Extracts from “A Song For Kresy”  by Helen Bitner-Glindzicz

The Last Harvest Festival - 26 August 1938

Sixteen miles west of Wołkowysk and 38 miles east of Białystok lay the manor of Kwatery, built by the Glindzicz family around 1760. The following extract describes some  aspects of  life in the Kresy manor just before WW II.

The 2nd Grochowski Lancers celebrated their regimental feast on 26 August 1938 at Kwatery, the family home of Adolf and Marynia Bitner-Glindzicz and their children, Janusz and Ryszard.

This is followed by a description of the last Harvest Festival on the estate and then by the family leaving the home built by their ancestors to join the line of refugees travelling east to escape the Germans. 

The celebration was held on 26 August 1938, the feast day of the Virgin of Jasna Gora, the patron saint of the regiment.  Regimental cooks were sent beforehand to prepare the meal for the feast itself, but an indoor dinner had also to be organized for the important guests and dignitaries after the official celebrations had ended.

The day before the celebrations, horses, cars and a profusion of young men in uniform were rushing all over the manor. Rys and Janusz could hardly contain their excitement at the awesome spectacle of the military presence in the garden, park and orchard. As the boys watched, their anticipation was bubbling over, and they wanted to be out there giving the men a helping hand. Amcia had to keep a constant guard over Rys the whole day as he was just waiting for any opportunity to break free and join the soldiers. Marynia, meanwhile, was not quite so enthused with the lorry load of poultry that was being slaughtered outside the rear kitchen. The whole place was littered with blood, entrails and what seemed like a heavy snowfall of feathers floating all over the grounds in the gentle summer breeze. She could not for the life of her see how all this dreadful mess could possibly be cleared by the next day. The place would never be the same again and the sight brought tears to her eyes. There was nothing for it but to carry on and hope and pray for the best. Of course, on the 26 August 1938, the parkland, the orchard and the gardens were restored to their former pristine state of loveliness, and the manor and the grounds looked quite splendid as befitted the great occasion.

Needless to say, harvest was celebrated on the estate every year. All the employees and their families looked forward to it. This was their day when Dolek would show his appreciation of the work they had done. Tables in the estate mill would be laid with an abundance of food and drink and there was always a band hired for the dancing. Dolek and Marynia would join discreetly in the celebrations and take their places at the tables, but the festivities were principally for the workers, for the 16 families who lived in the estate, as well as the Stewart Pacewicz, the overseer Kolosowski, the carpenter, the gardeners, the blacksmith, and the chauffeur. Dolek had to do the rounds and at each table he would raise his glass in a toast to the health of the men. But it was after Dolek and Marynia departed that the drink flowed in earnest and some of the workers had the bruises and black eyes to show for it the next day. Marynia said that Dolek, regardless of how well he paced his intake, always suffered from a huge hangover the day after the Harvest Festival.

By the early summer of 1939, there were rumours of war. The topic was on everyone’s lips. Friends, neighbours and family talked about it incessantly. Those in the manor followed every news announcement, listening intently around the radio in the dining room, anxious but not quite sure what to do for the best.  The subject about whether to put their capital into a Swiss bank or keep it in Poland was seriously considered by many and Dolek was advised to invest abroad, preferably in Switzerland. He resolutely rejected the idea, believing it to be disloyal. The patriotic thing to do was to invest in a Polish bank for the benefit of the Polish economy, and that is exactly what he did.  Marynia, remembering the loss of the paintings, the antiques and the precious books and jewellery during the First World War, decided quietly to bury as many of the family valuables as she could in the orchard. She would do it gradually over the next few weeks, she thought. Apart from the personal jewellery, the most important valuables remaining included a sterling silver cutlery set of 24 place settings. This was a Glindzicz heirloom that had survived for a good few hundred years. She intended to bury also some of the silver serving dishes, platters and tea sets that were in the dining room cabinets. In the end, although everyone knew war was coming, events overtook all Marynia’s planning and she only managed to bury the cutlery set. The park, the orchard and the flower garden covered an area of over 12 acres so it is not surprising that some years later she couldn’t remember the exact spot of internment.

World War II started on 1 September 1939 when Germany attacked Poland and, on 3 September, Dolek and Marynia organized the departure of Janusz and Rys to Nowosady, further to the east, thinking that would be the safest place for them.  They went by car with Rys’s nanny, Amcia; Mme Marie, the governess; Janusz’s godmother, Tenia Zoladkowska; and a few of the servants. Dolek then set about paying the estate workers all wages to-date, and arranged his and Marynia’s departure over the next few days. They packed onto numerous carts and traps the more precious personal possessions, household effects, and furnishings, and arranged for estate workers to follow in the rear with the livestock and the horses. The intention was to go to Nowosady where the children were waiting for them.

As the long convoy made its way down the sweeping circular drive, Marynia looked back at her home for the last time. It was under her care and supervision that the abundant rose bushes and the precious, delicate peach trees adorning the approach to the terrace steps were planted and nurtured.  Passing the steward’s house on her left, Dolek stopped to give some last minute instructions to Mr Pacewicz and then the line moved on again skirting the large lake fed from the River Kuklanka. Marynia could just about make out between the poplars that fringed the lake the outline of the ‘iczworaki’ that housed the unmarried estate workers. Across the rustic but picturesque little bridge that spanned the Kuklanka and there beyond, to the right, nestled the small cabins of the workers’ families. Further right again was the old mill, where the harvest celebrations had been held for the last time. Nearing the exit of the estate, the procession stopped once more to pray at the tall wooden cross at the edge of the woods, as many travellers had done before them. Finally, leaving the Kwatery demesne, the convoy turned left onto the main Bialystok-Wolkowysk Road. 

Helen Bitner's book 'A Song For Kresy'      
is available now from Troubador - for details click here 

“A Song For Kresy"

2. Deportation of Bitner-Glindzicz family

Dolek’s offer to hold the celebration of the regimental feast at Kwatery was accepted by his friend, Colonel Plisowski, the commanding officer of the Second Grochowski Lancers stationed in Suwalki. Both Marynia and Dolek felt honoured by the acceptance of the offer and decided they would do their utmost to make the day a truly memorable one for everyone concerned.

As anticipated, the official celebrations were a resounding success and ended with a solemn Mass being said in the grounds. The finale was the stuff of dreams as far as the boys were concerned. Their hearts nearly burst with pride as they watched the huge bonfire being lit to the roll of drums and the sound of a trumpet and then a tattoo with a roll call of those killed in action - a glorious end to a magnificent day.

The adults with the officers had their sumptuous dinner in the dining room and the soldiers and NCOs ate in the park. The children nodded off to sleep while outside the summer evening was filled with the voices of the lancers singing the rousing cavalry songs of their regiment at the end of a day that was never to be forgotten.

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz with sons, Janusz and Ryszard, at home in Kresy circa 1934.