Herzog Family Chronicle
1866 - 2000
Written in Polish by Franciszek Herzog
Translated by Franciszek Herzog and Ivona (Herzog) Verbeke
There were three of us brothers in the Herzog family, the oldest one Waclaw (Wacek), then Tadeusz (Tadek) and myself Franciszek, in the family known as Niusiek. The war’s end had scattered us around the world and we had lost contact with the family. It’s true that a cousin of our mother, Uncle Marian Strumillo lived somewhere in the West and it was thanks to him that we had escaped from Russia, but our contact with him was minimal. There was likewise a cousin of our father Capt. Piotr Herzog in England, but we had no contact with him. We were of no use to him, and perhaps if he had located us we might have proved a burden to him.
The first to “rediscover” us and show some interest was our father’s youngest brother, Uncle Jozek. Though himself in a POW camp in Germany, through the Red Cross located us in India; that is, Tadek and me. After the war ended, he returned to his family in Poland, but kept in constant touch with us.
In 1946 he was arrested by the Communist authorities, and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his membership in the secret organization WiN (Freedom and Independence). In 1953 he was released, and it was then that he began to write these family memoirs with us, his nephews in mind. They were to have been a short family history beginning with our great grandfather and ending with the World War II. He assumed that the rest we should know. However, he had a flare for writing. The manuscript had 435 pages and he got only to the end of the World War I.
I am likewise writing these family memoirs for my nieces and nephews, as well as for my daughter, Ivona, and her children. I have no doubt there will not be so much, as I have not writer’s bent. If I can say something in a sentence, I will not drag it out to a paragraph, let alone a page. In these reminiscences, I rely on my memory, which is unfortunately beginning to decline, as well as make use of Uncle Jozek’s memoirs and Tadek’s diary written in India and finally, letters Wacek and Tadek wrote to me while I was still in India. These throw light upon the situation that existed, and render the spirit of time.
First I will write of the background of our father’s and mother’s families, and after their marriage, of events that took place, as well as I can, in chronological order. I will play the historian and we shall see what comes of it. I would like to note that this “saga” couldn’t be read without some knowledge of these times, as the writing is closely tied to them. When I tell people of my past, I often add that I have five citizenships, invariably they say, “How interesting!” An old Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times”.
Father’s family is of peasant origin, from a Carpathian village of Spytkowice, near Zator, between Wadowice and Oswiecim. In his memoirs, now published as a book “Krzyz Niepodleglosci” (Cross of Independence), uncle Jozek writes:
“My grandfather (my great grandfather) was a rafts man, taking wood on rafts down
the river Wisla, all the way to Gdansk. He would return on the banks, his earnings
in his pocket, to his tiny house on about four or six acres in Spytkowice. With the
advent of the iron railroad demands for long distance rafts transport died out, so
grandfather became a ferryman on the Wisla, conveying people and freight across
the river. Earnings were small thus poverty and misery reigned in the sparse hut.
My grandmother, Regina Lacniak, supplemented the income by working for the
better-to do, or the Parish priest, raised her children.”
My great grandparents had five children. The oldest, Franciszek, my grandfather, was born in 1866; then came his brothers Jan, Szczepan, Jozef, and Piotr. Each completed the four-grade elementary school and, with the exception of my grandfather, remained in Spytkowice, established families and died there. Their descendants, my distant relatives, live there to this day.
From Uncle Jozek’s book:
“My father being probably the brightest and maybe the most energetic of his brothers
attached himself to the church and its surroundings. From the time he was a young
boy until age fifteen he served Mass, spending most of his time in church, Parish
house and with the organist. He was an intelligent, observant boy. Delving into the
Latin missals, he absorbed some Latin. He learned calligraphy, and broadening his
intellect through reading, resolved to quit his family village.”
In 1881, grandfather “moved” into the world. His first stop was Krakow. For a country boy, this was a true metropolis. But he was resourceful and determined; he would not be intimidated by the big city, and quickly found a job at a well-known Krakow restaurant, Hawelek. He spent six years working there. He was a busboy, then a sous-chef. He gained experience in the running of a restaurant and this becomes the foundation of his later career. At the age of 21, he was drafted into Austrian army, serving a three year tour in the 13th infantry regiment in Krakow.
In Krakow, grandfather met his future wife, Helena Jedrzejowska, and they were married in Kety in 1893. My grandmother’s family comes from Kety, a small town near Wadowice, where her father worked as a weaver. It was at this time that weaving machines were beginning to be brought into use. Great factories arose and family businesses failed. It was not surprising then, that the family was hurting with hunger peeping through the door.
After their wedding, my grandparents lived in Kety, where my grandfather ran a restaurant for seven years. My father, Franciszek, was born in Biala in1894; the other children were subsequently born in Kety. In 1895 Helena; in 1897 Stanislaw; and in 1899 Stefan. In 1900 the opportunity presented itself to my grandfather to rent an inn in a prime location in the village of Osiek on the main road between Oswiecim and Wadowice. Their other son Jozef was born there in 1901 and in 1904, came their daughter, Maria.
My grandfather did not run the inn long. He lost the lease through his own fault. Since the inn was situated close to church and school, some of the more enlightened members of the community, to which my grandfather also belonged, considered that selling of the alcohol in such a neighborhood would be a sin. A petition was made to the owner to terminate the alcohol concession and, well the Inn was closed.
