies, after I endured that spotted fever, now nothing will break me [laughs]. I like it that way, you know.
I must tell you, I really love this place. I love Bystrzyca, I love living here. You know, there are a lot of people I know around here. Here, in the Matches, I worked for 10 years, and I cannot say anybody ever complained about me, I don’t think I ever complained about any of my superiors, either, although the times were rough, things that happened, sometimes at night. I preferred not to have a telephone, cause they could call me any time, and if I didn’t have a telephone, they would come to fetch me only in real emergency, so I liquidated the telephone, cause, God forbid, they wouldn’t let you live. Especially during holidays, when there was some sort of break down, I had to go and fix it, irrespective of holidays. Most often all my holidays I spent in the Works. But what could I do, that was the way it was arranged, and I had to agree on that.
Section 10
Do you remember any of your first friends in Bystrzyca?
Oh well, my first friends, they are all dead now. All of them have died, you know. They were the ones who started... there was the director of the energetical works, Mr. Dybusz, he was such a nice chap, you know, but the times were different back then. We were enjoying our everyday lives, we didn’t care about politics or anything. It was peaceful and quiet. Yes, Bystrzyca was a good place, nothing ever happened here. I remember, I was once summoned to Warszawa, back in 1952, a long time after I’d disclosed myself, but only then the news reached them, the army, so the summoned me, but other than that. I knew all the local Security officers here. Really, Bystrzyca was a quiet place. There were no troubles around here, either. I think I was potentially the most suspect person around. I’m telling you the truth, there were some, they claimed they had suffered from the system, but nobody cared about them, troublemakers. I’m not one of those.
I’ve got a decent pension - after all I worked for 42 years, you know, it’s quite a long time, isn’t it? And my army years have been counted as well. My salaries were usually quite good as well, I was an energetical engineer, the best company around, the Matches [factory] was doing extremely well, it was a very good company. So I don’t think I feel a shortage of anything now, I can’t complain, you know. You mustn’t complain. It’s the same as in all those ski races, some complain their skis were not properly smeared, or the equipment not well prepared. Or the route defective. But the route was wonderful, so well-prepared, it was beautiful, leave me alone [laughs]. I don’t think I am a 100 per cent Pole - I don’t like complaining, I don’t like it at all. I always look at the bright side of life, cause that’s the way it should be taken. Not otherwise. And the fact that I once was imprisoned for nothing, or things like that - it doesn’t matter. I did spend some time in prison, but now I’m free, I’m alive, for God’s sake. If they had killed me, then it would have been just as well. They killed many - there was a war, what can you expect? But I’m alive, I’ve survived, and that’s all there is to it. Anyway, I once told my grandson, “I like Warszawa alright, but, you know, I’ve got three wishes: to live in Bystrzyca, to die in Bystrzyca and to be buried in Bystrzyca.” And that’s all [laughs].

What is there about Bystrzyca that you like so much?

