Herzog Family Chronicle
1866 - 2000
Written in Polish by Franciszek Herzog
Translated by Franciszek Herzog and Ivona (Herzog) Verbeke
CHAPTER EIGHT (Continued)
Reveille was at 7 AM, followed by some physical exercises and then washing up. Before breakfast we marched to the main square for prayer and the ceremony of raising the flag. After breakfast we had classes till lunch, followed by a one-hour compulsory rest period. Oh! How I hated that, as we were not allowed even to read or to write during that time. And today after lunch, watching news on television, I often have a good nap and I enjoy it.
In the afternoon we had a variety of activities depending on the day; e.g. going for a swim, scout meetings, choir and orchestra practice, drama lessons, games in the clubroom, or sport. Before supper, especially after a monsoon when there were many mosquitoes, we had to put on long pants and shirts with long sleeves. During the hours of most intense sun we had to wear tropical cork helmets.
In Bandra we had sort of an improvised schooling and so it continued to start with in Balachadi. Butthen, after more children arrived at the camp in September and in December number of professional teacher came with them, a proper school was organized. We were assigned to classes not so much by age, as by knowledge and ability. Frequently in one class there were children with a 4 year age difference. The problem was with older children that were already at a secondary school level. There were no qualified teachers to teach them. In 1943, fifteen boys, among them Tadek, were placed in a Catholic High School in Mount Abu, Rajputana. About the same number of girls was sent to a convent school in Panghani in southern India.
Mrs. J. Tarnogorska was responsible for running the kitchen. Kitchen staff was recruited from the Portuguese colony of Goa. She had a difficult task of preparing menus, from Indian produces, that would be palatable to us. Luckily we ate everything that was put in front of us; we had good appetites. Sometimes at night we would raid the kitchen for some leftover food, not so much that we were hungry, but just for sport.
During the first year of our stay in Balachadi, period right after monsoon (Sept/Oct) malaria was the biggest problem. Shallow pools and puddles of fresh water were the breeding ground for mosquitoes. Eighty percent of camp inhabitants had developed malaria. The following year two anti-malaria specialists came to the camp to teach us and people in the nearby villages how to eliminate breeding places and to show some other preventive methods.
Dr Ashani had more work than he could cope with. When Dr. Rubinstain came to help and when sufficient supplies of quinine, atibrine, plasmoquinine and other medicines arrived to the dispensary run by Dr. Jose, the epidemic of malaria was halted. Only a small number of children, I among them I, developed the so called tropical malaria with recurring attacks. In the last year of our stay in Balachadi there were only a few new cases of malaria.
The camp hospital dealt mainly with malaria and anemia, which frequently developed as a result of malaria, snake bites (we had only one), scorpion poisoning, scratches and cuts. More serious injuries requiring surgeries were sent to hospital in Jamnagar or Rajkot. Over the period of two years there were two deaths. One small boy whose organism was completely ruined by malnutrition and illnesses that he suffered in Russia, died soon after coming to Balachadi. The other death was due to drowning when a boy went on his own for a swim in the lake.
There were 600 children in the camp and we did some crazy things. To name a few: sneaking out at night for a swim in the sea, jumping head first from 25 ft. into deep water wells hewed in rock, running barefoot across fields chasing peacocks where stepping on a cobra or a scorpion was possible or climbing trees and swinging on lianas pretending we were Tarzan. I have to admit that it was not due to our guardian’s supervision, but God Himself must have protected us from crippling injuries or even death.
Monsoons lasting from mid of August to mid October were very burdensome. Usually it started with a violent storm accompanied by thunder and a downpour. Sunshine would come for a few days and then followed by steady rain, not very heavy, but lasting and lasting. Tiles, not of the best quality, were cracked in many places due to our climbing roofs to retrieve balls or other objects thrown there. In consequence roof s started leaking. To find a dry spot in the barrack we would move our beds accordingly and finally place one on top of the other to form sort of a bunk bed. With a blanket we would construct imitation of a tent over the bunk.
