Herzog Family Chronicle
1866 - 2000
Written in Polish by Franciszek Herzog
Translated by Franciszek Herzog and Ivona (Herzog) Verbeke
CHAPTER EIGHT (Continued)
And now a few fragments from letters:
For me one school year ended and a new one stared. Easter we spent together with Tadek in the camp, but soon after graduation he went to Perth to a Scottish family where he stayed till the end of April. I didn’t feel like going there this time. Now I am in the lyceum and do nothing, I meant to say I do nothing but study. I selected the science curriculum and am very happy, as I don’t have to take Latin any more and I always had trouble with that subject.
Probably I wrote to you that university is beyond my dreams. After matriculation I will look around. From the ship I have some experience with current and know how to operate the radar. Probably you heard about that marvelous invention of the twentieth century.
Tadek is now in the theatre and was performing with success in London. Probably he wrote to you about this in details. Any day he is supposed to come to visit me. I see that now you are quiet a sportsman (your trip to Goa). I also have a bicycle and ride a lot, but in here there are mountains everywhere. Once I went with friends to the Loch Lomond. We did some 40 miles that day, it was nice but tiring.
Please write in details regarding your future plans. My advice to you is, if possible, go to America. Poland is out of the question and England as a last resort. There is no future here. Now I have vacation, in fact I had as I just finished them. I went for a week to some friends in Perth. My day looked like this. : I would get up around 10, had my breakfast, than sat in the garden talking to my hosts. After lunch I would go for a walk to town, park or for a hike to the nearby mountains. Then I would get back for supper around 6. In the evening I would go to a dance or cinema. I can’t complain about monotony.
Regarding my future there is nothing new. British might close our school any moment. However, if miracles exist I might be able to get my matriculation beforehand. After that I will try to get to some university to study chemistry. If that won’t work then I will get demobilized and look for work. If I won’t find a good job then I will try and join the Merchant Marines. God willing, we will see each other here, in India, America or some other part of the world.
Niusiek, I am very glad that you are in Valivade. I remember that malaria left me when I got there. The same will happen to you. (Niusiek, Tadek was right this time). That’s the first plus – your health. The second plus is that Valivade is much more open to the world than Jamnagar was. It is bigger and has much bigger cross section of people, more organizations, there is the cinema, theatre, life is more vital etc, etc. There are shops and Kolhapur is nearby. We will try with Wacek to send you at least L1 per month so you could go to cinema once a week, buy these peanut briquettes covered in molasses (probably you know them by now, I loved them) or buy anything else. Well, I forgot about ice cream. You will have to make up for the four years of fasting in Balachadi. Well, have a good time.
As soon as I matriculate I am joining the Polish theatre that just come from Italy. I had a small test of my acting abilities and passed it. However, I will still try to get to the English theatre school. Don’t tell that to anybody. Please describe in details your visit to Janiszawska (Tadek’s ex girlfriend). You should visit her at least once, I am sure she would be very glad to see you. She is my dear friend.
After my matriculation everything went astray; I did not get a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, so as a ‘prodigal son’ I had to go back to the Polish theatre. Here in the ‘beautiful Scotland’ the atmosphere is very vague, meteorologically speaking, as are the economy and politics.
Meteorologically, we had the most severe winter in the past hundred years and it still can’t go back to the North Pole where it belongs. As a rule every day we have wind, rain, a little sunshine and from time to time hail and fog.
Economically there is a crisis that manifests itself that frequently we are hungry and Cold so we sing – ‘Hey! Forests Our Forests” (Niusiek, this is a well- known Polish Mountaineers song), grab axes and... there are many forests in Scotland. There is a shortage of manpower in the industry and the British Authorities rather send Poles to the mines and farms than give them scholarships.
And the political aspects ... every Scotsman has the opinion based on his newspaper, in other words newspapers shape people’s minds in everything. Today more than half of the newspapers started writing about Russia as the enemy. Poles now are not so unwelcome as it was right after the war. The immediate advantage; when you travel by bus or walk on the street in the Polish Army uniform you don’t feel that hateful, arrogant look in the eyes of locals. Signs, ‘Poles go home’ disappeared. You can’t imagine how humiliating that was.
I am very happy that you are managing your life so well in the surroundings in which you live. I am glad that you work in scouting; made that impressive trip to Goa and that you take from life everything you can in the framework of your sixteen years and limited financial resources. In life you can be an opportunist to a certain extend. After matriculation I had a chance to study economics in the Polish University in London, or go to some other English college for engineering. But I had different vision; the world of literature, world of philosophy and art was my calling. Theatre was another of my passions.
I could not get scholarship to a theatre school. In June, I joined the Polish theatre and straight away I was put on stage. At the moment I have a part of Gregory in Fredro’s play ‘Dames and the Hussars’. First of all, it’s my first long and prestigious part. I play a 56-th years old hussar, and what’s more important, an apprentice in the theatrical life; I play on equal footing with well established, prewar actors. There is nothing I can do about this. I feel the parts I play. I love theatre!
For Christmas both Wacek and Tadek came to the camp where I was. After six years we were together again. We were happy but in the back of our minds there was that nagging question, what next, what future will bring? In my opinion of life, a lot depends on fate or luck, but sometimes you have to guide and nudge it a bit, to achieve what you want. Depending on luck alone will not take you too far.
