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
HALINA BĄBIK (RAFAŁ)
Pow. Włodzimierz Wołyński
The Ułanówka settlement was made up exclusively of Jaworski’s men (Jaworczycy), organised by Major Jaworski in Płoskirów in Ukraine following the disarmament of the Dowbor-Muśnicki corps. The soldiers did not want to lay down their arms but reported to the Germans claiming that they would be useful to them. The Germans provided them with uniforms and they were stationed in Płoskirów or Antoniny, on the Potocki estate where at the time Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, whose husband was there on his first assignment, resided.
The Jaworczycy defended them several times against attacks and lootings carried out during the Peasants’ Revolution as Kossak-Szczucka acknowledges later in her first book, entitled “Pożoga” (“The Conflagration”) – dedicating in their honour many beautiful words of recognition and admiration for the heroism of the young “madmen”.
Major Feliks Jaworski was an excellent commander, very much liked and worshipped by his soldiers. It was the so-called “Jaworski’s cavalry” (Jazda Jaworskiego), a separate unit, independent from any other authority. At the beginning, there were not a lot of them, later on in Wołyń in Włodzimierz approximately 800, and in 1920 probably more. They took part in the war against the Bolsheviks in 1920, usually remaining in the rear and engaging in sabotage and guerrilla warfare. They earned many distinctions.
After the war, the 19th Lancers Regiment was created from Jaworski’s cavalry, which was stationed in Ostróg on the River Horyń.
The Regiment’s cavalry couplet:
A few noblemen, a few peasants,
The lancers of the 19th Regiment.
Major Feliks Jaworski, after he had accidentally shot his mother, lost his mind and was taken to an asylum in Lwów (Kulparków).
The Ułanówka settlement was formed following the parcelling out of the estate belonging to Antoni Ruszkiewicz, who took the government to court and received one million złoty in compensation.
The origins of this estate are interesting: Ruszkiewicz himself had been a shoemaker in Dubienka nad Bugiem. A Ukrainian, named Karpo also lived there with his wife and daughter Serafina who, whilst tending the cows, once found an enormous treasure trove in the form of gold and silver coins. After some time, the Karpo family went for advice to Ruszkiewicz who married Serafina and at the beginning began to lease land and then to buy it for himself, which he registered in the name of his Ukrainian wife – as Poles were not allowed to buy land during the period of the Partitions. This is how the enormous estate grew which was later parcelled out by the Polish Government into plots for settlers.
A seven-grade primary school in Wąsowicze was housed in the manor-house built by Ruszkiewicz for his son. Later on, the Ruszkiewicz family lived in Mikulicze where they owned a steam mill. The elderly Karpo and his wife, and Ruszkiewicz’s in-laws lived in Chmielówka.
A list of the military settlers from the Ułanówka settlement: corporal Edward Albertowicz, captain Wojciech Bejt, captain Stefan Białosiewicz, lance sergeant Władysław Garczyński, cavalry sergeant Szczęsny Głowacz, Hilarski, cavalry sergeant Zygmunt Jaworski, cavalry sergeant Karol Klimczyk, senior gunner Leonard Kruk, corporal Florian Kurowski, senior gunner Józef Kuryło, cavalry sergeant Józef Lewandowski, senior gunner Władysław Lipski, cavalry sergeant Władysław Milczarek, warrant officer Marian Mrugalski, corporal Franciszek Malewski, senior gunner Władysław Pendlowski, cavalry sergeant Roman Pracz, corporal Józef Rafał, cavalry staff sergeant Aleksander Roguski, lance sergeant Władysław Romanowski, senior gunner Stanisław Sobotka, corporal Józef Sielecki, cavalry sergeant Andrzej Sójka, lieutenant Stankiewicz, cavalry captain Stanisław Zalewski, senior gunner Tomasz Zwoliński, senior gunner Grzegorz Woźniak. Jan Utnik rented the plot of ground belonging to Major Feliks Jaworski.
Whatever happens, what good will it do,
A foreign soil, a foreign sea
when my entire soul there was formed
and there remained, there by my old threshold
You can travel the lands, you can sail the seas,
but the yearning for home will never cease,
with incredible memories from the past
which your old home evokes
The old beehive ..............
How great a truth do the words of the poetess breathe, I feel it myself today when, after so many years of wandering across the world, I am attempting to paint a picture of my life on the osada where I spent 13 years. I constantly return to it in my thoughts. I see it so many times in my dreams and yearn for it constantly with an equal intensity although I know that the house in which I was born is no longer there. It is not only my house that is gone but none of the houses from our settlement remains. None of the orchards which had been the pride of every master of the house. Nor does the forest nearby exist, to which we would always run at different times of the year for different reasons: beginning with the search for the first signs of spring and ending with mushrooms, nuts and the Christmas tree, covered in snow and smelling of resin, which father would carry into the room on Christmas Eve and to our great joy would stand in the same spot every year.