Scouting had a great influence in shaping our young characters and teaching us how to be resourceful. Already in Bandra from the initiative of Heniek Bobotek a scout patrol, Orly (Eagles), was organized. Once we moved to Balachadi scouting expanded rapidly. When H. Bobotek went to Mexico, Tadek become the troop leader, and that’s when I joined the scouts. But it was with the arrival in the camp of a young, energetic, demanding but understanding (beside that also pretty), woman scout master Janina Ptakowa that the scouting was put on the right track and flourished. She was also a teacher.
In time we had two troops of boy scouts, two troops of girl guides and two of each cub-scout and brownie packs. All together there were about 250 children in the organization. From the very beginning I liked scouting and working with kids. Bivouacs, camps and campfires broke the otherwise monotonous everyday life in the orphanage.
Thanks to Mr. A. Maniak an all round athlete and an excellent football player from the pre-war well-known club Pogon in Lwow, sport in the camp flourished. For us boys he was a role-model. Our football and volleyball teams competed on equal terms with some Indian Army teams and most of the times we were victorious. Sport competitions were frequent and very popular.
We all enjoyed going to the beach for swimming. Usually we went twice a week and during holidays even twice a day. Distance from the camp to the beach was less than a mile, so running downhill it took us about 10 minutes. About ¾ of a mile from the high tide mark there were some trees growing in the water. During high tide only the tops were sticking above water. It was challenging to swim to the trees and after a short rest between branches to swim back. On the way back to the camp, for a snack, we would help ourselves to sugar cane or peanuts from fields. Hindu farmers complained to Fr. Pluta about this, he compensated them somewhat, and then told us not to it any more or to any damage the crop.
Mrs. J. Dobrostanska and then Mrs. C. Ciazynska were responsible for cultural and recreational activities. Two barracks were designated as clubrooms where we had a variety of games, including table tennis. There was a battery-operated radio, some newspapers, periodicals and a library. But by far the biggest attraction was a spring-operated gramophone with a big tube and a collection of records of some pre-war hits. We learned ballroom dancing and from time to time on Saturday evening we would have social dances.
At Christmas we would have a special Christmas Play (Jaselka). During the year we would also have some other shows, or special productions of Polish National Dances. As a rule the maharaja would attend these performances and he always left 1001 or 501 rupees. These monies were used for expenses associated with costumes and any surplus would be used for occasional trip to Jamnagar to a movie. In the last two years we had a band in the camp. Musical instruments were received from America, gift from the National Catholic Women’s Conference (NCWC). Maharaja Jam Saheb sent two musicians from his band as instructors. My “musical talents” were not properly recognized and I was only a substitute to a substitute drummer.
And that’s basically what our life in the camp looked like. It was simple but adequate, without any special attractions, yet I have very fond memories from that time. Not only I, but most of the otherpeople as well. That’s why now we organize our reunions. We grew together as one family. Kama jokes that I have three families: the real one, orphanage and scouts.
By the end of 1942 two more transports of children arrived. Gradually we were getting used to each other and to know each other much better and some lasting friendships developed.
Tadek was one of the older boys in the orphanage. He was big, strong, good sportsman, and had good reputation with elders and respect from his peers. He had a nickname Slon (elephant). I had a good protector in him, but on the other hand I always had to live in his shadow. The difference of 5 years at that young age was difficult to bridge. He had his own circle of friends and I had mine.
By the end of September of 1942 all of the Polish Army left Russia for the Middle East. No news about Wacek. Christmas was approaching. Tadek with great success played King Herod in the Jaselka. I only got a part of one of the shepherds without even having to say one word.
Christmas came, it was supposed to be a festive season, but in our hearts there was sadness, nostalgia and grief. A year passed since we lost our mother and were pretty sure that we would never see our father again. We were bracing for the worst.
The Year 1943
From now on events will be chronicled by years.
Before Easter I made my First Confession and received First Communion I was supposed to do all that in Lubaczow and even attended preparation instructions, but then it turned out that I was not baptized. Apparently my designated Godparents did not talk to each other, nor could get together at the same time, so my baptism was postponed. In Silesia where I was born, the civil authorities issued a birth certificate, which I now have, not by the church as was customary in other parts of Poland. So fornine years I was just a little “pagan.” In 1939 when bombs started falling on Lubaczow, mother rushed me to the church and I was baptized on the spot.
