Having been awarded for military service, the farm became home for the Stopa family – Jan and Bronisława with their three daughters: Halina, Sabina, and Ludmiła, and also temporarily by Jan’s brother and sisters – Ryszard, Helena, and Stefania.
The family was from Strzyżów in the Rzeszów province. The farm was granted to the two brothers Jan and Ryszard Stopa following their military service. Jan enlisted in the 85th Infantry Regiment in Nowa Wilejka and finished his military career in 1946 as Lieutenant [Ed. note: this date is unlikely since Jan became a settler probably in the early 1920s and was subsequently deported to Siberia].
Ryszard fought in the Legions as a 17-year-old volunteer, where he was severely wounded, and subsequently discharged as a disabled veteran. After finishing teacher’s college, he worked in a school in Kamieniec Litewski. During the occupation, he served in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) in the General Government territory [Ed. note: German zone of occupation].
The first years of settlement were very difficult. Jan Stopa started with horse breeding, however, that did not bring the expected results. Subsequently, he switched to traditional agricultural work. He expanded his property, built a new home, a barn etc.
With small children there were additional hardships, because the closest primary school was six kilometres away. The church was similarly far away. A secondary school attended by Jan’s two younger sisters, Helena and Stefania, was in Dzisna, a town 17 kilometres away on the Polish-Soviet border.
The region’s cultural and educational life was centred there. Settler associations, choirs and the Catholic parish were active in Dzisna. All state and church celebrations took place in the town, attracting the region’s Polish population.
Coexistence and cooperation with Belorussian, Jewish, and “white Russian” inhabitants was good. Evidence of this was the intervention by the local population to free Jan Stopa from jail following the arrival of the Red Army. Jan Stopa helped local peasants, who were frequently illiterate or not familiar with the Polish language, to write applications and to complete administrative formalities. They, in turn, expressed their gratitude by helping with farm work. Jan Stopa’s wife, Bronisława, was from a Polish family from Lepel.
Jan Stopa’s subsequent fate was prison and deportation to the Arkhangelsk region. Hard labour in the taiga, disease and starvation ended with the Sikorski-Stalin agreement when, together with other deportees, the Stopa family reached the West via Persia, India and Africa.
Jan and the oldest daughter Halina travelled this route with the Polish Army in the West. The rest of the women stayed in the Tengeru camp in Africa.
In 1946 the entire family returned to Poland, except for the oldest daughter Halina, who had reached England.
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) WILNO
LUDMIŁA GUTOWSKA (STOPA)
Municipality (Gmina) Mikołajewo
District (Powiat) Dzisna
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