My plot, because this is what we called each farm, was located to the left of the Krzemieniec road to the town of Radziwiłłów. To the eastern side, my neighbour was Franciszek Kotlarz, my brother-in-law, and beyond him was Roman Święciński’s plot. On the western side, going towards Radziwiłłów, there was a plot that belonged to an invalid whom I did not know because he didn’t manage his farm on his own, but the leaseholder was Mr Zych, a retired police officer. Further on, there was the plot of Franciszek Chojnacki, and then of Józef Langer, and this was the last plot along the Radziwiłłów-Krzemieniec road.
All the plots were aligned in a straight line and this road was known as the “Gościniec Krzemieniecki” route. The town of Krzemieniec itself was 30 km away from us.
Translation from the book
Z Kresów Wschodnich R.P. Wspomnienia z Osad Wojskowych 1921-1940
(From: The Eastern Borderlands of Poland, Memories of Military Settlements 1921-1940)
Pub: Ognisko Rodzin Osadników Kresowych (OROK) (Association of the Families of the Borderland Settlers)
London, UK. 1992 and 1998
ISBN 1 872286 33 X
Province (Województwo) WOŁYŃ
OSADA RADZIWIŁŁÓW (BEMOWO)
Postal District (Poczta) Brody
District (Powiat) Dubno
The military settlement of Radziwiłłów-Bemowo was established from the division of the estate that once belonged to a Russian Prince, Urusov. The name Bemowo was seldom used and the address that was used was Radziwiłłów near Brodów.
The settlement can be proud of having such surnames among its residents as General Tokarzewski and Captain Stanisław Kopański (later general), who played a great role in the subsequent history of Poland.
Radziwiłłów was inhabited by: Platoon Sergeant Ludwik Kurkowski, Artillery Sergeant Major Roman Kwiczyński, Corporal Antoni Wcisło, Lieutenant Władysław Paprocki, Platoon Sergeant Józef Krawczyk, Platoon Sergeant Bolesław Niepokólczycki, Platoon Sergeant Jan Stępień, Artillery Sergeant Major January Bartoszewicz, Artillery Sergeant Major Piotr Jankowski, Corporal Franciszek Chojnacki, Marian Podgórski, Pytel, Corporal Jan Szyszko, Franciszek Bargałło, Górak - who passed away and whose widow later married Władysław Stralau, Józef Musiał, Jan Łażewski, Captain Józef Sarnecki (General), Corporal Bronisław Kaczmarczyk, Artillery Sergeant Major Stanisław Jarocki (Virtuti Militari), Kopyciński, Corporal Wacław Gabryś (Virtuti Militari), Lance Sergeant Piotr Ludzis, Lance Sergeant Roman Święciński, Artillery Sergeant Major Kazimierz Bartoszewicz, Artillery Sergeant Major Franciszek Kotlarz, Ziemecki, Corporal Józef Langer (Virtuti Militari), Józef Dudzisz, Stanisław Swieciński, Corporal Piotr Drabot, Stefan Strelau, Captain Albin Sutkowski, and Stanisław Kopański (General).
On the western side of the town of Radziwiłłów was a part of the estate that bordered the former Austrian border, several kilometres away from Brodów, and was set aside for soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Brigade:
General Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski - a symbolic plot managed provisionally by his brother;
Lieutenant Bednarski - his son took over the management after his death;
Lieutenant Ciszowski - managed by his wife, he served in the 22nd Cavalry Regiment in Brody;
Cadet Officer Wsulek, Corporal Stefan Kuzięba, Corporal Jan Lech, Janiszewski, Gajowniczek, Marcin Bilski, Janowski, Franciszek Mitek, Matysiak, Lieutenant Cicierski, Lieutenant Ulanicki (Virtuti Militari). All Knights of Virtuti Military Order were entitled to an annual salary of 300 zloty.
Upon hearing of the Government Order that soldiers are entitled to land in the Eastern Borderlands and whoever wants to take advantage of the offer should report to the office, 150 people went, headed by Captain Sawicki, who also enrolled for land. We were given a few trucks, some horses, which the army no longer needed, some hay and oats, and off we went - a hundred kilometres on from Lwów to Radziwiłłowa, as an agricultural motorcade. We remained under military administration. In spring, we sowed everything in the “collective”. Captain Sawicki turned out to be a good agricultural organiser. Ploughs, harrows, a seeder, and seeds all became available, I don’t even know from where. When it was time for the harvest, there were even two swathers (ed. Note - a device attached to a mowing machine for raising uncut fallen grain and marking the line between cut and uncut grain) and even a machine for threshing cereal.