For the New Year we were still together and then Wacek went back to school, Tadek to theatre and I stayed in the camp. Each of us was ready to go in his way to see what life will bring and try to forge it the best we could.
Each on His Way 1948-56
9A. Starting Life in England 1948-1951
In 1948, over 200,000 Poles found themselves in England. That number included all the Polish Army, namely 2nd Corp from Italy, Panzer Division of General S. Maczek, Parachute Brigade of General S. Sosabowski, Air Force, Navy and Soldiers of the Underground Army that were in German POW camps. In addition, women, children and dependants from the Middle East, India, Africa and other parts of the world came to join their husbands, brothers or relatives that were in the Polish Army. The majority was families, but there were also many single men and women. That last group had one thing on their mind, to establish a family as soon as possible. There was also a group of singles like Wacek, Tadek and I. We were too young to start thinking about marriage; we were thinking of further education.
These thousand Polish people found themselves on the crossroads and the dilemma was, what to do next? At that time, the only places for emigration were Argentina, Australia and Canada. It was not until 1951 that America approved 40,000 visas to Polish combatants and their families. Only a small percentage of people returned to Poland. We never considered that option as we did not have anybody or anything to return to.
Without proper knowledge of the English language, finding a good job was difficult. At the same time, about two million or more British ex-soldiers were also looking for job and of course they were hired first. So the Labor Exchange was directing Poles to mines, farming, fishing and building industries or the lowest paid jobs in factories and in London, to Lyons teashops. You could find ex-officers and people with higher education as dishwashers or sweepers in factories.
I will continue writing this in chronological manner, but not year by year as before. Now that I was in England and saw my brothers a few times a year, I did not bothered to keep their letters.
In January 1948, I was admitted to that Polish gymnasium in Riddlesworth, near Thetfor and was assigned to the third grade. It was a type of boarding school run in military style. We lived in the ex-army camp, and most of our teachers were still wearing battle-dress and army cooks operated the kitchen. There was constant movement of students and teachers and so classes were not very regular. Towards the end of school year, they moved us to another camp near Beccles in Suffolk. During the summer vacation I made good use of the bicycle that Wacek gave me, and visited Tadek in a camp near Market Harborough, where he was teaching basic English to the future coalminers that came from Europe.
With the beginning of the new school year, in September of 1948 a new principal took over administration of the school and made some drastic changes. To start with, we ceased being a military school, though still living in ex-army camps. Nobody was wearing military uniforms anymore and a new kind of discipline was introduced. We had a series of exams and those that failed them had do leave school. I passed them with no problem and was placed in the 4-th grade. For the summer vacations of 1949, I went to London and spent three weeks with Wacek and Tadek, not doing much, just getting to know the city.
Soon after the start of the 1949-50 school year, we were moved again, this time to Bottisham, near Cambridge. At the same time, we changed to the English system of education. No more gymnasium or lyceum, but lower and upper six grades of grammar school. We were being prepared for the Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations. There was a lot of work associated with the new system. I didn’t dothat well, as I didn’t apply myself too much to studying. At the end of the school year I failed two subjects but I was allowed to try to pass them after the vacation. During the vacation I did no go anywhere, but worked on the farm with the harvest and of course in evenings studying the failed subjects.
Before the start of the school year, I passed the two failed subjects. The last year of my secondary education started. This time I was paying more attention to studying. I was taking six subjects at “O” level: English, Polish as a foreign language, mathematics, physics with chemistry, biology and woodwork. In addition, for the Polish matriculation, I had to take exams in Polish literature, history and geography. In June of 1951 I took all the exams. Polish matriculation I passed with no problem, even being second in the class. In my “O” levels, I failed only English.
School ended for me but I was allowed to stay in Bottisham until the end of August. Through all the years at school, I was with the scouts and for two years I was the troop leader. In 1951 there was a Polish Scout Jamboree in England. I went there with the group of scouts from our school as a quartermaster and chief cook. We must have had an excellent kitchen because when General Anders came to visit the Jamboree, our camp was given the honor of having him for dinner. There were eight other camps to select from.
After the Jamboree I returned to Bottisham. Harvest was in full swing. I worked on the farm for three weeks, six days per week. I had to save some money to start my new life, a life where I had to depend only on myself. I came to London at the beginning of September 1951. I was 20 years old.
And what were my brothers doing in the meantime? Tadek’s career in the Polish theatre didn’t last long. That’s what he wrote to me in his letters dated 1-21 and 2-27- 1948.
“.... as you probably know the Labor Ex-change is after me and being off age (over 21) they directed me to one of the five industries readily available to Polish people. I chose coal mining, but not as a miner but as an English teacher. I will be in a special Miner’s Hostel teaching Displaced People (DPs.) that are brought to England from Europe. On February 7th I will go for a month’s course and after that I will start teaching. My salary will be £6 per week and the contract for one year.
I am very happy that you got into that school; studying is very important. In London I met Peszkowski (the scoutmaster) and Marysia Lesniewska. I spent a very enjoyable evening with them in the Scouts H.Q. on Gloucester Rd. I am demobilized and a civilian once again. In practice I have £6 per week minus standard deductions of 16 shillings for taxes and National Health Insurance (NHI). For a room and board in the hostel I have to pay £2-5sh so that leaves me £3 per week which is not too bad.
