Herzog Family Chronicle
1866 - 2000
Written in Polish by Franciszek Herzog
Translated by Franciszek Herzog and Ivona (Herzog) Verbeke
CHAPTER EIGHT (Continued)
And now back to the letters. The first one is from Wacek:
.... Just as I started writing, your letter arrived with photographs from your volleyball match with some Indian team. For the photographs included in the previous letter also many thanks. Even if you did not put a dot over your head I would still recognize you. Do you know how? By your smile which I still remember so well. Nobody in the whole world has such a smile.
At the moment I am on our new cruiser. I cannot write a lot about it, because of the censorship. But one thing is for sure; before the Germans got us, we gave them hell. You know the saying:“ At war soldiers are firing, God directs the bullets.” The Germans must have been surprised to see the Polish cruiser “rearranging their furniture.” One of our sailors who escaped from the German Army, to which he was forcibly drafted, was telling us the story.
“I was stationed with my artillery unit on the French coast. One day we noticed a British convoy sneaking close to the shore within range of our artillery. I was an observer and through my binocular saw the famous Polish destroyer, Blyskawica, leading the convoy. So I called an officer and showed him that. He swore badly and said something to the effect: “What is she doing there; she should have been at the bottom with the rest of the Polish Navy”. He was even madder when I told him that the destroyer escaped from Poland at the beginning of the war. For five years she has been afloat and still is in perfect shape. “
Time permitting occasionally we have football matches with the British sailors. Once we won 8-0 and they had to bring a truck to take all the goals home. I don’t play football, sicknesses in Russia left a mark on my health. But I love playing volleyball or throw discus, but of course only when we are in port.
At the moment I am very depressed as I worry about the future of Poland so wrongfully treated by the Allies. Think about this, Poland was the oldest and most loyal British ally. To tell the truth it was England that joined Poland in the defense of the free world. And now they abandoned us so dishonorably. I think we will never see our beloved Wilno again. It gives me shivers to think that these Asiatic barbarians might desecrate Our Lady of Ostrabrama. Wilno might become den of bandits and that in our grandmother’s house they might establish headquarters for NKWD. NO! I can’t believe that. (Niusiek , since 1993 I have been to Wilno, now the capitol of Lithuania, four times. The Finish Bank has its headquarters in grandmother’s house).
I hug you lovingly as never before – Wacek
And now three letters from Tadek.
Why didn’t you write to me for such a long time? Before I left for England I asked you to write to me regularly. The only news about you I have from Wacek. I sent you two letters but somebody informed me that you never received them. Your letter I just received confirms this. But don’t worry about me, even devil wouldn’t have me.
But still, why didn’t you write to me sooner? Remember, if we do not stick together nobody will help us. Besides, in this world you cannot count on others. Today you can be a nice, likable Niusiek, but that does not obligate anybody to be nice to you in the future. Life is hard and you must have moral and physical support. And where can you find it if not in your older brothers? Today you have possibilities to make something of yourself but you need guidance and love that would substitute in part for guidance and love that only mother could have given you. For sure we will not grudge you that. (Niusiek, I think the spirit of this letter indicates a change in Tadek’s outlook on life).
Recently, Wacek visited me but only for a very short time. At present I have a lot of work preparing for exams.
As promised I am not waiting for a reply to my letter and write to you again. In the near future I will be going to Glasgow to take additional exams. Since the Navy school is more of a trade school, their exams do not qualify me to enter the lyceum.
Nothing of interest is going here. Before I was studying a lot and now I just sit around, read a lot of books, play football and dabble in our school theatre. The enclosed photos in some way might show what life looks in here.
Shortly, Wacek will come to visit me again. At that time we will take some pictures. Enclosed please find L1 so you can buy some airmail stamps and some peanuts atthe bazaar.
I am sure that you know what is going on in the world and in politics. Don’t worry about it, don’t panic and don’t let anybody influence you to do something you don’t believe in. Now we have two governments: the communist one in Poland and the other here in Lon- don, above all you are a Pole and don’t forget that. Study and develop your identity. You, from the three of us have the best chance to make something of yourself. (Why??) I have to push and shove to get higher. Wacek’s situation is really critical. But let’s not lose hope.
