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Marta's Memoir

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S: To Edward and Marek,With Love, Mother

FC: To Edward and Marek, With Love, Mother

1: Christmas 1988 To Edward and Marek, With Love, Mother Shortly before Christmas of 1987, Edward said that he would like nothing more than "the story of my life" as a Christmas present. I did not have enough time to do it then — I am going to do it now!

3: I was born on a very cold and snowy day — February 12, 1930. I came into this world 2 weeks earlier than expected. My parents — mother Zofia (Gruszecka) and father Jerzy Hausner lived at that time in a small town Lubartów, north of Lublin in the eastern part of Poland. In those days all births took place at home — so did mine. I was named Marta Liliana. Mother was 19 years old at the time, father 30. 4 1/2 years later my sister Renata was born in Janów Lubelski — another small town south of Lublin — my mother's hometown. She had a brother and a sister — the latter only 4 years older than I. My father's family — parents and two other children — older sister and younger brother — lived in Lwów. My father worked for the government and that is why we moved rather frequently. In the 9 years of my life in Poland we lived in 3 different towns!

4: Since my mother's parents died early in life, mother's sister Aldona, lived with us. We also had a lived in help — her name was Andzia. To complete the family we also had a cat and a dog. Andzia passed away January 1 of this year — she was 83 years old. I am glad Marek and I were able to see her during our trip to Poland in 1980. I did keep in touch with her ever since I was able to locate her in 1968. When the Second World War broke out we lived in Biata Podlaska — now very close to the Polish-Russian border — east of Warsaw. September 1, 1939 — Friday — was the day that the German bombs fell on our airport. September 1 is also the first day of school in Poland. Father, to spare us the chaos of war, took us to a not too distant village. We stayed on the farm — all 5 of us, while father returned to his job. Andzia insisted on being with us instead of going to her brother's home. She was single and very devoted to us.

5: We could still hear the sirens, the bombings, and the German planes — but not as clearly. Whenever he could, Father came to visit. He rode his bicycle and we looked forward to his visits. He usually brought some goodies when he could. As the war continued, my father was given orders to leave town with some important papers, which were to be destroyed in case the Germans would catch us. We were given a car with the Jewish driver and instructions what to do. Mother went back to Biala Podlaska to take some clothing for all of us — it was getting cold now. We could only take what would fit in a car. There had to be room for our family (5) Andzia and Mikus — our Daghshund. Thank goodness he was not a St. Bernard! We had to sit on top of our belongings. All I knew was that we were heading south. Chaos was everywhere — roads full of people, horse drawn carts full of children, many of them crying from cold and hunger, soldiers — some wounded, dragging their feet. We moved very slowly.

6: I do not know how many days and nights we spent in that car! Father burned those important papers in a bonfire. And announced that we were going to Lwów. A beautiful town in southeastern Poland — father's hometown. His mother and unmarried sister lived there. Of course we went there. They had a nice apartment on the second floor, the focal point of which was a grand piano. My aunt, Ryszarda, was a graduate of Lwów Conservatory. We were warmly welcomed — all six of us and a dog! We slept on the floor but we were happy! My uncle and his wife were also there —10 people in all!

7: By now the Russians arrived in Poland — they came as friends — so they said! They came to "free us from the Germans" — so went the story ... believe it or not! Our car was confiscated — everything on wheels was confiscated. Life was not easy now — we did not have much money and food was hard to get. We spent the winter of '39 and spring of '40 in Lwów.

8: One morning in June of 1940, around 5:30 AM, there was a knock on the door. When father opened the door two Russian soldiers told him we had to be ready in about 2 hours. My parents must have been in shock! Only later we understood how lucky we were to be given 2 hours to get ready — in most cases, the soldiers just stood there and took you away as soon as you were dressed. We were all taken to the railroad station — thousands of Polish families! "Displaced" persons, as we were called. We were loaded on cattle trains. For those who saw the movie "Dr. Zhivago," I do not have to describe our journey into Russia. Ours lasted 10 days. Many times the train would be pulled to the side to allow the scheduled runs to continue. | Jerzy