The job is lousy. I will have to teach English to illiterates. I will teach three subjects: English, British Way of Life and Mining vocabulary. After the course finishes, I will have to go for a week, for a “hands on job” practice into a mine. I will teach people, the prospec tive miners, which the Coal Board brought, to get England out of the coal crisis. These people are from Yugoslavia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria."
At that time the monetary system in England was as follows: basic unit was a pound sterling (Ł) = 20 shillings (sh) = 12 pennies (d for Latin denarius) = 4 farthings which were used till the mid fifties. However, before Tadek started teaching, he got sick and had to spend some time in a hospital. This is what he wrote to me on 6-4-48:
" .... for the past three weeks I have been in hospital for kidneys and bladder inflammation and reoccurrence of malaria. A week ago I was just a lifeless body lying in bed and if my eyes didn’t hurt, just looking at the ceiling or trying to read something. I lost my appetite completely. At the moment I feel much better and my temperature is almost normal. But I will have to stay in hospital for another week for a series of injections. ...."
That teaching job did not last long. Tadek realised that a career as an actor was out of the question and he should better start looking for admission to a university. He chose economy at the Polish University College (PUC) in London. This is what he wrote to me in October of 1949:
" My job in N.C.B. ended abruptly 3 months before my contract finished. Simply, there was nobody left to teach. It caught me unprepared at the end of my vacation and just as I came from my examinations in London. I had to start looking for some new employment. Chances of getting admission to the university are both remote and uncertain.
So, I packed my belongings and with a few pounds in my pocket I found myself in London. Here, I located Wacek, who two weeks earlier was demobilized. We decided to live together. I also found a job as a waiter/cleaner with J. Lyons & Co. It’s not hard work and for three pennies per day I have all meals. Lyons has about 300 so-called ‘Tea Shops’ in London. It’s a self-service type eatery. My job entails passing prepared portions of food through a little hutch, pouring tea or coffee and of course cleaning tables. If you ever come to London, go to a Lyons teashop and you will see what I mean. (When I was in college I had most of my lunches at Lyons).
So that’s what I am doing at the moment. My wages of £4.7sh per week are not much for London but I treat this job as temporary. Two days ago I got positive results for my entry exams to the university. Now I have to apply for a grant and the chances of getting it are pretty good. If I get it, I will have £20 per month."
More or less at this time, Tadek broke all contacts with his friends from India. He actually cut himself off from that episode in his life. He stopped corresponding with his girlfriend from India, Marysia Janiszewska. I believe that somebody from the Polish ‘circles’ hurt his self-esteem. When Tadek was working for Lyons, he met a young Irish girl, Peggy Collins. Acquaintance changed to love and that led to marriage. On 9-12-50 I received from Tadek the following letter:
"Dear Niusiek, Peggy and I invite you to our wedding, which will take place on September 16. It would be best if you could come on Friday. Notify us ahead of time what time you might be coming. Come directly to Peggy’s address. We will be waiting for you there. The wedding will be at 9:45 in the morning in the church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary on Marylebone Rd., Paddington, followed by the reception in Peggy’s flat at 10:30. Hugs and greetings from Peggy and me - Tadek"
Obviously, I attended the wedding.
And what was Wacek doing in the meantime? He matriculated in March of 1948. I went to visit him in Camp Bodney to celebrate the event and I even had some alcohol for the first time since that incident with the wine when I was seven years old. Wacek gave me his bicycle. It needed constant repairs, but I used it a lot in the next three years; I even made that long trip from Beccles to visit Tadek in Market Harborough. After matriculation, Wacek went to London and stayed for another year on active duty. He was learning English and tried to pass entrance exams to PUC. This is what he wrote to me in April of1949:
“ I couldn’t write to you earlier as I was very busy preparing for my exams that I finished yesterday. I don’t think I have done them too well but hope to get a pass mark. These exams were in Polish. The next exam is in May and will be at the University of London."
For my “war services” I am exempted from all subjects except English language. What Wacek meant to say is that UL accepted Polish matriculation in technical subjects in place of entrance examinations. Unfortunately, Wacek failed that exam in English. He had to get demobilized and start looking for a job. I think he was working in the Walls ice cream factory. As he couldn’t get to the university, he en-rolled for the evening classes leading to the higher National Certificate in Chemistry.
When Tadek moved to London in 1949, he lived with Wacek. Peggy had a roommate, also an Irish girl, Lena Kelly. That’s how Wacek met her, courted and eventually married. The wedding was two weeks after Tadek’s marriage. Wacek was joking when saying that when Tadek moved out, he lost a roommate and so did Lena. To save on rent, they decided to get married.
Because of these consecutive weddings I also had ‘a bit of trouble’ at school. When Tadek was getting married I had to get permission from the headmaster to go to London. Barely two weeks passed and I went for permission to go to London again for my brother’s wedding. He looked at me and asked, “And how many more brothers do you have?”
B. Starting Families 1951-56
I think that materially, for Wacek and Tadek, the first half of the fifties was the most difficult period. When they were bachelors living together, they rented one furnished room and shared expenses. Now, being married, they had to find some bigger accommodation and that was a big task in London at that time. Any bigger accommodation was usually unfurnished and so they would have to start buying some basic furniture and that was expensive.
