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
STEFANIA BOROWY (KACPERSKA)
OSADA KURHANY ON THE HORYŃ RIVER
OSADA CHORÓW ON THE HORYŃ RIVER
District (Powiat) Zdołbunów
THE SETTLERS’ OATH
In the Borderlands on full alert
Contemplating you, Poland,
For your defence every one of us
would give their life if needed.
Every threshold for us shall be a stronghold
So help us God.
Like a rock projecting amidst the seas,
Constantly battling the waves,
So strong in spirit, tough,
We will guard the Borderlands.
Today our weapon is a shining plough,
So help us God.
Galvanised by such songs, volunteers who recently fought for independence and its preservation, worked their farming plots rebuilding Poland in the Borderlands. The settlers from both these settlements served in the 21st Infantry Regiment in the machine gun company of Lieutenant Piasecki, in Major Zuławski’s battalion.
The 21st fought in Belarus, in the Wilno, Podole and Wolyń regions. The Bolsheviks had occupied lands right up to Kiev abandoned by the Germans, but themselves were forced out (by the Poles). Poles, then under pressure from enemy armies, retreated all the way to the suburbs of Warsaw. The victorious battle of Warsaw ̶ the ''Miracle on the Vistula'', was fought in August 1920. My mother also took part in the defence of Warsaw digging defensive trenches near Płock. Chasing the enemy, the 21st returned to the Podole region, near Miropol, on the River Słucz.
After military actions ceased in November, the regiment marched through Ostróg, on the Horyń River, to Dubno, on the Wołyń River, to spend winter there. Here, the soldiers qualified as military settlers. They were allocated 12 settlements in the Zdołbunów District, in Wołyń. These settlements were: Zdołbica, Wierzchów, Jełomalin, Nowomalin, Lachów, Pruski, Zawidów, Tajkury, Belmaż near Ostróg, Chorów, and Kurhany.
After allocation, the settlers formed a so-called "unit" (form of induction training) in Kurhany, and they resided in the Szulgin palace. He was a Russian colonel who joined the Bolshevik side and did not return to Poland. His estate and a large steam mill became the property of the State Treasury. The Chorów and Kurhany settlements were created from this estate.
Life in the unit was half-militarised, half-civilian in running a common farmstead, working the land together, and sharing the products amongst themselves. A cheerful, soldierly comradery abounded in a variety of funny but also less humorous events. While waiting for the official allocation of plots, the married ones arranged for their wives to make the journey to join them, others brought their parents and siblings, like my uncle, for instance. Bachelors met with local or newly-arrived single ladies and settled into marriages with them. In several cases, they were Czech and Ukrainian. The marriage ceremonies were held in the Parish in Ostróg. The unions were blessed by the parish priest Monsignor Ptaszyński, a local Pole, a great patriot, who the Bolsheviks wanted to murder by hanging. Our Lancers saved him. He had an injured larynx and spoke with a raspy voice. He baptised all the children from both settlements.
My husband’s father, Władysław Borowy, and my uncle, Wacław Wyczechowski, settled in Chorów, while my father, Stefan Kacperski, in Kurhany. He came from Łódź, where he belonged to the POW [Ed. note: Polska Organizacja Wojskowa - Polish Military Organisation formed in secret in 1914 in opposition to Russian rule and led by Józef Piłsudski]. In 1919, he was allocated to the 5th Legions’ Regiment and was sent to the defence of Lwów against the Ukrainians. He was very seriously injured in the village of Pasieka, near Lwów. After two months of treatment in the hospital of the Carmelite Sisters in Kraków, he joined his regiment at the Citadel in Warsaw. He was then assigned to the 21st Infantry Regiment. He criss-crossed Poland far and wide before making a home on the settlement.
In March 1921, the plots were measured and formally handed over. The method of allocation was by free choice of plots by wounded soldiers, while the others drew lots.
Chorów and Kurhany were, in some way, fraternal settlements. They were located on the opposite banks of the Horyń River, at a distance of approximately 6 km across the river valley. A very spirited and lively family, social, and community contact was maintained. People helped each other out and invited each other to their children’s baptisms. Together, they took part in church ceremonies, national feast days, and entertaining events.
The difficulties of settlement life were enormous at the beginning. One would start out from virtually nothing. Everyone received a change of underwear, shoes, clothes, a coat, and a horse from the Army which was of great help. The land was obtained without having to pay a deposit but the cost of the plot had to be paid off in instalments. Loans were taken out to buy livestock and machinery, building materials, seeds, clothing, furniture, and modest crockery.