9: On the 10th day we arrived somewhere near Sverdlovsk and taken by trucks to a specially prepared camp in the Ural Mountains. We lived in long, wooden buildings divided into rooms - one per family — with cooking facilities, a wood burning stove for cooking and heat. Andzia – being single – roomed with other single women. We were given the basics: tables, chairs, beds, pots, etc. Provisions had to be purchased with ration books. That's why all grownups had to work — except mothers with young children. My mother did not have to work. All men and strong, single women worked at cutting down trees and loading them on trains. Very hard, exhausting work; especially in the winter. | Zofia

10: All children had to go to school. We were taught Russian, history, geography and mathematics. We had to learn poems denying the existence of God. We all learned how to cut down small trees for wood and chop them into logs. Our food supplies were not enough to feed us. We had to resort to some trading among local people. What mother managed to save, like scarves, jewelry, and nylon stockings was traded in for extra food and warm clothing for us children. Winters in the Ural Mountains are very harsh. We were cut off from the rest of the world — no newspapers, no radio. The total in excess of 1 million Polish people were deported to Russia. Half of them were women, children, elderly and sick. Thousands died and are buried somewhere — no markers, no tombstones. We survived the winter!

11: In June of 1941, Germans and Russians clashed, and in August of that year we were allowed to move freely about the Soviet Union. The Polish government in exile signed a treaty with the Soviets. It was time to make a move.

12: After several months of travel by train, bus, barge across Amudaria — we all arrived in the republic of Uzbekistan. At least we did not have to worry about cold! We met other Polish people in one small village, and decided to stay here. There were 17 of us. Our family had one room — Andzia joined other single women and lived nearby. We had to make a little money for food. The only possibility was picking cotton — that we all did. Hunger was our constant companion; the money we made did not last long and besides people were poor here. They did not have much to share with others. There were no doctors and no medicines. Out of 17 people that arrived here several months ago 7 left! Among those that died were my father and my aunt. They were buried somewhere. For those that stayed alive, life went on. Mother and Andzia learned somehow that Polish people deported the Russia were being organized to be allowed to leave. In order to get near the Polish units, set up especially for that purpose, we had to get near Bukhara. We had to fight our way through — as did thousands of other people. It took a long time to obtain the necessary papers.

13: It was August or September of 1942 when the four of us were on the train leaving for Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea. Our joy turned into sadness as Andzia was taken off the train. Her papers were handed over to a Jewish lady with a little girl. Jews were not allowed to leave Russia. We did not know what happened to Andzia until 1968. At that time we found out she was alive and residing in a village near Szczecin — the part of present-day Poland that was given to us in exchange for slicing our eastern border by the Russians. Renia and I were on the same train as mother, however, we were part of the group of orphans. We were cared for a little better than the rest of the civilians. Andzia worked as a cook at that orphanage, and I believed it was through her that we were accepted there. After arriving in Krasnovodsk, we were transported by barges across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi (Enzeli) in Iran. This was our very first camp outside Soviet Union. Another chapter in our lives was beginning!

14: The camp was divided into two sections — one for the "new arrivals" and the other for those that were already "cleaned". In order to hold down the spread of parasites all our clothing was burned and, if necessary, the heads were shaved. We were scrubbed clean and issued the new wardrobe. Size and lengths of our dresses were not of importance; some of the dresses reached the floor! We were free and happy. We had plenty to eat, and we were warm — sometimes too warm! We had clean places to sleep — long buildings with mattresses lining the floor. We felt good for the first time since leaving Poland. From here we went to other transitory camps: Tehran, Karachi (Pakistan) and Bombay (India). On October 18th, 1942, I received my First Holy Communion — I still have a holy card that was given to me on that day. We slept in tents, barracks, on cots or floors.

15: On the 10th day we arrived somewhere near Sverdlovsk and taken by trucks to a specially prepared camp in the Ural Mountains. We lived in long, wooden buildings divided into rooms - one per family — with cooking facilities, a wood burning stove for cooking and heat. Andzia – being single – roomed with other single women. We were given the basics: tables, chairs, beds, pots, etc. Provisions had to be purchased with ration books. That's why all grownups had to work — except mothers with young children. My mother did not have to work. All men and strong, single women worked at cutting down trees and loading them on trains. Very hard, exhausting work; especially in the winter.

