Interview recorded:Trzebinia, Poland
- Podhale Rifles - the traditional name for Polish infantry divisions in the Tatra mountains.
- Home Army - conspiratorial armed forces of the Polish Underground State during World War II, acting in Polish territories occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, commanded by the Polish Government in Exile.
I was born in Warsaw two years before the outbreak of World War II, on 6th January 1937. My father was a professional officer and in 1939 we were relocated to Nowy Sącz, to the First Podhale Rifles Regiment. To be more precise, my father was relocated there and my mother and I followed him. We lived there until the war broke out. In September 1939, my father became Commander of the Army Reserve. He instructed the reservists and conducted military trainings in the East. My mother and me used to accompany him, but when the Russians and the Germans reached an agreement and divided Poland in two parts, we could luckily escape from the East and get back to Nowy Sącz. These are my first childhood memories, but I don’t remember much from then. Later, we moved to my grandmother, to Trzebinia, where I still live today. I have been a Trzebinian for many, many years. What do you remember from the times of World War II? I remember the moment we passed from the Russian to the German side, because the Germans had taken part of Poland as well. It was in Przemyśl, we were crossing a railway bridge. There were thresholds on the bridge and stones between them, so I kept stumbling and my knees were horribly wounded. Nevertheless, I went all the way with my mother and we got back to our flat. Then, the Germans came. They were looking for my father and weapons. We did have weapons at home, but fortunately they didn’t find them. We left Nowy Sącz and went to Trzebinia to my grandmother’s house. However, the Germans got there as well and threw us out of the house. My mother was a well-educated woman and spoke perfect German, so she got a job in the “Siersza” mine. Back then, the name of the mine was “Artur”. Along with the job, she got a small flat, just one room with a kitchen, and the three of us lived there until the war was over: my grandmother, my mother and me. I don’t remember these times very well. I only recall the fire in the refinery in Trzebinia. I remember the enormous flames which literally reached the sky, and the air raids, but otherwise I can’t recall much. Could you tell me about your father? We parted in Ukraine, he came on his motorbike in the very last moment just to say goodbye to us. Before the war, there were those “Sokół” motorbikes. He arrived on such a “Sokół”. This is what my mother told me. He said goodbye to us and told us they were heading towards the East. Someone offered him to go to Romania, because that was where the officers escaped to, but he didn’t want to leave his soldiers, he was very conscientious. So he went back to his soldiers, was captured by the Russians and killed in Katyń. He was in the POW camp in Kozelsk. My mother and I got a letter from there and then she wrote back to him, in Polish and in Russian, as required. We weren’t allowed to write letters, just postcards. Both cards we had sent were returned with a remark that there was no such prisoner in the camp, so we knew that he was dead. Later on, the Russians told us that the Germans had done it and the Germans said the Russians had done it, so we didn’t know anything. Only later did we find out that my dad died in Katyń and that the Russians were responsible for that. What are your memories from the post-war years? Those weren’t happy times. I grew up without my father, in a broken home. I grew up with my two cousins whose father was hanged by the Germans for being a member of the Polish Home Army. Our life wasn’t that bad, my grandmother and my mother were striving for us to have a better fate. After the war, we lived in a household of six women. There was my grandmother, my mother, my mother’s sister and us. The grown-ups went to work and we went to school. We did our maturity exams in the high school in Siersza [a district of Trzebinia] and went to university. I studied economy and then I started a family. I don’t remember much from my childhood, mostly it’s just snippets like the passing of the bridge in Przemyśl which I already told you about. I remember my dad leading a military training. The soldiers had to swim in a river and he once took me on a canoe with him. I even remember what the canoe looked like. It was white and had some little bars on the bow. I got in the canoe and I don’t remember what happened next. Probably I was just too nervous, because I was scared of all that.