In late April the Germans announced that in Katyn Forest, not far from Smolensk in Russia they discovered mass graves of Polish officers. As it turned out they were all from the Kozielsk POW camp. Later we found out that father’s younger brother Stefan was killed there. Germany accused Russia of the murder. Naturally Russia blamed the Germans. Polish Government in London asked the International Red Cross in Switzerland to investigate. Russia refused to participate in such an investigation, accused the Polish Government with siding with the Germans and broke diplomatic relationship with Poland. England and America, being afraid to antagonize Russia, also refused to participate in the investigation. Hence Germany organized its own investigating team composed with forensic medicine experts from occupied countries, but also including some from Switzerland and Sweden and the Polish Red Cross. The Commission concluded that the bodies had been in the ground for about 3 years that is since 1940.Hence, the Russians must have committed the massacre as at the time the POWs were in their hands. The worst of our presumption became reality. Our father also had been executed and thrown into some mass grave. But where?
It was not until early in 1990 that Russia officially admitted to the massacre. Over 6000 Police Officers from Osteskow camp were executed near Twer in Russia and were buried in Miednoje. Officers from the Starobiels camp were executed in Charkow. Their bodies were taken to the woods of the Piatichatka village on the outskirts of that city, and buried there. A Polish Military Cemetery was established on the site and officially opened in June, 2000. I visited the site in September of that year and on the plate with father’s name placed white and red roses from the three of us. The inscription on the plate is as follows:
Lt. Col. Franciszek Herzog
Born 10-IX-1894, Biala
Battalion Commander of the 154 Reserve Infantry Regiment, 1940
There are about 4200 such plates with names of murdered officers.
In May, a group of children and some adults left our camp for Mexico where a camp for Polish refugees was being established. Tadek was very saddened, as his two best friends: Heniek Bobotek and Bobis Tyszkiewicz departed for Mexico. It was after Tadek’s death and after reading his memoirs I decided to trace them. With help from Internet I located them. Both live in the States near Washington. Both were genuinely sorry when I told them that Tadek was dead.
At the end of April the school year ended and I was promoted to the 5th grade. We had long vacations that were to last till the middle of July. Our vacation was filled with many activities. There were scout meetings, lot of swimming and trips to the surrounding countryside to familiarize ourselves with it.
When Mr. Maniak arrival he soon initiated the development of the soccer field, running track, volleyball and basket-ball courts and other sport facilities. He did not spare himself, so we also worked very hard. I must say, it was hard work, but when everything was finished we were very proud of what we had done.
Tadek was very good at sports. Once, pole-vaulting (and showing off) he missed the mattress on which he was supposed to land, hit the ground and broke his arm. He was a good footballer.
At long last we received news from Wacek. He was in England in the Polish Navy. However, it was not until a year later that we received from him a long letter describing events from the time we parted in Russia. This is what he wrote:
PO Box 293
In Place 2-7-44
As soon as I received your letter I sent Tadek an airmail in which I promised
to write in more details about myself. Unfortunately due to circumstances
beyond my control, I had to postpone writing till today. You have to understand,
frequently my time is not my own and sometimes there is nothing to write about,
or rather you are not allowed to write because of the censorship. Recently we were
allowed to write to our families more openly, so here it is.
I don’t remember what I wrote regarding myself, so I will start from the beginning.
I am sure that you know about my sickness in Russia. I survived it all thanks to the
sisters and mother of Przemek Inglot ( Niusiek I met him in Chicago in 1994). I left
Russia with the last transport in August of ’42. For about a week we stayed in Persia
on the shores of the Caspian Sea and then they moved us to Iraq. There we stayed for a
couple of months. I used that time to recuperate and to build my strength. As
I completely restored my health I was given category “ A” and they wanted to assign
me to the Air Force. Because of the problem with my hearing I refused and stayed in
Toward the end of ’42 we left for England. The first stage of our voyage ended in
Karachi, India. We stayed there for two months having nothing to do but play tourist.
