I am guilty of glancing through e-mails but yours sent on Monday 31 December
2001 another year!) caught my attention. Indeed I am sending my response cc
to the rest the polish-genius group as well as the Kresy-Siberia group to
which I also subscribe.
Unfortunately, I can oon;y offer a variation on your theme and would go even
as far as to say that much as one wants the living to continue living,
sometimes their stories are more inaccessible than those of the dead. Thus
I have for many years persisted - I like to think sensitively - trying to
find out more about my father's travails after being deported from Poland to
Kazakhstan in early 1940 with the rest of his family. His father was
murdered by the Soviets at Katyn; his mother (my babcia) survived until
'release' in 1946 and return to a then Communist Poland, in a labour camp
telling the local peasants' fortunes by reading their palms in return for
whatever scrap of food they could offer. Her mother died of starvation
there. My father, then 18, his elder sister (then in her early 20s), and
his younger brother enlisted in the Polish forces (the Anders army) being
organised under British command, and left the Soviet Union via Iran and Iraq
in 1941. During his period of 'free re-settlement' in the Soviet Union my
father escaped from the labour camp with a Polish chap of the same age and
journeyed back towards Poland before being caught ,and this, as he would
say, is a tale to tell.
However, the tale does not get told. The more I probe, the greater the
promise of the story, the less likely it seems that I shall ever know.
Towards the end of 2001 I applied more and more pressure on my father (now
80) and asked him to talk to his sister so that I might record their
experiences (they live in the London area while I live in Perth, Western
Australia which makes things difficult). I had a brainwave, a dear friend
of mine who my father had known for many many years would record the story,
helping my father by typing his responses to my questions in the form of an
e-mail (he uses e-mail but is slow at typing) or by tape recorder. Without
further ado, I put this suggestion in an e-mail to my father and thought no
more of it. A couple of days later I got an e-mail from my father which
proved incredibly deflating. No he did not think my suggestion was good for
he would not wish to describe the hideousness of his experiences to anybody
outside the family and, what's more, his sister (my aunt) said that she now
no longer wished to help because her initial willingness and enthusiasm for
my enthusiam had given way to nightmares.
I, none too nobly, was initially miffed. It was like not being allowed to
know the family secrets. Gradually, with the benefit of reflection which
nonetheless does little to diminish the sense of frustration, I am coming
around to the realisation that few who went through their experiences want
to dis-inter them. When they were demobbed in England in 1946/47, they got
on with building new lives. They assimilated easily, with some such as my
aunt always dedicated to matters relating to the Polish community while
others like my father became immersed in work in a largely Anglo-Saxon
business environment. With Polish people they had to indicate only that
they had been deported for their loathing of the Soviets to be understood.
On the other hand, many English neighbours would never have thought to
enquire as to what had happened to them or how they came to be in England
(some English men of similar age to my father knew the history having had
Poles as comrades or witnessed the exodus of the Poles out of the Soviet
Union). Indeed to many, Poles were much like any other wave of immigrants;
there for 'the work'.
I wish I could think of a way of unlocking the chest but I am coming to
realise that that may never be. Thus, recently when I read of somebody
investigating their father's or mother's family history through military
records because the seed of the idea of doing so had not been sown when they
were alive, it occurred to me that perhaps they will find out more than
otherwise would have been the case.
I wish you luck and wish I could offer a way of tackling the challenge with
which you have been presented. Should any other reader of this have advice
on an approach then please feel free to offer it.
1. Help and Assistance....
From: "Tanya M. Niedzwiecki"
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 08:27:41 -0800 (PST)
From: "Tanya M. Niedzwiecki" <Tanya_78_2000@...
Subject: Help and Assistance....
I was wondering if anyone has run into this situation:
I was talking to my family about the family history
and asking the usual questions, "Where were you born,
what church did you attend as a child etc" My uncle
got angry and said that I was prying too much
information and had no right to be asking such things.
Seriously I wasn't asking anything too personal. I
told him that I wasn't going to post all that
information on the Internet or anything and that he
didn't have anything to worry about. I even gave him
my website to look at, but he didn't care. Now he has
gone to my grandmother and told her not to tell me
anything about the family. She is my only resource
since she grew up in Europe and only connection to her
side of the family tree.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can