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) WOŁYŃ
IRENA RYDUCHOWSKA (MATKOWSKA)
Postal District (Poczta) Brody
Community (Gmina) Czaruków
District (Powiat) Łuck
Former soldiers of the Polish Army, who actively took part in the battles for Polish independence and transferred to civilian life, found themselves unemployed and in effect without any means of livelihood. They received [from the Polish Government] subdivided farming plots from larger estates.
In the settlement Chrobrów the recipients of plots were: my father, Robert Matkowski, Michał Reczuch, Krażyński, Politowicz, Koźlicki, Dobrowolański, Widmont, Warchacki, and others whose names I no longer remember.
Everybody farmed their plots except for Dobrowolański and my father who rented out their plots.
There were two of us children: I, ten years old, and my brother Stanisław, fifteen years old. My father, coming from Żytomierz where before the outbreak of the WWI he had completed six classes of Russian secondary school and because he knew Russian very well was employed in the Community administration office in Czaruków. He was therefore away from home for the entire week. Much later, I learned that he was also working for the Division II of the Border Guards Corps, as a civilian employee. This activity was of course very secret.
In Chrobrów, there was an elementary school for the younger classes in the Community centre building.
The parish church and presbytery was in Nieświcz.
Our plot, covering fourteen hectares, had newly built farm buildings. My father planted two large fruit orchards, and sold the fruit directly off the tree.
The relationships with the local Ukrainian population were reasonable since my father often helped them with various administrative errands.
The provincial town of Łuck was about 25 kilometres away from us. I know that my father frequently visited Równe. When the Bolsheviks invaded Poland on 17 September 1939, relationships completely changed.
My father was not at home at that time. I will allow myself to quote a brief excerpt from his memoir, which he wrote later in England.
“The joy of my wife and children was indescribable, but it absolutely did not change the sad realities. At home I found everything in order, and nobody molested the family or persecuted them. The local Ruthenians seemed to pay no attention to the settlers. I assessed the situation with my wife, and we planned to settle in Łuck. However, the plans came to nothing because the situation started to get worse – in the administrative region of Czaruków there were two cases of murders committed on Poles.
I lived at that time like “a hare under alert” [“jak zając pod miedzą” – a Polish saying equivalent to the English – “to sleep with one eye open] and did not know what to do. We thought about moving to Łuck, but there was a danger of being recognised. So, we stayed put…”
We still attended school, now Soviet. The Ukrainian children treated us well. Once they told us “You will soon go to visit polar bears”. We repeated it at home. My father perfectly realised its meaning. In secret, he prepared himself a hiding spot. From one of the rooms, he created a tunnel to the neighbouring room, a larder. He was planning to hide in case of an unexpected intrusion, which was undoubtedly known to my mother.
Suddenly, on the night of 9 to 10 February 1940, “bojcy” [ from Russian „boyets” – soldier, Russian soldiers] arrived with bayonets on their rifles, accompanied by a couple of local Ukrainians. They told us to take what we can and transported us to the local train station. Everywhere one could hear desperate crying and cursing of the “bojcy”. They loaded us onto the train wagons, my mother despaired that father wasn’t with them. The next day, father showed up at the station, having left his hiding place and arranged some food. After some initial difficulties, he was allowed to join us.
We were transported for two weeks north to the Archangielsk “oblast”. They settled us in some place on the river Wyczegda, [now Vychegda] where lumber was rafted for export.
My father, thanks to his knowledge of language, was assigned work in sorting lumber. My brother became a member of a boat rescue crew. We lived in large barracks, each family in a separate compartment.
After the “amnesty” we joined the Polish Army, my father and brother as soldiers, my mother and I as soldier’s family, and we left this inhuman land as a part of an evacuation to the Middle East.
Poland may still experience difficult times. During crises – I repeat – guard against foreign agents. Go your own way, serving only Poland, loving only Poland, and hating those who serve enemies.
7 August 1927
Kalisz, a speech during the gathering of Legionaries