(Wacek wrote to the Polish Consulate in Bombay asking them about our whereabouts,
but they told him that they knew nothing). The life was like in paradise. We had
plenty of money so I bought myself a watch and a camera. I took more than a hundred
pictures that were the greatest memento of our stay there.
Not far from our camp there was an American camp. We visited them frequently
as there were many Polish-Americans among them. Nearby there was also a camp
with Polish children and women who were evacuated from Russia and were now
waiting to be resettled in India and Africa. We invited many orphan children to a
Christmas Eve dinner. We had a real Christmas tree and plenty of presents for all
of them. In return the children prepared a nice show with singing and Polish National
Unfortunately, that nice time came to an end and we had to continue our journey.
Our next stop was Bombay. It was a very short one, just to change ships and then a
long voyage across the Indian Ocean where I experienced my first sea storm. My
stomach was a bit upset but otherwise I felt OK. We were all looking for the
African continent and embarkation, so once again we could have firm ground under
Durban. We camped just outside the town on the grounds of a sport stadium. Just
nearby there were banana plantations and orange groves. It was fantastic. Our trips
to town were usually in the evening, as it was too hot to go there during the day
and the streets were deserted. The South Africans were very hospitable and we had
many invitations to visit them. Because of the language barrier I only visited one
family where they spoke some German.
It was with regret that we left Durban on a big transatlantic ship. When we crossed
the equator an Italian submarine sunk us. I survived, but only with my gym pants on.
However, it was worth losing everything just for the excitement of being a shipwreck.
If you want I can describe that in more detail in my next letter.
After a few days in a lifeboat we were ‘fished out’ and brought to Freeport. Thanks
to an excellent English organization the next day we were able to go to town,
clothed and with money in our pockets. We celebrated our survival with some good
drinking parties and trips to the jungle. It was like in the H. Sienkiewicz book, In Desert
and Wilderness. You could admire wild animals and tropical vegetation as thought
in some enchanted zoo, and all without a ticket. Again, it did not last for too long and
we had to continue our journey.
The rest of the voyage to England went smoothly and without incident. They sent
us to Scotland where I met a few officers from father’s regiment. My heart was
bleeding. Not knowing English I could not strike up any conversation and there
were so many pretty Scottish girls.
I did not stay in the camp too long. I was assigned to the Polish cruiser, Dragon.
Now they allowed us to write that we were taking part in the invasion of France.
I hug you tenderly,
Vacations ended and a new school year started. The monsoon season arrived on time. As they never changed broken tiles as promised, water started dripping on our heads and that meant chaos in the barracks and mud on the floor. On the soccer field there were pools of water and mud, so playing there was out of the question. We had to be satisfied with some indoor games such as marbles, buttons, playing cards and games we just improvised. If it stopped raining for a short time we would go hunting for parrots with slingshots.
As classes started a group of older boys including Tadek and some girls left camp for further education in English schools. The same day Tadek left I broke my right hand just above the wrist, while playing ball. It was a compound fracture so to set it properly I had to go to Rajkot hospital. They put on a cast, and I had to have it on for 4 weeks. In the meantime, I tried to learn to write with my left hand. It was not that difficult as I am a lefthander by nature. When they removed cast there was a visible bend in one of the bones. There was the possibility that they might need to break the bone again and reset it once again. Fortunately with some exercises and time the bump disappeared.
Tadek, now being away was writing to me at least once a month. It seemed that now he was more concerned about me than when he was close by. And now, a few fragments from his letters.
St. Mary’s High School
I have heard from Sledz (herring, a nickname of Jurek Dobrostanski) that you took
me too literally when I told you to carry on in my tradition and not to bring shame
to our name. I didn’t mean that you have to break your arms and legs. Probably
you are happy now that you don’t have to go to school, but write and tell me what
mischievous things you did, even if it is something bad. I would rather hear it from
you than from someone else. And if you have any problems or do not know what
to do in certain situations, then write to me, I might be able to help. I feel very well here.
The climate is excellent. We have to study a lot and the only free time is on weekend.
Remember Niusiek, you have to study, especially English. You never know
what the future has in store for you, and as long as you have the opportunity – study.
