Ten settlers lived in the Kurhany settlement, all from the 21st infantry regiment machine gun company of lieutenant Piasecki, major Żuławski’s batalion. Those were: staff sergeant Stefan Kacperski, my father; Józef Kozłowski – lieutenant, awarded Virtuti Militari [Ed. Note: the highest decoration awarded in Polish military] born in Russia, died in Katyń; Julian Iwański – rifleman, born in Warsaw; Józef Tykałowicz – corporal, born in Biała Podlaska; Wiktor Sosnowski – lance sergeant, born in Grójec; Kazimierz Kornacki - lance sergeant, awarded Virtuti Militari, born in Warsaw, Józef Sanecki, Piotr Mystowski, Wacław Barwiński, Maksymilian Rybczyński.
Four of the settlers brought with them wives from their native regions, four married local Polish women and one married a Czech woman. There were 19 children in the settlement. Three of them attended junior high school in Ostróg, another three studied in Zdołbunów, and one was finishing a trade school in Lisków. Józef Kozłowski, in addition to taking care of his farm, worked in the Settlers Association in Zdołbunów. He also farmed carp on his plot. Julian Iwański raised Polish Red cattle. Kazimierz Kornacki for some time ran a brickyard and a pottery shop. Stefan Kacperski bought and delivered hay for the 19th cavalry regiment in Ostróg.
Not all settlers worked efficiently. Some were behind on mortgage repayments. They would offer their land to the so-called partnership; someone else would sow their fields and the harvest would be divided according to a contract. Nevertheless, general prosperity increased for the majority of farms.
The settlement was located on the right, hilly Horyń riverbank, between the Ukrainian villages of Mogilany, Wołoskowce, Badówka and Kurhany (from which the settlement took its name). The soil was poor and sandy, so the plots here were larger, typically 20 hectares, with only 6 hectares of arable land and the rest being pastures. The pastures were the real treasure of the Kurhany plots. The hay was sold twice a year, mostly to the 19th Wołyń cavalry regiment in Ostróg. The pastures had to be carefully cultivated, watered, fertilized, and planted with select grass seeds.
The settlement was close to a railway line connecting Zdołbunów in Poland with Szepietówka in Russia. The railway had two parallel tracks. Polish and Russian passenger trains ran twice a day in both directions, in addition to freight trains carrying industrial goods. In 1937, King Michael of Romania returned this way in the evening from his visit to Russia in a lavishly illuminated train. In 1940, this railway was used to deport us from Ożenin train station to Russia. Through the windows of our freight train we were able to have a last look at our house. The terminal train station on the Polish side was Mogilany, from which one could connect to the rest of the country via Ożenin and Zdołbunów. In Mogilany, in addition to the train station, there were the local post and telephone offices, pharmacy, and a county infirmary where vaccinations were offered to children and adults and attendance of a district doctor and midwife. There was also a dairy cooperative for all local inhabitants.
There was no school in the settlement. A four-year primary school was located in the village. A single teacher worked on two shifts – morning and evening. He would raise a white flag to signal the beginning and end of the lessons. The teacher, a Russian by birth, had his daughters educated at a university in Warsaw. Lessons of religion were given by a visiting priest from the Ostróg parish. Some parents sent their children to other places with better schools. Our parents rented a house in Ostróg, where we lived with our grandmother while attending a primary school, and later, the Maria Konopnicka Junior High School number 705 after successfully passing exams. When the war broke out, I was in the second year and my younger sister in the first. Other parents placed their children in better schools, e.g. in Zdołbunów or Lisków.
Our father and other settlers belonged to the Settlers Association, the Agricultural Association and the National Farmers Co-Operative Bank [Kasa Stefczyka]. In Chorowo there was a “Krakus” organization [Ed. note: Quasi military group trained in horsemanship] which graced our celebrations with their performances. A Village Housewives Association was run by Mrs. Kozłowska. Its members were the settler women, local women as well as Ukrainian women.
A large outpost of the Border Protection Corps [KOP] was located in Kurhany which was a cultural center for our settlement. It had a large library which we all used. We took part in national celebrations organized by KOP, entertainment events, such as the May National holiday [Majówka] with a military orchestra, and in collaborative performances of the amateur theatre.
An additional attraction of Kurhany were the scout summer camp visits from everywhere in Poland. Girl guides lived in the Szulgin’s palace which, by the way, was haunted at night. The boy scouts camped in tents in the state forests. Every evening throughout the vacations bonfires burned, and happy and sentimental melodies of scouting songs flowed over the evening dew. Adults and youths attended in droves. My younger sisters belonged to a guide troop and travelled to camps in various other places, my brother was still a cub scout.
Newspapers were received via individual subscriptions, or occasionally during shopping trips to Ostróg. In our home we had “Kurier Codzienny”, “Dzień Dobry”, “Wielkopolanin” and „Rycerz Niepokalanej”. [Ed. note: Daily Courier, Good Morning, The Greater Poland Citizen, Knight of the Immaculate]. Our father bought books about farming – how to select seeds suitable for our soil, and particularly about cultivation of noble grass varieties imported from England. The pastures were the apple of my father’s eye, he tended to them as if they were wheat fields! We had at home two volumes of an illustrated medical guide, an ancient history book, a map of Poland, library books and a multitude of textbooks, since we were four siblings.
Concern for children's good education drove parents to send their children to places with better schools. With the beginning of a school year the settlement became depopulated, life paused for ten months, only to enliven again during summer vacations.
The efforts, aspirations, plans, hopes, dreams – were all wiped out by the war in 1939.
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 (out of print)
ISBN 1 872286 33 X
Province (Województwo) WOŁYŃ
STEFANIA BOROWY (KACPERSKA)
OSADA KURHANY ON THE HORYŃ RIVER
Postal District (Poczta) Mogilany
District (Powiat) Zdołbunów
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