- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Marushka (Maria) and Zygmunt Skarbek-Kruszewski.
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 July 2005
The following story appears courtesy of and with thanks to Marushka (Maria) and Zygmunt Skarbek-Kruszewski and George (Jurek) Zygmunt Skarbek.
New events occurred. Our London Government did not recognise the Warsaw Government and the Warsaw one did not acknowledge the London Government. Now, thanks to the thoughtful intervention of our allies, we had two presidents, two governments, two councils of state, two prime ministers and two marshals. But there was only one Poland, smaller and scaled down, shifted from East to West and uncertain of its own tomorrow.
This odd political concept simplified solving the conflicts of our countrymen in foreign countries. Each could now choose between two complete governments including two armies of which one had the white eagle with a crown and the other without a crown.
In this dualistic atmosphere the concept of Poland began to form and ripen between the emigrant Poles. Amid the ruins of Germany, groups started to develop, advocating the London Government. Very soon it started to take roots in Isny.
Two representatives from the London Government arrived during one of our general assemblies when choosing once again another chairman Mr. Goch was delivering a speech between catcalls from the slightly drunken audience. The cheering was enormous and went on and on. During the first short rest period from the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the new chairman, one of the visitors took the floor. He was a non-commissioned officer of the highest rank. He wore an armband on which POLAND was written. He started with a polite allusion that his countrymen were not playing nicely and continued that he would not speak about politics. He mentioned that we all had to get adjusted to the new way of life and that we should start to take roots in the foreign country. He spoke about being united as only in unity is strength. Who knows what might still happen? We should start organising cadet corps. He finished his talk with a fervent promise of material help.
On our way home I was stopped by the ex-chairman who went under three different names: Bialy, Rely, vel Bielinski. He told me that he had spoken privately with the men from the Polish mission, who had entrusted him with the work to build a battalion for the Polish Army as he was a retired captain of the Polish Army. "Mr. Kruszewski, I will do it,” he told me. "I am already fed up with all the civilian gangs. Today they have overthrown me as their chairman. I will show them what the army can do. I am not one for talking - I love action. Look at the Town Hall and the French banner. I am telling you, the Polish banner will fly there. When I'll organise my battalion the French will transfer the power to me. I've had those stupid civilians. I will tell the German police to take off their uniforms and I will build a Polish police force with our strong boys. I will change all the German street names, giving them names of our big men. You know, in 1919 my battalion took the town of Bujazno. I, as the commandant, immediately gave the order that… " the ex-chairman was already infected by the old slogan: "Where we are, there is our country."
In the afternoon I went to listen to radio news. Mrs. Mitynska was peeling potatoes and her 'old man' was cutting tobacco. I switched on the radio. Odd how the voices came over the air. London was speaking in German, Luxemburg in English, Warsaw in Russian. At last I heard a Polish speech. I stopped tuning. Moscow was transmitting from the Festive Academy of the Society of Polish Patriots. Just at that moment the chairman of the honorary presidium was giving the chair to Citizen Aniol (Angel, a member of the academy). It became his honour to read aloud the telegrams addressed to Citizen Stalin.
In a few moments the clear, emotional voice of Aniol was giving thanks to the Big Leader of the Nations for the recovery of a free, democratic and independent Poland. Feeling lifted in spirit because even angels intervene for Poland, I shifted to the London station. The sound of music was just fading and the voice of the announcer began. "This is again the Polish Radio Warsaw, Poznan, Lwow, Katowice, Wilno and Baranowicze on the waves of London. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We are starting now on our third radio news .... and now: finishing the programme, not in connection with political situation, just for remembering, just for sentimental reasons you will hear a Polish girl singing some old folk songs." A rich alto voice full of deep feeling, to the accompaniment of a guitar, began singing with sad emotion: "After many, many years you will find peace among flowers as if nothing has ever happened." "When we will be again together ..." and many more songs, all full of longing. Memories of previous old times started flowing. The lilacs in blossom, the walks in the large botanical gardens, the small cosy cafes in Warsaw, the gay crowds, the stuffy, nights in the basements of the well-known dancing hall, Adria.
It was like a swan song of Warsaw from before the war, coming on the air from London. When I switched off, still remembering, Mr. Mitynski asked as usual: "Mr. Kruszewski, what now? Will there be war again or not?"
"Today the angel himself was speaking to Stalin."
A few days later I left Isny, going with my theatre group to give performances in neighbouring Polish communities. I had organised an amateur revue called "Poland Pictured in Songs and Dances."
Our first performance was in the capital city of our country as there was located the Central Society of Poles which included other counties as well. This committee was working very poorly. When the war ended in Germany all the majors, captains and lieutenants started to increase in rank as they thought they deserved. Who was there to prove otherwise? On their epaulets new stars were added as in their opinion it was their due. They could not get adjusted to the co-operative civilian way of life. They started to fight between themselves. First they were fighting for influence, then for chairmanships, lastly either for London or for Lublin. The heated debates and arguments usually took place in the large local pub. Their large official working place, decorated with big printed words such as: 'Chairman', 'Vice Chairman', 'Vice - Chairman II', 'Editor', 'Secretary', was empty. After walking through the empty rooms, I at last found a member of the committee - Mr. Nowik. Mr. Nowik was called bitingly the boy from the cows as during the war he was working for a farmer. He was sitting at his desk, surrounded by files and letters.
"I have had it by now,” he greeted me, throwing some papers back on the desk.
"The major had quarrelled with the chairman and the chairman with the captain. Nobody is coming to the office. The French Governor had suspended our paper. I have to cope alone with this. I travelled to Baden-Baden where our Polish mission is located at present, asking them to intervene with the French. I could not find our mission for a long time. At last I found them. They had a lovely villa, probably 'inherited' from some influential German. I had to wait one and a half hours to be heard as they were all sleeping, according to their servants. At last, at eleven a lieutenant came still dressed in his pyjamas, yawning - probably sleepy from last might's party. He told me:
"I don't think we can do anything about your problems.