Not long ago I received your last letter and today the second one. I did know that you
broke your right hand or I would not have asked you to reply immediately.
Be careful; do not run, jump and, most importantly, do not bump that hand, as it may
not heal properly. I am telling you that from my own experience.
You asked me to describe our scenery. To do it properly I do not have enough time
and paper, but I will try to do my best. The mountains surrounding us are pretty high.
Slopes and valleys are covered with trees and bushes so thick that they form an impene-
trable jungle. Only here and there you can see bare rocks. Some of the trees are mangos, figs,
and date palms. Apparently when ripe they are delicious. We will see.
There are many streams with crystal clear cold water cascading down over the rocks.
A pretty sight. At this time you can hardly see the mountain tops as they are covered
with clouds. Sometime they come all the way down to us (clouds, not mountains).
Our school is located on one of the slopes at 1400 meters (4,200 ft) about a mile from
the town Abu. There are many palaces of various maharajahs from different parts of
India. Some of the palaces are very pretty. Abu itself is nothing to brag about. If it
was not for the palaces there would be nothing to look at and admire.
Before I finish please accept my sincere and best wishes for your namesday. Well,
what can I wish you ... first of all that we could celebrate your next one in Wilno. All
of us, as it used to be in the days gone ... God Willing! Do not forget that it’s also
our father’s name day. I don’t think I have to write any more and you will know what to do.
I hug you tenderly – best of everything,
At the beginning of December, all boys from Mount Abu returned to the camp for a long holiday. For Christmas I was with Tadek.
And what was going on in the political arena this year? About the discovery of mass graves of Polish officers in Katyn I already wrote. Soon afterward Gen. Sikorski, Premier and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army was killed in an airplane crash on takeoff from Gibraltar. It is still not known for sure whether it was an accident, sabotage or political assassination. If it was that last possibility, who was behind it? The entire Polish nation was grieving. At that time it was assumed that it was thanks to Gen. Sikorski that we left Russia. Today we know that he wanted for the army to stay in Russia and with them advance toward west to eventually liberate Poland. Gen. W. Anders knowing Russians better knew it would not work that way. He wanted to remove the army from Russian territory. It was also advantageous for the British to have additional army in the Middle East, protecting oil fields. The Polish Army that left Russia numbered some 90,000 men. Approximately 50,000 civilians left Russia at the same time.
German offensive in Russia was halted. Leningrad and Moscow were not taken. British and American troops pushed German Army out of Africa.
The Year 1944
For me Christmas school break was short. In the middle of January we had to go back to classes, but for some reason, boys from Mt. Abu School stayed in the camp till the middle of March.
In May of 1944 the Polish 2nd Corp. under gen. Anders fought a bloody battle with the Germans at Monte Casino, the monastery turned into a fortress. British, American, French and Indian forces could not take it. Eventually Polish Army succeeded, but it cost them dearly. Today, at the bottom of the hill there is a Polish Military Cemetery with over 900 graves. (I visited the cemetery in 1982). Our camp was once again grieving. Father of 5 children (Czenczyk family) from our camp was killed and also husband of our math teacher Mrs.W. Tyszkiewicz. Kama’s cousin Ryszard Kaminski was killed in the final attack on May 18.
In April we received a postcard from uncle Jozek who was in the Woldenberg POW camp in Germany. He had received the post card that Wacek sent to him via Polish Embassy in Kujbyshev after our mother died. That post card was sent to the Polish Embassy in Turkey and then through the Red Cross to the POW camp. The Red Cross also supplied a list of children evacuated from Russia to India. When uncle Jozek found our names on the list, he sent a post card to us. I still have that original post card.
We had another surprise. Uncle Strumillo, was now with the Polish Mission in Cairo, Egypt. He sent us some money. As Tadek was older and needed more, he took two hundred rupees and I received seventy-five rupees. That was a fortune. Now I could buy a few things like extra clothing, airmail letters, peanuts, or other tidbits at the bazaar and also have some decent pictures taken.
