Family stories
Genowefa Ruman
Interview recorded: by Gabriela Kołodziej Krynica-Zdrój, Poland 20.11.2020

Genowefa Ruman

Genowefa Ruman was born in Jastrzębik in 1949. She had eight of siblings. Their parents were working hard to provide for family. After the Second World War was finished, they moved with their children from Zagorzyn to Jastrzębik. It was still hard to survive, but family was supporting each other. Children were playing with neighbours’s children, share food with them and help each other. Despite difficult times, Genowefa has kind reminiscences of her childhood and youth. As a teenager she moved to Krynica-Zdrój, where she was living with her aunt. There she was attending gastronomic school, and then working. She got married in Krynica-Zdrój and started  a family there – she lives there till today.

[MRSG] Mrs Genowefa, [ME] Gabriela (me)

MRSG: When Germans were stationed here, she (neighbor) was their sewer. And, because she was sewing for them, she had everything for her children. But about the Soviets, I heard nothing. And what do you want to hear, Gabriela?

ME: What do you remember most about war, and after that?

MRSG: From war what I remember is from what my mother told me because I was born when the Second World War was going to be over. At a time when the war started, in 1939, they (her family) were living in Zagorzyn. In my parent’s home, there were two brothers yet, and then (in 1943) a third was born, and then in 1944 sister and 1947, so there were five of them yet. I remember these small children when they wanted to take my father to the camp [work camp?] in Nowy Sącz. The oldest brother was three years old at that time. He was running dramatically, I remember that from what my mother told me, that he was running after these Germans and asking them to let our father go. See… I can’t tell you about it, I’m going to cry. He, my brother, took from the stove an oatmeal cake. He took it and with that was running after them and shouting: “It’s for you, daddy! Please, take it!”. And: „Let my daddy go!”. And one of these Germans stopped, I think he had a good heart, and told to my brother that our father will return home. And he has been remembering that for today! And they really released him, he came back home after three days. And they were living there – in Zagorzyn – up to 1949.  Do you want me to tell you about how they were bombing, how they blew up the bridge?

ME: Yes, please.

MRSG: So, my father was always looking for something to work, to have money for us – children. And my mother, during the bombing, was escaping to the forest, to the bunker which was there. My sister was three-months-old that time, and they have been sitting there for a few days. When they came back home, when everything was over, this bombing on Zagorzyn, they had three cows at home. And when they came back, there was only one cow left.  Mum wanted to milk that cow, to have anything for her little daughter. Because for a few days she was eating only what we call here „kapuśniarka” (juice made of pickled cabbage). And then these Germans came and took even that last cow. Yes… But later, after it was already after the war, in 1949 they had more: they had a cow and they had a horse. They were living in a small, three-room house. Three families with children were living there, they were my mother’s siblings. Mum was pregnant with me, it was April 1949, when they took all those children to the horse cart, they took a cow and went together from Łącko to Jastrzębik. Here they had empty flats, after the displacement of the Lemko people. There were only four last families of them in Jastrzębik left. But these homes after them… Awful, very small and dirty. I was born in May. Later, a cooperative was opened, but I don’t really remember.

When the cooperatives appeared, father was working in some kind of management, and mother with the oldest brother was milking cows there. And he was gazing cows, and then my sister and I were gazing lambs. It was when I was four or five years old.

ME: Even if you were so young?

MRSG: Yes, because we needed money. We went there… Because the more you worked in that cooperative, the more daily pay you got. And it was a property allocation, so we got potatoes from there, grains, a lot more. We were rescuing our neighbor’s children, our mother was making bread and we were giving it to them. And then, when primary school in Jastrzębik was opened, there were eight of us already, our mother was working not only in cooperative but also in that school as a janitress. She was earning 150 zł at school, I remember it was a very hard time. Children were alone at home, taking care of one of each other. Mother didn’t have time, she was working from morning till night. And (it is said that) there was haunting in the village… Do you want me to tell you about this also?

ME: Yes, please.

MRSG: Now you can’t see it anymore. It was even described in that book about Muszyna, those stories. The headless horse was running around the village and in the end always bearing to the graveyard. People were praying a lot because those Banderites were killing a lot of people.

ME: And do you remember anything connected with Germans or Soviets?

MRSG: Germans, in Jastrzębik… It was after the war finished, so there was nothing with them, only Lemko people were coming back and frightening us that they will kill us and take back their homes.

ME: And who was talking to you about those events?

