- Dear Group: Happy New Year! I have attached, and also cut and pasted below, an article I wrote which was published in the ezine GenDobry yesterday. HopefullyMessage 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2005View Source
Happy New Year! I have attached, and also cut and pasted below, an article I wrote which was published in the ezine GenDobry yesterday. Hopefully the Polish accents will carry through and not be garbled. If so, they will be included on the attachment.
I would like to thank group members Zbyszek Styrna, Paul Havers, Michael Kulik, Barbara Kwietniowski, Krys Howard, and Edward, who helped me with different aspects of the article--from politics to maps to math! I hope I haven't left anyone out. If I have, sorry and thank you. And Stefan, how well I remember the day when we realized the basis of this article! Cheers to all!
I hope we all have a New Year filled with happiness, good health, prosperity, and PEACE.
Eve Jesionka Jankowicz
© 2004 by Eve Jesionka Jankowicz
THE PUSH AFTER WORLD WAR I TO THE KRESY
by Eve Jesionka Jankowicz
“All nations and all countries have borderlands. Ill-starred and precarious is the lot of the towns and villages of any such borderland. When the winds howl, their buildings’ foundations are the first to be shaken; when the storm clouds gather, their cornfields the first to be lashed; when the thunderclaps roll, their towers and houses the first to be buffeted. Even while back there, at the core of a nation’s culture, the sun may continue to smile on the people, here black night may still hold sway. And when the time comes when fate requires that winter shroud the entire state with snow—it’s here—in the borderlands—that frost and ice prove the most severe; right here where people catch their breath, where the life-blood freezes in their veins.”
“Ill-starred indeed are the borderlands. And yet it is also here where rests the truest contentment. A contentment emanating from that certainty gained through long-suffering and sacrifice and not engendered by a boastfulness of having wrestled with fate and won. It is a tender, comfortable contentment, almost childlike in its naïveté, which wells up from sublime depths of the native culture itself.”
– Marszałek Józef Piłsudski, 11 October 1919.1
The Kresy, or Eastern borderlands, appearing on the map of pre-World War II Poland, have always been regarded in an almost mythical manner by its diverse population and those familiar with its turbulent history throughout the ages. This is the land Sienkiewicz wrote of in the first and third of his Nobel prize-winning historical novels known as “The Trilogy,” Ogniem i mieczem [With Fire and Sword] and Pan Wołodyjowski [in English translation renamed Fire in the Steppe]. Although ethnic Poles had lived here for centuries, on the whole they were always in the minority in this land, for it was loved with just as much fervor by Ukrainians in the southern and central areas. It was also their shared homeland, represented in literature by Gogol’s extremely popular Taras Bulba.
Poland’s Eastern frontier can be compared to the “Wild West” of the 19th-century United States, with one major difference—the wildness of Kresy land began much earlier and lasted for a much longer time period in history. As all those with roots in Poland know, its history is very complicated. For those whose ancestors hailed from the Kresy area, history is an even more complicated affair.
Like Poland itself, the Kresy borders and its provinces have always been fluid and have drastically changed throughout time. Throughout this article I use Polish spellings of geographical place names, since all fell within Poland’s borders prior to World War II. I am defining the Kresy borderlands as the Polish województwa (provinces) of Wilno, Nowogródek, Polesie, Wołyń, and Tarnopol, since these are the provinces that shared their Eastern borders with Russia. Now these provinces lie within territory of the countries of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Because I am most familiar with the southern Kresy województwa of Tarnopol and Stanisławów since branches of my family lived there, and because, for unknown reasons, so little has been documented about the interwar colonies in the southeastern provinces, I will be concentrating on this area. These województwa were the Eastern portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Crownland known as Galicia—now western Ukraine. I was told by a native-born Ukrainian professor that this area of her country, the former southeastern interwar Poland where my family lived, is the most beautiful in today’s Ukraine.
Let me state that there is no more complicated time period in Poland’s Kresy history to write about than the years immediately following the first World War. This article cannot possibly be all-encompassing and comprehensive, or I would be writing a book. Researchers wanting to learn more about this fascinating area and time period in Poland’s history will have to delve further.
Kresy land has always been a fiercely disputed battleground from time immemorial, where the blood of its many diverse people has been spilled. During more modern times, some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of both World Wars were fought on the borderlands and were rarely if ever reported in the West, just as the suffering of its people throughout time was also largely unreported and remains unknown to most of the world to this day. In fact, Kresy land was part of the infamous “Eastern Front” of both World Wars.
Why was this land fought over to the death for so many centuries? Primarily this was due to Kresy’s geographical location, which could be more unfortunate even than “mainland” Poland’s, if that is possible. It was, after all, a border, and a very long Eastern border at that. A person—or army—could not get to Russia, Poland, or Europe without first crossing Kresy land. Many initial battles were fought on the borderlands rather than in either Russia or Poland because the first line of defense is always at a country’s borders. In fact Kresy has long been a buffer zone between Poland and Russia.