In the middle of 1943 British authorities started building another camp for Polish Refugees in India. It was supposed to house some 6000 people, mainly the old, invalids, women and children. The camp was named Valivade and it was located south of Bombay near the town of Kolhapur in the Marathi province. This camp which in time became a little town had a few elementary schools, trade school and a high school (gymnasium & lyceum). Also an orphanage was there, but smaller than the one in Balachadi. In Balachadi, due to lack of qualified teachers, no high school could be established, so in May all sixth graders, boys and girls that finished elementary school, were sent to Valivade for further education in grammar or trade schools. Our camp diminished in size to about 450 people and we, the sixth graders became the senior class and the elite.
As seniors, from now on we had some extra privileges, e.g. at lights out time we could stay up for another hour; from time to time could go to Jamnagar and rent a bicycle or go to the movies. But then we also had some extra responsibilities. First of all, we had to behave ourselves and be an example to the younger kids. Some of us were moved for the duration of a few months to barracks with younger boys as “councilors” to help with discipline, homework and general upkeep of dormitories. Twice I had such duty.
Our scouting was developing well; all the leaders were from our senior class. I became a cub scout pack leader.
In June all boys from Mt. Abu school were moved to Valivade. Tadek was now in the 4th grade of gymnasium and in September passed the lower level matriculation exams. Although he was complaining a lot about schoolwork, he found time to be in the amateur theatre where he performed with great success and was also involved with scouts.
Really I do not know what prompted Tadek and some forty other older boys to volunteer to go to England and join the merchant marine school. Was it a “call for adventure,” or just desire to expand his horizons and leave India? To start with, they were supposed to go in November, but then the trip was postponed. They went to Bombay a few times only to return to Valivade again. That of course, once again, was disrupting to studies. Eventually they sailed to England in February of 1945.
And what was Wacek doing at that time? He was in the navy on the Polish cruiser, Dragon, as a radar operator and took part in the invasion of France. Later he described it in the following way:
“The view from the ship was spectacular. Furthest from the French coast were battleships,
then cruisers, then destroyers and eventually transporters and landing crafts from which
soldiers were went ashore followed by equipment. Guns from all the ships were firing
and you could hear shells flying and even see them overhead. And high above all that,
there were hundreds of bombers flying toward France. In the far distance you could
see beaches covered in smoke.”
A few days into invasion, the Dragon was hit just below water level by a so-called “human torpedo.” Forty-six sailors that were under the deck were killed. The ship did not sink but was hauled toward the French coast and settled down on the bottom, to form with other damaged ships, an artificial harbor. The crew was taken to England to a camp in Devon and there they waited for a new ship. Toward the end of the year they were on board of another cruiser, the Conrad.
And now a few passages from Tadek’s letters.
It’s been a week since we arrived here, I feel perfectly well. But what about you?
Did you by any chance break another bone or something? With you anything is
possible, especially now that I am away and cannot keep an eye on you.
Yesterday A. Plucinski and H. Baczek went to the jungle to get some lemons. And
guess what? Instead of lemons they saw a tiger. Nice neighborhood we have here.
Together with this letter I enclose a postcard that I received from the Polish Consu-
Latr in Bombay. The card is from uncle Jozek; you might remember him. He stayed
with us in Warsaw when he was doing some military studies (Ha! Ha! I was about
3 years old at that time) and later visited us in Przemysl with his wife aunt Maria.
I sent him news about the three of us....
Please let me know whether you were promoted to the 6-th grade and what you are
doing now that you have vacation? I am very busy as it’s less than two months to
exams and it will be all in English....
Study as much as you can. Uncle Jozek writes that he hopes that when we return to
Poland we will bring more than just ourselves. “Study! Study!” that’s what he says.”
It has been two days since we arrived here in Vivalde. This noon we had an
interview with the gymnasium principal and were placed in various classes.
Tomorrow I will start in 4th grade. I will have plenty of work even more than
I thought at the beginning. Hopefully I will manage it.
At the moment there is not much I can tell you about this camp. It looks more or
less what I expected. It’s huge. Our group that came from Abu lives in the orphanage
in barracks similar to the one we have in Balachadi. Our group occupies one end
of the building. We have a table, benches, lamp etc. We will be able to study well into
the night and that’s what I like.