Grandfather then bought a piece of land not far from the school, built a house, and set up a store there, The Farmer’s Coop. He lacked enough of his money and borrowed from his sisters-in-law, Katarzyna and Wiktoria, thus tying himself to them for the rest of his life. For a description of life in Osiek, I reach into Uncle Jozek book:
“The shop was managed by my mother and her sister Katarzyna. Father run a small
farm, and traded what he could. He produced cheese, for which we boys carried
buckets of sour milk from the village, and also made marmalade and meat products. In
his work, I remember, he always stressed that the true value in life is not the desire
to enrich oneself, but the value of a wish to serve and be of help to others. With that
in mind he brought from Kety Uncle Jan Jedrzejowski, and aided him in starting
harness-making shop so vital to the community.
What to say of my childhood and that of my brothers and sisters? For some years
we grew and played together. We all began our schooling in Osiek. Our father, in
regard to his children was very strict. “Discipline” (a deer’s leg with 6 leather
straps) hung always on the door as a “remainder” for us boys. Father’s belt came
into play once, I remember. My brother Franek did something wrong. Father was
very angry and went outside to look for him. We hid behind a curtain and watched
from the upstairs window. Suddenly, from behind a building into the driveway in
front of the store Franek ran out and after him ran father with a belt in his hand.
Franek ran; father chased him. It lasted a minute, but father could not catch the
quick boy. Then mother ran out of the store, and seeing what was happening took
Franek into her care, and with this, it seems father anger drained from him …
Because it was this way in our house. Once mother took someone into her care,
father could do no more.”
I took that scene from uncle’s book because it reminded me of an almost identical scene from Lubaczow. My father also kept us on a short leash, and to dole out punishment he used a bamboo cane. My brother Wacek was the culprit, and he was running from father. He ran into kitchen from outside and tried to escape to his bedroom upstairs. Father was close behind him, but mother stepped in the doorway and blocked him. Father, in his hurry, accidentally hit mother in the arm with the cane, then he remembered himself, and almost with tears in his eyes started apologizing to her.
In 1907, my grandmother died and was buried in the local cemetery in Osiek. In 1998, in the old cemetery, we fastened a new plate to the headstone on her grave with the original epitaph: “R.I P. Helena Herzog (Jedrzejowska) 1871-1907. I lived because You willed it, I died because You commanded it; save my soul Merciful God.” We only added “Mother of Four Legionnaires.” The death of his wife was very hard on grandfather.
Grandfather cared a great deal about his children’s education, and so, in 1909, he moved to Wadowice, a small county town where the school was better. He managed a restaurant there. Proceeds were small, and the cost of educating his children ever larger. That is why, in 1911, grandfather moved again to a large Inn “Zielona” in the village of Mucharz on the main road between Wadowice and Sucha.
And what of the children? Our father and his sister Hela attended high school in Cieszyn. According to Uncle Jozek the following is what happened to our father:
“He failed one of his classes. On his report he erased the “fail” and wrote in “satis-
factory”, thus enabling himself to spend a quiet vacation at home. The next year, he
departed for school, but without father’s knowledge or that of uncle Jedrzejewski
with whom he lived, he went in Cieszyn to a printing house to learn the trade.
After some arguments, father eventually made his peace with Franek, who under-
took to learn the skill of running a printing machine and arrived at that profession.”
Our father had a great mechanical talent. He could disassemble and repair a motorcycle, even a radio, and we children were always in awe watching him at such a task and eagerly offered our help, whether asked for or not.
While grandfather was in Mucharz, Aunt Hela finished high school and was preparing for Teacher’s College. Uncle Staszek finished elementary school, but having neither the talent nor inclination for further schooling, stayed at home to help grandfather on the farm and learned the skill of meat cutter. Uncle Stefan and Uncle Jozek attended school in Wadowice and lived in a boarding house. The youngest, Aunt Marysia, went to school in Mucharz.
Mucharz was the setting of a family tragedy. Aunt Hela, in her youth, had been a beauty, tall and statuesque with dark eyes and long hair. So it was that the son and heir of the family who owned the Inn and much of the surrounding property fell in love with her, the 16 year old daughter of the Innkeeper. Victor Thetchel was, for those times, a very rich man, and his family, particularly his mother, would not approve of the match. The matter went to the courts and Victor was disinherited, but love triumphed and they married. But it was not a happy marriage. Victor was constantly in court battling with his family and died at a fairly young age in the late twenties. My aunt was left with three young children and no livelihood. She continued to sue her late husband’s family for aid in supporting and educating her children. My father, with Uncle Jozek helped her in this, and they eventually won the case.
The battling and lawsuits with the Thetchel family had become very expensive, and naturally, at the end of his three-year lease, grandfather was forced to leave the Inn. With the small amount left in their savings, he bought a small house with a store and concession for vodka in the village of Zagornik, four km. from Andrychow. Uncle Jozek describes Zagomik this way:
“…a small highland village of not more than 100 dwellings, lying between green
hills by a small stream. The people were poor. It was surrounded by forest.
Cultivated fields, rocky and uneven, often were situated high up in clearings on
the hills. The house father bought was small, with small windows, was covered
in roofing paper, but still probably the best in the village. The entrance was a
single door fastened with a wooden latch. There were four rooms, two larger,
one of which housed the shop and ‘retail sale of invigorating beverages’, a
small kitchen, and an equally small room alongside. In the other larger room
stood a billiard table, and in the back of the house about an acre of unused
Father’s trade in the small village not far from town provided little income and
expenses grew. Father wanted to add “culture”, as he phrased it, to his house
and surroundings. He dug a well and built a cellar. On part of the land he put in
a vegetable garden and a small fruit orchard. He obtained a few beehives and
eventually extended to fifteen. He began trading in lumber, buying the raw ma-
terial, shaping boards and fence posts himself, and transporting them to market
in Andrychow. Aunt Katarzyna managed the shop and bar. During Easter holi-
day and vacation, we helped Father with everything. We were not ashamed of
physical labor. Father would not hear of interrupting our education, and con-
stantly wondered how he would be able to further mold us. During every free
moment from work, he would point us toward our books saying, “Boys, you
don’t know what you may encounter” and “remember, life is not a fairy-tale.”