Do you like the mountains so much or what?
I like them immensely. You know, I come from the mountains, from the Tatry mountains. When I was living in Zakopane, you know, I walked all those mountains, all the peaks. These mountains here are nothing like the Tatry, but they are beautiful as well. I have been a mountain hiking guide, I’ve guided many a parties through these mountains, I once was a ski instructor on Mount Snieznik, I had a group of skiers, winters are really beautiful there. They really are. I remember once, I was running a skiing course there, the weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, we were going to Miedzygórze (a town at the foot of Mount Snieznik). It was early in the morning, it was a bit misty at the foot of the hills, we looked at the thermometer, it said minus six degrees Centigrade. And up there, in the hostel at the top, it was 27 degrees below! We decided to go elsewhere, and so we went to Mt. Maria Sniezna (another peak in the Snieznik Massif), and we spent the rest of the day skiing there. When we were going back, it had already got dark, the sky was so beautiful, full of stars, the full moon, the beautiful reflections on the snow, bluish shades, something wonderful, really. I mean, walking these mountains is unforgettable. Or take the Stolowe Mountains, they are ever so beautiful, I’ve been to every single place around there. I’ve walked that road to Paczków, that way from Ladek, it is simply beautiful. Besides, one should look for beauty everywhere. It is everywhere to be found. Yes, I love Bystrzyca, I really do. I love living here.
Section 11
During your trips around the mountains, have you noticed some changes in the nature?
Yes, now things have changed a lot. For the better. It’s started changing for the better. There was a time when it was terrible. Here, on Snieznik and around, everything started dying out, all the trees and plants got dry. It looked terrible. That was about 10 years ago. Somehow it was not so bad in the Walbrzyskie Mountains, where we often went skiing, but around here and near Szklarska Poreba, it was awful. Imagine, one year, you walk along a route through a forest, a beautiful one, and the next year, you can see only dry timber sticking up to the sky. It looked just terrible. When the smog came from Doroszów, it looked awful. But now it’s getting better, much better. Now you can see the trees grow. But there was a period, it was more or less 1980 - 1986, when the degradation of the environment could be seen with the naked eye. Now, you can see, there is more water, the forests get watered. Now you can see the trees forming, as if [they are making] green walls. It is much better now than it used to be, anyway. Well, there used to be a lot of cuckoos in the past, there are no cuckoos now. There used to be a lot of crickets, there are no crickets now. The nightingales used to sing so beautifully, now you can’t hear them. They disappeared when there was a flood. Maybe they will come back some day. I hope they will. Things are getting better, so I think they will. In Sokolówka, where my grandson has gone camping now, I haven’t been there for about five years now, but when I went there recently, I could see a totally new world, the nature being re-born, everything growing, covering itself with green. Yes, so I think it is getting better, I think so.

Do you remember what life looked like in Bystrzyca in the past, could you compare it with what it is like now?
My dear lady! [makes a surprised face]