To begin with, a single building was erected ̶a barn, which housed very modestly furnished living quarters. Usually there were one or two beds, a table, a few stools, a brick block kitchen for cooking, and an oven for baking bread and heating. One would simply do without many things, waiting for better times. A pigpen, cattle stable, poultry house, and agricultural product storage all fitted under the one roof. Some wives who had a profession, for example as dressmakers, helped by earning additional income.
Another thing that made life difficult was the Soviet diversionary bands crossing into Poland, attacking robbing and threatening lives. This ceased when KOP started to patrol the border. [Ed. note: Korpus Ochrony Pogranicza - Border Protection Corps was a military formation created in 1924 to defend the country's eastern borders against armed Soviet incursions and local bandits]. Relations with the nearest, local people were usually amicable although at times there were neighbourly disputes, between settlers as well. The Ukrainian population took a liking to us. Some villages were simply hostile and it was better to avoid them altogether. Not all the local Poles took a liking to us. The Wołyń gentry, in particular, considered us to be intruders and of a rather lower status. Over time, this friction evened out and a certain community and social integration occurred. Friendships were forged between both the local and settler Poles, as well as among the Ukrainians and settlers. But, in general, the population groups lived their own, separate lives. The settlers formed a tight-knit group based on comradeship drawn from fighting alongside each other in the regiment.
There were Orthodox Churches in the villages but the Catholic Church was in Ostróg, to which both settlements belonged as a part of the parish. That was where marriages took place, children were baptised, and the dead were buried. Priests would come from Ostróg to the school with religious education classes and on their annual pastoral visits [“po kolędzie”]. The settlers, as parishioners, took an active part in all the feast days and celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and in retreats, Confirmations, missions and First Holy Communions. All the Christian, Polish, National and family traditions were upheld in the homes. During May, prayer devotions to Our Lady were organised with the broad participation of the local community and rosary prayer services were held in individual homes in October.
Magazines and books on farming were bought and individually subscribed. But those who didn’t would have books borrowed by the children from the school library. Daily newspapers weren't read regularly, various different newspapers were purchased whenever one was in Ostróg doing the shopping. Subscriptions to weekly and monthly magazines were preferred.
The City of Ostróg was of paramount importance for the surrounding villages and our settlements. It was established by the Ostrogski Princes, after whom various monuments remained in the form of defensive fortresses and castle ruins. Later on, it became a District City. After peace had been concluded, it was divided by the Polish-Soviet border, hampering its development. It had about 25,000 inhabitants, the vast majority of whom were Jews. They kept almost the whole trade and crafts in their hands and, despite this, most of them lived in dire poverty. For the surrounding villages and settlements, Ostróg was a place for selling farm products at the weekly markets and crops and livestock at the monthly markets. Almost all articles necessary to live and manage a farm could be bought there. There were two Catholic churches there ̶ the Parish Church of St. Anthony of Padua, and the [Church] of the Good Shepherd for school-age youth, a magnificent Orthodox temple, a Protestant church with a golden roof and a historic Synagogue.
There also was a Magistrate’s Court, a post and telegraph office, a pharmacy and hospital, physicians and dentists, two sound cinemas, with bus and, horse and carriage transport to the nearest train station, Ożenin. The 19th Wołyń Lancer Regiment was stationed in the city. This was also where the KOP Border Guard Corps and the police main headquarters were. There were four primary schools: King Casimir the Great school ̶the headmaster was settler Władysław Akajesicz from the Belmaż settlement; Stanisław Staszic School, Eliza Orzeszkowa School, and the Commission of National Education School. There was a lower secondary school No. 705 Maria Konopnicka School, a humanities, geographical and natural science school, a pedagogical upper secondary school, and there were also vocational schools ̶a carpentry school, and a fine wood/metalworking school for boys, as well as a girls’ cutting and sewing and materials science school with a foreign language, French. There was a primary and lower secondary school for Jews, these were private schools maintained by them. The choice was wide and good, so the local parents would put their children here to get a better comprehensive and middle-level education.