Meanwhile, on August 1, 1914 WW I broke out. Father was working at the printing house in Bratyslawa in Slovakia, but as a member of the field team of the Falcons in Cieszyn, he presented himself for duty in Pilsudski’s legion, and on August 6th with the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Infantry Regiment marched out to war. In November of that year he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion and remained there to the end of his service in the Legion.
Father’s service in the Legion was noteworthy. In December of 1914, in the battle of Marcinkowice he was wounded in the leg, but after a short convalescence returned to his detachment with which he stayed till the end, that is until the so-called “Kryzys Przysiegowy” (swearing in crisis) in 1917. He took part in all the battles, large and small, of the 1st Brigade, beginning his services as Corporal and finishing as a Sergeant. He became well known as a remarkable patrolman who also seemed to enjoy a stroke of luck. In the book, “Zolnierze 1 Brygady” (Soldiers of the 1st Brigade) by Marian Dabrowski, published in 1919, I found this passage:
“The real sport of patrols unwound in the second company of Lt. Sas (Kulczycki) in the
Battalion of Cap. Wieczorkiewcz of the 1st Inf. Reg. In the phase of positional battles
near the Stochod River in 1916, the boys of this company achieved some real feats. For
instance, the patrol on the night of August 2-3, consisting of 15 men under the command
of Corporal Herzog was set into motion with the aim of capturing or destroying
a small Russian enclave, which one of the other patrols had previously discovered ‘under
the pear trees in the field.’ Securing his wings, Corporal Herzog quietly crept to within
a few steps away from the pear tree. Private Kazimierz Kromkowski announced,
in a whisper, that he saw several Russian soldiers readying their arms for fire. The
command comes ‘Forward! At them!’ The men rose in a flash. Then the Muscovites, with
a cry of ‘Hurrah!’ rose with their bayonets ready to tear the bold ones to pieces. Corporal
Herzog, keeping his head, gave the command ‘Fire!’ At run the men fired a salvo into
the beaten row of Muscovites. Four tall lads fell at once. The dozen or more that remained
fled in the direction of their trenches where the rest of the Russian company was located.
Ours did not cease to fire volleys.
It was time to take prisoners. Corporal Herzog and Private Jozef Szafranski lifted one
wounded Muscovite from a puddle of blood. Two others could, with difficulty,
subdue the other Russian that fought desperately. The heavily wounded prisoner died
a short while after we brought him to our trenches, but the second prisoner gave the
Brigade lots of useful information. Our patrol returned with not a single loss.”
Praise for the other patrol showed itself in a regimental dispatch signed by Colonel Smigly-Rydza, future Marshal of the Polish army.
“Command of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Brigade of the Polish Army.
Regimental Dispatch at the position in Jeziorna, August 9, 1916
…to the Corporal of the 2nd Company, 3rd Battalion Franciszek Herzog, my thanks
for leading the patrol of August 8, 1916. The courage and energy shown by him
and his men bring glory to his unit.”
Signed: Smigly-Rydz, Colone
If I am not mistaken, it was for this patrol that father received the highest Polish war decoration, the cross “Virtuti Militari”. He also received decorations from the Austrian and Prussian army, among them the German “Iron Cross.” Naturally, he never wore these decorations.
Now let me backtrack to the outbreak of the War to write about father’s brothers. Stanislaw, who belonged to the Riflemen’s Organization also joined the Legion and landed in the 2nd Brigade, whose Commander was col. Jozef Haller. Unfortunately, it was not his fate to see Poland’s Independence. He was killed in Molotkow in Podkarpacie in November of 1914. There are no details about his death. The only official mention: “Rifleman Stanislaw Herzog missing, presumed dead”.
And what of the two younger brothers, Stefan and Jozek? At the start of the new school year, they began high school in Andrychow, but all the while dreamed of running away to join the Legion. There was no possibility of normal enlistment. They were too young and their father would never have given permission.
Their first attempt at enlistment in the Legion was in November of 1914. Uncle Jozek was then barely 14 and Stefan was 15, but they gave their ages as 16 and 17. When they stood before the medical commission in their birthday suits, and especially when they were asked to raise their arms so that their armpits could be examined, they were immediately rejected with the advice “Boys, go back to school.”
The second attempt was successful. Someone advised them that the best time to try was “Just as the detachment is leaving for the front,” because then the doctor did not make such detailed examinations. It was the middle of May of 1915 when Uncle Jozek ran away from home. He had long since prepared his backpack and other equipment and told his father that he would be going to confession in Andrychow and might spend the night there. Stefan stayed at home, still very weak from a recent attack of typhoid.
Uncle Jozek reported at the recruiting station in Kety. He was accepted and, along with a group of new recruits, sent to a detachment near the front. His uppermost thoughts were of finding his brother, Franek whom he had not seen in over a year. Everywhere he went he asked after Corporal Franciszek Herzog, but no one had heard of him. Their meeting took place under very interesting circumstances, which Uncle Jozek describes thus:
“The next day, during the morning hours, the detachment was divided into individual
groups. A group of officers and petty officers stood to the side and, based on a list,
called the soldiers in turn. I stood with the others, packed and with my rifle at my feet
when I heard my name loudly announced.
