Interview recorded:Osiek, Poland
Mrs. Raj was born on 11th May 1950 in Kęty near Oświęcim. She is the daughter of Stanisława and Józef, but she was raised by her aunt Elżbieta and her uncle Karol. She and her husband Roman have one daughter and two sons.
My name is Zofia Raj, I was born in 1950. My parents told me what they had experienced during the war, at least everything they knew for sure.
Did people want to escape from here? Were they afraid that they would be resettled?
In the beginning of the war, people were fleeing from here, but as soon as they reached Wadowice, it turned out that there was even more fear, more shootouts over there, so they returned here. From then on, they didn’t try again, they just waited patiently for what would happen next.
Landlords who had big estates were chased out of their homes and German landlords, the so-called Bauers, came to run the farms instead. Those who had small estates had to work for the Germans a certain number of days a week or a month, I don’t remember exactly how many. In general, the Germans treated the Polish people well, because they worked very hard in order not to fall from grace and not to be deported to a camp. Things got much worse when the Russian army came here. It even happened that the Russian soldiers raped women.
A family with two children was allocated in my house. We had to give them one room. There were four of them as well, and we had just a small wooden house. We lived in one room and they lived in the other. We also had to share our kitchen with them so that they could cook something for themselves. When the relocated lady went to bring lunch to her husband, who worked for the Germans, my family looked after their children.
Members of the Polish Home Army and some partisans were hiding in the nearby forest. Our neighbours were secretly helping them, providing them with food. They also warned them if enemy soldiers were approaching. Later, when things got too suspicious, the Russian army started inspecting everything, so the partisans relocated to some other place. I don’t know where they went. As far as I know, there were three of them and they all survived the war. 50 years after the war, live ammunition was found in the forest when a strong wind uprooted a tree. It was reported to the police. I don’t know what happened then, because after that no one went even close to that place.
None of my relatives died. They were stressed and afraid of what would happen next, but they all survived. My father was 18 years old when they started taking people to Germany for forced labour. He had an allergy and horrible wounds on his legs, because the allergy itched a lot, so he scratched himself and had bandaged wounds all over. When they started taking all the young people away for forced labour, he scratched the wounds even harder, so that the bandages were soaked with blood. When he showed it to them [the Germans], they let him be, because they were looking for healthy people. They were afraid that he might be gangrenous. That’s how he survived without being deported for forced labour in Germany or in the Czech Republic.
When I went to school, we learned about ancient history, the war wasn’t mentioned at all. Only when the political system in Poland changed, the truth was finally told. Of course, those who were interested in the history of the war were able find it out, but no one spoke about it officially.