Family stories
Teresa Kozyra
Interview recorded: by Klaudia Fizia Kraków 26.11.2020

Teresa Kozyra

Teresa was 10 years old when the war started. She lived with her family in a small village of Sikorzyce in the Tarnów powiat. In the interview, my friend recalls the fate of her great-grandmother Teresa during World War II. Gabriela also tells about her own feelings about World War II and her knowledge about 1939-1945, which she gained through years of education.

What is your general knowledge about World War II?

In general, my knowledge concerns what I have learned through the years of education, the subjects I had during my studies, and the stories I heard from my great-grandmother. What did I learn at school? For sure, the basic things: when the war started and ended, who took part, what the consequences were, the issues of the Holocaust, the Jewish population, discrimination, and how the Germans tried to justify their politics and actions.

In your opinion, was the knowledge you got at school accurate or was it a cursory overview of the subject? Was the subject important?

In the period from elementary school to high school, I obtained this knowledge mainly through e-lessons, according to the curriculum. We had a couple of hours to discuss the subject. In the university, I had the opportunity to choose specialized subjects according to my interests, so then I could explore this more, but I think it depended a lot on me and what I was interested in.

How old was your great-grandmother during the war? And in what area did she live back then?

She was 10 when the war broke out, and she lived with her family near Tarnów, in the village of Sikorzyce.

So your great-grandmother was no longer a child, but rather starting her teenage years? Does she remember anything from that period?

I think yes, and she always shared what she knew with me and other family members. She does not remember much from that period, because as a child she was not much interested in military actions. She knew there was a conflict, but she did not delve deep into the subject. The situation in the village and in the city was quite different.

Did your great-grandmother go to school during the war?

You know, I’m not quite sure about the school, but probably not. Because there was something like a prison in the school.

What was life like in the countryside during World War II? Did the villagers witness the conflict?

I am not quite sure. There were situations related to, for example, reporting on the Jewish people, or the case when a German soldier visited their house. But many things were not discussed, and my grandmother knows only some fragments of history. She knows that there was a war, but she never talked about some details.

Was your great-grandmother eager to go back to her memories of war? Was she willing to talk about them?

It was never a problem to go back to the subject of war; when we asked questions, my grandmother was always willing to answer. Generally, she would talk more about simple everyday things, because they were the most important to her. I do not remember if anyone was an active member of any organization or structure back then. So she didn’t talk about that, she shared mainly stories of everyday life.

Did your great-grandmother know about the existence of concentration camps?

They surely knew, because one of her brothers died while he was transported to a camp. But they did not witness that directly—someone told them about that situation. The awareness about the camps came probably in the later stages of the war. I do not remember the year exactly, but my grandmother surely knew there were camps, and that those places were not good.

Do you think it is important to cultivate the history of World War II?

I believe that we should cultivate the knowledge and tradition, and pass this knowledge on to the next generations. I also think that it would be nice to open up to the history of other countries and allow young people to learn about events from Poland, and also from other parts of the world, about what happened in the time of war, so that knowledge would simply stay alive and passed down from generation to generation.

Should history be conveyed only theoretically, or should modern forms of communication also be used?

Such transfer of theory is necessary because we need to know the facts. I think it also depends on how the teacher presents the knowledge to us, but I also think it would be nice to create international platforms where people could exchange their knowledge and experience, and it would also open people up to each other, make it possible to understand another person.


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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