“Citizen Herzog, Jozef! Citizen Herzog!”
“Present,” I answered clearly and raised my hand.
“Which one is it?”
“Here I am,” I answered, approaching the one who had called my name.
He was a petty officer, a Corporal, a tall dark-haired man whose face was hidden behind
a thick, though not overly long black beard. A little scared, I stood before him at
attention and announced myself clearly, hoping to appear well trained.
“You are Herzog, Jozef?” he asked.
“That’s right,” I answered.
“From what region do you come?” he continued.
“From which village? “
“And do you have brothers?” he asked, looking at my intently.
“I do,” I answered and certain unease seized me.
“How many? “
“One brother is a petty officer in the 1st Brigade. He was wounded at Marcinkowice and
now I do not know where he is. Another was killed in Hungary last November. A third
is ill at home, and I am the fourth,” I explained without a stammer, wanting to make the
best impression I could.
“How old are you?” came the next question.
“Sixteen,” I lied determinedly.
“I turned 16 in March, going on 17,” I repeated the lie.
He nodded his head, continuing to look suspiciously at me and walked away.
“They’ve got you. Your brother must have found out about you and sent that bearded
guy. You can bet they will send you home now,” said my friends.
In the meantime we were allocated into various units. As it turned out, I was assigned
to the “bearded one’s” section. He showed me the patch of straw on the barn floor
where I was to sleep, and where I should put my rifle, then added:
“My name is Corporal Czwartak. I’m the section commander. Make yourself at home.
You have free time until lunch, and afterwards I will determine how prepared you are.”
Indeed, right after lunch, the ‘bearded one’ took Uncle Jozek to the orchard behind the barn, beginning the examination with drills and ending with questions of behavior in the field and in proximity to the enemy. In most of these his scores were weak or poor, and in shooting he scored zero. Uncle recalls that on his first shot, just before pulling the trigger he closed his eyes. This elicited a resounding laugh from the ‘bearded one, and afterwards a stern telling-off. During the examination of his equipment and backpack, the “bearded one” questioned the schoolbooks, cigarettes, and the rum in the canteen. Uncle explained that he meant to study in his free time and that the cigarettes and rum were issue, but since he, as a scout neither smoked nor drank, he was saving them for his brother whom he would undoubtedly meet up with soon. Here Uncle Jozek describes what happened next.
“After supper the ‘bearded one’ arranged his bedding in the barn, as it turned out,
right next to my spot. This surprised me a little. Now I would have him near me at
night too. Ah, well, maybe he would be in a better mood. When evening came,
when my comrades were preparing for bed, he called my name again and asked me
to come with him. He led me to the orchard and there I learned that he, Corporal
Czwartak, was my brother Franek. There was seemingly no end to our stories.
Throughout that May evening we remained in the orchard. When we returned to the
burn I asked my brother:
“You won’t send me home will you?”
“Well, I don’t know yet. That will depend on you and how you conduct yourself,”
Father did not send Uncle Jozek home. For two years they endured their soldiers’ lives, fighting in the same unit right up until “The swearing in crisis”, and then were both sent to the Italian front, but now as Austrian soldiers, not Polish Legionnaires. Over those two years a strong bond grew between them, stronger even than that of brothers, which would remain unbroken as long as they lived.
Father served as an example to uncle Jozek on how to take on service and responsibility. I add here one more excerpt from uncle’s memoirs, describing the battle at Jastkow in July of 1915.
“It was twilight. Our platoon found itself on the last hill before the Russian
trenches, when suddenly the enemy put a torch to bales of hay, which they had
prepared. It became as light as day. Bullets rained about me with wild hissing
“Dig in!” the command fell down the line. I put my spade in motion, but the gun-
fire was so fierce and accurate that I soon had to stop so as not to reveal myself.
By some instinct I ducked into the ditch, I had managed to dig, and protected
my head for the moment. Suddenly, I felt as though some weight had hit me in
the back, lifted me slightly from the ground, and dropped me heavily back. I felt
no particular pain, but at once the hot blood spread over my entire back.
“I’ve been wounded,” I shouted.
One of my comrades crawled over to me, looked at my wound and shouted,
“Tell Franek, Jozek’s been wounded.”
“Your whole back has been torn apart. Can you get to Franek by yourself?” he
“I don’t know, but I have Franek’s food in my backpack,” I answered. Then,
my brother’s command came down the line, “Jozek, if he can manage, should
go to the rear.”
I crawled in my brother’s direction, calling “Franek! Franek!”
After a while I reached him. My brother, I think, there at Jastkow was substi-
tuting and was commanding a Platoon. I reported my injury to him, turned in
my rifle and ammunition, and asked him to take the provisions from my
backpack. This was how I understood my duty as a soldier, and my feelings
as a brother. My brother wanted to examine my wounds and bandage them,
but there was no time. The command came, “Platoon Forward.”
My brother repeated it, hugged me, and shouted, “Call the medic! I will come
back, but now I need to go with the platoon. God be with you.”
He tore himself away, and as commander, ran forward. Later, when I
returned from the hospital, I learned he had been reprimanded for leaving
me on the battlefield. But, I never held it against him. That was the way he
was. Duty always held precedence over personal feelings. He remained so
till his soldier’s death.”