As far as work, none of us was a great pusher and we would not trample over people’s heads to get to the top (except me in Lubaczow). Shining up to the bosses was something strange and vulgar for us. In our work, we were competent and dedicated, expecting to be recognized and rewarded but if that did not happen, as in Tadek’s case and then in mine, we changed jobs. Well, that’s in general terms; however different situations applied to each of us.
For Wacek and Lena, the first two years of their marriage weren’t too bad. I can’t remember where Wacek worked. Lena worked for Lyons in a supervisory capacity. They lived in Paddington. When I moved to London, I used to go to them occasionally for Sunday dinner.
A year after the wedding, Wacek went with Lena for vacations to Ireland to meet her family. They had a great time but returned broke. Years were advancing and it was time to think about starting a family. Lena got pregnant and eventually had to quit her job. They had to look for a cheaper place to live. As it happened, not too far from Paddington in the same house where Tadek and Peggy lived, one floor above, there was for rent a large room with an adjoining small room converted into a kitchen. A toilet and bathroom were on the landing serving the two flats. In that house, in 1953, their son Wacek was born.
At that time in England and especially in London there was great shortage of living accommodation. Many Polish families outside of London lived in ex-army camps converted into hostels. There, rent including heating and even electricity was very reasonable. When a family saved a few hundred pounds, sufficient for a deposit on a house, they would move to London where earnings were higher and life much easier. To off set mortgage payments, they would sublet a few rooms to lodgers. That’s what Wacek and Tadek did when, eventually, they bought houses. But till then, a few years passed and a lot of water from the Thames would flow into the sea.
I spent many pleasant times and many holidays in those two apartments on Bosworth Road. In many ways they were good times. For Christmas, if you got a few handkerchiefs, a pair of socks or a tie (a shirt was considered an exceptional gift), you were happy. We didn’t have problem with buying gifts as we have today. Small things gave a lot of happiness. On Bosworth Road, in 1955, Mark was born and then in 1959, Nuela. Wacek was still studying chemistry and by ’56 he got his HNC. In the meantime, he also got a job in some laboratory. Financially, they were better off but still could not afford to buy a house. When Wacek finished his evening studies, Lena got a part- time evening job with Hoover. Extra money was coming, but expenses also increased as the children were growing.
With Tadek, the financial situation was even worse. During the first two years of marriage, Tadek had his £20 per month grant plus an extra few pounds for a wife. When Peggy was working, they rented a nice big room in Paddington. But in their case, as customary, a year after the wedding, a child was on its way. Peggy stopped working and the financial situation become critical. To illustrate this, I will go, for the last time, to Tadek’s letters:
14 Bosworth Road
" Dear Niusiek, Thank you very much for your letter. I am happy with the results of your exams. You have done very well. I knew that you would fail English. but it does not matter. When you come to London and have more experience using the language, I am sure that next year you will pass it. I am also glad that you went to that Jamboree – remember, once you come to London, ‘free and open spaces’ will be out of your reach for a long time. In the meantime, work on that farm as long as you can, as you don’t know what awaits you in London. Don’t expect any financial help from me. Baby will be here any time and I have more expenses than income.
We were thinking with Wacek that if you have enough money to buy yourself some decent clothing, we might be able to find you a job in some office. It would be good for you, improve your English and you will meet different type of people after so many years of living in various camps. Manual work you can find readily. Question of your accommodation. At the moment I am looking for something more suitable for when the baby comes. If I can find something bigger with a separate room for you that would not cost you more than a pound per week, I will take it. A single room for thirty shillings per week you can find easily.
With us, everything is fine. Junior is developing perfectly and most probably will be born toward the end of next month. I am studying for the autumn exams. Wacek came from Ireland in great spirit but with empty pockets. They had a great time, drinking a lot as they had to pay many, many visits to various aunts and uncles and other relatives.
Yours, Tadek and Peggy.
P.S. Did you give General Anders a good meal? The Herzog honor was in your hands.
Not as Tadek was predicting and hoping for, in September 1951 a daughter was born – Janina – Nina. I was her godfather. In 1952, Tadek had his final exams. He failed one paper and that nullified the whole examination. He was hoping to try once again later on, but never managed to do it. Work, cramped living conditions and a growing family did not provide a suitable environment for studying.
Tadek was working for Walls Co. He was responsible for bookkeeping associated with transportation. The company had hundreds if not thousands of trucks delivering ice cream, the main product of the company, through England.
To start with, his pay was minimal, so they lived from paycheck to paycheck. Occasionally, Tadek would go on Friday night to Lyons factory in Hammersmith, stand in line through the night hoping to be hired for a day’s work on Saturday. If he got a job, he would bring home an extra £2. Once, the man that was hiring people turned out to be his colleague from the university. That must have been very humiliating to Tadek.
At Walls, there were chances for promotion and better pay, but they always bypassed him. There, as usually an Englishman would be promoted ahead of him. Years were moving on and he was standing still with no prospect of improving living conditions, or a chance to buy a house, for which he needed a few hundred pounds for the deposit. Gradually, more children were coming. In 1953, Krysia was born then Richard in 1955 followed by Andrew in 1958.