Twenty settler families resided in the Chorów settlement. Everyone served in the 21st Infantry Regiment in the machine gun company of Lieutenant Piasecki in Major Zuławski’s battalion. They were: Corporal Władysław Borowy (my father) ̶from Warsaw; Cavalryman Sargeant Wacław Wyczechowski ̶from Sanniki, near Płock, he died at Ostaszków; Teodor Tomankiewicz ̶from Warsaw; Józef Komar, Ignacy Straszyński, Jan Matusiak, Edward Kwaśniewski, Stanisław Winnicki, Kazimierz Ożinkiewicz, Roman Radwan, Józef Weryński, Maciej Masiewicz, Okuniewski, Ruczkowski, Olszewski, Lieutenant Stanisław Janicki, Sargeant Adolf Kaus, Cavalryman Sargeant Franciszek Klawiński, Piotr Wierzbowski, VM; Lieutenant Kazimierz Janicki, and Bronisław Stanisławski ̶not a settler, but his friends W. Borowy and W. Wyczechowski gave him a piece of land to build a house on and for a garden. He was a craftsman ̶a shoemaker.
The Chorów settlement was on the left bank of River Horyń, between the Ukrainian villages of Monastyrek, Rozważ, and Chorów, to which it belonged, next to the main battle route between Ostróg and the Ożenin train station from where, travelling by train, one had a connection with the rest of the country.
Every settler received 30 acres of land along with meadows near Ostróg, and later 5 acres in Kurhany. The soil was of the black earth type, fertile. Wheat, sugar beets, hops, corn, clover, lucerne, makhorka tobacco, and rapeseed were cultivated. The village of Chorów was also the administrative centre of the Zdolbunów District. The local government offices, a police station, and a 7-class state school were located there. There were several shops which were quite well stocked with necessities. There was a dairy. Watermills were next to the brook flowing down from the fairly high hills. People could ground their cereals into flour, obtain groats, and press oil. The administrator of the municipality was a Ukrainian ̶Baryszniuk, and the elected administrator was in turn one of the settlers or Poles from the village or Ukrainians.
The school was housed in three buildings. The headmaster was Józef Guzowski, a professional teacher, an army captain (who died in Katyń). The school achieved a high level of education. Seven teachers and two clerics taught there, a Catholic priest from Ostróg and an Orthodox priest from the village. The school had a large playground and sports ground. There was a scout group organised in the school, led by teacher Jan Bąk. The school organised trips to Kraków, Lwów, Janowa Dolina, and to the Wołyń Trade Fairs.
The cultural life of the settlement and village revolved around the school. There was an adult and children’s library. Concerts, official celebrations of national feast days, amateur adult and children’s theatre performances were held, and touring theatres would also come to the school.
Later, a community centre was built in the municipality to which the social and cultural life of the settlement moved. Musical instruments were purchased and an orchestra was formed. The musicians were Ukrainians because the settlers’ children were still too young. Relations with the local Poles were generally amicable; with the Ukrainians, they were limited to the closest neighbours and to the community centre where they would meet for dances and other get-togethers. There was a Settlers’ Association, an Agricultural Association, and a National Farmers’ Cooperative Bank operating in the settlement along with a Village Housewives Association, which was attended by settlers and local Polish and Ukrainian women. The “Krakusi” organisation [Ed. note: Military reservists] was also there.
Nine settlers brought their wives from their previous homes elsewhere, seven bachelors married local Poles, one married a Russian, one a Czech, and three married Ukrainians. There were 45 children in the settlement in total. The number of children per family varied from one to five, with most having two children. Two children attended the lower secondary school in Zdołbunów, one completed the vocational school in Ostróg. Older children who did not benefit from higher education helped their parents out with farm work.
Apart from work on the farm, one of the settlers tried to revive transport between Ostróg and the train station in Ożenin by buying a bus but, unfortunately, nothing came of this initiative. One was an elected village administrator twice, and was later in the police just before the War. One worked in the district office in Zdołbunów. The rest farmed their land, trying to achieve the best possible results, which were dependent on their own efforts.
The settlement started to establish itself quite quickly and this was thanks to the continuous cash inflows from the sale of agricultural products like hops, sugar beets, and tobacco, for which there was a steady demand in the brewing, confectionery, and tobacco industries.
People began to build larger residential buildings with several rooms, farm buildings, tobacco dryers ̶all with sheet metal roofing. Fruit orchards were planted. The settlements started to take on a solid, prosperous look. Despite various individual and general difficulties, life flourished. The invested work started to bear fruit. War in 1939 put a stop to this.