A few times now, I have referred to the “Swearing in Crisis,” so now I must explain what this means. In 1914, when the World War broke out, Austria and Prussia comprised the so-called “Central Powers”, at war with the coalition of England, France, and Russia. In time, other nations were drawn into the conflict. The Legions formed an integral part of the Austrian Army, but Pilsudski stood firm in his position that it was a Polish Army. As long as the Legion was needed Central Powers tolerated the situation, even promising semi-independent Poland from the territory annexed by Russia, and in part by Prussia and Austria. It was done to gain new soldiers. There was, however, one condition, which could not be accepted by the majority of the Legionnaires. They would have to swear allegiance to the German Kaiser. In July of 1917, it came to a crisis. Most of the Legionnaires refused the vow. The Legion was disbanded, Pilsudski arrested and deported to Berlin. The Legionnaires, from the Russian annexation, were imprisoned in camps and those from Austria and Prussia incorporated into the corresponding army. Father and Uncle Jozek, as Austrian citizens, were forced into the Austrian Army and sent to the Italian Front. Uncle Stefan, who was also in the Legion, but in a different unit than his brothers, was arrested, and even threatened with a death sentence because his detachment, fighting with the Austrians, wanted to cross to the Russian side with arms in hand.
Uncle Jozek, still a minor at the age of seventeen, was discharged from the army and returned to Zagornik, where he went back to school in Andrychow. Father, fighting on the Italian Front, stayed until the middle of 1918, when he deserted and found his way back to Poland and joined the POW (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa – The Polish Military Organization). At first, he hid near Warsaw, and then was steered to the Cieszyn District in Silesia, as he was very familiar with the territory, with the aim of organizing the under-ground division of the POW. On November 1st of 1918, he joined the Polish Army with the rank of Second Lieutenant. At first, he was attached to the 4th Infantry Regiment, and then transferred to the reorganized 1st Infantry Regiment.
In November of 1919, he was again directed to Cieszyn area of Silesia, to clandestine battle with the Czechs. Uncle Jozek describes this period of father’s career.
“I don’t know the details, but from general conversation with my brother, I knew he
was the Director of Sabotage in Silesia. I saw that he had clippings from contem-
porary newspapers of the region with announcements from Czech and German
authorities of a large monetary reward for his capture. His contributions must
have been great, since he, despite his youth, had received for his work the
“Cross of Independence with Swords” decoration, which was supposedly
bestowed only to the most deserving, and which many high ranking Legion
Officers did not receive”.
In August of 1920, under pressure from the western states, and unjust division of the Cieszyn District of Silesia, father returned to his parent 1st Infantry Regiment and took part in the end phases the war with the Bolsheviks. After armistice, he and his regiment were directed to Wilno. In 1921, he advanced to the rank of Lieutenant, and was transferred to the 75th Infantry Regiment, also stationed in Wilno at the time. It was during that time that my parents met. But more about that later.
Father’s Extended Family
There is a saying, “We can choose our friends but not our family.” It is also true that sometimes one gets along better with more distant relatives. So, it was with us. With some members of the family, we kept close contact, and these people will be woven throughout the reminisces. Others will get only a brief mention. On the basis of Uncle’s memoirs, I have compiled a family tree, beginning with Great Grandfather – The Rafts Man. Looking at this “tree,” I will try to write at least a few words of the fates of those names there.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Great Grandfather had five sons. The oldest, my grandfather, Franciszek had four sons and two daughters. My father was the oldest. I have already written of Aunt Hela and her tragedy. I may have met her as child, but don’t really remember. I know she stayed with us, because I have a postcard written by my mother to her at our address in Przemysl. I also met with her when I wan in Poland in 1961. She lived in Gdynia and died there in the early 1970’s.
Aunt Hela had three children. The oldest was Victor, or Wikus. I met him once or twice before the war. He visited us while serving in the armored regiment in Zurawic near Przemysl. Her second child was a daughter, Maniusia. Her husband was a prominent Warsaw lawyer - Strubinski. The youngest child was Franek. I met him when he sailed to London a number of times as a representative of the Polish Sea Lines. He lived in Gdynia and when I visited my in-laws there I also met his wife, Urszula, and daughter, Beata. Franek died, as did his siblings, of cancer in the early 1970’s.
Father’s next brothers were Stanislaw, who died as a young legionnaire in 1914, then Stefan who reached the rank of Captain. In 1939 he took part in the defense of Grodno against Red Army. He was taken as a Prisoner of War to Kozielsk, died from a Bolshevik bullet in Katyn together with some 5000 Polish officers from that camp. His body was exhumed by the Germans in 1943 and was identified by the postcard found in his uniform. The postcard was from his wife. She died in Krakow toward the end of the war. They had no children.
Uncle Jozek, the youngest of the brothers, was the most intelligent. He would doubtless have gone far in his military career if it was not for the war and communist rule in the Post War Poland. Although a socialist at heart, he would never collaborate with the communists. If I had to characterize him in a sentence, I’d say he was extraordinarily idealistic, uncompromising, wholly devoted to matters of Poland and of his Commander- in- Chief J. Pilsudski, for whom he would unhesitatingly give his life, as a saint would have for his faith and God.
Uncle Jozek married Maria Sworzen from Andrychow, his high school sweetheart. They had one daughter, Bozena, after marriage Szczepanska. It was not a very successful marriage. Bozena died in 1971.
The youngest sister, Maria, married a rail man, Stefan Cieslowski. They had two sons Stefan born in 1929 and Andrzej born is in 1948 and nothing in between. They lived in Pruszkow, near Warsaw. Aunt died in 1975 and Uncle in 1985. They are both buried in Pruszkow.
Stefan, the son, was a teacher and then for many years worked in the Ministry of Education. He is a good singer, not a soloist, and for many years belonged to a prestigious male choir in Warsaw with which he toured most of Europe, including England. Whenever I am in Warsaw I stay with them. Stefan visited us in England and then with Basia his wife in the States They have a son, Wojtek, and a daughter Ivona.