This land was home to many diverse, freedom-loving ethnic groups, primarily Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Cossacks, Tatars, and others throughout the centuries. At various times throughout history, all these groups claimed Kresy, or parts of it, as theirs and theirs alone. It is for precisely this reason that fighting and wars erupted from time to time.
On the other hand, perhaps Kresy was one of the first true melting pots of the world. Considering that it was such an ethnically diverse land, it is surprising that more fighting did not occur. This could be due in part to the natural ethnic mixing by intermarriage that occurred throughout the ages.
Kresy’s southern provinces contain what is said to be the most fertile soil on earth. Legend has it that Hitler so prized this soil that he had many tons of it transported to Germany during World War II.
During World War I, many had fought long and hard for the three partitioning powers on Kresy soil, and my grandfather, Maksymilian Jesionka (b. 1889, Cerekiew, Bochnia, Kraków) was among them. He was a sergeant in one of Austria’s cavalry regiments, Ulanenregiment Ritter von Brudermann No. 1. Somehow during the war my grandparents met and became engaged to be married. My grandmother, Karolina Harasymowicz (b. 1891, Usznia, Złoczów, Tarnopol) was Kresy-born and bred. She was a woman ahead of her time, a sole proprietor of a shop in the Złoczów, Tarnopol area. Even though my father mentioned this many times throughout the years, it is only now after studying Polish history that I realize just how strong and ahead of her time my babcia was.
Approximately 400,000 soon-to-be Polish citizens died fighting for Poland’s three partitioning powers in World War I.2 On 11 November 1918, the war officially ended. Ever since, this date is celebrated as Independence Day in Poland. How happy Poland must have been to be free and whole again after suffering more than 125 years of partitions! Peace, however, was extremely short-lived for much of the Eastern borderlands and a little later, Poland itself.
Kresy still had pockets of heavy fighting where Ukrainian nationalists fought to secure an independent Ukraine. Other factions entered the fray with their own nationalistic hopes. It was in this climate of euphoric Polish freedom, still uncertain in Kresy, that my grandparents married on 23 November 1918 in the Roman Catholic Church in Biały Kamień, Złoczów, Tarnopol. (Matthew Bielawa has a photo of the church on his site at http://www.halgal.com/photobk.html)
So Poland’s newfound peace was not to last for long. Freedom was threatened by Bolshevik Russia, whose Red Army advanced on the heels of the defeated, barely gone German forces. Almost at once, the reborn country was forced to defend herself again, and feelings of patriotism reached a feverish pitch as Poland braced itself for yet another war.
The first order of business had to be the formation of a large national army, even though Poland had many other pressing and immediate problems. From all over reborn Poland they came. Over 6,000 mostly young, primarily single men answered Józef Piłsudski’s call to service and joined his famous Legions at once in November 1918. Their numbers swelled to 900,000 by July 1920.3 Some of them were already veterans of World War I. Some had already immigrated to the United States or Canada and had enlisted there to fight for Poland in Haller’s Army. The majority, however, were very young, in their teen years or early twenties, and not yet tried in warfare. My grandfather’s fighting days were over due to a shrapnel wound sustained in battle. Unbeknownst to him at the time, 24 years in the future he would again try to serve his country.
“To be or not to be: That is the question.”
The Polish-Russian War, sometimes known as the Polish-Bolshevik War or Russo-Polish War, is another largely unknown but important chapter in world history. It was the last cavalry-fought war in the world, a highly mobile war fought over many fronts and covering great territorial distances. Poland had armored trains in this war, which I picture as exact replicas of Strelnikov’s train in the film Dr. Zhivago—except in the Polish version, the Eagle was proudly unfurled.4
Józef Piłsudski was a genius. He had a vision for a strong and independent Poland far into the future, a Poland which would never avert its eyes from its powerful neighbors, Russia and Germany. He realized that there was greater strength in numbers. To him, Poland and its neighbors’ only hope would be the unification of the many ethnic groups inhabiting the borderlands. To this end he sought to form a Polish federation, an alliance, where each nationality would be free and equally share a voice in government. This came to be known as the “Jagiellonian Idea” which would roughly encompass Poland’s borders during the time of Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1920 Poland formally recognized independent Ukraine, and a military alliance was signed with Symon Petliura. Ukrainians and Poles, together in this war, mutually fought against Red Russia.5
Interspersed with planning, training, and warfare, Poland’s diplomats, led by Marshal Piłsudski, still sought the precise frontier boundaries of their reborn country through the Entente powers of World War I. The Bolsheviks ignored their findings. One is simply astounded by the many different delineations, fronts, and borders shown on the map of Kresy for the five years immediately following World War I.6
Living in this ever-changing map in Usznia, Złoczów, Tarnopol, were the newlyweds, my grandparents, Maksymilian and Karolina Jesionka.