I am very happy with all my examinations. Now we have a month vacation
and I am going to a training camp for scoutmasters. I am sure I will learn a lot
and it will not be a waste of time. And how is it with your scouting? You don’t
mention it in your letters? During your vacations have a good rest but don’t get
lazy. Being an altar boy is also good, do not neglect it.
Thank you for your letter. I didn’t write, as I was too busy. Now everything is
finished. Tomorrow we are off to England. From now on write to Wacek and
I will get all the news about you from him. As soon as possible I will give you
my permanent address. I have no idea how it will be with the navy school, but
at least I will be in England and hopefully it will be easier there to do all the
things I want to do.....
With me everything is fine. I passed all my exams as well as the scoutmaster
course. Don’t forget that in January is the 3rd anniversary of mother’s death.
That’s all for now. Time permitting I will write from Bombay before sailing.
And now a few of Wacek’s letters.
Many thanks for your letter dated 8-4-44, which I received today. You say
that you might be promoted to the 6th grade. Congratulations. Soon you will
bypass me in studies.
You are asking about my English. I have to admit that it’s not too good.
All the time I am on the Polish ship, in a Polish environment, so I don’t have
many opportunities to practice English. It’s only during leave that I can
improve it somewhat. Most time I spend it in Scotland with two very nice
old ladies. Both of them are determined to teach me English and Scottish.
With the first one it’s not so bad, but the other one is out of the question.
During my stay with these two ladies I feel as though I am home and
hate returning to the ship.
On the ship we also have some excitement. Recently it was invasion of
France. What a pity I did not have camera as I could have taken a lot of
interesting pictures to bring back to Poland. At the moment we are in
a camp in Devon waiting for a new ship. To kill time I am sunbathing in a
meadow instead on a beach.
Wacek wasn’t sure whether Tadek had left for England so the next letter he wrote to both of us.
P. O. Box 293
It’s useless to explain why I did not write sooner. I think I wrote something
and my conscience is bothering me so I will write again. I think all your letters
arrived, but not necessarily in the order they were sent. What a pity you do
not have a picture of mother or Niusiek. With the next letter I will try to send
a decent picture of myself. Uncle Strumillo also is asking for one. By the way,
recently I received L5 that he sent for me from Kujbyshev on 27-3-42. What
do you make of that? Expeditious! If you have his new address, please send it
to me. So far I did not make contact with uncle Piotr. Always, when I have
some free time to visit him, I don’t know where he is.
I am very pleased with your achievements at school. To tell
the truth I am envious. Somehow I cannot understand you Tadek why you
are so eager to go to war? Is it not enough that I am sitting here getting
dumber and dumber day by day? What for? If father’s words are dogmas
for you, as you say, then remember what he told you about studying as he
was leaving for war. However, if you come here then do what I told you before.
In the first place, finish high school and then think about higher education.
At your age you are not eligible for the military service unless you volunteer.
With me everything is normal, meaning terrible boredom on the ship. When
in port I usually go to a movie, for a walk, or a dance. Recently I learned to
dance. I am so used to a hammock that I regard sleeping in bed as a treat
(Niusiek: I wonder where he was getting these treats?). To improve my
English, just for fun, I write letters to various girlfriends inventing some
And what was happening in the world at that time? Germany was losing the war, that’s for sure. In Italy with the taking of the Monte Casino and after the Gustav Line was broken, the Allies and Polish 2nd Corp were pushing northward, liberating all major cities including Rome, Ancona and Bologna. In France the invasion was successful, and Allied forces were approaching Germany itself. In that offensive the Polish Panzer Division under Gen. S. Maczek and Parachute Brigade of Gen. S. Sosabowski (Arnheim!) were involved.
The Russian Army was already on Polish territory; however not as liberators, but rather as an occupying force. Now the secret came out. At the Tehran Conference in 1943 Churchill and Roosevelt capitulated to Stalin’s demand and agreed that Eastern Poland be given to Russia.