There is no trace of our osada now. Apparently, there are only fields there, over which tractors are driven. But I do not see it like this and cannot even imagine it any different to the picture I have in my soul as I ventured into the world and from which I was brutally torn in the prime of life, at a time when I had just begun to get to know and love these parts.
They cut me off and dug me out together with my roots, throwing me onto foreign soil in so many countries, where I was not able to feel completely at home, where to this day I feel a stranger and where nothing makes me happy, because there are no familiar paths from my childhood here, because the flowers here do not have the same scent as the flowers there, because the sky is different, and so is the weather, and the people.
I am certain that had the Bolsheviks not driven us out on the 10 February 1940 to Siberia, then my father would never have moved from this place and from this land which he loved and for which he pined during all his years in England.
The beginnings were difficult when, after 1920, he left the cavalry of Major Feliks Jaworski and was given 12 hectares of land in Wołyń, for which he fought and on which settlers were settled in order to revive the Polish character of the Borderlands. There were no buildings on this plot of ground, only 16 cherry trees and a few old oak trees. The cherry trees froze in 1929 as it was a very severe winter. After a few years, my father hired a carpenter to make furniture out of them, which later became the subject of admiration and envy of the neighbours. For the time being, however, he lived in a shed which he built himself and he cooked his food out in the open, on a small stove of his own making. When he cooked chicken soup, throwing in a handful of vegetables which he himself had grown, the aroma that emerged was such that even the German women from the settlement nearby would run up to ask for the recipe.
After he had looked around the area and identified a suitable building, my father bought a thatched house in the neighbouring village which he transported to his own plot. This house had two rooms, on two levels: one, on the higher level, was a grand room with a real wooden floor; the second, on the lower level, without a floor, with a wooden hatch in the middle concealing the entrance to the cellar where the potatoes were kept.
I remember well each corner, each item and the smell of this house, the corn bin and a storeroom for various things. There were also apples and wild pears in baskets – filling the room with an appetising aroma.
It was in this house, under the thatched roof, that I – the oldest child – saw the light of day. All my brothers and sisters, and there were many, were born “under a sheet iron roof”, that is to say, in the new house, roofed with sheet iron which my father built. During violent summer storms this roof made us very frightened, intensifying the sound of what was already terrible – the thunder and lightning. My father was a thrifty, thoughtful and very hard-working master of the house and that is why he was constantly improving and adding to the holding so that things were always getting better. I never heard him complain; in fact, on the contrary, he was full of optimism and hope that everything would turn out for the best.
In addition to the four or five cows, the farm had a lot of chickens, turkeys and, of course, geese and ducks which had a special enclosure and a pond and were tenderly looked after by mother – because she had four daughters and had to think about their dowries - and pillows for all of them.
My father, the Uhlan, loved horses. He took part in horse contests; he belonged to “Krakus” and he longed for a son, to hand down to him some of his passions. But my brother Janusz was not born until 1932 and so we the older girls had to fulfil the role of squires and undertake the cleaning of the lances, sabres, spurs and delivering the wicker to the field where on Saturdays or Sundays exercises took place: cutting of the osier, jumps, races. The wives and the children would watch the events, chatting and gossiping in well-matched groups.
Whenever there were manoeuvres, the “Krakusi” would also take part. The last ones before the war, which were attended by Marshal Rydz-Śmigły, I remember very well because the army returned along the Łuck-Włodzimierz route and we pulled out all the flowers from the school flower-beds in Wąsowicze – all the asters, dahlias and whatever other flowers there were, we picked to throw to the soldiers.
On our osada there were more than 30 settlers – all of them Jaworski’s men – that is, from Major Feliks Jaworski’s cavalry, from which after the war the 19th Lancers Regiment was created and stationed in Ostróg. These Uhlans, when building their settlement, had erected at a central point a memorial cross engraved with the date and name of the osada which was called Ułanówka. This cross had a special enclosure and formed the chapel. May Masses were held there to which we would run with great joy, carrying scented lilacs across boundary strips by way of a shortcut to meet up with our friends, both male and female. Afterwards, as we were returning, the grass would already be covered with dew and everywhere the croaking of frogs could be heard. The air was scented with all sorts of May flowers and it was so bewitchingly beautiful that we would whisper in order not to dispel the festive mood and not to drown the frogs’ band. There also, in the vicinity of the cross by a bonfire we would listen to speeches and declamations and it was here we cried when Marshal Józef Piłsudski died.
