Some members may have already seen my article which recently appeared
in one of the quarterly bulletins issued by the "Ognisko Rodzin
Osadnikow Kresy" based here in the UK.
Following some considerable interest, a Polish language version of it
was also run by the Polish Daily newspaper on Wednesday of last week.
Here is the original draft of the English version, which I hope will
be of some interest....
"Jezeli ja o nich zapomnem, to niech Bóg o mnie tez zapomnie"
("If I forget about them, then let God forget about me as
- Old Polish saying
For my family and all fellow Krechowiaks, past and present
Present day Western Ukraine, Wednesday May 5th 2004: we are crossing
the River Horyn at Aleksandria, on our way to nearby Lubomirka
the place where my family were loaded onto the cattle trucks destined
to take them deep inside Soviet Russia. With some difficulty (there
are no sign posts for Lubomirka), we are directed by locals down a
narrow and rough track, either side of us tall firs stand guard as we
make our way towards the railway tracks. A new looking station
building greets us, there is no doubt: we are at Lubomirka; the sign
in Cyrillic confirms this.
Here, on 10th February 1940, in bitter sub zero temperatures, my
family were brought on horse drawn sledges to be loaded onto the
waiting cattle trucks destination Siberia. I fall silent and
close my eyes for a short few moments, trying to imagine the scenes
here 64 years ago, to remember and never to forget. Minutes later we
are on our way, I have some unfinished business to attend to a few
short kilometres away.
Tuczyn looks neglected and run down, my father has told me to find
the Catholic Church that was located on a hillside. We find it
without any difficulty, it is still there long abandoned but
still standing, almost as a defiant witness to the past. We drive the
short distance to Szubkow, birthplace of my Grandmother and speak to
85 year old Ola Swietliczka, who now lives in the former schoolhouse.
Much of Szubkow had been rebuilt but Pani Swietliczka's memory is
excellent, she correctly names my Great Grandparents and other
Chmielewski family members she is also able to point out to us
where their cottages originally stood.
A short drive away we sadly discover that nothing remains of the
former chapel that once stood at the junction of Horyngrod and Osada
Hallerowo, the place where my father and his siblings were baptised.
In the rough grass stands a cross decorated with flowers we ask
a local, who is tending his cows in a nearby field, what happened
here. We learn that the chapel was razed to the ground by the Soviets
and that many of the former gravestones still lie beneath the
surface. I remember thinking: this will upset my father, I am not
wrong. We turn the car round and head back towards Szubkow, turning
left towards Osada Krechowiecka, where I hope to find some trace, any
trace, of my Grandfathers farm.
We travel through a new Ukrainian village called Duby, established
since the end of World War II. It soon peters out into open
countryside and before long we find the house of the Maczka family,
standing exactly as it did 64 years ago it appears unoccupied,
although the nearby land seems to be still tended. Slowly we drive
further into the former Osada crossing the bridge that my father has
told me to look out for. My Grandfather's farm was not far from
here and so we carefully pace out the required distance to where my
father said we should look.
Again we are still in open countryside: to our left, and some way
down a narrow driveway, stands a cottage. Nervously we ask the
occupiers how long they have lived here, 1946 is the reply. They tell
us that they demolished the former cottage that once stood here only
in 1978. With me I have a plan of my Grandfathers farm on which is
marked a cellar. I notice a small outbuilding to my right and we ask
what it is it is a cellar,it appears to be in exactly the same
spot as my plan. We ask if it is the original building: they tell us
that it was here in 1946. Excitedly I ask other questions what
was the original cottage like, where exactly did it stand? The
answers I receive leave me in no doubt
I am home.
Tired and somewhat emotional we drive further into the former Osada
and enter Nowe Ukrainska, another new Ukrainian village established
since the end of World War II. In contrast to the open countryside we
have just left, the cottages here are closely grouped together;
nearby we spot the dilapidated outbuildings of a former communal
farm. I am in the area where the former school buildings once stood,
there is no trace of it here the Osada is unrecognisable from
the way my father would remember it. Did Poland and Poles once exist
here? I am testimony to the fact that they once did but now
sadly "only the sounds of horses hooves remains after them."
This article is taken from the extensive travel notes compiled by
Michael Kulik during his visit to the Ukraine in May 2004. For
further information on how this journey was planned and devised, the
reader is encouraged to contact its author at the following email
address: Iteekulik@ aol.com
All accommodation and travel requirements whilst in the Ukraine were
arranged through Vladyslav Tsarynnyk at www.lvivecotour.com