Perhaps it was more cultural?
Sure it was more cultural. One thing above all [thinks for a while]… let’s take the cinema. There used to be a first-class cinema, well equipped, they showed good films and things. Now, I went there recently to see “Ogniem i Mieczem” (a popular Polish historical film). Well, I went there, God forbid, the equipment didn’t seem to work at all, the sound was ever so funny, the film would break every now and then, you couldn’t concentrate on the action. It’s terrible, you know. I must say I don’t like this “big beat” of today, I don’t like it very much. I think it is normal, I’m an old man so that’s natural. But there used to be theatre performances, theatre groups used to come, much more was going on. Now, from time to time, you hear about someone arriving with a performance, but somehow... [thinks]. Yes, this coming Sunday, I’m planning to go to see that Dzieduszycki show (Wojciech Dzieduszycki - an artist, singer, journalist from Lvov), and there will be some sort of pianist, a beautiful woman, I don’t remember the name, I’m going to see them. But as far as the cultural life is concerned, much more used to happen.
Above all, there were a lot of sports events. Both in the winter and in the summer. Now it’s all ceased somehow, now it’s stopped. Perhaps it will change for the better as well. You know, on one hand, things are getting better; on the other hand, people are very poor. But then, if you think about it, are they really so poor? For example, I’ve got a piece of a garden here, a very nice one. I don’t need it, I would like to give it to someone, so that they could grow some vegetables in it, there are fruit trees as well, and raspberries, and red currants, and all. But no-one wants to take it. On one hand, they complain they are poor, but when you want to give land away, nobody will take it. Last year, when I was going by bus from Wroclaw, I could see so much land left untilled. When you travel by bus or by train, you can see a lot of land unused. Especially on the other side from Ziebice, it was awful. Now it looks a bit better, the fields are taken care of. Perhaps something has started happening, who knows? Yes, I think things are getting better, you have to believe they are.
You know, I remember our park in Bystrzyca, it was so beautiful, a real wonder. When I first came here, there was this German woman, she had twelve people working in the park, she had a horse, rode that horse in the park. Believe me, the park was a rare beauty. And now, look at it now. It is still nice, I like walking through it, it’s always so quiet. When you climb those stairs, you lose some cholesterol from your blood [laughs]. But the park is totally different now, those stairs and things, it used to be beautiful. There is this road leading to Stronie Slaskie via Biala Woda. There used to be a hostel that none of the modern hostels could ever match. It was beautiful, it had an arboretum, all those beautiful alpine flowers, plants. It took them only two years to bring the hostel to ruin, the arboretum as well, it totally disappeared. It could be much better, it could, but there was a war on, there had been that revolution, what else can you say?
You know, when I look at Poland, I travelled it all through before the war. Not that I did a lot of sightseeing, no, it was rather army manoeuvres, on horseback, on foot, you know. When they tell you how wonderful the country was before the war - don’t believe them. It was such a poor country. You know, we had those soldiers from the Eastern Borderland, from Polesie, Wolyn, other places, you wouldn’t believe it, they had travelled by train for the first time in their lives. More than that, many a time, those newly drafted would come up to me and say how glad they were to have received army shoes. They were their first shoes ever.
Yes, a lot of progress was made in the 1950s, 1960s - people had access to education, it was unbelievable, nothing to compare with what it was like before the war. When we had army manoeuvres, peasants would ask us to mount our artillery aims on their straw or hay heaps, cause if they got destroyed, they would receive damages. I’m telling you, when we came to a village, everything was wide open for us, the horses and things, everything. They loved the army because the army had the money to pay, the army paid for everything. Sometimes you can hear that the Poland from between the wars was so wonderful. True, it was, we had achievements. After all, we managed to unite the nation after the three partitions, but as far as the nation’s affluence - or the lack of it - nothing can be compared to it. The eastern borders, the eastern areas - Polesie, Wolyn, they were ever so beautiful, you know. But only to look at them, living there would have been killing. Really, I mean, it’s a totally different world now.
Section 13
Have you ever thought about returning to the area where you were born?
Yes, I once went there, but it was still before the war. We had manoeuvres in Stanislawów, so I was in those places, I even went to the street where I was born, Kamienskiego Street, but later, after the war, I didn’t go east of the Bug (Polish eastern border river). I didn’t go to Ukraine or Byelarussia. I don’t feel like going there somehow. You know, whenever I go anywhere abroad, I don’t feel like staying there at all. I’ve been to Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, the Czech Republic, but I always made my way back to Poland as soon as possible. Somehow I prefer being at mine, however poor the country may be. Sometimes they find it difficult to communicate, cause they are from different political parties or something. Well, after the war, Poland was made from three different partition zones - the countries that had partitioned Poland fought against each other, didn’t they? The Russians, the Austrians and the Prussians [smiles].
I remember, there was this case, there were Austrian army officers, they came to Krakow, to Poland - after all, my father was originally an Austrian officer as well, and then he was in the Polish army, in the legions - so there was this general, Chickil, he was an Austrian general, he was a fortress commander, and there was colonel Frendel, he was also an Austrian officer. Frendel didn’t know that Chickil was in Krakow, and he got assigned to that fortress, and told him to report to the commander - they had known each other from the Austrian Army, both were Austrian officers - and he went to the general, and he saw his own friend, and he said, “Chickil, are you with the Poles as well?” [laughs] That’s what it looked like. One was from the Austrian army, one from the Prussian army, still another one - from the Russian army, and somehow, they all agreed, co-operated, served in the same army. Yes, the army got a tremendous lesson in 1939, but what could we do? There were 10 soldiers to one, what could we do? The French helped us, the English helped us a lot.

Have you got any memories from World War I?
Well, when World War I was on, I was only six years old, so I don’t remember anything. You know, the only thing I remember happened in Vienna, yes, I was six years old then. Or seven. Have you ever been in Vienna?

Yes, I have.
And to Prater - have you been there?

No, I haven’t.
Have you seen Riesenrad?