"Here I am back again. All is in a mess. The men from Lublin arrived in the meantime and ordered something to be stuck over the crown of the eagles. They also hung portraits of their men on walls. But that is not the end. Later on a few arrived from the London mission. They told us to immediately take down the portraits and to remove the sticking paper from the crowns. What should I do, I am asking you? It can drive one truly mad. Some are coming and saying hide the crown, the others - show the crown. To whom should I listen? And anyway what are they fighting about? I have really had it by now. I don't care. Let them paint me in any colour - white, red or even in dots or stripes ... I am now resigning from the committee." He finished, crumpling more papers between his hands.
In Biberach we were greeted enthusiastically. We had to repeat our performance twice, both times to a full house. The people were happy. Some were even crying with happiness on seeing after all these years Polish national dresses, old Polish folk dances and hearing their favourite songs. Flowers were thrown all over us. We were as touched by the people as they were by our performances. We were all invited to a sumptuous dinner for the opening of a new camp (for displaced people) to be called "Warsaw's Uprising". Biberach had many poles - over 1,200. It had three camps for the civilians and a military company consisting mainly of Polish prisoners of war. Their chief was Lieutenant Bojar-Tulipanski who was also the commandant of the camps. One could call it an autocratic government; Lieutenant Bojar could be called the Knight of Biberach. He had his army, his military police, his magazines of arms, his food stores. He even had a prison where he shut up all those who would not comply or who tried to take the power away from him.
We heard a rumour that not so long ago a unit from the nearby town made a raid on Bojar's country trying to rescue one of their mates whom Bojar had jailed. The raid was not successful. Bojar's armed forces repelled the raiders from Schussenried, taking a prisoner. Bojar, feeling lenient, just allowed the prisoner to be beaten up before being released. Bojar must have felt really lenient at that time as he had empowered himself to deal out death sentences. This document I saw with my own eyes on the announcement desk, signed with his own signature.
The power and strong position of Lieutenant Bojar-Tulipanski was not so hard to explain. The French had only a small garrison but they had a very large camp of German prisoners, the so-called 'criminals of war', who needed to be kept under a strong hand. The French authorised the Lieutenant to take charge of this camp, giving him a good position supported by arms. They needed him and he needed them.
It was quite different in Leutenkirchen. The Polish camp was much smaller. It fitted into two buildings of the local school. In each hall slept thirty people. They were fed in one mess organised by the French. The leader of the Poles was a farmer captain of the Polish army who, during the war, was a prisoner in the camp of Buchenwald. He was a well-built man with dark eyebrows and gentle eyes. He usually walked with a revolver. He kept good watch so that his people behaved themselves. He told me he would personally beat up those who behaved 'like pigs'. The captain was against all prisons - maybe because he had spent a long time in one. His punishment ended with hitting someone in the face. He explained - "With this mob you can't do anything else." He did not believe in any democratic rules such as electing a chairman. But he was not a persistent autocrat. His power was just finished when we came with our group. I was astonished to see how he had changed. Instead of the military uniform, he was dressed as a civilian, including a soft felt hat. Instead of the revolver, he carried in his hand an ivory-handled cane.
"I am finished with this mob, Mr Kruszewski" he greeted me. "All day long they either eat, sleep or simply spoil the air around them. Their behinds will get rooted to the beds, the useless mob. One day I called same of the boys to do some duty and some women to go and help in the kitchen. Nobody care to work. I stopped dinner that day. They came to me telling me I should make a list, a roster of duties. To hell with them. Now I have to start making lists as well when quite often I have not even time to sit down and have a proper meal. Enough talking. I threw everything to hell. Let U.N.R.R.A. Cope."
It was raining and the attendance for our show eras not good. We returned to Isny wet to the skin. We had finished our first 'artistic tour'.
Weeks passed. July was ending. Fields were mown for the second time.
The Russians, Ukrainers and White Russians left Isny. Yugoslavs were also returned home ... only we Poles were still here in this country with the cheeses full of holes. We tried to cheer ourselves up by saying at last Poland was nearer to us by at least a few hundred kilometres.
We were still surrounded by a nightmare of uncertainty. Some gloomy frightening rumours were always circulating. The news from our homeland was always interspersed with anti-Soviet propaganda.
We began to organise a list of people who definitely wanted to go back to Poland. The others were jeering "Ha-ha, are you in a hurry to go to Siberia?"
Again some people started to doubt, became frightened.
"Is it true, Mr. Kruszewski, that the Russek takes everything away when one comes to the Polish border?" Mrs. Mitynska asked. "People are saying that they leave you only two shirts, marked with their stamps. People are saying that if someone comes in the street without the stamped shirt he is immediately taken to camps behind barbed wires. What should we do?"
"Best go without a shirt."
"You are only joking!"
Mr. Goch had not given up hope. He was trying to be active. He was trying to become a chairman. On a nicely printed letterhead he started to ask for donations to build a school for Polish children. His name even appeared twice - once as a general donor, the second time as the leader and inspector of the future school. All the activities and his flowery language were meant to make you forget that once he was co-working with the Germans, that he once fitted nicely into the place given him by the Germans. After a lengthy speech justifying why he should be the future chairman of the Polish organisation, he was beaten up and helped by the French military police to return home.
He was the last of tine 'democratic' reigns in Allgau. U.N.R.R.A. took over and it became quiet in Isny.
Churchill, speaking as the opposition leader during the opening of Parliament, said the words which will be remembered by Poles for a long time: "There are only a few virtues which the Poles do not possess but there are also only a few errors which they have not committed."
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