That was when Major Surmacki, Commander of the 1st Squadron of the Artillery Cavalry, as surveyor, volunteered to subdivide the estate into smaller plots and created a “bypass”, that is, he established the borders of the estate that was previously owned by a certain Prince Urusov, whose descendants apparently resided in Paris and had never asserted their rights to their property.
Some became disenchanted working the land as a collective in the sun and the rain throughout the entire summer. Only 52 of us stubborn farmer candidates remained, so the surveyor “carved out” 52 plots and marked each one with numbers from 1 to 52.
Since there were different grades of soil, from sand to heavy clay, and the candidates were also varied: educated and uneducated, volunteers and conscripts, decorated and undecorated, it was difficult to divide the estate fairly and evenly according to what each deserved. Therefore, everyone agreed to a draw where each would get whatever they drew. I drew No. 24: an average plot - neither good, nor bad. But the issue at stake was that everyone wanted friends as their neighbours, which is impossible with such a draw. But the problem was resolved amicably - one person drew for two plots. I, for one, draw the number 24 and my friend agreed to take the next one along, number 25 and, in this way, I had a friend as my neighbour.
After the demobilisation, the military administration came to an end, so everyone had to fend for themselves. We were given some straw, hay, rye and oats for the horses. We drew lots for all the livestock and materials. Horses made up the bulk of it, so everyone received a pair, which they were not allowed to sell because they were needed to cultivate the land, but they had to be fed whether they were working or not, and there was no feed. So it was a no go situation!! And so, three of us friends got together, rented a house, and what next? The horses ate the oats, straw, and hay and started to eat their stalls. But one couldn't sell them off because they were needed to transport construction materials, which we received as an “allowance” - 80 cubic metres of standing timber in the Siestratyn estate, 7-8 km away, of a certain Mr Jankowski (but not a relative of mine). The estate was already in the hands of his nephew, Mr Nagrodzki, who was childless, and who later event built a brick church in Radziwiłłów. This was located near to the Austro-Russian border, around 10 or 12 km to Brodów.
We still don’t know where to start. One of my friends, the oldest - said:
"Now it would be good for us to get married."
And I asked him:
"Where will you put your wife and what will you give her to eat since you yourself don’t have anything to eat. Return to your homestead and say that you’ve got 30 morgues of land and that you want a daughter for a wife, and, on top of that, some money - who would give their daughter to you? And would any girl want to travel 700 km to the Borderlands, away from her parents?"
And he asked:
“And what do you think we should do?”
“Everything, bar getting married”.
“I’m off to my father, to get his advice. I’ve got two sisters, perhaps he’ll give me one as a housekeeper. And... maybe he’ll lend me some money to start”.
And so I went... I left the horses to the grace of God and to my friends to look after. My father patiently heard me out and took an interest... 30 morgues was not the 12 that my father had.
“Return to Radziwiłłów,” my father said, “because your horses will die, and I myself will bring my child (sister) and see what sort of farm it is...”.
That child was 16 at the time, in the second year of secondary school.
He came, brought my sister, but said:
“I’m not going to give you any money until you get married (and there you have it!), because I don’t believe in bachelor’s farms”.
“Where will I live with my wife?” I asked my father.
And my father said:
“Birds always build nests together in twos”.
And so, taking advantage of my father tending to the farm, I went to visit my birthplace for a holiday and, whilst there, to keep a lookout for a candidate for a wife. I returned from holiday and my father went home, having noted the surnames of the young ladies who I thought could be my future wife. One was the daughter of a butcher, Franciszka Bartkowska, the other, a farmer’s daughter, Helena Pawłowicz.
After my father's arrival in Mława he arranged two marriages, how he managed it I don’t know. Mine with Franciszka Bartkowska, and my friend’s, Franciszek Kotlarz, with my sister Helena.
The weddings were held in the church in Mława, in January 1922. My father organised and paid for two wedding parties at the same time. After the wedding, my mother packed what was left from the wedding table into a basket and we left for our honeymoon, 700 km away from the family. We even had adventures along the way. Somewhere beyond Rozwadów, in the woods, the snow had covered the tracks and the train got stuck in the snowdrift. We had to wait four hours for the snowplough locomotive to arrive from Lwów, dig us out and pull us to Lwów. From Lwów, there was still another 100 km to get to Radziwiłłów but none of the trains were running because the tracks were covered over. The station was empty; it was night, no horse-drawn carriage in sight. From the station to the town, I don’t remember, 2 km or 3 km, with no trace of a road, we went on foot, knee-deep in snow, to look for a hotel of some sort.
We were wearing our military uniforms in which we got married, and our lovely wives, young girls, in plain clothes. The receptionist looked at us and didn’t know what to do with us - because there was a rule not to give unmarried couples the same room. And our personal identity cards still showed us as bachelors, while our wives’ had identity cards in their maiden names because we didn’t have time to wait for the marriage certificate. But we somehow explained that we are not soldiers any more. He then gave us two rooms alongside each other, and we left our personal identity cards at the reception.