In the meantime members of Peggy family started coming to England. First her mother came, then her sister, Helen, and then another sister. In fact, they were Peggy’s stepsisters. In Ireland her father was an active participant in the in the so-called Easter Rising against the British in 1916. He was wounded and to avoid going to prison was smuggled to America. In New York, he met Peggy’s future mother, they got married and that’s where, in 1927, Peggy was born. Soon afterwards he died and Peggy’s mother returned to Ireland where she remarried and had several more children.
By coming to England, the family wasn’t a great help to Peggy but at least she didn’t feel alone and occasionally would have baby-sitter for free, if they wanted to go to ‘the pictures.’ At that time very few households had television. I remember that once for Christmas I bought them theatre tickets for the musical, Boy Friend, (they were 5 shillings each). In addition, I offered my services as a baby-sitter.
And how did I manage my affairs? In 1951, after matriculation, the Scouts Jamboree and three weeks of hard work with the harvest and with £20 in my pocket, I was ready to ‘conquer the world.’ In other words, I went to London. I knew that I would not get any financial help from my brothers; I had to depend entirely on myself. However, there was a slight difference with my start and the start they had. I could always turn to them for advice and sympathy.
I was determined to go for higher education, but I could not do it straight away. My possessions were packed in one suitcase and a knapsack. All that I had was two pairs of old trousers, two pairs of shoes, a few shirts, sweater, some underwear, an old suit that Tadek gave me a few years back, an overcoat and a few other personal things (including Wacek’s and Tadek’s letters). I had to work for at least a year to earn enough money to buy some essentials, before trying to get a grant and go to college.
A few days after arriving in London I got a job as an unskilled laborer in a yeast factory in Chiswick, washing big tanks in which yeast was fermenting. It was an eight hour shift. The first shift started at 6am, the second at 2pm and the third one at 10pm. Every week my shift would change. I started with the night shift. I thought that I would not last till morning. Not that the work was hard, but fumes from the fermenting yeast made my head spin. It was pure alcohol. In time I got used to that.
After deductions, I was getting a little bit over £6 per week. I found lodgings at Acton for which I paid thirty shillings. I could walk to work, so I did not have to pay for the bus. Food, which at the time was still rationed, cost me about £2 and the rest I was putting into my savings. I did not smoke, did not drink, and did not have a regular girl friend. My bank account was growing.
I volunteered for work with the Polish Scouts and was the leader of a cub-scout pack at Gloucester Road. In the spring I went to my old school for a visit. One of the teachers when I told him that at present I was working and earning good money, said: “That’s the end of your education. Once you sniff money, you will never want to be without it.”
He was wrong. I knew better and had a goal. My intention was to study chemistry but somehow I got admitted for the Ordinary National Certificate in Electrical Engineering course at Acton Technical College. I applied to the Polish Education Committee for a grant and was given £20 per month starting from September of 1952. Before I started college, I stopped working, evacuated my lodging, packed my suitcases (by this time I had two) and took them to Wacek’s. For four weeks I was at the cub-scout camp. I did not get paid but my living expenses were zero and I had plenty of fresh air.
My studies in the college were going smoothly, but as usual I did not apply myself too well. The main thing, I was passing all my exams. My social life wasn’t very vibrant. On Sundays I would go for the Polish Mass at Brompton Oratory in South Kensington where I would meet old friends from school or even some from India. Afterward we would go for some coffee and cakes, to a cinema or just for a visit. Still I did not have a regular girl friend.
In January of 1954, at the Christmas Dance of ex-students of the Polish high schools (boys and girls) I met a girl by the name of Kama Mikucka. She was very pretty (I thought so), with a good figure, very lively and likeable. She was about three years younger than I. From the very beginning, from the first dance I took a liking to her. I liked her even more because when we danced the polka, I stepped on her toes and she just laughed.
After the dance, I took Kama home to Ealing. And that’s how it all started, at first just casual, not a binding friendship. Kama lived with her parents in West Ealing in a very nice area in a big house (at that time half of the house was rented as single rooms). She had a brother, Witek, married to an English girl, Phyllis, and a sister, Ala, married to Lisiecki, Tadek’s friend from the university. Kama worked for Lyons in the accounts department. She was also taking some evening courses in accounting. It seemed that we were suited for each other. Friendship blossomed to love and its fruit was marriage. But until then, two and a half years had elapsed.
After finishing OND in 1954, I started looking for a job. My further studies would depend on what type of work I would find. I landed a job in the test department with The British Thompson and Houston Company manufacturing high voltage substation equipment. My wages were £8 per week. I felt rich. I enrolled for the evening studies leading to the HNC in electrical engineering – power. With that certificate in hand, I could join the Institute of Electrical Engineers, and that would give me full privileges as a professional engineer. Unfortunately, two months before the wedding, I failed the exam. But as they say, there is no bad thing that eventually would not change to good. So it happened in this case. All the time through my studies in the college a new system of requirements was one year behind me. Now it caught me. It added a few more years of studies to achieve the same goal. But it was worth the effort. The advanced mathematics and electrical technology courses that I had to take were very useful in my future work. I don’t think that without these courses I would have gone as far as I did.