Andrzej and his wife, Jola, have one son Adam and they live near Warsaw. Andrzej followed in his father’s footsteps and works for the railway system in telecommunication.
What else can I say about the more distant family? One of Grandfather’s brothers, Jan, had four sons. The oldest, Wladyslaw, was a career Petty Officer. After the September Campaign, he escaped from Poland and served in the Carpathian Brigade with which he took part in the defense of Tobruk in Libya. Afterward with the Polish 2nd Corp. went through the whole Italian Campaign, including Monte Casino. After the War he settled in England where he died in 1963. We didn’t have any contact with him.
The other of Uncle Jan’s sons was Uncle Piotr, whom I mentioned at the very beginning. After the war he settled in England and tied himself to some English woman, a divorcee, and they lived together. When they were still relatively young things worked pretty well for him, but in his later years, when affection fizzled, Uncle felt he needed a family. He would visit Wacek, Tadek, and even us in Clutton. He never did make it to Poland, though he had a brother there. Uncle Piotr died in London in 1980.
Jan’s third son, Stanislaw, had two sons Kazek and Staszek. Kazek lives in Krakow and whenever I am there we see each other. Staszek now lives in Chicago. In the early 1970’s he came to America. Next, he brought his sweetheart, Hanka from Poland, whom he married and they have a son, Grzegorz. When I am in Chicago I always stop and visit them.
Of other members of the family I really can’t say much. In 1998 went with Kazek to Spytkowic, a village not far from Krakow, where we spent a night with Kazak’s cousin, who is also my distant cousin, the daughter of Jozefa, sister of Kazak’s father. There were other members of the family, but honestly I did not work out exactly who was who.
Maybe I should mention here one member of the family whom I never really met, but based on Uncle Jozek’s memoirs it was a person worth remembering. This was Piotr Herzog, the son of Grandfather’s youngest brother, Piotr. He was a Sergeant in the Polish army, went through the September Campaign, and after it ended returned home. He found work as an electrician in Oswiecim- the city. In 1941 the Germans tried desperately to put him on the German register (Volksdeutscha), explaining that since he had a German name he must be of German ancestry. They tried to convince him to sign the register, promising better work and relative security, at the same time threatening that if he did not sign and tried to hide then is family would have to answer for him. He never signed the “volklist,” was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp and perished there.
Maybe here would be the place to explain the origin of our name. Again I reach into Uncle’s memoirs:
“My brother Stefan, for years stationed in a Krakow Garrison, spent time
researching old documents in various Parishes and registrar’s offices.
Grandfather and Great-Grandfather were Herzog, but Great-Great-Grandfather
was registered under the name of Hyrczak. And so it was, Hyrczak begot Herzog.
We, the three of us, explained this in the following way. After the first partition
of Poland in 1772, Austria took that portion of Poland where our Forefathers lived.
Probably one of our ancestors, when called for military service reported to the
local garrison. He was uneducated, illiterate, and obviously frightened.
“What’s your name?” asked the Austrian NCO.
The answer came in the Krakow dialect, “Hyrcok.”
And so the Austrian NCO, not too bright either, probably a Czech or local German,
from the phonetic sound of Hyrcok made Herzog or Hercog, literally translated
to Polish meaning Duke. This might even have impressed our forefather. In the
Parish Baptismal books even today you can see these names written with a ‘Z’
or ‘C’. Before WWII we meant to go back to the original family name, but
when so many gave their lives under the name Hercog or Herzog, I decided to
stay with the same name.”
I cannot write very much about Grandmother’s family from the house of Jedrzejowski. Two of her brothers, Franciszek and Jan, died childless, and two sisters, Katarzyna and Wiktoria were tied to our grandfather throughout their lives.
One of the brothers, Karol had two sons. Between the wars, both were officers in the Polish army. Germans captured Stefan, the older brother, a Captain. After the war, he and his wife Jadwiga managed to immigrate to the United States and settled in Chicago. When he was already advanced in years a daughter, Barbara was born to them. When I moved to America I established contact with them and would visit them, but it 1970 Uncle died of a heart attack. After she finished High School in 1971, Barbara visited us in Connecticut. In 1975, shortly after completing her studies in Chemistry, she married Jim Dohnal, a doctor of Biochemistry. I stay in contact with her and we always exchange greetings and family news over the holidays.
Karol’s younger son Edward was in the Polish Underground Army that was tied to the leftist ideology. After the war he crossed to the communist side and reached the rank of Colonel. A few years ago I was at a military cemetery in Powazki, Warsaw where I saw his grave in the section of the meritorious communists. Recently I met his daughter Wanda Bielesz a very patriotic woman and her two lovely daughters Kasia and Basia.
Grandmother’s youngest sister, Klementyna married a Kostynski. This was the grandmother of Andrzej Kostynski, a Captain in the Polish merchant Marines, who would occasionally visit us when he sailed to London. I still stay in contact with his first wife Danusia, and visit her when I am in Gdansk. Andrzej died in Poland in 1988.
Mother descended from an old aristocratic Lithuanian family of Pac. You can read about them in the history of Lithuania and Poland. They occupied many high positions in the administration and in the army. One of them, Michal, the Grand Commander of the Lithuanian Army in the 17th century, founded a magnificent church in baroque style, SS. Peter and Paul, in Wilno. He also requested that he be buried in the threshold “so that everybody would trample over him.” There was a simple inscription without mentioning the name: Hec jucet peccator, which means, Here lays the sinner. The request was fulfilled, but the family made sure that everybody would know who founded the church. On the fronton of the church the following epithet is inscribed in big golden letters: REGINA PACIS FUNDA NOS IN PACE, which of course is a play on the word Pac. In translation it means Queen of Peace strengthen us in peace. Till today in Wilno and Warsaw there are some palaces that used to belong to Pac family There is well known Polish saying: “The palace deserves Pac and the Pac deserves the palace.” This indicates how wealthy and prominent the family was.