Yes, I have.
Yes, that’s the only thing I remember. I mean, I remember two things: Riesenrad and Stephanskirche. It’s all dim, the memories, but those two places I remember. Apparently - I didn’t see that, my mother told me, she saw it - it happened in 1915 or 1916. There is that horse-riding school, Tateschul, a famous one, the best one in the world. And there was a rider, he stood on top of a carriage in the Riesenrad, in a saddle, and he made a whole circle. All the people watching it were silent, he’d asked them not to applaud or anything, and the horse was still, on top of the carriage, and he was on that horse, and he made a whole circle on top of that carriage. I think it was outstanding, you know [smiles]. That’s all I remember.
And then the war started, and in 1920 we were in Zakopane, and my father was on the front line, commanding an artillery division, he was defending Warszawa. Everybody was very excited about what would happen, but then, when they’d already chased the Soviets away, we knew everything was going to be alright. That was beautiful. It may sound stupid, but we’ve got a lot to thank Stalin for. At that time, Stalin was the information officer, the political officer in Budionny’s army. And when Budionny was heading for Warszawa, Stalin advised him to attack Lvov, and they had this battle of Kurów. And the fact that Budionny was not anywhere near Warszawa made it easier for us to beat them in 1920. I think, if it hadn’t been for Stalin then, we wouldn’t be here. I mean, both England and America didn’t give a damn about what was going on here. They wouldn’t have given us this land. Russians would have swallowed us all, up to the Nysa river, that the Nysa Luzycka and the Nysa Szalona would be their border rivers. I think so.
You know, shortly after World War I, they said that giving Silesia to Poland is like giving a grand piano to a monkey. And Churchill loved us equally [said with irony]. People liked those Englishmen so much, and they cheated us so much then. And now we have fantastic borders, what else would you want? Take the eastern regions, I was there, we had manoeuvres. There were only small settlements of Poles there, it would be extremely difficult to keep that land. The land was Ukrainian. Otherwise God knows what would happen there. There was this “Wisla” action, this removal of the Ukrainians from our land. I mean, I know what was going on there, I was in the army, I saw it, it was a regular war between the Poles and the Ukrainians. If they hadn’t removed them, I don’t know how many thousand more people would have died, how many more years that would have lasted. Now, they removed them, and what happened? Those people who came here from the east, they couldn’t believe their own eyes when they saw these areas. They said, what fantastic land, all the houses had chimneys, unlike in the east [laughs]. That’s a fact.
So I would say, we were lucky after that war. We’ve got Poland, we brought all that’s ours here, the border is on the Bug river now. Sure thing, Lvov was a loss, I was also attached to Lvov, but, you know, when I was in the military school there, there were more Ukrainians there than Poles. Sure thing, Poles were more important there, we owned most of it, and we loved Lvov, it was marvellous, and the Lvov people were wonderful, but now, the Wroclaw people are the same the Lvov people then, because all the Lvov inhabitants moved over to Wroclaw, Vilnius people moved over to Poznan, Bydgoszcz and Krakow. Lvov was moved to Wroclaw. And I think it’s alright the way it is. Let’s hope we can keep it that way. I think we will.
Section 14
Do you remember what the relationships between the settlers and the Germans still living here were shortly after the war?
They were alright. There was no fighting around here, no. For example, in Studzienna, where I was for some time, there was this German woman with a small son. All the others had left and she was left behind. My father had an assistant, helping him with the farm near Warszawa, and he married that woman, and you know, they’re now one of the most important families there, the Czeredys family. That is that German woman. The Germans often come here as well. They all live there, peacefully, you know. There were no troubles with the Germans. Look, this house used to belong to the Raul family, it was the richest family in Bystrzyca Klodzka, the power station belonged to them, and the other power station as well, the one in Nadbrzezna Street, and an airfield, all the fields around. They say that in 1942, when some of the land was confiscated for an airfield, one of the Rauls hanged himself here, in this flat. And, you know, some 20 years ago, a Raul came here to visit this place, he left me his business card, but I can’t seem to find it. Johanes Raul as well. And now, when I saw that president, it is the same person, he comes from here.
How do I know he was Raul? When I was still working in the power station, the offices were in Nadbrzezna Street, where the station was, and there was this large sheet of paper on which the electricians’ duties were drawn, and one day, I turned that sheet over, on the other side of it, there was a beautiful family tree drawn - the Raul family. The first one was Gaschpares Raul, the year 1526, and all the others deriving from him. I left it as it was, cause, you know, the times were uneasy. And when that Johanes Raul came here, the first thing he asked me was if I was employed in the power station, and if I was, had I seen such a sheet of paper? And I said to him, Gaschpares Raul, he was ever so surprised. He wanted to know how I knew. I told him I had seen that paper, and that Gaschpares Raul was at the bottom, the year was 1526, I had seen it, but later the offices had been moved to Klodzko and I didn’t know what had happened to it. He said, my dear fellow, please try and find it for me, he said to me in German. He said he would try to obtain a permit for the paper to be officially handed over to him. He said he would come back again, he gave me his address, asked me let him know if I found something. But I didn’t find it, he never contacted me again.
But, you know, I think, the present German President is that Johannes Raul, the one who lived here, who was born here, because he said he’d been born here, in this room, that his family had been living here and so on. Cause this house and that one, it all belonged to the Raul family. And he was here, so I think we had the German President here, in Bystrzyca. I asked him how he liked Habelschwerdt - it was the German name of Bystrzyca - and he said it was beautiful, it was then that they started building new housing estates, and everything was renewed, and he said he liked it. I asked him if he wouldn’t like to come back to Bystrzyca, from time to time, to see his childhood town? He said, yes, but the world there, in Germany was so different, that they had got so involved in the life there and so on.
Yes, there were no troubles with the Germans here, no troubles at all. And, you know, they left quite late, I think it was 1948. They were glad to be leaving because they could see what poverty we were heading for, and that West Germany was prospering, so they didn’t mind leaving. They sometimes come here. Two years ago I met a group in the street, they asked me if I spoke German, I said yes, invited them here, they came, we had some coffee, a chat. They thanked me, said it was all very nice, that people were hospitable, and I said it was a normal thing to receive visitors, after all, we are now friends. You know, it’s unbelievable, this breakthrough. Some 30 years ago, there was this saying, “Come what may, a Pole and a German will never be friends”, and everyone deeply believed it. So, I think the world is progressing in the right direction, I just wonder how they will manage in Kosovo. It will be difficult there, but perhaps they will learn as well? One thing is certain, where there’s affluence, there’s peace. After the war, they knew what to do, they had this Marshall Plan, I mean for the Germans. If they had done a similar thing after the first war, probably Hitler wouldn’t have got the power... well, we’ll see what’s coming. I will not live long enough to see, but still... I’m still alive. I will show you something.
Section 16
[Stanislaw went to the other room and returned in a moment with some documents. They turned out to be ski race certificates - 74th place out of 130 participants - invitation to another “Bieg Piastów” race. I started talking with him off the record - at his request].
I received this two days ago.

