Are the children
Now we can talk.
I can stay with you
for three days.
I have an engagement with a shoe factory.
I am interested in their production of clogs.
I was in London and
visited Lila and her English husband.
She remembers Tina from Poland very well, even though it was many years ago.
When did you come to
Just a year ago? Did comrade Gierek finally inspire you?
Come on! It took you a long time to bundle out of that paradise.
I left in the
mid-1950s, and Renia, your Tina's aunt, left in 1958.
Tolek, Tina's uncle, left in the early 1960s.
Did you already know
After all, Rysiek, your father-in-law, moved to Szczecin because Tolek was already there. Although, very soon afterward, Tolek left for Israel!
You know, I never had
any illusions about that system there.
Renia with her husband and Tolek with Roza woke up after 1956.
Only Rysiek remained a Polish patriot to the end of his life.
No. No, not because of marriage to a Polish woman.
Others have done so, too. Love does not discriminate.
And what did all this
patriotism give to Rysiek?
WW2 front line battles' from Lenino to Berlin.
The Grunwald Cross of military merit. Order of Polonia Restituta.
A colonel rank from 1947. Division commander.
At the headquarters of the Pomeranian District until his heart attack.
But a grave along the Walk of Honor of the Polish People's Republic was not for him!
I knew them all
before the war because their mother was our relative, and she brought me under
her motherly wing when I came to Warsaw.
I was always full of an entrepreneurial spirit.
If something had to be arranged, she used to say, "Kuba will take care of it".
How did we survive
I know that Renia and Heniek, her husband, survived on fake Aryan papers.
When the Germans invaded Poland, the government recommended evacuation to the east. Rysiek, Tolek, and Heniek did that and ended up in a town near Łuck. Renia joined them, and there she married Heniek.
Renia and Heniek had almost completed their dentistry studies and got a job as dentists in this town...
Ok, yes - under Soviet occupation.
German-Russian war began, Rysiek and Tolek fled with the Russians, and Renia
and Heniek stayed.
Germans immediately locked up all Jews from that town in the ghetto.
The head of the clinic where they were employed saved Renia and Heniek.
Since Renia was
blonde and did not look Jewish, she managed to get false papers in the name of
For safety reasons, she and Heniek moved to another town, where she worked as a waitress.
Henry was a pianist in a cafe for German officers. He did not feel safe there.
He used his accordion skills and joined a group of musicians with whom he traveled as far as Kyiv. There he found a job, and Renia joined him.
They survived there until the end of the war.
They did not return to Warsaw after the war because there was nothing to come back to.
They ended up in Bytom, where plenty of apartments stood empty, abandoned by the fleeing Germans. I found them there after the war.
Rysiek and Tolek survived in Russia. Rysiek remained in the army.
Tolek quit right after he returned from a military mission to Vietnam and had a dental office in Szczecin until his departure.
I also escaped to Russia. I found myself in the military, too.
But first, I did business.
Oh yes! Even in this war-torn country, some business could be done!
My last feat was the transport of the wagon of butter from Georgia, and they caught me there.
Are you surprised I
got out alive? It was on the brink.
During the interrogations, I managed to bribe this NKVD man!
It cost me everything I had, but I got away with my life.
And they took me into the army right away.
And I got a quartermaster job.
It continued the same
I was good at organizing everything. I could deliver what you wanted.
The quartermaster in the army was not only about the supply of food, shoes, uniforms, boots, weapons, and ammunition.
There were also living quarters, houses, flats, post-German porcelain table sets, furs, paintings, and supplies to the shops "behind yellow curtains".
Yes. Those were exclusively for the party and the state apparatchiks.
When Rick was the
division commander, he had a Russian adviser, General Czeremuch. I also
arranged supplies for this Czeremuch, and he sent everything to his family in
Soyuz. Czeremuch was influential, and this is why I could stay in the
quartermaster job for that long time.