MRSG: Our Mother. She was telling me about that when we were seating all together in the evenings. Maybe I don’t remember everything, because I am now at my age. But she was really telling us a lot. And bread with water and sugar, it was better rarity than ham or shrimps, or anything! Mum was baking bread at home. There was poverty all the time, children didn’t have their own shoes, they were exchanging one or two pairs. But what an agreement it was! They were not arguing about that. My first shoes were green, embroidered, beautiful. I can see them right now in my head. I got it from my godfather when I was five, he was a verger. He was making pastoral visits with the priest and got some money, and then he gave me some coins. I was keeping them for a few years in a box from noodle. We had also dolls, mum was making them for us from rigs. In any case, our parents were very good people and they were very good for us as parents. We were always clean and good looking. Mum was doing everything, how could she manage that? And neighbors also had a lot of children. Here nine, there ten, and ten more. There were a lot of children, that in a neighborhood we loved each other like siblings. It was really hard, but we withstood somehow.

ME: I understand. So, in general: what are your best memories from childhood?

MRSG: The most I remember from Jastrzębik, when we were kids – Santa Claus. No one wanted to sleep, everyone stayed awake to see, who will bring presents for us. There was poverty in our home, but we always got presents. There were Santa Clauses made of sugar, sitting on the motorcycle. And tangerines, sweets. Our mum was distributing it, hiding it first in an apron. We knew about that, but we wanted to believe that it was Santa Claus. I remember it, it was very kind, we always had presents. Or when parents were going to pick up a salary from school, dad was always buying a kilogram of strawberries and then giving one to every each of us. What a rarity it was! And if he had time, he was always playing with us a lot. He was taking us to the forest, teaching us and explaining nature. He knew a lot. Hmm… Wait, what else can I tell you, from my best memories? Christmas Eve was also very happy. We were all sitting by the table, eating from one big bowl. What else? The worst experience was the first illness of our father.

ME: Okay, I wanted to ask about it now – about the worst (or the saddest) memory you keep from those times?

MRSG: So as I said, father’s disease, when the horse kicked him. The doctor said, that there was no hope for him – that we have to prepare for dad’s death. And I had a dream, that father will not die. A beautiful dream, I still remember it. It was a long-lasting treatment, but dad got better. We were praying a lot, and then there was huge happiness! Yes, and it was after war already. And from war memories, what mother was telling us, it was that our uncle (mother’s brother) died, during a bombing. He was taken that time when my father was, but father, as you know yet, returned home.

ME: Was there anyone in your family, who had to come to fighting?

MRSG: No, for war not. Only that aunt, with whom I lived here, she and her husband had to work in Germany. At “Bauer’s” house (from German: farmer), I don’t know if I remember correctly these name. They have been there for five years. But they (those Germans) were good people, good for them (aunt and uncle). But here, in Krynica…

ME: What about you, did you tell these stories to your children?

MRSG: Yes, of course. They know everything. My mum was telling me, and I was telling my own children. Even more, than I am telling now to you. Because, you know. It is hard to tell like these (it means: everything in so short time of interview).

ME: And your daughters were interested?

MRSG: Yes, they were very interested.

ME: Do you have any photos from those times? Maybe you kept any items, subjects?

MRSG: Photos, yes we have. But my daughter, who now lives in Sącz, she has it. Oh! And on war was my husband’s father. He has been there for long, but he came back home. They were living here nearby, in Słotwina. And in Krynica-Zdrój there always used to be a lot of Jews people at that time. They were owning hotels, shops, etc. And my mother-in-law was working for them. My father-in-law also was working for Jew – he was driving a horse-drawn carriage with beer, from Grybów to Krynica-Zdrój. To guesthouse and tavern. They had flat and food from them (parents-in-law from Jews). Jews were always very rich, they were even giving credits. Oooh! And here, in this house where we are now, was living for one week – Nikifor. Did you hear about him*? I have also photos of him and his dog, you can take a look!

* Nikifor Krynicki – (real name: Epifaniusz Dworniak)

A painter with Lemko origin, representant of primitivism trend. He was living in Krynica-Zdrój for most of his life. He was discovered by an Ukrainian painter, Roman Turyn, in 1930. It is said, that he was intellectually disabled, and he had speaking problems. He had no education at all. During the „Wisła” action in 1947 he was displaced threefold – every time he came back to Krynica. Finally, the city government let him stay and gave him a fictional ID, with the name Nikifor Krynicki. Nowadays in Krynica-Zdrój, there is a Nikifor’s Museum with his art gallery and monument of him and his dog. Another monument is placed in Lviv, Ukraine.

The interviews are given in the original language or a transliteration of it with preservation of national, regional and individual speech peculiarities.

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