You are an exceptional sportsman.
Well, and here, see?
[He shows a thankyou letter and an invitation to another skiing event]

Your health is admirable.
[Starts laughing]

Do you remember some special event from World War II?
It was a very hard war. I was [something unintelligible] so on 1st September 1939 at five o’clock, we were already fighting. I was in the cavalry brigade, I was an artillery man, but our division belonged to the 5th Cavalry Brigade, with the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and we fought every day. As long as we could, we fought the Germans hard, we taught them a lesson, they beat us. We had terrible losses, they suffered as well. I myself destroyed four tanks, you know, stopped several machine guns with a bunch of hand grenades. But it was a hard war, it was hard. For two days we were progressing, it was about 20th September, we surrounded them, they started withdrawing, but then we had to withdraw because of the shortage of ammunition, and the war ended for us. It was a hard one, we fought… we had to fight till the end.
The war ended for me when I lost consciousness. When I woke up for a moment, I crawled some 200 metres, I don’t know where, I only heard something, I was completely paralysed here [points to his legs], I didn’t feel any pain, I think some nerves had been shattered. I crawled some 200 metres to some sort of a road, there was a horse-drawn cart passing. They stopped took me, put on the cart and went on. They took me to Suchowola, a village, and the put me an straw in a school where all the wounded were brought, and in the evening, the Russians came. I remember, I was half conscious, there were a lot of people, I mean wounded, and one of the Russians asked if there were any officers. Somebody told him, “Go away, there are no officers around.” I was the only officer there, I was a lieutenant, and then I was lucky that the Russians withdrew and the Germans came. Then they moved me from one hospital to another, I told you about already. I was getting better and better. I walked on crutches when I returned to Krakow, and I somehow survived. And you know, an interesting thing is that when there is to be a change of weather, I think this hip is going to kill me. The pain is so unbearable.
Once, there was this mountain hike from Stronie Slaskie to Polanica. They told me to be the ski guide, I said alright. In the morning, I went to Stronie Slaskie, I collected my team - some 15-20 people, and went to Snieznik, the winter was so beautiful then, and we arrived at Snieznik, took up our rooms, and in the evening somebody suggested having some beer. Why not, I thought. I had some, and found I couldn’t get up. I had this paralysing pain here [points to the lower part of the back], you know, I thought, who’s going to guide them now? I had an assistant, I think he was from Zakopane originally as well. I told him I wouldn’t manage to go on, and that he should replace me. Anyway, I went to bed, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to rise in the morning. And in the morning, I made an effort to move, and suddenly, there was this terrible pain in the hip. I thought something had got broken, that it was the end, I bit my lips, cause I would cried out for pain. But the pain went, I moved my leg, it was alright. Apparently, something got moved there. Since then, I haven’t had any problems with the hip at all. I guided them to Polanica, via Bystrzyca, there was a second leg in Bystrzyca, then we went on, through the mountains to Polanica, and everything was alright. Only occasionally, it hurt me a bit, but it was nothing. So I managed. Skis cured me. When I said it to my doctor, he said, “You know, you’re a strange man. I have never met anyone like you before.” Just couldn’t believe that skiing could cure your hip!
Section 17
You have lived in so many places, so many towns, I just wonder which of them you feel most attached to, in which you most liked living?