Czeremuch, despite his peasant appearance, was well versed in politics.
He probably liked me because he could be painfully honest with me.
With Rysiek, he was friendly, but only as a general to a colonel if you understand what I mean.
With me, he could
talk about things that were sometimes dangerous.
He told me why the wagons with grain delivery supposedly from the Soviet Union had the Hungarian consignment notes.
According to him, it was the only time the Polish communists convinced the Russians that without preventing the outbreak of famine, it would be impossible to impose the Soviet system. That is why some of the Hungarian grain was redirected to Poland.
He also explained why
communists of Jewish origin were preferred by the Soviets. He told me: " Yakov
Davidovich! There are two kinds of Poles: gentlemen and boors.
Gentlemen -the intelligentsia - do not like the people's republic, and the boors do not know how to build the people's republic.
There are too few Polish communists, and almost all of them are boors.
Only the Jewish communists are more educated, and most of them are idealistic idiots".
He also talked about
those former Polish socialists who made a coalition with communists. They were
too nationalistic and therefore not considered to be trustworthy.
He laughed that all those Jews who believed in building a just, communist Poland would eventually get a kick in the ass.
It was all about preparing a generation of people capable of maintaining the Soviet system of power. Hence the tongue-in-cheek slogan: "It's not the senior matriculation, but a sincere intention that will make you an officer!"
Russians were well
aware that those Poles, who enrolled in mass in the communist party, were not
idealists but just opportunists wanting to make an easy career.
This group, together with the old Polish communists, would begin to squeeze their Jewish comrades out of positions.
Jewish communists were the worst.
I knew one of them. His whole family was murdered. A large part by the Germans and the rest by the NSZ (right-wing organization) partisans.
He was a recluse. No female acquaintances. He was a UB (secret police) investigator. They called him "The Black Death".
He was a Polish
patriot. But he did not convert his Jewish surname into a Polish one.
He maintained that in Poland, he was fighting for, the surname or ethnic origin would not make any difference.
No. He did not torture anyone. He had Polish lads for that - always eager to prove their ability.
He told me about one
Before the war, the man was a well-known pro-Poland activist in Silesia.
Well off, own house, university education.
During the occupation, he worked in the German administration, and no German picked on him for his pre-war activities. Very suspicious.
After the war, he became the president of a manufacturing cooperative.
Then a denunciation came.
Denunciations at that
time were plentiful.
Some settled scores with those on whom they informed.
Others reported to please the new authorities.
Others pursued their careers by that method.
This was well known in the UB, but it made work much easier, and the statistics about the number of cases were impressive.
When he interrogated
this president for the first time, the man looked at him with disgust. As if a
conversation with the UB investigator was below his dignity.
That irritated the investigator. Perhaps this president had a higher education, but the investigator managed to get senior matriculation before the war!
If this pesky president didn't turned-up his nose, they would talk like one intelligent person to another, and the case would be dismissed.
But this individual strained his words as if being in the same place with the investigator was a physical torment for him!
After two such hearings, the investigator had enough and went after those who had reported on the president.
He didn't even need to pass them to the lads.
The accusers' charges were so heavy that the matter gained enough importance to be reported higher in the system. And over there, it was decided to make out of it a show trial.
It was also ordered to add to the embezzlement charge the accusation of hostile activity against the state.
The president turned
out to be a hard nut to crack.
Fortunately, the lads squeezed out from the informers that the president personally ordered delays of the supplies to the state.
Since the accumulated state losses could be estimated to be over 100,000 zlotys, which could be qualified as a hostile activity against the Polish state.
The president, despite the lads' "treatment," did not want to admit anything. But the files of the testimonies were transferred to the prosecutor's office. And there they found a paragraph, according to which the president was sentenced to death!
The investigator had
nothing to do with the sentence. He "only" handed over the case
That's how it was done in those times...
I also met another
one. The prison camp commandant.