The difficulties during the first few years consisted of not having any income for daily living on a cereal farm because there was only one harvest per year. And livestock couldn’t even be considered since there was no stock. The land was “robbed” of nutrients for subsequent crops because a pair of horses and one cow could only provide manure for two and a half acres! And what about the rest? Without manure, there’s no feed, and without feed, there’s no stock - and the vicious circle goes on! I, having somewhat more land and a small stock, did what I could and helped myself along with crop rotation. I introduced a five-field rotation system and the sixth field was left aside for buildings and an orchard and for the cultivation of various greens for feed.
Fertiliser was bought in Brody to strengthen the soil. It was loaded on carts. One could load as much as the cart could carry and as much as the horses could pull. Nine kilometres along a road is one thing, but there’s no way the horses could manage three kilometres along a sandy track. One had to dump some of it halfway and go back again later to collect it. This way, one could transport a cartload a day! Some settlers gave their plots for sowing and “split them in two”, sharing them with the locals. But not for long.
We set up an Agricultural Club and could benefit from the District Board of Agriculture in Dubno and their agriculture, breeding or horticulture instructors who would “orientate” farmers in the right direction in their work on farms. We set up a Red Cattle Breeding Association because the State encouraged the breeding of a “Polish breed”, precisely the Red because it was perfectly suited to our climate and our conditions. The Association was intent on selecting the best specimens for breeding, and this selection was done by using ear tags, marking them with the number of the Cattle Breeding Association.
The number of members increased as time passed and our herds also built up. There was more milk, so every housewife, after using the milk for own needs, could make the rest into homemade butter, which would taste different and have a different colour in every household depending on what the cows were fed. At a meeting, it was decided that a dairy would be set up to process our milk and the milk from around the local area into first quality butter made by professionals. However, the dairy did not survive that long and was closed down.
Next to every house, everyone had several small fruit trees of different species and with a different taste of their choice. But this manner of managing an orchard can by no means be described as profitable. When establishing a larger amount of trees, the instructor did not recommend planting many different varieties. This led to difficulties with spraying, harvesting, storage and selling. Our harsher climate also had to be taken into account. Hence, frost-resistant varieties, which were also popular in the market and good for storage, were planted.
In the summer of 1939, I built a new brick farm building - 25 metres long and 10 metres wide, with a slate roof. I went to collect the last cartload of slates to cover the rest of the roof. Upon my return, I found the farmyard and the barn full of Bolsheviks and seven officers inside my home. One soldier comes up to me and asks me what I’m building - is it a “grain mill”? After a brief exchange, he looked around and said:
“Don’t continue because you won’t make use of it”.
And this is where our tragedy begun... On a cold night on 10th February
Relay Race from Wołyń to Warszawa
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Poland regaining independence, seven of us from the Radziwiłłów settlement undertook a relay race on own horses, namely: Cavalry Sergeant Ludwik Kurkowski - as the commander, Sergeant Major Jaroszewski, Corporals Młynarczyk, Piotr Jankowski, Breder, Nieprzecki, and Papierkowski.
We travelled all week and usually stayed for the night at military garrisons that we encountered along the way. The Main Association of Military Settlers in Warsaw hosted an official welcoming dinner for us, which can be seen in the photographs below. (click on photos to enlarge and see captions)
The Chairman of our “Krakusi” Union of Reservists was Captain Linczowski, and his deputy was Cavalry Sergeant Kurkowski, a professional cavalryman and horse lover to the extent that he would even plait braids on horses manes even those used in ploughing. His hero was Kmicic from “The Deluge” (Ed. Note: Potop, a historical novel part of a trilogy, written by Henryk Sienkiewicz), all that was missing was “Oleńka Billewiczówna”. His wife was Ukrainian, worthy woman, but not quite the same as “Oleńka”! Cavalry Sergeant Kurkowski can be seen on the photo above at the front of the relay troops.
Once a bacon plant had been built in Dubno, everyone wanted to breed livestock. The difficulty was that the English wanted to have bacon from their Yorkshire pigs but this breed wasn’t available in Poland. It had to be imported from England.
In our settlement, we received eight sows and one boar, which turned out to be infertile. I had a somewhat “enhanced” boar, so we took advantage of his services. I managed to raise one batch of porkers and get them to the bacon plant. One had to transport them very carefully as they couldn’t have any bruises; their trotters couldn’t be bound. The second batch of ten, was prepared to be handed over to the bacon plant in Dubno on 1st September but it was eaten by the locals and we went to the Arkhangelsk Oblast “for some time off”.
19 year old Piotr Jankowski in Jampol (now Jampil in Ukraine) 1920
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