16: The Dark Continent became our home for the next 6 years. The camp was very primitive at this point — more huts were being built. There were only a few families there when we arrived. I remember Mother crying as we walked between elephant grass — grass that was taller than any of us! The natives were busy constructing more huts. All made with bamboo and mud with straw roofs. Each hut was divided into three sections — middle for dining, left and right for sleeping. Beds were made of wood with ropes crisscrossed to support straw mattresses. Bedding and towels were given to us as well as mosquito nets, tropical helmets, and clothing. Long sleeves and slacks were a must after 5 PM — protection against mosquito bites. Not a very pretty picture — but to us it was charming. After all, how many white people have a chance to live in a bush country? More Polish people were arriving daily – mostly women and children. Men were fighting the war somewhere in Europe!

17: As time went on, the camp looked a lot different. There were more huts, a chapel on the top of the hill, school barracks, hospital, dental office and all kinds of workshops. Our lives became more organized. Each day we received our food supplies. We did our own cooking on the stove built outside. We also had YMCA that gave us a little entertainment like books, movies, and piano. Children went to school for grades 1-12. Adults work in different places according to their abilities. Qualifications were not that important. Renia and I attended school daily. The teachers were mostly Polish but we did have a few English-speaking ladies. We needed them for our English classes. Lack of textbooks made it difficult to study, but more challenging. We had to share and share a lot. We lived in the tropics now — the equator was just around the corner. Lake Victoria offered a stunning view, but we were not allowed to use it. It was full of bacteria that would destroy our blood system! Crocodiles and hippos were also dangerous as well as snakes of different varieties. Scouting kept us busy after school. We did take boat rides overlooking the dangers and we did sleep under the tents on our trips. Jungle all around us offered a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers and animals. Ants and termites — the kind that build huge mounds, were bountiful. Each night was disturbed by strange sounds coming from the jungle, or lake, or both. Even though the days were very hot, a blanket was needed at night.

18: Our local, small hospital was well staffed. We had doctors and nurses — all Polish. In case they needed second opinions — the patient would be taken to the hospital in Kampala. I spent a few days in our hospital — once for mumps, the second time for malaria. Of course, we had to boil our drinking water after we brought it in from the nearest pump. Mother worked as a nurse and she was also assisting our dentist. When the dentist left, she could do the fillings as well as extractions. The instruments she used to do all this were very simple. As more huts were built, we moved closer to the hospital and dental office. This time we had our own "home" — two rooms, small kitchen (this time inside), and the outhouse. We even had electricity and a nice flower garden. The furniture — orange crates covered with fabric! What elegance! Public showers were near the hospital, so we did not have to walk too far. School was also close from here. Throughout the year, we (school children) put on several shows — dancing, singing, recitation, etc. Oh yes, we did have a stage. It was built on the shore of the lake. I even took piano lessons! The population of Koja was around 3,000. There was another Polish camp in Uganda — Masindi. This one was a little larger. To this day I am amazed that we did not have any mortal snakebites. We had one tragedy — a 17-year-old boy was grabbed by a crocodile. His body was never found. Of course — he was swimming, which was forbidden. In 1942 the British government allowed Polish families in Uganda to join their relatives serving under British command. First the wives and children left, then the sisters, aunts and others.

19: We left our camp in October of 1948. My mother had a cousin in England. We took another ride on the same train we did six years before. Our joy was probably greater now — all the restrictions that we had to encounter for six years were being cancelled. We arrived in Nairobi had to wait, I think, 10 days before our turn came. We boarded a troop ship "Empire Ken". The greater part of it was occupied by British soldiers. The trip lasted 3 weeks. We slept on bunks — like soldiers. The food was lousy. We ate peas practically every day. Except for the Bay of Biscay, the sailing was smooth. Aboard "Empire Ken" we received the Good News — Prince Charles was born to Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip. We left the Dark Continent with a wealth of memories — some pleasant, some sad. Another chapter of our lives was ended. | Lake George, Uganda