Uncle Wacek, mother’s brother, showed me the family tree of the Pac clan. The document itself was drawn in 1812 and went back to the XV century, the time when Poland and Lithuania formed one kingdom. The main family died out in the mid XIX century. Pac- Pomarnacki is a branch from the main family, without great fortunes, but still quite wealthy. They had a lot of real estates and a few manors in Koszedary district, near Kawnas. A few of these estates were confiscated by the Russian after the so-called January Uprising of 1862. The Lithuanian government as a result of the land reform broke up the rest after the 1st World War. The family held only a small piece of land with a manor house in Gieczany, the family seat, and which was administered by mother’s half brother, Witold. However, grand-parents still must have had some money, as they bought a big tenement house in Wilno and in Konigsberg in East Prussia. They lived a prosperous life in abundance and could afford trips to Europe.
Many prominent gentry’ families in Lithuania were related to each other. Family of Pac-Pomarnacki was no exception. Uncle Jozek found out from some history book that they were also related through the family of Billewicz, to J. Pilsudski. He was very proud of that fact.
The family tree of Pac-Pomarnacki that I have drawn from information received from uncle Wacek starts from the first half of XVIII century. Knowing only for fact that mother was born in 1892 I calculated that Andrzej Pac-Pomarnacki, married to countess Pociejowna must have been born around 1720. He held a high public office in the district of Smolensk in eastern Poland, now Belorussia, that of Cup
Bearer to the king. After Poland lost her independence titles were abandoned and instead names of family estates were added to the proper names. And so Pawel Pac-Pomarnacki is from Merecz, but his son August is from Gieczany. The next in line is another Pawel, my great grandfather.
I have never known my grandfather Waclaw, as he died about the time I was born. From the postcard that my father wrote from Starobielsk POW camp it implies that grandfather took part in the January Uprising. Father wrote: “What do I do – the same what your father have done - the same fate”. Probably grandfather, as a very young insurgent, was captured by the Russians. For taking part in the Uprising a partial confiscation of land followed.
Grandfather Waclaw Pac-Pomarnacki was married twice. The first wife, Jadwiga Bolcewicz from Uciany was related to him (see family tree). She was his aunt once or twice removed. When she died, leaving him with a son, Witold, he married her cousin, another of his “aunts,” Ludwika Bolcewicz from Wojewodziszki. She was my grandmother. By marrying within the family circle, the estates stayed in the family.
From that second marriage there were the following children. My mother Ludwika was born in 1892, then Waclaw in 1895, followed by daughter Halina, born in 1900. As a member of POW and mingling with the soldiers on the Russian front, she was wounded in the chest, developed tuberculosis and died in Vienna in 1925 on the way to Italy. The youngest of the brood, Stanislaw, or Janusz was born in 1904. As a young Boy- scout joined insurgents in liberating Wilno from the Bolsheviks in 1919. Then with the Polish Army withdrew from the city. He died soon afterwards in a military hospital, victim of the epidemic of the so-called “Spanish Flue” that ravaged Europe at that time.
Though the Pac-Pomarnacki family was thoroughly Lithuanian, they still considered themselves as Poles, and could not imagine the existence of one country without the other. This was the spirit in which majority of gentry’s families were raised. I have a booklet published in London titled, Eaglet of Wilno. The booklet is an actual diary of mother’s brother, Janusz. I will quote a few passages to illustrate the spirit that prevailed among the Lithuanian gentry.
“Today, grandmother told us stories of the Uprising. I do not comprehend how
one can surrender, still armed, and not rather die. How splendid it must be,
though, to suffer for one’s country. How heroic and beautiful those times
were! All grandmother cousins took part in the Uprising. The bravest was
Dzierdziejewski. He had his own company and never let them catch him.
He even beat some Russian troops. It was for him that grandmother and
her lady friends sawed a banner. In the end, the Uprising fell, the insurrectionists
dispersed. Those that Russians caught were deported in shackles to Siberia,
sentenced to hard labor in mines.”
“Oh, how I hate to study Latin! I try to think of ways to drive the Germans
from Wilno and all they want me to learn these insignificant little Latin words.
But the Germans must soon lose, and then what will happen here? In Russia
they have some sort of revolution now. England and France will win the war and
fix things up. Poland WILL RISE. If they try to give us to Lithuania we will revolt!”
“I’m back in Wilno again (after a summer spent in the country estate of Gieczany).
I miss Lala and Helcia (sisters – Lala was my mother). I must tell them everything.
Lala passed a nursing course, and even worked in a Polish field hospital for a while,
so she could be very useful to us. Hala will be a good trooper. Polish women took
part in the Uprising and one of them even had her own Regiment.”
“There were some troubled moments today. Mother, hearing my terrible cough
begged me to stay at home – she even knelt before me. ‘Forgive me, Mother,
I love you very much, but my Country must come first.’ The Bolsheviks are near.
I hear gunfire; I saw Lala. She rode on the cart with wounded soldiers, a band of
Red Cross upon her arm. I could not learn where they were coming from.”