Kama and I we were married on August 18 1956 at the Ealing Abbey. Our witnesses were Wacek and Kama’s sister, Ala. We had two pages, Nina and Andrzej, Kama’s nephew. The reception was in Kama’s parents’ house. Guests were still enjoying themselves when we left for our honeymoon. The first night was in Southampton in the Polygon Hotel. The next day we went to Bournemouth where we took a small plane (there were13 of us including pilot) to Jersey Island. There we spent two beautiful and unforgettable weeks.
C. Stabilization 1956-1968
We returned from our honeymoon with a few shillings in our pockets and about £20 in our savings account, about as much as we earned between us each week. We rented a room with a small kitchen from Kama’s sister Ala, and thus began our life together. Seeing the difficulties endured by my brothers, we decided that starting a family should wait until we could afford to buy a house. Both of us had jobs and earned fairly good money. We saved whatever we could manage. I attended college three nights a week and continued to be active in Polish Scouting. We had many friends visiting each other, going to dances, and other events. We were all young and starting in life basically with nothing.
Meanwhile in Russia and the whole Communist block including Poland, great changes were afoot. In 1953 Stalin died, and Chruszczew rose to power, loosening ties of Stalin’s reign of terror. In Poznan workers went on strike and were supported by the university students. Mikolaj Pomarnacki, as a student leader was arrested and went on trail. However, when Gomulka came to power he was released together with other codefendants. The Iron Curtain slowly started to rise. Kama’s mother and Ala, who had recently separated from her husband, took a holiday in Poland. In Krakow, they became acquainted with Uncle Jozek. Kama and I, in the meantime went for a week’s holiday in France, spending a few days in Paris and a few on the beach.
After their return from Poland, Kama’s mother decided to return there permanently. This caused a bit of an upheaval in the family. We moved into Kama’s parents’ house to care for her father, who still had to work for several years to pay off debts incurred in his wife’s move. In 1958, Peggy become pregnant once more. A fourth child was on the way and the accommodation they were renting was getting no bigger. Since we had some money put aside by then we lent them £200. They were able to borrow some more from Helen, Peggy’s sister and this, together with their own savings enabled them to buy a house near Crystal Palace in South London. At first they had to take some tenants to offset mortgage payments. I believe they were already living there when their son, Andrew, was born.
In 1957, I passed the HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Electrical Engineering exam, but my evening courses would continue through the next several years. I enjoyed working in the test department, but it was work without much possibility for advancement. At Kama’s suggestion, I applied for a job in the design office and became a draftsman. I started specializing in schematic diagrams of high voltage substation’s protection. In a few years I become so good in my job, that they made me a circuit designer, a very prestigious position. Meantime, Kama’s mother left for Poland and we settled semi-permanently in father’s house. It was time to start thinking about a family. Kama became pregnant and we expected our heir at the end of February 1959. Kama quite her job at Lyon’s and became a housewife.
Over the New Year I took a few days off from work and went with the scouts to a place some forty miles from London, where we run a course for patrol leaders. In the evening of January 1st Kama’s sister, Ala, called me with the news that Kama was in the hospital and in labor. On January 2nd I caught the first morning train to London. When I reached London, I telephoned the hospital from the station and learned that Kama was fine but the prematurely born girls (no one was expecting twins) were in critical condition. I drove directly to the hospital and was shown the two infants. For one we had the name Ivona, the other we named Barbara, and that is how they were baptized.
After two days, Barbara died. Ivona was larger and after a few days of crisis, began to put on weight. That was a good sign. After a week, Kama returned home but Ivona stayed in the hospital. After six weeks, when Ivona had reached five pounds in weight, Kama went back to the hospital for a week, and it was only then that she was able to hold Ivona in her arms for the first time. There was no trouble withher after that, she was gaining weight, her face became chubby, but for a long time she had no hair on her head, so we used to call her “Chruszczew”. In April, Wacek’s family welcomed a new daughter, Nuela (Nula).
After Tadek paid us back the money he had borrowed, we decided to buy a car so we could more easily travel with the baby. Our first car was a used Ford Popular. We were very proud of our acquisition. I had to learn to drive. I took some lessons and, with the letter L (learner), drove with other people until I passed my driver’s license.
In Wacek’s family, the children were getting bigger, and space was getting tight. We talked them into buying a house. We lent them a few hundred pounds for the deposit. They found a small terrace house in Hanwell. To begin with, they also had to take in tenants. By now two of the Herzog families were in their own houses.
In the summer of 1960, Ala married Edek Bilski. Edek was one of the most helpful people I have ever known. I believe that if someone had called him in the middle of the night and told him his car had broken down; Edek would get up and go there even if it was the other side of London. Edek and Ala were great hosts. They often had guests and, as is well-known, Polish people like to drink. They, were likewise, did not “spill it past their collars.” This, unfortunately, in time, led to some disagreements and eventually to divorce. And they had such a nice and prosperous hotel.
In 1961 Kama’s father retired and moved to Poland. Not permanently, but he was there nine months of the year and only returned to England for the winter months. Kama’s mother bought a house with a big garden in Oksywia, near Gdynia. Father tended the garden there, grew lots of beautiful flowers and was selling them. We used to joke, that if a young and pretty girl came to the door, he would sell them for half the customary price.
