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) WOŁYŃ
GENOWEFA KWIECIŃSKA (STANISZEWSKA)
Municipality (Gmina) Wielick
District (Powiat) Kowel
Four military settlers lived on the Arsonowicze settlement: my father, Teofil Staniszewski, born in 1899, and Olek Uważny, Antoni Kot, and Jan Grzybowski. Apart from the settlers, the surrounding area was mainly inhabited by Ukrainian people. Mr Konieczny, also a military settler, lived near the town of Mielnica. Father was from Sieniawa, and mother, Maria (Leja) Kwiecińska, born in 1909, came from Głogowiec in the Rzeszów Province.
Dad received the Cross of Valour in the First World War, he finished his service as a Cavalry Sergeant in the White Lancers. In 1921, he received around 100 acres of land in Wołyń when he was still single. My parents got married in 1922, in the cathedral in Leżajsk, and moved to the settlement straight after that.
On dad’s plot, there was an old, large house which must have had around 20 rooms and where, it was said, a Ukrainian count lived before the war.
After their arrival, my parents renovated a few rooms in this house and lived there for the first five years, until they built their new house. I remember the new house very well and remember it being built. Behind the old house was a large square, covered with stinging nettles; this was where dad decided to build the new house. There was good clay for bricks in one place, so dad along with his brother Stanisław who came down from Sieniawa, built a brickyard. Uncle Staszek managed this brickyard. It flourished because bricks were in high demand in our area. I remember the holes from where they dug the clay because we would catch frogs and tadpoles there. The house had foundations made of our own brick and the rest was made of wood. It had four rooms, a kitchen, and a chamber under which was the cellar.
Our family grew, as did the farm, too. There were six of us, children: Heniek was born in July 1923, I in May 1925, Zygmunt in May 1927, Łodzia in December 1929, Mietek in November 1932, and Irena in November 1937.
There was a stable and a large barn near the old house. We had lots of cows, pigs and four horses; there were also chickens, geese, and ducks. A stork had its nest on the barn and we always looked out for its return in spring.
There also was a large vegetable garden. We had two orchards behind the old house - there were old pear and apple trees there. And behind the new house, our parents planted whole rows of apple trees, pear trees, and sour cherry trees. There were strawberry beds between the trees.
In winter, mum kept salted gherkins, fermented cabbage [Ed. note: sauerkraut] pork fat and salted meat in barrels in the cellar, together with various jams and compotes, and smoked sausage hung in the attic.
Mum had a sewing machine and was a good seamstress. She sewed almost everything on her own for us six children despite her many other duties and work in the house. She had a woman, a Ukrainian called Stepanina, to help her out in the home but when she went travelling somewhere for longer, we were looked after by Aunt Bronka, who would come over from the Rzeszów Province.
Close to our settlement, maybe some 500 metres or so, there was the River Stochód, where my oldest brother, Henio, would often catch fish. In winter, we went ice-skating on this river. One year, I fell into the river through an ice hole where the Ukrainians had set their nets to catch fish. Just as well that it wasn’t that big and I stopped myself with my hands, and Zosia and Hela Uważny pulled me out of the water. I was wet and freezing. I was scolded by mum and she never let me go ice-skating again. Our meadow was where the cowherd grazed cattle.
My father got along with the Ukrainians; he would lend them his farm tools, horses and other things, give them grain, potatoes, etc, and they flocked to help during the harvest or when digging potatoes.
We attended the local school, where lessons were taught in Ukrainian and in Polish for the first two years. Later, we walked (weather permitting) three kilometres to school in Gaj; in winter one of the parents would collect all the children and drive them to school. Gaj was a large Polish village where there was a nice school, and there were military settlers as well as those who bought land, who were referred to as "civilian settlers". The next village down from Gaj was the village of Koszówka, and behind it was a forest. Dad would go hunting there for boars.
I remember a school trip to Łuck. We travelled by steamboat on the River Styr. The city seemed large and clean for me. I also remember Kowel - this was our railway station. The nearest secondary schools were in Kowel and in Łuck. Józia Grzybowska from our settlement attended the secondary school in Kowel.
We rode to church by cart in Sokół, a small town on the River Styr. On the way there, we would cross the Stochód River, and passed the village of Nawóz where six military settlers lived. In Nawóz, the settlers (men) were executed by the Bolsheviks in October of 1939. Our dad, together with the settlers living near us in Arsonowicze, was also taken to be executed but our Ukrainians interceded for them and this group of settlers was released.
I remember the Michalskis from Nawóz - he was executed and his family was deported. On 10th February 1940, in the night at dawn, we were woken by Soviet soldiers who ordered us to get dressed and pack. As mum was waking us up, my younger brother, Zygmunt, thought that we were going to school so early. Dad and older brother Heniek were standing in the corner with their hands up in the air and only at the very last moment were given time to get dressed. Mum wanted to take her sewing machine with her but the Russians didn’t allow it. They told Ivan, who served our family and lived with us, to harness the sledge and he, in the meantime, hid some salted meat, pork fat, flour, and groats under the seat in the hay and covered it up with planks of wood. They drove us to Kowel on our own sledges and with our own horses. My oldest brother, Heniek, cried mostly for the horses.
The men went on foot most of the way to Kowel; they floundered in the snow and fell from exhaustion. In Kowel, the Soviet soldiers packed us into freight wagons and deported us to Siberia.
My parents and brother Heniek died in England, the rest of the family is still alive.
My husband, Czeslaw Kwieciński, comes from the Orliczyn settlement near Hrubieszów, Włodzimierz.
Taking a command has this strange mystery that reaches the profound depths of the subordinate’s soul and has such powerful dominion that none greater is known to the world. Hence, the task of a commander must be: take the soul, give the soul. ‘Tis difficult to tell the truth and to think about one’s own soul. I have endeavoured, however, to tell you the truth honestly.
When you seek to be in a position of command - search for the truth of the soul. Look her in the eye; truth is mighty and is the power of the soul. ‘Tis a goddess. A weak person hates the sight of truth and rolls around in the dust before it; a strong person may even sway but never fall, and will recognise the command of the will in the eyes of the goddess.
21st August 1923, Command During War. The Fifth Lecture
Genowefa Kwiecińska has also written about deportation and exile here.