This one was a bit special. He survived hidden by a Pole.
Germans had murdered his entire family.
All he had left was his great hatred toward Germans.
And in his camp were the prisoners accused of collaboration with Nazi Germany!
Some Germans, Volksdeutsche, and others.
Why were they put in
It was enough to work for the German administration or to be accused of harboring pro-German sympathies. And for the Volksdeutsche, even this was not necessary.
For the commandant, all of them were a German plague, and he treated them as such.
He did not refrain from physically punishing the prisoners and gave his subordinates a free hand in that regard, too.
Sometimes, he even encouraged a severe punishment for a trifle.
The fact that he had
only one medical assistant and an enormous number of prisoners did not bother
When an epidemic of diarrhea broke out in the camp, he even had, in the beginning, a satisfaction that finally something awful met those Krauts.
It turned out to be
dysentery and typhus, and people started to die.
He received no reply to his letter requesting a doctor and a supply of additional sanitary installations, but he did not care.
It wasn't until the death toll passed 100 people that something started to stir the authorities. But the epidemic could no longer be stopped.
At first, he was worried about the consequences to himself.
But the prison authorities seemed to remember that they did not respond to his first letter. The case was covered up, and he got a promotion!
Did these two do all
this as Jews?
No! They were doing it for the new Poland's sake.
And for the Polish people who did not yet realize that, under those conditions, there was no alternative.
There is no doubt that they felt Jewish as well.
The commandant was an ignorant fool, and because of that, he was appropriate for the job.
The investigator claimed that all those arrested, even those who did nothing wrong, did not support the new "People's Poland", and were the enemies of the state by definition.
Whoever is not with us is against us. The Bolshevik's motto was: "it is better to punish ten innocent people than to risk one enemy to escape and harm the cause".
What are you saying?
The Silesians? In Silesia, just after the war, were a few million Germans and many others who felt German.
The forced displacement of these 3 million indigenous people did not end until 1947.
When the possibility of leaving as part of family reunification was opened, it turned out that many Silesians had families in Germany.
I talked with one
employed in the Interior Ministry before he left for Israel.
He claimed the custom restrictions for those leaving Poland were not directed against Jews.
Neither at the end of the 1950s nor after that infamous March 68.
About 50,000 Jews left Poland in the years 56-59.
At the same time, over 250,000 people left Silesia.
Until 1970, over 500,000 applications for departure to Germany were submitted, and these were only those having families in Germany!
After the death of
Stalin and Bierut, what Czeremuch predicted began to prove true.
It didn't go that fast at the top of the communist party, but at lower stages, the Jewish party members were kicked out in flocks.
A part of them deserved it a long time ago because many were simply careerists.
I had a suit made by a tailor who joined the party and was a manager of a small factory until 56. Then his workers drove him out of the office on a wheelbarrow.
The worst was that
verbal anti-Semitism got loud.
Not officially. Just among ordinary people.
The old pre-war anti-Semitism was given additional nourishment - the Jewish communists in UB and authorities.
Yes! These few hundreds of communists of Jewish origin at the top of the party, government, army, security police, prosecutor's office, and courts exempted Poles from responsibility for the bashing of their own nation for years.
At last, the Jews were good for something!.. And again...
That is why Renia and
Heniek decided to leave for Israel.
Cheremuch was sent to Soyuz in 1954.
I already saw the signs and didn't wait for someone to kick me out.
I left myself before they took that Gomułka out from the granary.
My wife, who had the only surviving relatives in Israel, was bugging me about it all the time anyway.
And so we went. Tolek and his family did the same.
It was tough in
Israel at the beginning.
But this is our country where no one will tell you that you are a stranger.
Renia and Heniek, with their professions, had no problems getting a job, and I, with my business acumen, started to do business again.
What does Poland need me for? What do I need Poland for?
The Germans made sure that I had nothing to come back to.
I have my own country, and that's enough for me.