Your two letters arrived nearly together. Thanks a lot and for the photos as well. You have grown a lot, but otherwise you did not change that much. Do you have a good eye now? Congratulations for taking the scout’s oath and gaining the rank of explorer. I am glad that you still work with cub scouts.
I hope that scouting gives you a lot of satisfaction. It should be that way. Give yourself to that movement and you can be sure you will not go astray. Better thinkers and more experienced people than you and I opened for us that road and it is paved with life itself. All we have to do is to follow that road; it is wide enough to caper on it to the heart’s delight.
Now, I am pretty sure that by the end of October I will be in that lyceum in Glasgow. The school year will last six months so in a year’s time I should have my matriculation. In Glasgow I will be with Wacek. He is being sent to that school as well.
Did you receive that L1 I enclosed in my previous letter? From Glasgow I might be able to send you a little more as I will be on the army payroll. Is it still the same that you don’t get any pocket money? (We started getting 3 rupees per month when we moved to Valivade. L1 = 13 rupees)”
Hug you tenderly - Tadek
PS. On your name day accept from me all the best wishes of luck and happiness. Don’t forget that with you, father also celebrated his name day.”
The next letters from Wacek and Tadek were in the same envelope.
Polish College, Hydro Hotel
Wacek writes ....
You might be surprised to receive my letter together with Tadek’s in the same envelope. At long last we are together in the same school. What terrible times have arrived when, in school, a younger brother is two years ahead of an older brother! A bit longer and even you would be ahead of me. No wonder; it’s a long time since I had a pen in my hand. The only thing I used my hands for was to hold a broom while washing the deck or a brush while painting ship’s side. Never mind I will survive.
Tadek writes ....
I am very happy indeed that I am with Wacek and we will be together for at least a year. What a pity that Wacek at his age (he was 21) will have to stay at school for a few years more. Imagine, he has to start studying again after six years of being away from the school. I am a bit worried that Russia and sea duties damaged his health as well.
The scenery here in Scotland is beautiful, mountains around us with many forests, meadows and fields. It looks a bit like in Southern Poland in the mountain region (Podkarpacie). The town nearby is small and with minimal attractions. That’s good, so we can devote more time to studying. The weather so far is not too bad. Before Wacek arrived I hiked a bit through the mountains. There were plenty of blackberries in the woods and that made hiking more pleasant.
The location of the school must have changed as the next letter was written from:
Bridge of Allen
First of all I want to write to you about your idea of going to America. I assume that you haven’t left yet (to America) so you will have time to think seriously about that venture. Being fourteen years old, it’s difficult to talk about a vocation to the priesthood. But if the decision is based on your inner feelings then our advice to the contrary is out of the question and would be wrong. But on the other hand if you are using this as means of going to America, then you should consider all the consequences. I think that Fr. Pluta is trying to send you somewhere where you will have chance for further education. (Tadek was right about that)
However, if the maharaja does not throw you out and for the next few years you will be able to stay in Balachadi (without risk to your health due to malaria), thennI don’t see any reason for hurry in leaving the camp. But if you stay, try to avoid developing a one-track mind outlook on life. Read as much as possible, all the classic literature: Prus, Zeromski, Sienkiewicz, Slowacki, periodicals, newspapers etc. And try to do things independently.
Remember, in America it will be similar to what it was in Lubaczow under Russians.To get something you will have to stand in line. However, in Lubaczow you moved forward over the heads of others. Remember, in America you will not have the advantage of being a son “of our colonel.” (Niusiek – I have to explain Tadek’s remark. In 1939 when the Russians came to Lubaczow, shops, especially groceries, were empty. As news came that something was delivered, a long line would formed in front of the shop. When I joined the line, people would lift me up and pass me over their head to the front of the line, next to the door.)
Re-think everything I wrote and, until you are nineteen, you can refer to this letter. I am sure that at that point you will understand me 100%.”