20: After our stay in another camp, about 3 months, Mother moved to London, Renia and I went to girls' school — Stowell Park. The land was donated by some rich Englishman, and Quanta huts were used as dormitories and classrooms. I spent there 1 1/2 years. In 1950 I graduated from high school with 2 diplomas — 1 Polish and 1 English. The school was located in Gloucestershire, beautiful countryside with Cotswald hills around us. Time spent in Stowell Park was very happy even though we had to study a lot. After graduation, I moved to London and lived with mother and Renia, we lived mostly in one-room furnished apartments. On the occasions we could afford a flat — 2 rooms, kitchen and bath —moving was no problem. Just a suitcase or two; that was all we owned. I worked in an office doing a little bit of everything.

21: In 1952, I met your father. He was a guest at Renia's engagement. Wujek Kazik Winkowski was his friend from Grudziadz in Poland. They went to school together, served in the Polish army under British command, and studied at the Imperial College in London. He graduated with B.S. Spec. Chemistry degree, and his dream was to come to the U.S.A. We were married February 13th, 1954 in the Polish church on Devonia Road in London. Ciocia Renia and Wujek Kazik married June 13th, 1953 and Babcia and Tadek (Tadeusz Kraczkiewicz) on November 13th, 1954.

22: Since Tatus worked outside Liverpool, we moved there and rented an apartment, if you can call it that, from Mr. and Mrs. Bal. Doreeen was English and Franek was Polish. One room was on the ground floor with a bedroom on the second floor. Winters are not that cold in England, but many times the water would freeze over in our bedroom. The gas fireplace - maybe it was electric - would melt if the money was fed into the meter. | In 1955 we moved back to London. We both worked and waited to be allowed to come to the U.S.A. Finally our turn came on January 1, 1956. We left London for Southampton where we boarded S.S. America for a 7-day trip to New York.

23: February 6th the Statue of Liberty greeted us in the harbor. Tatus' dream came true! We left behind our families — mine in London, Tatus' in Poland. A wealth of memories, some happy, some sad, are our link to the past. We chose to live in America and we are happy about it. We worked hard to accomplish what we did. And we did it our way! After 3 weeks stay in New York, we moved to East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania, where Tatus worked for Ronson Corporation. We rented an apartment on Washington Street and bought our very first used car — a two-tone 1955 Chevy station wagon! | 201 Washington St. & the Chevy

24: I also found employment in the office of Penn Stroud Hotel in Stroudsburg. When I became pregnant (with Edward), we found a nice, furnished house —116 Ransberry Avenue, E. Stroudsburg. We moved there and enjoyed our neighborhood. But before Edward was born, Babcia from London came for a 3-month visit. On July 6th, 1957 Edward was born in our local hospital (Monroe County). A beautiful baby — blond and blue-eyed. How delighted we all were. In October, Babcia went back. She liked the country so much that she encouraged Ciocia, Wujek, and Tadek to make arrangements to immigrate, too. Ciocia and Wujek arrived in the USA in 1958; Babcia and Tadek in 1959. Babcia from Poland also came for a visit twice. On June 21, 1960, another blond, blue-eyed boy was born. We named him Marek. Same hospital, same doctor. In 1961 Tatus accepted a position with Western Electric — now AT&T (Lucent). And we moved to Allentown. We rented a home from March to October 24th on North St. Elms Street. On that day we moved to where we are now —1994 Collingswood Drive, Bethlehem. The rest is familiar to both of you. | 116 Ransberry Ave.

25: If there is something I missed, we can fill in the gaps later. All this was written from memory, so please do not hold me to the exact historical facts! As you look back, I am sure you will have a lot to reminisce about — friends, schools, trips we took, people we met. Someday your own children might be curious about your past, just as you are curious about mine now. P.S. — This was going to be typed, but the typewriter did not want to work — old age most likely! | 116 Ransberry Ave. | Zofia, Renia, & Marta in America, 1959 | Collingswood Drive

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Laura
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  • Title: Marta's Memoir
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