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
KRYSTYNA OSTROSKA (CHYŻY)
Municipality (Gmina) Tuczyn
District (Powiat) Równe
My brother Richard, sister Halina and I, were born in the Bajonówka settlement. Our parents were Piotr Chyży, a legionary and ardent supporter of Józef Piłsudski, and Władysława from the Piotrowscy family.
Our settlement bordered the Krechowiecka settlement and our plot was adjacent. We were separated by the road which ran from Równe to Tuczyn. Over the road was Mr Świerczyński and Mr Kaczmarski, who were neighbours, and their plots were part of the Krechowiecka settlement. A second, shorter road formed a cross-road next to our plot and ran somewhere from the village of Radystawki beyond Bajonówka, to Koźlin the other side of Krechowiecka. The fields and the surrounding meadows were very fertile, and behind the Krechowiecka settlement, there were the dark contours of a forest rich in wild mushrooms.
In spring, everything turned green in these fields and the meadows were covered in flowers, followed by the arrival of the storks. They built their nests on Mr Nitecki’s barn, whose farm was behind Mr Świerczynski’s, and could be seen from our house. Listening to the captivating sound of the clapping of the storks was a melody that comforted the soul. It was also fascinating to watch the proud strolls of the storks on their long, red, stick-thin legs in search of frogs on Mr Świerczyński’s and Kaczmarski’s meadows.
Mother’s brother, Jan Piotrowski, also had a plot of land in the Bajonówka settlement. His plot had a nice, small birch grove. Several other plots also had such small birch groves. There also was mother’s other brother, Zygmunt Piotrowski, with whom my granny, Józefa Piotrowska, lived. Uncle Zygmunt was still a bachelor and was very fond of children; he knew how to play games with children and joke around with them and was very much liked by us for this.
The plots in Bajonówka had an area of about 30 acres. New houses and farm buildings had to be built.
During the early years my father had a grocery store in his house on the settlement and, alongside the stables he built a large dance hall, which had long benches lining its walls. An orchestra would arrive and people flocked to the dance hall but they also came to the grocery store and we, little ones, would hang around these people, listening to what they were talking about.
On the farm, just like on every farm, there were horses, cows, pigs, rabbits, pigeons, geese, turkey, chicken, ducks, cats to catch mice, and dogs as guards for the farm. The barking of dogs, especially at night, raised vigilance. After the First World War, there were gangs of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) operating in Kresy. Every settler had firearms so that they could defend themselves when necessary.
In spring, the field was worked with ploughs and then harrowed, accompanied by the song of the lark, which invisible high up in the heavens, sang beautifully to God’s glory. Crops were sown, vegetables planted, and flowers decorated the area around the house. Behind the house, in the orchard, fruit trees blossomed: apple trees, pear trees, plums, wild cherries, and sweet cherries, and the aroma of Spring was all around.
In summer, everything had to be tended, the weeding had to be done, and the crops had to be harvested in the Autumn. The barn was where the crops were threshed, making a din, then a part of the wheat was taken to the mill to be ground into flour for bread, and the rest would be sold. The potatoes were buried in mound banks, and the carrots, beetroot, and onions were taken down into the cellar. Barrels of sour cabbage and gherkins were stocked up for winter along with fruit preserves.
Seven carefree years went by and the time came for us to go to school and start children’s work, that is, education. Year after year went by, bringing home school certificates and moving on to the next class.
A REMINISCENCE OF THE KARŁOWSZCZYZNA LANDS (excerpts)
Karłowszczyzna - a beautiful grove,
With a modest church, like a castle,
Chosen by Our Lady of Częstochowa,
Our miraculous Mother of God.
She took into Her care the Eastern Kresy
And its settlers under Her reign,
That they be faithful to the heritage of Her Son,
Because that was where lay Her Motherly care...
And into this Divine peaceful order,
After four seasons of calm,
Followed a warm autumn,
And with it our tragic September.
The situation changed,
It saddened Our Lady
As She sheltered in hiding.
When that September, like many times previous,
I was in this Church for the last time,
The image was absent, gone was Her radiance,
Jesus Himself remained in this tranquil grove.
Birds from near and far departed,
Poppies in the fields withered,
Sounds of the reapers silenced,
As was the sound of every scythe...
On routes to Siberia,
Along insurgents’ signposts,
Followed a new generation,
To suffer for their freedom.