Let these few excerpts from young man’s diary stand to prove the patriotic zeal which ruled the Lithuanian gentry. It was in this atmosphere that my mother was raised. Add to this the socialistic ideology preached by Pilsudski, which strove for Polish independence at all cost, and no wonder that mother became a member of the POW. This was not only before Poland gained independence in 1918, but also during the time of the so-called Middle Lithuania in 1920-22, while the border between Poland and Lithuania was being established. Indeed, it was at that time that my parents first met. I believe that for work in POW she received the Cross of Independence. However, I never seen her with that decoration.
When my mother died I wasn’t quite 11 years old and so her picture in my mind is a bit hazy. For us, the three boys she was good, loving mother. Father was very strict, so her interventions frequently were needed, and generally it was effective. She was always at home when we needed her. She was involved in some social work. In Przemysl and Lubaczow she helped in the kindergarten of the Soldier’s Family Circle where she was teaching French and some music. She sang with me a lot. I still remember some of the songs. She had pleasant voice, played some piano and apparently had flair for writing.
She was a polyglot fluent in Polish, Russian, French, knew German and even some Lithuanian. Of The foreign languages, father knew German and some Slovakian. So, when my parents wanted to discuss something in secret from us, they conversed in German. But that ended when Wacek and Tadek started learning German at school. Even I learned a bit of that language. In Przemysl, for some time, we had a German woman living with us to help Wacek and Tadek with the language. Later on, father had some trouble, because apparently the woman was a German spy.
In contrast to father, mother was a deeply religious person. She taught us to pray, always took us to church on Sundays and to the May services in the local chapel. I will never forget seeing tears in her eyes as she prayed when she took me to the shrine of Our Lady in Ostrabrama in Wilno.
When mother traveled by train, frequently she would go in 3-rd class carriage, though she couldeasily afford first class ticket. She used to say that there you could meet “real people” and it was refreshing to talk to them. Her socialistic ideas were deep rooted.
As I mentioned earlier, grandfather died about the time I was born, so I did not knew him. I have one picture of him. On the photograph he looks old, a bit stooped, with white hair and long white mustache, a type of an old, good-natured gentleman. Next to him seats his wife, though his “aunt”, she looks much younger and from her face pride and contempt is radiating.
Grandmother, Ludwika Bolcewicz, also came from a wealthy Lithuanian gentry’s family. I met her only once in Wilno in 1938. I have a postcard written by my mother to her from Siberia. She thanks her mother for the parcel that she sent to us. By then grandmother was evicted from her house at Jagiellonska 8 (today Jagielonska 9).
After the war in 1946, grandmother had to leave Wilno, like thousands of Poles who were forcibly moved out from the whole District as well as the city itself and resettled in Poland. Uncle Wacek said that she was given a whole freight car for her pictures, furniture, carpets and other belongings. When he met her, she was sitting in the armchair in the middle of the carriage, not quite knowing what was happening to her. Soon afterwards she died.
From the whole fortune only a few pictures, some old broken pieces of furniture and some family mementos were left, and these Uncle Wacek “inherited.” When recently I visited uncle Wacek son Mikolaj in Gliwice I saw some of the portraits of our forefathers hanging on the wall in his sitting room. They are nicely restored (pictures, not forefathers) to its original glory and I must say they look splendidly.
When I visited uncle Wacek in 1962 he gave me a set one silver spoon, fork and knife. They were the part of grandmother’s dowry. Each item is etched with her initials LB (Ludwika Bolcewicz), Vilno and date 1888.
From mother’s siblings I only knew uncle Wacek. He married Countess Anna (Hanka) Mielzynska. Her family came from Belorussia, former Polish territory, where they had a substantial amount of land. After the Bolshevik revolution they lost everything, so the family moved to Poznan Province in western Poland where they had some distant relatives. There she met uncle Wacek, and that’s where they settled. She died towards the end of eighties. For the past 10 years of her life she suffered from Alzheimer. Her daughter, Jola, took care of her.
The whole family liked uncle Wacek. He studied ichthyology. Before the war he leased substantial fish farm Rybin. It was located so close to the German border that apparently it ran through some of the lakes and ponds. I know from the photographs that I have, that parents visited them there. At that time I was only a toddler. Apparently Tadek who was about six at that time and Jola, a year younger, went for a walk and wandered to the German side. Luckily at that time Polish-German relationship were friendly and the pair of “fugitives” were escorted back home.
I met uncle Wacek for the first time in 1962 and immediately a very amicable atmosphere developed between us. Both, Kama and I, we liked him very much and I am sure he liked us. What impressed us about him, were his aristocratic manners, perfectly normal, nothing artificial or pompous about them. It was pleasure to watch this 70 years old man sitting at the table, whether at a formal dinner or at home, and straight, without slouching. Always, “hand with the spoon to the mouth, and not mouth to the spoon in the plate”. Only once did he break the rule of etiquette. When he visited us in England, he ate ice cream on the street with cone in his hand. And that was a “No, No!” He joked about this later on. Another of Wacek’s “No’s, No’s” was that, when blowing your nose, never hold the handkerchief in both hands.
And another story comes to my mind. When he came to England, he brought two bottles of pure alcohol. On the way from the station to Tadek’s house we stopped at Ala and Edek‘s home, Kama’s sister and her husband. I suggested to Edek that we buy one bottle from Uncle. He jumped at the idea, and being extremely hospitable, he mixed alcohol with some cherry syrup to make Wisniowka. And in an hour or so, we emptied the bottle. Uncle Wacek was saying that that was the best deal he ever made, “I sold it, and then drank it.”
He died in 1975 and is buried in Poznan. Recently his coffin was transferred to Warsaw, to the same grave where his wife is buried.