I think I liked living in Torun most. I mean my life there was so diverse. I was there in 1938, 1939, I was a horse-riding instructor, I had four horses I had to take for a ride every day. I had very good horses, and when the spring came, I went from one competition to another, I won here, I won there, you know. I was a young man, a bachelor, the world belonged to me. You know, those moments are most beautiful. Later, I mean during the war, you know, it wasn’t bad either, but I was aware I could get killed any moment. Cause, you know, a lot of people got killed, my wife’s mother was shot by the Germans. Her father was an officer, he was in England, he fought there, but he survived, her brother got seriously wounded as a partisan. It was difficult, but somehow we lived, I knew I had my gun, and if it came to this, the German would be the first, I would be the second. But I somehow survived.
And after the war, well, I must say, life wasn’t bad either, don’t believe in what people say, don’t believe them. True, there were those Mayday celebrations. When I was working in Krosnowice, we had the Mayday celebrations in Klodzko, we had to take a train. Everybody was furious to have to go, but they went. Each had a quarter of vodka, they all got drunk, so when the train was coming back from Klodzko to Bystrzyca, everybody was at least tipsy, starting with the engine driver [laughs]. People just didn’t care about it, don’t believe them when they say it was so terrible. It’s just not true. Good heavens, we had to live, so we lived. Everybody had a family. Look, I told you about those terrible days, now my son was baptised, no problem. There was this parish priest here, he used to be a colonel in the army, he was a nice chap, I don’t remember his name [laughs], so when they sent a Security officer to him, to fetch him, an armed officer, he took away the gun from the Security officer, put on his colonel’s uniform, cause he was a colonel, and he brought the Security officer to the station, and he said, “You stupid jerks, what do you want from me?” And they left him in peace. And, you know, on Corpus Christi day, there always was a procession in Bystrzyca, and everything was alright. Nobody heard about fighting the church or whatever, there was no fighting. It was a totally different world here, really.
Section 18
Do you now consider yourself to be a local in Bystrzyca?

Do you feel that Bystrzyca is now your town?
Yes, Bystrzyca is my town. This is my town, and, believe me, I love it very much. You know, I’ve got neighbours, whenever I leave, I give them the keys to my flat, so when there’s the electricity bill or anything, they will let them in, pay the bill, when I return, we settle the money. Sometimes, the electricity inspector cannot believe it. He says, “You are strange people.” But that’s the way it is. We share everything, like in the garden, I’ve got this, you’ve got that, we share. It’s like living in a commune. Nobody cares. I like living here, and I love Bystrzyca. You know, I’ve spent here the most important part of my life. Look, when Michal (Stanislaw’s grandson) come here, he likes it as well. My son and his wife have gone on holiday to Rhodos. I asked Michal if he wanted to go with them. And he says, if they were going to Bystrzyca, he would go with them, but other than that - no. I’ve got a nice flat, I’m still strong enough to keep it tidy. I think people are getting fed up with large cities, and so he prefers coming here. I’m thinking of writing the flat down for him, so that he is the owner of the flat and I will be living at his. I think he could come here, I don’t know, he’s got a good position in the National Bank of Poland, but he’s a clever boy, and he will manage. Perhaps he will come here, or he may treat it as his holiday home, like that place in Sokolówka, he can come here when he feels like skiing.
Yes, Bystrzyca is a wonderful place. You know, I have been to Zakopane several times, but Zakopane is not the same town as it was when I was living there, there’s lots of pollution. I went to Hala Gasienicowa slope, I skied on the slopes of Mount Kasprowy, it is different now, you can take a lift, you know. You can go once, twice, three times. Back then, when I was at the Military College, there were no lifts, so when I came to Zakopane and I wanted to go skiing, I could take a bus up to Kuznica, and then I had to walk all the way to Mount Kasprowy - there were no lifts, no cable railway. The ski trails were so beautiful, you know, when I got to the top, there were lots of people, skiers. When I looked down to Kociol Gasienicowy pass, it was something out of this world, so beautiful. Something extraordinary happened, across the pass, from Mount Liliowy - do you know the Tatry Mountains?