In 1934, the Krechowiecka school organised a trip to Augustów where the Krechowiecki Lancers Regiment was stationed. I too went on that trip. None of the organisers knew that there was an epidemic in Augustów and the children fell ill. I was probably the hardest hit by the illness. After arriving back home, the illness got worse and I was taken to hospital in Równe. The fever went down after three weeks and I started to regain consciousness. The illness had taken a heavy toll on me because, during its course, I had completely lost my hearing. My parents couldn’t come to terms with this and so they sent me to Lwów for an operation. When my father came to Lwów to collect me from the hospital, his first question was can I hear? Tears rolled down his cheeks to my negative answer and, distraught, he left the hospital with me. I returned to the settlement in autumn of 1934 and, in winter of that year, we moved out to Równe where father had built our new house.
I was only ten years old and had not yet finished comprehensive school so my father sent me away to a school for the deaf in Lwów so that I could finish my education. I finished it in 1937 as the top pupil but the hearing loss made normal life difficult for me and the path to secondary school was not available to me. I went to learn sewing.
After our departure, a school was built, very close to our house, from which we, as children, did not benefit. At the beginning, the headmistress was Ms Józefa Pellerówna, and then Mr Tadeusz Piksa, who was later killed in Katyń.
In Równo, my father set up a grocery store in the new house and got a licence to sell alcohol and wines. Uncle Zygmunt with my grandmother managed the estate, or rather plot, and the farmers from Radystawki worked the land, each one half.
After we had left the settlement, a church was built in Karłowszczyzna, behind the Krechowiecka settlement, of which there was a great need in the military settlements. The nearest church, and a very small one at that, was in Horyngród, to which it was too far to travel. They decided to get a copy of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Częstochowa for this new church in Karłowszczyzna so that She would protect our settlements in the Eastern Kresy. A delegation of settlers went to collect this image. My uncle, Jan Piotrowski, was chosen as a delegate of Bajonówka who, at my mother’s request, took me with him.
From Częstochowa to Równe, we travelled on a special train where one of the carriages was a chapel for Our Lady and Queen. Upon our arrival in Równe, a walking pilgrimage set off with the image to the church in Karłowszczyzna. I also took part in it, with my father. This was a much-celebrated event in Karłowszczyzna, gathering large numbers of settlers from the surrounding settlements because the event was of very special importance since Our Lady and the Queen of Poland from Jasna Góra was taking the borderland settlements and their residents under Her care.
I always visited my grandmother and uncles in Bajonówka whenever I could. I was also there in the summer holidays of 1939 and that was where the outbreak of the War with Germany found me. One day, on the evening of 17th September, I was at my uncle’s, Jan Piotrowski, whose plot of land was at the opposite end of Bajonówka. Behind the plot, on the opposite hill, there was a road that I don’t remember from or to where it led. We saw an extraordinary sight because, in the distance, on the horizon, there was a long line of Soviet soldiers along this road, which had unlawfully crossed the border of Poland, destroying its liberty, disturbing the peace and order of life in our settlements. Having seen this, I returned to my parents and siblings as fast as I could, but it was not to be for long.
In February 1940, the sharp tip of the scythe and the hardness of the Soviet hammer caught up with me. On 10th February, at four o’clock in the morning, the NKVD officers and communist Jews forced their way in, gave us an hour to pack, and declared that we are going for resettlement. We were loaded up at the station in Zdołbunów into cattle wagons and the doors were barred.
There were bunks in the wagons, which were packed tight with people. The next night, the train set out with a sudden jerk and started moving. “Under Thy Protection” [Ed. note: “Pod Twoją Obronę” Marian Antiphon, ancient Gregorian chant hymn] was intonated in the wagon and, with this hymn, under the dark cover of the night, third in a row, we crossed the borders of Poland. Crowded onto the bunks, we travelled the notorious route of the deportees to Siberia, into the immense tracts of inhumane land, to pain, hardships, suffering, and death.
We ended up in the Południewica “posiołek” family work camp, amidst forests, 30 km north of the town of Gorki.
If these reminiscences are of any value
I submit them as a historical record of Settlements.
To pay tribute to my parents - honouring their life,
Which had its share of hardships, troubles and sacrifices.
And on the 50th anniversary of our country being ripped apart,
When those scars have not yet healed.
All honour to Poland, to the Nation and its Soldiers.
Hear O Lord the generations of prayers,
Let Poland be independent again,
And, as before, live in Freedom. 1st September 1989