The Year 1946
Although the life in the camp was going normally we could feel changes coming. With the end of the war, the Polish government in London lost accreditation with most of the countries, in particular with England and United States. Responsibility for our upkeep and thousands if not millions of refugees all over the world was taken over by an international organization the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). This organization was pressuring people to return to their homeland. In Valivade camp panic erupted. Hardly anybody wanted to go back to Poland that was under the Russian domination. In Balachadi it was fairly quite. However, the problem was with those of us that were orphans. Fr. Pluta, at our reunion in 1981 in Reading, Pennsylvania described it in his speech thus:
“The war ended and a problem emerged with no visible solution regarding return to Poland. I received a copy of a letter by Capt. Webb to the British Government who wrote, ‘By no means can the Polish children return to communistic Poland’.
Do you remember Mrs. Buraczkiewicz, an emissary of the communist government in Poland? She was trying to establish a list of all orphans. We prepared two lists. On one were these children that had father, mother or at least a grown brother or sister or some other relative in the Polish Army in Italy, England or anywhere in the free world. The second list was of orphans or thinking that they were orphans, as they did not know what happened to their parents. That second list had over 200 names. The Polish Government in Warsaw demanded that all orphans be returned to Poland and they will take care of them.
And that was our dilemma. What shall we do? There was ferment in the camp. We had a meeting with the Maharaja in his office that included Lt. Col. Jeffry Clark and me. An idea of adoption emerged. I as the commandant and chaplain would be responsible for their morale, the Maharaja Jam Saheb would support them financially and Lt. Col. Clark was supposed to get approval for the idea from the British India Government. An attorney was brought from Bombay to draft an act of adoption that could be approved by the court of the Navanagar State. The document stated that the “ Maharaja Jam Saheb, Lt. Col. Jeffry Clark and Rev. Francis Pluta would legally substitute for the parents.”
I might have been on the list. I have never seen the document but most probably there was a note in small print that we are not entitled to the inheritance.
After that was settled, Fr. Pluta went to America, where he was born and where his brother lived. in search of sponsors. He was partially successful. A group of 50 girls went to the Bernardine Sisters’Convent in Reading, Pa. About 20 of them become nuns. Also a group of boys went to a Catholic schoolin Wisconsin. My plans to go to the States fizzled out (at least for the time being). By the end of May, the school year finished and I passed to the next grade. About that time news came that the Balachadi camp will be closed and everybody will be transferred to Valivade. In my old diary, under the date 7-1-46 I found the following note: “Monday. School started today. “ I am depressed for not being able to attend classes as I am in hospital with another bout of tropical malaria. I will have to stay here till Thursday. Not to waist time I decided to do some reading. Today I read the novel by Kossak-Szczucka, Beatum Scelis (Blessed Transgration). In the afternoon I got another book by the same author - Golden Freedom. I stayed in bed all day, though I had no temperature. I was weak and in general didn’t feel well.”
That’s how it was with the tropical malaria. I had it in my blood all the time. When I had my first attack of malaria in Ashhabad in 1942, I had a high temperature and the shivers. Now the symptoms were a slightly above normal temperature, headache and general weakness. Normal cure consisted of five days’ stay in the hospital and taking quinine; then for five days you had to take atibrine and finallyfor five days plasmoquinine. After a few weeks malaria would reoccur. It was not until we moved to Valivade and I had a series of injections that I was completely cured.
Now that the move to the Valivade camp was inevitable everything including schoolwork started falling apart. We knew that in Valivade we will go to different classes, we will have different teachers, new friends and a new environment. We had to start packing and at the same time throw away some of the junk that accumulated over the period of the last 4 years. Our departure was scheduled for the end of November. We had to bid farewell to that place which for over four years was our home in the literal meaning. We had to bid farewell to maharaja Jam Saheb and scores of other wonderful people who will stay in our memories and in our hearts forever. So when the time came to lower the white and red Polis flag that we received back in 1942 from Polish sailors from the ship, Kosciuszko, there were tears inmany eyes. A major stage in my life was coming to an end and a new one started unfolding.
My first impressions of the Valivade camp were similar to Tadek’s. In comparison with Balachadi, it was like a small town, a busy, noisy place with small shops and stands, cafes and cinema. The nearest town was Kolhapur and you could get there by train in 20 minutes and the fare was only a few annas. There, for one rupee, you could rent a bicycle for 24 hours.
