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
JADWIGA OSOSTOWICZ (WNĘK)
Municipality (Gmina) Katerburg
District (Powiat) Krzemieniec
My father, Stanisław Wnęk was badly wounded in the leg at Indura when serving in the Polish Army as a lieutenant during the war with the Bolsheviks in 1920. After the war he was given a plot on an “osada” (settlement) in the county of Krzemieniec (Wołyń). The plot consisted of a fishing lake of approximately 45 hectares, a water mill and some land of approximately 8 hectares. Nearby, there was a Ruthenian (Ukrainian) village Kudłajówka and 1.5 km. further – Podhajce. Between them other plots were scattered, 12 in number as far as I remember, of 12 hectares each. These plots formed a settlement called Osada Łany.
In the municipal small town Katerburg, approximately 8 kilometers away, there was a Roman Catholic Church, a post office, a school, a police station, a pub and a few shops. The county town Krzemieniec with the famous Tadeusz Czacki Liceum, the grave of Juliusz Slawacki’s mother and the Queen Bona Mount was 24 km. away.
When my father arrived at the “osada” (he was walking on crutches at that time) the lake was empty, the mill dilapidated and there were no buildings in existence – just bare land. He took lodgings at a local (Ruthenian) peasant’s house and began building work. After a short time, he brought to Łany his newly-wedded wife (his sweetheart since early youth), a young teacher from Kraków who proved to be a very brave and helpful life-companion. In the course of the next few years three children were born: Adam, Jadwiga and Andrzej.
Despite enormous financial difficulties, the house and the farm buildings were gradually erected, the lake was filled with fish (carp) and the mill became operational. There also came into being: an orchard, a vegetable and a flower garden (my mother used to get up at dawn) and a field with crops.
Despite the hard work on the farm, my father took a keen interest in the problems of other settlers and he tried hard to help them obtain loans, improve their farming, place their children in suitable schools, secure scholarships for them, etc. He continued this work in an ever-wider area, as a long-term chairman of the Settlers’ Union (Związek Osadników) in the county of Krzemieniec, a member of the Central Settlers’ Union (Zarząd Główny Związku Osadników) and in the last year before the war, as an MP for the counties of Krzemieniec and Dubno.
When our “osada” was running efficiently my father, who had been interested in philosophy ever since his youth, encouraged by my mother, enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. We all moved to Kraków where my mother took up a teaching post (at the Ursuline Convent School) and we went to school. (At that time my father’s cousin helped with running the farm).
However we always went back to Łany for our summer vacation – for the whole ten weeks! We loved it! As soon as we arrived at the “osada” we took our shoes off – that meant freedom – and we only put them on for church and when visiting friends. We loved the country life, the lake, the harvest, the re-union with our friends, the orchard and the singing in the evenings.
After five years my father completed his studies with a Master’s Degree. While at the university, he also attended lectures on agriculture and co-operatives; that enabled him to advise the fellow settlers in Łany on farming and to help organize co-operatives in the county.
The life of the other settlers in Łany (and in all settlements) was initially also very hard. The majority of them had married girls from their native places (mainly in western Poland), a few married Ruthenian girls and one, a Czech. Those couples who were more resourceful and industrious improved the standard of their farms quickly, in spite of great financial difficulties (it was extremely difficult to obtain loans, which were indispensable for building up farms), whilst some others lived in continuous poverty.
There was no school in Łany so the children went to school in Katerburg. The families also went to church there on Sundays and on important feast-days, either by cart or on foot. Thursday was market day in Katerburg and whoever could, would sell poultry, cattle, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, etc. there and would also buy necessary goods and indulge in some little luxuries, such as rolls, buns and white bread (at home one would normally bake whole-meal bread). To make bigger purchases the settlers went to Krzemieniec.
From time to time an instructress from the Village Housewives Association came to Łany with lectures and practical lessons for the settlers’ wives.
After the harvest “dożynki”, a harvest festival use to take place in which the whole settlement would participate; it was a colorful event, made vibrant with songs and dances.
The relations with the local population were on the whole very good. My father was a true Christian and he was very friendly not only with the fellow settlers but also with the Ruthenians and the Jews. The local peasants would share their problems with him and would ask his advice on various matters and invite him to family celebrations. The mill, where my father often dropped in, was a meeting place for chats and discussions (whilst men waited for their flour) in which my father participated.
On summer evenings, boys and girls used to sit on fences and sing in harmony, melancholy and merry songs. My parents learned those songs and they sang them too.
Other settlers also had good relations with the local people. On a larger scale, as we know, those relations were often less friendly. At the Polish-Ukrainian meetings, in which my father often participated, confrontations occurred frequently and had to be resolved tactfully.
During the summer of 1938, just after the harvest, a fire broke out in our barn. The whole village came running to the rescue and put out the fire before it spread.
Every year in September there was a “spust” in our lake – in other words, a big catch. This was an important annual event for us and for the whole village. On the appointed day (usually 10th September) most of the water was drained from the lake and a huge net (called” więcierz”) was cast from a few boats. Several peasants from Kudłajówka took part in that catch. Almost the whole village used to gather on the shore of the lake in order to buy some smaller fish or to get some free; the carp, purchased wholesale went to Krzemieniec or to Warsaw. During the interval between the catches the fishermen grilled the fish they had caught and ate it, chatting happily. (Looking back I have often compared those scenes with the biblical fishing scenes at the Sea of Galilee…)
17th September 1939. The lake teeming with fish was waiting for the catch. The Russian Army crossed the Polish frontier. Killings and arrests followed. On October 12th my father was arrested. (I can still see, vividly, two Soviet soldiers with rifles crossing our garden). He was taken to Krzemieniec by cart. A short distance from our farm the local people (Rusini) stop the cart and demanded my father’s release - in vain.
My mother writes a letter of appeal to the Soviet authorities asking for my father’s release from prison; the letter is signed by a large number of Ruthenians and Jews. We stay on the farm until the end of October. The situation is becoming increasingly tense; we move to Krzemieniec where we rent a room in a friend’s house. My elder brother Adam flees to Kraków (by crossing the river San at Przemyśl) to avoid being arrested by the Soviets.
10th February 1940. Deportation to Soviet Russia. My father is taken from prison and deported to the Archangel “oblast” to the banks of the river Wyczegda, near Kotlas to hard labor (although he is a war invalid). Fortunately the wives of the settlers from Krzemieniec deported to the same place look after him as best they can and he in turn keeps up their spirits, filling them with hope in those very difficult times.
My mother, my younger brother Andrew and I escaped to Lwów – under the pressure of our friends – on 12th February. On the 29th June 1940 we were deported from Lwów to the “Swierdlowskaja oblast” in the Urals.
On the 1st of January 1941 my father arrived at our camp at the very moment when my mother was unable to go to work any more (hard labor in the forest), due to exhaustion. The authorities in his camp (NKVD) had allowed him (at his request) to join his family, which was unprecedented in those circumstances. (It took him a month to reach us!) Providence was looking after us.