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
HELENA B. CHEEK (KOZIOŁ)
Municipality (Gmina) Poddębice
District (Powiat) Łuck
Armatniów was situated between Ołyka and Kiwerce. The following villages were nearby: Palcze, Kopcze, and Ukrainian: Kotów, and Zwierów.
The settlement consisted of plots of ten military settlers. They were soldiers who were given freehold land as reward for defending Polish borders. They served in the artillery, hence the name Armatniów [Ed. note: The Polish for guns is Armaty].
At the very beginning, the settlers had a very difficult life. The plots had to be cleared and cultivated but there weren’t any tools or money.... But there was youthfulness and vigour, and thoughts of a better future for oneself and for one’s children.
They set up home in the “kantor”, a large building that was divided into smaller quarters so that each family could have a separate room.
Within a year, they had already started building houses for themselves to suit their needs and according to what they could afford. They slowly grew richer and things got better each year. They had orchards, fields of crops, horses, livestock farms, pigs, and poultry. Work by the sweat of their brows was efficient and they reaped the benefits of their achievements. They organised harvest festivals, travelled to Łuck for the settlers’ annual reception and dance where they would meet settlers from elsewhere. I remember how lovely my mother looked in a new gown, which she had made for herself especially for special events like this. They would go on trips, for example, to Gdynia and Jastarnia, to the Trade Fair in Poznań, to Kraków, etc. My parents would travel but not together because - that’s the way it is on a farm - one person always has to stay at home to tend to everything. Their children received an education, so their lives continued to get easier and better in every respect
Unfortunately, this did not last long. The war broke out on 1st September 1939, and on 10th February 1940, the settlers and their families were deported into the unknown, exposed to hunger and ill-treatment - doomed. Many of them died in the Arkhangelsk region, in Lednia, in forced labour camps and camps in Siberia, but most of them lost their lives in southern parts of Russian.
Almost every family from the Armatniów settlement had lost somebody, but Jan Kozioł’s family miraculously escaped this hell and came to live a better life, not in Armatniów in the Eastern Borderlands, not in their free homeland, but in exile.
• • •
Jan Kozioł from Lipinki, Gorlice District, Kraków Province, served in the Austrian Army as a young boy and later joined Piłsudski’s Legions and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. After the war, he met Bronisława nee Sztadhaus from Marianówka, Kołki District, Wołyń Province.
After they married, they set up home on a 300,000 square metre land plot. It was located between the plots of Władysław Marchut and Jan Sułkowski, and about 2 km from the train station. It was covered in bushes and stones and needed much hard work, hence, at the beginning they struggled to make ends meet. Daddy soon managed to get a loan and started to build a house. The house was quite big, white, with a front porch, a thatched roof, although all the other houses had tiled roofs. My grandfather from Lipinka, daddy’s father, wanted very much to help his son - he offered to put a roof on the house and that’s exactly what he did. In 1938, my parents built another beautiful house close to the train station and the bus stop with the intention of opening a bar and eating house. It made me happy that I was going to help them out in my free time and I was very impressed by it.
We were meant to move into the new house in the summer of 1939 but these plans, just like all other plans, failed to materialise.
They started off with one cow, and later had enough money to set up a large Polish cattle breeding farm. One was quite black and called “Czarnula” [Ed. note: Czarna (fem) means black in Polish]. When I was small, I even thought that her milk was black. My mum used to say that “Czarnula” gives milk with the highest fat content; also she only had bull calves! My parents even got an award of 50 zloty for one of them at a cattle show, which were held in the Armatniów region from time to time. There were always a lot of pigs - fed especially for bacon, which was exported to England.
Daddy liked horses, so he had a few. The stable was also large, made of cement, covered in sheet metal - the nicest and biggest in Armatniów.
Sometimes, when the shepherd was ill, they would send me to tend the cows, but I cried the whole time and felt very unhappy because of it. I don’t know why because the neighbours’ children would often go to watch over them and made nothing of it!
Daddy sowed different cereal species and enjoyed a good harvest. They sowed, planted, bred, and traded, and this is how they prospered. We had a maid, a farmhand, and a herdsman, and workers were always hired for the harvest and digging potato and sugar beet, which was taken to the sugar factory. A few years before the war, my parents found it difficult to find people to work, which is why they decided to lease the land out in the summer of 1938 and focus on the orchard, bees, and, of course, the bar/eating house.
A family with three grown-up children moved in with us and started to run the farm. My mother meanwhile tended to the flowers, the vegetable garden, and the poultry. We always had chickens and ducks and my mother kept geese and turkeys for sale, keeping the money she made for her personal expenses.
One day I watched as my mother let out baby turkeys into the yard, which scattered off as a flock of crows flew in. My mother and I were just standing there shouting but completely helpless,. But this did no good. The crows immediately flew off with 12 chicks. My mum had tears in her eyes; so much of her work had gone to waste. Daddy felt sorry for her and gave her the money she would have earned for the poultry had she sold it. I then thought to myself that he’s a good husband. Daddy’s passion was bees and he had the biggest apiary in Armatniów and environs. He sowed special flowers for the bees. I remember how he selected the honeycomb frames, first putting a net over his head, how he centrifuged them, with which my mum would often help him out. We always had honey for our own needs and also sold some in the shop in Łuck.
