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Kresy Family group
THE GRZYBOWSKI FAMILY
x. NEW LIFE
In mid-1948, we said goodbye to Africa via Mombasa where this time we boarded the quite luxurious Carnarvon Castle. We set off on a cruise across the Red Sea passing Aden, where it was extremely hot, and we entered the Suez Canal. The ship moved very slowly. You could watch the lush green vegetation on the right and the sandy desert on the left. We passed Port Said and crossed the Mediterranean past Gibraltar to the Atlantic. After a few days, we arrived in England at the port of Southampton. Even though it was June we were greeted by fog and a huge chill. Maybe it was really very cold then, or maybe that's how we felt after being warmed by the African sun for six years. From there we were taken straight to the Daglingworth transit camp near Cirencester. Soon Władek and two cousins - Janek and Tadeusz - arrived. There was great joy after long years of separation.
Soon we were transferred again, but for a longer time, to the Stover Park camp near Newton Abbot, Devon. It was beautifully situated - surrounded on three sides by forest, and on the fourth - a golf course. There was a nice lake just across the road, where you could go for walks. During the war, there was a hospital there for wounded American soldiers. The barracks were much more comfortable than the "barrels" (Nissen huts) in other camps but unfortunately the barracks were covered with asbestos. Back then, no one knew how harmful asbestos was. On arrival we found everything was well organised as Poles had been there for several years. There was a barrack church, a very likable Fr. Głażewski, a kitchen with a canteen where meals were prepared and served, a hospital, a library (to my joy), a common room, where performances, patriotic variety shows and dances were held where young people met and then married.
Although three years had passed since the war, everything was only available with coupons including clothes, and we were freezing in our summer dresses. My mother made our coats from regulation blankets which we wore until there were enough coupons to buy something from the shop. My first coat was cherry red.
A new stage in our life had begun. Mother looked after the house. Hela took a job decorating ceramic pottery at Bovey Tracey. In September, Danusia and I with a group of Polish girls from Stover Park began attending school in Newton Abbot. We were not there for long, because I was accepted by a Polish boarding school in Diddington near Huntington. I left at the beginning of 1949. Meanwhile, the priest had arranged places for nine younger girls (Danusia amongst them) in a private Catholic school run by nuns. I remember my departure well, because I was very fearful. My first time alone without my mother, with only a modest knowledge of the language, travelling through London to a place called Huntington and I was only 16. Fortunately, someone met me at Paddington station, where it was necessary to change stations and I arrived at my destination safely.
I have very good memories of my time in Diddington, even though it was not for long. After a few months, the older pupils were transferred - girls to Stowell Park near Cheltenham and boys to Bottisham. Only the little ones remained in Diddington.
I will mention as a curiosity that at that time there were seven Polish schools in England: Stowell Park and Grendon Hall for girls, Bottisham and Lilford for boys, a private school for girls run by nuns in Pitsford, and private schools for boys at Fawley Court and Diddington, which after a few years combined with Lilford. It was the last year the Polish education system was followed. In 1950, a regulation came into force that required Polish schools to switch to the English system. Of course, it also applied to Stowell Park. For us - about 50 girls who came from Diddington - two classes were organised and after taking the “mała matura” (high school diploma) we finished our education.
I returned to the camp and by chance, there was a vacancy in a shop (a branch of the Newton Abbott cooperative) where I found employment. In the meantime, my beautiful sister Hela met a boy - Leszek Czerniak and on December 29, 1951, they got married. After a year they had a lovely son, Zbyszek, the apple of the eye of not only the parents, but also Grandma and two aunts.
After many years of wandering from country to country and from camp to camp, everyone was fed up with this nomadic life. One dreamed of one’s own home and some sort of stability. The beginnings in England were very difficult. Many people looked for fortune by going to the United States to join relatives, or on contract to Canada, Argentina and even Australia. However, most Poles remained in England, despite it not being very welcoming to immigrants at the time. There was still a spark of hope that there would be some change in Europe and that one would be able to return to a free Poland. Such were the fantasies but the reality was different and above all, the priority was to take care of daily needs. But it wasn't that easy. There was a language barrier and the jobs offered to foreigners were only in heavy industry (mines, foundries), textile or agriculture. Such a fate awaited even highly educated soldiers who were offered only physical jobs. The younger generation, who had managed to receive some education in England, began to be treated better.
In the beautiful, holiday county of Devon there was no industry whilst hotels only offered seasonal work. House prices were unattainable. Once, my sister and my brother-in-law went north for a few days to Blackpool. On the way back, they visited his sister, who had been living with her family in Blackburn, Lancashire for several years. Whilst there, they bought a local newspaper. It turned out that it was much easier to find a job there and the houses were affordable. So the decision was made to leave. To begin with they went together. They managed to gather enough money for a deposit, got a mortgage and bought a large family house on Park Avenue which even had a telephone which was rare in those days. After a few months in 1955, I joined them. All three of us worked at Mullard's, where small parts were made for TV sets. Every pound was saved to furnish rooms for mother, Zbyszek and for Danusia who would join us when she finished school. For a while there was only one double bed - the first purchase - in which the three of us slept. Over time, the house was filled with furniture and people.
In 1956, Danusia married Ryszard Wolny. A double wedding took place in Blackburn, because Rysiek's brother, Janusz, married Regina. The boys’ parents were leaving for the United States with their youngest son, Bolek, but delayed to attend their sons’ weddings. Rysiek and Janusz did not want to go but to remain in the UK with their loved ones. In 1957, the family expanded. Two children were born - Basia to the Czerniaks and Maryla to the Wolny family.