Social life on the settlement depended on the time of the year. There was a lot of work on the land and it had to be done on time. He, who wanted to reap the harvest, had to plough and sow, earth up, weed, harrow, scythe, stack haystacks, get the crops in and thresh them. For us children, this created many opportunities for fun and adventure. Who would not enjoy returning home on a cart full of scented clover or, on a particularly scented potato field, lighting a fire and cooking potatoes – pretending thereby that they were helping? There were lots of us everywhere. Everything would catch our inquisitive eyes. Our restless hands would have to touch everything. During harvest the haystacks, erected in a picturesque manner on the stubble field, were excellent places for hide and seek or playing house. We would run tirelessly until late at night when, completely exhausted, we would just manage to collapse on our beds. We would fall asleep immediately, only to wake up at dawn and begin it all over again.
The Church fairs were especially social and enjoyable customs. Everyone would travel in a group to distant and sometimes very distant destinations to celebrate the patron saint of the local church. Here on St. Antony’s Feast Day, there for Assumption Day or Our Lady of the Seed[i] – or otherwise for Ss Peter & Paul or the Holy Trinity. The carts were formed into a square and, inside the square, colourful rugs were spread, on which delicacies brought from home were heaped up: sausages, meat slices, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, cake and fruit. We the children, having tricked our parents and godparents out of some small change, would run to the stalls for our favourite purchases. We would return with our pockets bulging with sweets, and laughing – playing on various whistles or blowing into the tail of clay cockerels [ii].
The winter brought with it a certain respite for the busy life of a farmer. There were no urgent jobs and one was able to visit each another – and so eagerly making the most of the opportunity, harnessing the horses to the sleighs we would go out to visit friends. Ah, the sledging – harness bells ringing – what a pleasure that was!
A few days after New Year, the settlers from our osada would travel to Włodzimierz, about 15 kilometres away, and the inhabitants from neighbouring villages would say: “the settlers have gone for the cross money”. Amongst them were many knights of the Virtuti Militari order; they were going to collect money [iii] and did not get back home for nearly three days, until their worried wives harnessed horses to the sledges and went out in search of the missing men, finding them celebrating in the “Kaczy Dołek” – and, after long negotiations, would bring them back home.
Our school was housed in a beautiful building referred to by everyone as the palace, but it was rather a manor-house. We had quite far to go: three or four kilometres – depending on where one lived. You had to get up in the morning and walk, meeting up with others on the way in friendly and antagonistic groups which competed against each other and often, for various reasons, fought stubborn battles and arguments. We would generally not get home till nightfall because the temptation to play on the way was great. In the summer – eating a carrot, or a turnip pulled out here and there, or an apple – we would play dodge ball, rounders or volleyball. In the winter, we would go skating, skiing or tobogganing.
During national holidays, festive commemorative events and games took place in the school in Wąsowicze, which were eagerly attended by our parents. The Village Housewives Association also had their meetings there, organised by Mrs Albertowicz, whose results we were able to observe and appreciate at Christmas or Easter, eating delicious mazurki, gateaux and cakes. Just before the war, the Village Housewives Association organised an excursion to the South of Poland: Lwów, Katowice, Kraków, Częstochowa – to show the ladies from the Borderlands how their Poland, long dreamt of and regained by force, was picking herself up and beginning a life full of promises.
Nobody, not even with the boldest of expectations, had anticipated that it would be interrupted so quickly and that the settlers would have to pay such a high price for these 20 years of freedom. They had not managed to bring up even one generation in peace. Their sons, who were delivered from death through hunger, penal servitude and epidemic diseases, followed in the footsteps of their fathers earning their Virtuti Militari at Monte Cassino, Bologna or on other battlefields in the last war.
There, where it is a question of life, there where it is a question of blood, there the sacrifice is the easiest, although shrouded in laurels.
It is a sacrifice which a Pole can without doubt make. This is a question of a difficult sacrifice, it is a question of a sacrifice undertaken for the strength of the entire nation, it is a question of a sacrifice and the ability to mutually and respectively give and take, it is a question of a sacrifice of everything that may be and is dearest to people, of a sacrifice made in accordance with one’s own convictions and opinions.
11 January 1920
Speech in Lublin by Józef Piłsudzki
[i] Celebrated on 8 September (the Virgin Mary’s birthday) when one is supposed to sow the seeds blessed on Assumption Day, 15 August.
[ii] A kind of whistle in the shape of a bird.
[iii] The original implies that the VM recipients were receiving an annual payment for being decorated with the VM.
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