We were housed in the orphanage that occupied a complex of barracks in one section of the camp. The barracks were similar to the one in Balachadi, except a bit bigger. They had dirt floors, small stone wall about three feet above the foundations and for walls bamboo mats all the way to the roof. No ceilings but better quality tiles on the roof that did not leak during monsoon season. Before our arrival the orphanage in Valivade had about 300 children; now with us there were over 700. Management was different. Only a few of our old guardians stayed with us. It did not take long to get accustomed to the new surroundings. Soon we made new friends and everything returned to normal.
Gymnasium was also much bigger; it had six grades: four of gymnasium and two of lyceum. Second grade had three concurrent classes. I was in the all boy class. As the curriculum was the same as in Balachadi I did not find it difficult to readjust. The only thing I had to get used to was new teacher. They were better qualified for teaching gymnasium, so the level of education rose.
Scouting was also at a higher level. There were many troops and what was more important Scout Leaders were older boys. There were two young scoutmasters, B. Pancewicz and Z. Peszkowski, officers from the Polish Army, who revitalized the organization. Peszkowski, after the war, become a priest. I am still very friendly with him. I joined the Cub masters Troop. There were about thirty of us, mainly girls, a very friendly bunch of people. We used to go on hikes and weekend bivouacs. I was helping Witek Olesiak to run one of the packs and we became good friends. I met Witek again in the States and as he lived close by we renewed our friendship. His wife was Kama’s friend from the school in England.
The New Year 1947 I was welcomed with scouts at a bivouac in Panhala, an old fortress of Prince Shivajee of the Maratha Nation.
And what was going on with Wacek and Tadek that year? They were together in the school and had a lot of work and apparently not much free time. The school year for them lasted only six months. In June both were promoted to the next grade. They went separately on a short vacation. In meantime the school changed location and now they were in Garelochhead near Perth. Tadek started thinking about finding place at some university, but for the moment his passion was theatre. At the school theatre he was the producer, director and also a lead actor.
In February, Tadek officially joined the Polish Army and now as a soldier (private) was on the army payroll which was much higher than that of a student. Wacek had the rank of Able Seaman (AB). Knowing my financial dilemma from time to time they would send me some money.
And now back to the letters:
Bridge of Allan
A few words to describe how we live here, how we are managing and entertaining ourselves and as a last resource study when it’s raining. Our new location is Bridge of Allan. We live in an old army camp in barracks made of corrugated metal sheets. It’s very difficult to study here, some classes are held in the same barracks where we sleep, literally on beds. But the countryside is beautiful here and the town of Sterling not too far. Tadek always drags me there to see some film, sometimes three times in a week. Once, after the film, when we had time waiting for the bus I took him to a pub for a beer. I couldn’t persuade him to try it an eventually had to buy him lemonade.”
Love - Wacek
Bridge of Allan
Recently I took Tadek for a visit to a Scottish family that I know. For the first time since before the war, he was in a real home. No wonder he was so thrilled. For a change next time I will take him for Easter to England to an English family. The added attraction: there are the two young girls. One of them I know well and I will try Tadek to get interested in the other one, or vice versa.
Not long ago I visited my old ship but I did not find too many old friends. I don’t remember whether I told you that after the war, while still on the ship we made a few interesting trips. We went to Wilhelmshaven in Germany, city that surrounded to the Polish Panzer Division and to Oslo in Norway. I liked Norway very much.
The new school year already started. My vacations I spent in the south of England in Brighton. I enjoyed myself though we had only one week of good weather, the rest of the time it was raining and windy. The few sunny days I spent on the beach sunbathing and swimming. To tell the truth, during all my days in the navy I never swallowed so much sea water as now. I got beautiful tan and looked more like a native of Africa than Europe. English people could not believe that it was possible to get such a tan. In contrast they looked more like boiled lobsters.
Our school is now located in Garelochhead and it must be the proverbial ‘end of the world’. There is nothing else around as but mountains and mountains. It’s raining most of the time and sun comes out only for a few hours per week. Wherever you want to go is far; even to the post office you have to take a bus.
My normal week looks like this. Classes till dinner time. After dinner I study or tinker with something. In the evening I rest or if there is some good film I will go there with Tadek. On weekends I might go with him to Perth to a friendly family where you can enjoy yourself as there are some pretty girls there and the weather is generally better. I have one problem with Tadek, he is afraid of the opposite sex. He is so shy that once at a dance he nearly ran away when I wanted to introduce him to a girl.