Look, this is Mt. Kasprowy and here’s Mount Liliowy [shows two peaks], you know, and I started skiing down from Mount Kasprowy, and there was another skier, he started going down from Mount Liliowy, you know, there were just two of us in the whole of the Tatry Mountains, and we were charging towards each other. It was beautiful, the snow was fresh, no ski traces, just soft, fresh snow. And we got down to the Kociol Swinski pass, and I think we would have collided with each other, so I turned sharply, broke my ski, and passed by me. He saw nothing had happened to me, so he went on. And I walked back to Hala Gasienicowa, through Skupni Uplaw and I went home, to Zakopane. I had a friend there, his father had a bar, so I went to that bar, and I told this friend the story. And he looked at me and said, “So it was you? Well, I was going downhill from Mount Liliowy.” It’s a fact [laughs]. I found it impossible to believe. And he said, “I saw you broke your ski, but I saw you were alright, so I went on, I knew you didn’t need help.” Can you imagine that, two friends, and we met on the slope.
Section 19
Is there anything else you would like to add, say something else?
I don’t know. What could I say? There were various things.

I wouldn’t like to exhaust you.
No, no. It’s nice talking to you. What can you do? I went through what was mine, and really, I can’t complain. I mean, I had ups and downs, mostly it was up, but nobody has ever had anything against me. I had a job, I worked properly, earned my living. Sure thing, it was difficult at times, really hard, but I somehow managed.

Your surname consists of two parts, that’s unusual.
You know, there was a time when I had some trouble because of my name. I am Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina. I mean, my family name is Brzezina, my father’s name. But in the legions, everybody had a nickname. My father’s nickname was Brzoza (birch tree), and after the war, all those nicknames were added to the names, and so we arrived at Brzoza-Brzezina. And, you know, after the war, in the 1950s, 1960s, it was assumed that such double names were owned by some aristocrats. My full name was Otokar Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina, two first names, and the double surname.
So when I said what my full name was, they would often ask, “Make up your mind, are you Otokar or Stanislaw, are you Brzoza or Brzezina?” [laughs]. I always had problems with that. I mean, not a real problem. When they issued ID cards in 1960, the application form said, indicate the name that’s most widely used. Everybody knew me as Stanislaw - I never used the other name, Otokar, my father was Otokar Brzoza-Brzezina - so I underlined Stanislaw. So when the ID’s were issued, mine said just Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina. And so I became Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina. They couldn’t change my last name, though. It remained double. The best thing about it is that I am not the son of my father now. Well, my son, is the son of Otokar, and I am Stanislaw [laughs] - but who cares? Anyway, in most papers, I am Stanislaw. And I will die as Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina. That’s the story of my double name. Everybody knows me as Stanislaw Brzezina-full-stop. I never use Brzoza, it’s only in the papers, like the flat ownership act - it belongs to Stanislaw Brzoza-Brzezina. And let it be like that.

Thank you very much.
You are welcome.

August 1913 - birth
1917 - the Brzezina family leave Austria for Poland (Zakopane)
1933 - final exams, entrance to the Military College
23 September 1939 - wounded in the war
1946 - arrives at Studzienna, in Klodzko Valley
1978 - first “Bieg Gwarków” ski race