In 1961, we went to Poland on holiday, but first we had to get British citizenship. We did not want to travel on a Polish passport. In Poland, we visited with and really got to know almost all of my and Kama’s family. I think that the person who was the happiest with our visit was Uncle Jozek. It was from this first visit hat we found our roots and family contacts. The first person that visited us in England was Aunt Maria from Krakow (in those days they had to have an invitation and a ticket paid for by us). In time, we also had visits from Uncle Wacek my mother’s brother, Jola, Stefek Cieslowski, and Kazek Herzog. It was only Uncle Jozek who was never able to get a Polish passport, though we sent him invitation five times.
Tadek, who lived in Crystal Palace, had a very long commute to work. To save time and the cost of tickets, he bought himself a small motorcycle. But this was not a good solution for the long run. At work they kept promising him a better position, but nothing ever came of it. At last, his patience ran out, and he began to search for a new employment. He found one as a bookkeeper with the Chrysler Corporation in London. It was only there that his talent and work ethic were recognized. He began his climb up the corporate ladder, and with more money coming, family financial situation improved greatly.
My own studies were reaching the end, and I was still only a “circuit designer”. I needed a few years’ experience as an engineer to become an Associate Member in the Institute of Electrical Engineers. However, every time there was an opening it went to an English person. So I also began to look for another job. The company was aware of this. They would give me a good raise, so that it would be harder to find another job that would pay as well or better.
Another reason for looking for a new job was the intention of buying a house. We had a comfortable, and almost rent-free place to live in (Kama, after her father’s departure managed all of the house including tenants). It was a nice house in a good area of London, but it was not ours. We would not be able to afford anything similar, and didn’t want to live in a worse area. The only solution was to move out of London. Houses away from London were much cheaper. So I took a compass, and drew a circle within a hundred mile radius from London. We threw out the North of England, not wanting to move there, and I began answering “wanted” ads in newspapers and periodicals. Over the course of a few months, I went to a number of interviews and Ivona would say “Daddy doesn’t go to work, he goes to interviews”.
Eventually I got a job in Bristol with the Central Electricity Generating Board as a draftsman, but with the title of engineer, and a salary of £1260 per year. In London, I had only a little over a thousand. I accepted the job, and went to Bristol. Kama remained for a time in London. When I began looking around for a house, Kama joined me. In the village of Clutton, about ten miles outside of Bristol, a small housing development was going up. There was a semi-detached house available with a garage and decent sized garden. We liked it so we put down a deposit. The house was to be finished in two months. The price was £2700. For something like that in London, one would have to pay more than four thousand.
We lived in Clutton for 6 years, and had many happy moments there. We had good neighbors - all the families in the estate were young with small children, and friendships were easily made. We stay in contact with one of the families to this day. Ivona started school there, and still remembers it fondly. In Bristol, I met a few of my old school friends, and some that I knew from Scouting, and even an elderly couple I remembered from India. Mr. Dzikowski had been the head storekeeper at the orphanage, and his wife taught music and art. For some reason Ivona took to calling her “Grandmother from the woods.”
I liked my work and I enjoyed the reputation of a good worker. For a few years I worked as a draftsman until a vacancy opened in the office responsible for designing high voltage substations protection. I applied for this job. They knew me well there, as it was from that office that I got my drafting jobs. When the boss asked his two assistants what qualifications the applicant should have, they both replied, “He should be able to speak Polish.” I got the job. This was a promotion for me, with the title of 3rd Assistant Engineer. I worked in that office for the remainder of the time we spent in England. There, in the three years I learned a great deal and gained a lot of self confidence.
My brothers in London also enjoyed better livings standards. They were able to get rid of their tenants, and in time, sold their small houses and bought bigger ones in better neighborhoods. Wacek also changed his job, finding work in a large company manufacturing electrical condensers. In 1971 the company sent him to Poland for three weeks to oversee production in the factory there. Tadek was also on the uphill track. He was promoted to “Manager of International Accounts,” and often traveled overseas in this capacity. He even traveled to Mashhad and Persia. In 1964, their youngest son, Edward, was born. They were able to buy cars (Tadek had a company car), and to travel with the children (though not all at once) to Poland. Lena learned enough Polish so that she could understand it fairly well, and could even put together a few sentences. Everything was looking up.
As I have said, my working conditions were good, and life in Clutton was pleasant. What, then, prompted me to drop everything and make the move to America, leaving our families behind? Maybe it had been fated since my days in India, but then I do not believe in fate. There were a few reasons which I will not go into, but the main one was that a major reorganization was happening at work. There was a possibility that my section would be moved to Maidenhead, near London. I discussed that possibility with Kama; after six years in Clutton, we were comfortably paying off our mortgage. The loan on our furniture had been paid. We were finally able to live with relative ease, not from pay check to pay check and not having to count every penny. The price of a house in London’s suburb was about three times that in Clutton. If we moved to Maidenhead we would incur a big mortgage. Moving there was senseless.
I found an advertisement in a technical magazine from Northeast Utilities, a utility company in Connecticut, looking for engineers. A few people from CEGB had already been hired there. I applied, and was called to London for an interview. There was nothing to lose. The interview went well, and I felt that they were interested in me. After the interview, I went to visit Tadek at work. There were a few Americans in his office, and I asked one of them what would be considered a good salary for an engineer. He told me, minimum $9000 a year and for $10,000, one could live comfortably.