Bridge of Allan
Two weeks ago I sent you L1. It was part of my first army pay. You know, since February I am in the army. No, I did not quit school I am still a student but now in a battle-dress and I get pay. Financially I am much better off than as a student in the navy school. Now our ‘combined purse’, Wacek’s and mine, is much heavier.
Recently during football match I had an accident. I pulled tendon in my right foot and now have my leg in a plaster. I could not go with Wacek to visit that English family. It was supposed to have been my first real leave since I came to England.
In this letter I enclose L5 so you can buy yourself something more important than peanuts. Take this money without any scruples and spend it as you please. If I had gone with Wacek as originally planed, I would have spent it on trivia. For Wacek, it’s more difficult to save as he is smoking and that’s very expensiv here.
Bridge of Allan
I have written many poems but am aware that I was not borne to be a true and great poet. What I have written so far was just putting on paper what was in my mind and had to find an outlet in a visual form. I found that in writing poetry. Could I force myself to be a poet? Maybe after years of studying I could achieve some respected level. But would that be the real poetry, something that comes from your heart and mind. Writing poetry just for the sake of writing is not for me.
Bridge of Allan
For the school vacation that last a month I will not go anywhere special. I can get only two week leave from the army. I will use it to visit old friends in the navy school. Wacek wanted to take me to Brighton, but I did not fancy going to that ‘port town’.
(Niusiek – At the time Tadek did not know that Brighton was THE PLACE, famous seaside resort.)
On August 1 we started a new school year, for me probably the last one. After that I will try, at any price, to get to some university. You are doing fine by studying and not paying any attention to moving, or not moving to some other place.
Niusiek, if I could advise you it would be not to try to come to England. This island only looks appealing from a distance. I cannot see any future for you in here. If you want I could write you more regarding the situation that exists here.”
I was really surprised when you wrote to me about your eventual coming to England. I have no idea what you would be doing here. Whatever it is, don’t expect that England would welcome you with open arms. I don’t advise anybody to come here, especially to you being my brother. Both Wacek and I, though it would be our duty, we would not be able to guarantee you further education or any decent future.
On the other hand I have no idea what you would do in America. I hope that if you go there it will not be as a factory worker, the white slaves in place of Negroes. However, I think that in America you might get a better chance of decent living than here.
The Year 1947
The way of life in the Valivade camp suited me. In the orphanage we didn’t feel closed-in. Through scouting I made some new friends. Whenever I wanted I could go and visit them or our guardians from Balachadi that now lived in the “civilian” part of the camp.
At that time I looked very much like Tadek, so some people thought that he has returned from England. I had to keep up the appearance as not to dishonor him or myself. Mrs. Dobrostanska was preparing a traditional Christmas Play and she engaged me to play one of the leading shepherds. Apparently I performed very well.
My financial situation also improved. Now I was getting three rupees per month pocket money. Be-sides, from time to time Wacek and Tadek would send me something. In addition, I took a bookbinding course and after finishing it I was doing some work for our local library. For every book done I would get one and a half rupees and in a month I could bind 4 to 5 books. I was very frugal with my money and was never broke. I was always like that and we (Kama and I) still are like that. We see how much wehave and then decide how we spend it and not spend and then think how we can pay for it.
In April the school year ended and I was promoted to the third grade. My last holidays in India started At the beginning of May I went with a group of rover scouts on a two week bicycle trip/pilgrimage to the thumb of St. Francis Xavier in the Portuguese colony of Goa in Southern India. There were 25 scouts and three adults. The distance from Valivade to Goa was about 180 miles and most of it on dirt roads. On the return trip we went by boat from Goa to a small port of Ratnagiri and then another 80 miles by road to Valivade. That included one stage of 13 miles up the hill and none of us had a bicycle with gears.
A few days after returning from the trip I went for three weeks to a cub-scout camp as a counselor and then towards the end of vacations I went to the so-called “rest camp” for these that had any responsibilities in running summer camps. It lasted a week and was led by our scoutmaster Peszkowski. He knew a lot about star constellations and could talk about them at length. Once we had three alarms at night to observe changing pattern of stars, at midnight, 3 AM and then at dawn. That’s what I call a “rest camp,” but we had fun.
