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
Province (Województwo) BIAŁYSTOK
ALICJA POLANIN (ORECHWA)
District (Powiat) Grodno
Kazimierz Orechwa was born in 1898 in Orechwicze. His wife, Rufina, nee Czerniewska, was born in Korczyki in 1899. Their families came from the neighbouring Grodno area.
My father attended the Russian lower secondary school in Grodno before the First World War. In 1918, without his family’s knowledge, he left home and voluntarily joined the army. Having a horse in his possession, he got into the Grodno Lancer Squadron of General Szeptycki. Over time, the Squadron was transformed into a Cavalry Regiment. My father went through the whole campaign in this regiment, right until 1920. He displayed great courage and initiative in the Battle of Warsaw, saving his whole unit. He was decorated by Marshall Piłsudski with the order of Virtuti Militari (No. 5364) for this feat. After the War, as Second Lieutenant, he completed cadet school and got his secondary school diploma. It looked like he was going to be a professional soldier. Fate took a different turn, however. He was transferred to the reserve. Our parents got married in 1924 and briefly lived in Vilnius. At that time, my father was allocated a plot in Żydomla, in an area east of Grodno. It was 43 acres of land. To be closer to the plot, my parents moved to their home town of Orechwicze and, in the meantime, started building a house on the settlement.
The beginnings were very difficult, there was devastation across the country; the land that he got was neglected and exhausted. The first crops were very meagre, almost completely made up of poppies and corn cockle. The state mortgage of 3,000 zloty helped to get the farm up and running. It was only thanks to the perseverance and hard work of my parents that they managed to get through those difficult first few years. Their first two daughters - Irena and Alicja, were born in Orechwicze. The buildings on the settlement were completed and the family moved in to their new home in Żydomla. This was also where their next two daughters were born - Stefania and Krystyna.
The years went by; the children were growing up. My parents worked very hard but they persevered in providing for themselves on the settlement. There were several settlers in the immediate vicinity but not enough to establish a union. There was a Settlers’ Union in the neighbouring Wierciliszki, but the distance and the enormous amounts of work prevented them from taking an active part. My father, because he was in the reserve, would go to training exercises that usually lasted two weeks. That was when my mother would manage the farm. Interestingly, she managed it perfectly.
As time went on, the land started to give better crops. My siblings and cousins who lived nearby helped out with the work. Father hired people from the surrounding villages, usually Belarusians, for the harvest. We also had a housekeeper. The livestock and meat store was gradually increasing to the joy of our parents. The children attended school, which was very near us and, for those times, very well equipped and with qualified teachers. Just before the war, my father's farm was doing very well.
With the outbreak of the war in 1939, my father was drafted into the army but for the family the 10th February 1940 was the beginning of a long trek along two paths: my father’s with the army, and ours - mother’s with her four daughters - through Russia, Persia, Africa, and England to the US.
Here, in Chicago, the family has grown into 4 generations over time. My parents have lived to a ripe old age. As I am writing this - in November of 1991 - my father is 93 years old, and my mother is 92; they have 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.