A week later, I received job offer, with a salary of $9500 per year. I replied that I would like to move to the States, but that the offer was just a little too small. After a week answer came in which they said that normally they would give a new employee a raise after six months if he proved satisfactory. In my case, they felt that they could raise the salary by $1000 per month right away. After some consideration, Kama and I decided to accept this. If things did not work out, we could always move back to England, or to try Canada, which I had also thought about.
We sold our house, with furniture, with no problem for £4,200. We packed our belongings in two big trunks, tea chest with a brand new dinner service and a few suitcases. In addition, we took three carpets and Ivona’s new bicycle. We were ready for the road. The last two weeks were spent in London. Our goodbyes were said in Ala and Edek’s little hotel. The whole family was there. The next day, September 24th, Tadek drove us to Southampton, where we boarded the Queen Elizabeth I. The trip took six days, and on September 30th we docked in New York. A new chapter had begun in our lives.
I won’t write much more now, as you, Ivona, Nina, Krysia, Richard, Andrew, Edward, Wacek, Mark, and Nuala (I think that’s everyone) remember the rest yourselves. If you want, you can take the story from here.
Our first years in America were much easier than those early years in England had been. We had money for the deposit on a house, with enough left over for some furniture. We had brought the three carpets and some kitchen things. Everything was going well. A year later, even though it was quite an expense for us, Kama and Ivona went to Poland for vacation to prove to her parents that they would not have to worry about never seeing us again. Truthfully, America is not that far away in the jet age. I even lost count of how many times I have crossed the Atlantic by now.
I was happy with my new employer and I think I made a right decision in moving to America. I know my abilities and competence. I am not very strong in theory but I have a lot of experience and practical knowledge and know how to use it. I was working in a design office of the high voltage substations and was in charge of a section. For the last ten years with the company as a Senior Substation Engineer, I was given the task of developing standard layouts for various types of substations and to standardize required materials.
On my retirement in 1991, the vice president of the company wrote to me, “ Frank, your accomplishments will be a part of us well past the year 2000. Specifically, through your hard work and efforts, the Company now has the best substation and equipment standards in the utility industry. Frank, I know I speak for the Organization in thanking you for everything you have done for all of us. Since you joined NU a number of years ago, you have been an engineer, a teacher and, above all, a gentleman.”
In 1971, all three of us went to England for Christmas. It turned out to be the last time we would all be together. 1972 was not a happy year for us. Two weeks after our return to the States, while Tadek was visiting us, we received the news that Wacek had died of a heart attack. Soon afterward, a good friend of mine and Ivona’s godfather was killed in a Libyan plane that was shot down by Israel. In April we learned that Kama’s father had cancer. He died in August.
Kama flew to Poland to stay with her mother for six weeks, while Ivona and I kept the home fires burning.
In 1977, after her graduation from high school, Ivona and I flew to England and from there drove to Poland by car. Five of us were crammed into a small car: Tadek, Ala, Andrew, Ivona and I. It was a very pleasant trip. A few months later, Kama’s mother died.
After high school, Ivona went to college and earned a BA degree in psychology. When she was married in January of 1985, a group of Herzog’s was able to make the trip to celebrate with us. Tadek, Nina, Lena, Wacek, Mark and Nuala were there. At the reception, which was small by Ivona’s request, there were more of us Herzog’s there than Verbeke’s (Ivona’s husband’s name). Richard Verbeke was then a chief petty officer in the US Navy, and today has made it all the way to Commander (a rank equivalent to Lieutenant-Colonel in the army). They move every few years, and beginning with Connecticut, have also lived in Scotland, Virginia, the island of Guam in the Pacific, San Diego, Connecticut again, and now they live in Hawaii. One advantage for me in this constant moving is that there is always somewhere to go on holiday, and to get to know new places.
During the 70’s Chrysler moved its London office to Paris, so Tadek and Peggy lived there for several years. The older children remained in England to complete their studies. In any case they were independent by then. After a few years, they returned to London, and soon after that Chrysler liquidated the British branch entirely. They wanted Tadek to relocate to Detroit, but he preferred to remain in England. One of Chrysler’s former employees formed his own company, and hired Tadek as his “right hand.” Tadek enjoyed his work very much. It brought him to America at least twice a year, and he visited us frequently, once even with Peggy.
The last time he stayed with us was in May of 1987. In November, he was to go to Florida, and was planning to come and stay with us over Thanksgiving. However, he phoned us from there and asked if I could lend him two million dollars. I answered that two thousand I could gladly lend him, but that I didn’t have the two millions at the moment. He replied that in that case he had to go to Germany where there was more money available, but that for sure he would see us in February, and maybe we would go skiing.
On February 1, 1988 I received news from Nina that Tadek was in the hospital, diagnosed with lung cancer. It was very invasive, and had spread to his lymphatic system. At Easter time, early in April I flew to London to visit him in hospital. Two weeks after my visit, he died on April 17th. From the three of us now I was left alone.
Well, my dear, this has turned out to be a little longer than I had intended. Maybe not all of it is
completely objective, but what history is? Just remember this….He who does not know his own past, is not worthy of a future.
Franciszek Herzog September 2003
Note: Franciszek Herzog passed away in February 2016.
We thank his wife Kamila for the permission to publish
the Herzog Family Chronicles on our website.
Copyright: Herzog family