After such a vacation I felt a bit tired, but luckily the new school year started, so I could rest a little. Towards the end of ’46, the Polish Army from Italy and the Middle East was shipped to England. Only families and dependents that had somebody in the army could join them. Soon after school started the first transport, about 1,000 people in all, sailed to England. Two or three more transports followed at a later date. All the people that did not have somebody in England in 1948 were sent to a refugees camp in Africa. In time they immigrated to other countries, mainly Australia, Argentina and Canada. Some went back to Poland.
On August 15, India gained independence from England. There was a great jubilation but also sadness, followed by many disturbances, as the Indian landmass was divided into two countries: India and Pakistan.
After the first transport left for England, a noticeable emptiness could be observed in the camp. Classes were reorganized as some teachers also left. Discipline in the camp started falling apart. The second transport to England was organized. I found myself on the list. Later on I found out that neither Wacek nor Tadek were expecting me. They had no idea whether they were supposed to be responsible for me, especially since they themselves were not quiet sure where they stood. But in the end everything came to a satisfactory conclusion.
We left Bombay on November 9th, on board a big troop ship, “Empire Brent.” There were about 1000 of us. The voyage was very pleasant but uneventful and lasted about three weeks. We stopped in Aden, Suez and then, without stopping, all the way to England. We passed Gibraltar at night and I did not see the famous Rock.
We docked in Liverpool at the end of November and were taken to the army camp in Daglingworth near Gloucester. The start of my life in England was very miserable. It was cold, wet and foggy and all I had for dress was my tropical clothing. I might have had one sweater. The barracks in which we lived were the famous “barrels of laughter,” constructed from corrugated metal sheets with minimum of insulation. There was one coal-fired metal stove in the middle that was supposed to keep us warm. So we sat around it, rubbing our hands together. Luckily, like any soldier being demobilized, after a week we were issued a suit, sweater, scarf, warm coat, pair of shoes and a hat.
(Niusiek – In the olden days one of the attractions at fairs was the so-called “barrel of laughter.” It was a tunnel constructed from sections of metal cylinders. Each section was rotating in different direction and at different variable speeds. The idea was to walk though the tunnel without falling down.)
A few days after our arrival at the camp, Peszkowski came and told us to write an application for admission to the Polish gymnasium. He took them to London to the Polish Committee of Education where one of the directors was a friend of his, a scoutmaster. As later in life I found out that “scout’s Mafia” is working well.
After two weeks we were moved to another camp, West Chiltington, near Polborough in Surrey. From there I sent letters to Wacek and Tadek telling them that I am in England.
And what did they do during this year? To start with, they were still together in school. In January, Wacek received news about uncle Jozek’s arrest by the communist regime in Poland. He, with a group of other ex-officers, was accused of counterrevolutionary activities and spying for the Americans. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, demotion to the rank of private and confiscation of property. In that political process there were three death sentences which were carried out. Aunt Marian and her daughter, Bozena, managed to keep the flat, furniture and other things of value. Uncle Jozek spent 5 years in prison. After release, he settled in Krakow where he lived till his death in 1983. All that time he was striving for Poland’s independence from Russian domination and fighting to restore respect and recognition for Pilsudski and his soldiers. This was the passion of the last years of his life.
On the brighter side, Wacek made contact with mother’s brother, Uncle Wacek who survived the war and lived in Poznan.
n April school year finished for them. Wacek was promoted to the lyceum and Tadek matriculated. He wanted to get to a theatre school in London, but could not get a scholarship. So he joined the Polish Army theatre and stayed there for a year. With that theatre he toured Polish Army camps through England and Scotland. Right after matriculation he had a chance to get scholarship for the Polish University in London (Economics), but for the time being did not apply. Theatre was his passion. The Polish proverbs says, “What must hang will not drawn.” At the end in ’49 he went to the university to study economics. But for two years he was chasing his dreams.
Wacek, toward the end of the year, advanced to the last year of the lyceum, and with his school moved to Bodney camp, near Thetford. He was hoping to matriculate in the first half of the next year.