The orchard was big. We had plum trees, several apple tree species, pears, and cherries, and even two walnut trees. There were green grapes climbing special trellises that were put up for them next to the front porch. Planting grapes was an experiment and a risk because my parents weren’t sure if they would grow well in this climate, but we always had plenty of fruit and my mum even made wine. I also remember that they would be covered for the winter so that they wouldn't freeze.
I remember how tasty the wild pears were from the pear trees in the field, far from the house. I played with Ania and with my cousin Hala from Marianówka under that pear tree when they came over to see us, as well as with the neighbours' children.
When I got a bit older, my parents decided to take in a little girl to raise her, to make me happier and keep me company. Ania Knapik came from Gorlice. Her mother was a distant cousin of daddy’s, a poor widow with two children. She was happy to put her daughter in with us to be brought up; this made things easier for her, and better for Ania. Ania was like a sister to me - we played together and went to school together.
When I was still in primary school in Armatniów, there was an aerobatic display in the settlement and I was later offered to be taken for a ride. This was the first time I was airborne, and everyone was very jealous of me.
I then went to school in Palcz, where I completed the fifth year. The headmaster at the time was Mr. Biliński. I went to the sixth year in Dubno. I went to live with my uncle Stach Sztadhaus. Uncle was a professional soldier.
Towards the end of the sixth year, I was preparing to take the entrance exam to the Settlers’ lower secondary school in Równe, where I went with daddy. I really liked the large, multi-storey building, which was full of lower secondary school candidates and their parents.
I passed my oral exam so well that I was exempt from the written one and was told straight away that I had been accepted. I was very proud of myself, and daddy was pleased because he had promised me a watch.
I started school in September, when it was still warm, and I travelled there by train: I was dropped off at the train station and later collected and taken home. I moved into the boarding house for the winter, which I also liked very much.
Many young people would travel from Armatniów and surrounding areas: from Ołyka, Klewania, Cumania, to a variety of schools: vocational schools, business, Ukrainian, general lower secondary school and the Settlers’ lower secondary school where, apart from me, Edek Marchut from Armatniów also attended. We all looked very nice in our navy school uniforms and arm badges with the number of the school on them.
Life was happy. We would meet lots of interesting people on the train. My friend and I once spotted some actors seated in first class: Mieczysława Ćwiklińska [Ed. note: 1 January 1879 - 28 July 1972] - and Cybulski, [Ed. note: Mieczysław, 16 March 1903 - 13 August 1984] so we quickly made our way to them to get their autographs, which we obtained on their photographs. I completed the first year with good results and went on holiday with Ania to visit my grandparents in Lipinki. Ania was meant to go to Gorlice later on, to her mother. When the time came to return - earlier than planned due to increasing rumours of war - we decided that it would be better for her to stay with her mum. Just as well, because she avoided Siberia.
My father’s brother, Ludwik, took me to the station in Jasło. I felt anxious during the journey back, and was most overcome by fear in Lwów, where I was waiting for my connection to Łuck. I went into the street with a lady who was also going to Łuck. There was a group of young people talking about the war with excitement. School was completely out of the question, which was very difficult for me to accept.
War broke out, then the Bolsheviks invaded Armatniów, and then came the night of 10th February 1940, and the beginning of our ordeal.
Taking us to the station in Ołyka on a horse-drawn sleigh, my daddy looked back in the direction of our house with tears in his eyes. What was he thinking? What was he feeling after so many years of hard, honest work? Could he have been hoping to return some day to our own house, to his fields?
The sound of dogs barking and howling could be heard in the area along with Russian/Ukrainian commands and orders.
We were standing in Ołyka in cold and dirty freight wagons for several days because the NKVD was waiting for them to be filled. One day, when they opened the doors to the wagon, to our great surprise, we saw our dog, Dunaj, who had disappeared from our yard a few days earlier. It looked like he had come to say farewell!
After several weeks of travel, we reached Lednia in the Arkhangelsk region.
We went through the cold, hunger, heavy labour, and disease, until we finally witnessed the so-called “amnesty”.
The Polish Army was formed in southern Russia, so husbands and sons enlisted in the army. Daddy also joined the Polish Army. He was in the 2nd Corps, fought at Monte Cassino and in the entire Italian campaign. He met his brother-in-law, Stach Sztadhaus, who was also liberated from Russia.
After the war, my parents settled in Jackson, Michigan; in April of 1972, daddy passed away at the age of 75. After getting married, I settled down in Canada. My mum is 94 years old, she lives with me and is blessed with reasonably good health.
She would often tell her grandchildren and great-grandchildren about her youth, about Armatniów, and about the war, and she even wrote her memoirs, which began on 10th February 1940 and ended on her arrival in America.