On August 1, the Warsaw Uprising against the Germans started. It lasted 63 days. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and the city was eighty percent destroyed. At the time the Russian Army stood on the other side of Vistula River but would not give any help. Even when Allied aircraft flew with supplies from Italy, they were not allowed to land on the Russian side for refueling and had to make their way back to Italy. Many aircrafts were shot down and many airmen lost their lives. In spite of all that and with the knowledge that Poland was “sold out,” Polish Forces in the West were still fighting Germans, side by side with the Allies.
The Year 1945
After some more trouble with transport the group of boys, including Tadek, left for England in the middle of February. From now on, Wacek and Tadek were close to each other and I was in faraway India. Disregarding distance, Tadek was still trying to guide me and in his letters was telling me what to do and tried to mold me in his image. What he was forgetting, there was 5 years difference between us. When he was 14 he was very religious and had idealistic outlook on life. Now, at 19 he thought that by thinking independently all the obstacles could be conquered with intellect. In the group going to England there were many scouts and Tadek was put in charge. He felt sort of responsible for them. But that soon changed. In the new school, new environment, by meeting new people there and later in Scot-land in the liceum (the last two years of high school) and seeing life from a different perspective, more brutal, his outlook on life changed dramatically. In Russia life was also brutal but at that time he was still a child and had his mother. Somewhere in his memoirs he wrote that he was proud that in Russia he did not lose himself and his soul. But now it was different. He lost faith in God, idealistic approach to things and become very cynical. He stayed that way till the end. However, from my many talks with him in later years, and observing him at certain occasions I thought this was only a front window behind which he was hiding and that deep inside he was a different person. But then I might be wrong.
By the end of May school year ended and we took entrance examinations to the gymnasium (high school). Everything went smoothly for me and I was getting ready to move to the Valivade camp. But then it was decided that 1st grade of gymnasium will be opened in Balachadi. Probably programs and required textbooks were supplied. Fr. Pluta was to teach us Latin. A few boys that did not pass entrance exams were sent to Jamnagar and there in a garage were learning trade as car mechanics.
Even before school ended, the war in Europe also ended with unconditional surrender of Germany. Hitler committed suicide. War with Japan continued till the end of the summer when America dropped atomic bombs (a new, nuclear type of weapon) on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At that point, Japan also surrendered
A Polish Communist government was established in Poland but in reality Russia ruled there. We did not bother much about the future. We left worrying to the adults. We had more important thing to think about. We had to organize our scout camp for the first time in tents, prepare program and learn how to run our own kitchen. Everything went well to everybody’s satisfaction. I took the scout oath and received the scout cross, something I dreamed about for a long time. I also moved up on the scout ladder and gained the rank of “explorer.”
The school year started in mid July. I was in the gymnasium now but had no problems except with Latin. Throughout my school years and then in college I never put too much emphasis on learning, my aim was to pass examinations. I was fairly intelligent and that helped me to move along. However, I always knew that I must get higher education and eventually I achieved that.
Toward the end of the year a possibility transpired for some boys to go to America to a Polish High School attached to a college and seminary. Anybody that thought that they might have the vocation could apply. I applied although I was not quite sure what the vocation meant. But going to America was appealing. Sometimes I think that if I went there I might have become a priest (Father Frank sounds good). But unfortunately, or fortunately, I was a year too young to go. A group of some twenty-five boys left, but only a few of them became priests.
Christmas was approaching and we had to produce Christmas show - Jaselka. This time I got an important part of the chief shepherd. This was the first Christmas that I was on my own, but I did not feel depressed. By now, after two years of being together we started forming “a family.” These bonds are still alive to day and our frequent reunions and visits are an outward sign of this.
And what were Wacek and Tadek doing at this time? Tadek, soon after getting into that navy school, realized that it was not for him. After a few months he decided to join the army, not to fight but to get toa high school (run by the military) in Scotland and get his matriculation there. The formalities dragged on and it was September before he got there. At the same time Wacek also was accepted to that school. (Niusiek – During the war years many young people lost out on schooling. Polish military ran special accelerated courses to give people chance to finish high school and then with matriculation in hand get to colleges and universities.) Tadek was in the 1st grade of lyceum and Wacek in the 3rd grade of gymnasium.