All of Europe watched the Polish-Russian War with great apprehension because if, as Lenin said, “bourgeois Poland” should fall, chances are it would only be a matter of time before the Bolshevik revolution reached their own borders.7 Let us not forget that besides Poland, much of the rest of Europe was also in various stages of disarray at this time. The continent had just been through a major world war and its subsequent destruction. Besides this, starvation, malnutrition, and disease held sway in the war torn countries, including Poland. The entire world was under the death throes of a flu epidemic in which approximately 20 million people perished.
For the sake of brevity (since the stories of this war could fill many a book), in August 1920 Polish forces soundly trounced the Russians near Warsaw in the battle known as the “Miracle on the Vistula” (Vistula is the Anglicized name of the river Poles call Wisła). This was to be the last cavalry battle of modern times, with a total of 40,000 mounted horsemen fighting.8 Poland drove its victory home with another decisive win in September. The Polish-Russian War officially ended on 18 March 1921 with the Treaty of Riga.
“This land, exhausted by the sowing of bloody wars, awaits the planting of peace; awaits those who will exchange the sword for the plowshare, and I should count it an honor if, in the future, you would achieve as many victories for peace as you have gained in battle.”
– Marszałek Jozef Piłsudski, date unknown 9
With war always comes great change. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Poland, since now the country was finally both at peace and a free, sovereign nation.
For their military service, some veterans were granted land in Kresy, yet others purchased their land. Again from all over Poland they came, this time to stake their claim in Kresy, the new country’s Eastern frontier.
At first most men came alone, but some were newly married or had left their fiancées back in the mainland until becoming established. Some married local Kresy women like my grandfather and granduncles, Michał Jesionka (b. 1894, Cząsławice, Bochnia) who had also fought for Austria in World War I, and his brother Feliks Jesionka (b. 1902, Cząsławice, Bochnia). My granduncles had both settled in Czabarówka, Kopyczyńce, Tarnopol.
It was a new age and a new Poland, and life just could not be better. What an exciting time in Poland’s history—to be young, alive, and free—to strike out on the Eastern frontier as newlyweds to begin a lifetime of happiness.
Like my grandfather and his brothers, the vast majority of pioneer settlers after World War I were from elsewhere in Poland, although my dziadek had emigrated to Kresy before that war. Sometime before 1910 when my grandfather Maksymilian enlisted in his Austrian cavalry regiment in Lwów, he and most probably his first cousin, Franciszek Jesionka (b. 1891, Besów, Bochnia) left their ancestral home, Cerekiew, where Jesionkas had lived for centuries, for Kresy. It is possible that my grandfather’s younger twin brothers, Michał and Kazimierz, were with them. Their destination was Lukowiec Żurówski, Rohatyn, Stanisławów, so my relatives had lived in Kresy prior to the 1920s when the Kresy land rush hit.
Kresy, like the rest of Poland, had always been the destination of colonists of different ethnicities at various times throughout the centuries with one major difference—since Kresy was a borderland and had always been of strategic importance, sometimes the settlements had a military aspect to them.
After all, this vast territory was a border to be protected and guarded, as all countries’ borders have been throughout history. For example, even in the 16th century Kresy land was used as a buffer zone. For their fighting fire with fire, Cossacks received Kresy land grants from the Polish government for their service against the dreaded Tatar horde.10
Polish colonization of Kresy was part of Piłsudski’s Jagiellonian plan, but not all politicians or ethnicities agreed with him. His political opponents wanted all ethnic groups to be absorbed into Poland, to become Polonized, rather than each group retaining its ethnic identity while functioning together and living under a Polish umbrella, as Piłsudski envisioned. During this age, ethnic nationalities and aspirations had just been revealed, for these groups were also finally free after living under the partitioning powers for so long.
At this time Poland’s largest minority group were the Ukrainians, who numbered over 4 million and were living primarily in the southeastern Kresy województwa of Tarnopol, Stanisławów, Lwów, and slightly to the north, in Wołyń. To the detriment of Poland and all its ethnic nationalities, Piłsudski’s dream, in retrospect, did not stand a chance. But neither did his opposition’s of, at times, stringent Polonization, nor Poland’s minorities’ desire for their own independent nation-states. It seems likely that if these smaller countries had formed, all would have been doomed to fail, including Poland, for “United we stand—divided we fall.”
Land reform was used as a political pawn on more than one occasion through the interwar years; however, the Sejm “eagerly” passed the first land reform act on 17 December 1920.11,12 In the former Galician lands, most of the land was voluntarily turned over to the government of Poland by its former owners with large holdings.
Most of the land in the northern and central Kresy areas was formerly owned by the Czars of Russia and other large Russian landowners. The purpose of Polish settlement was to increase the number of Poles living in Kresy and to spread the Polish way of life throughout the region, not through Polonization, but hopefully through harmonic coexistence, mutual understanding, and help.
Here is the percentage of ethnic Poles residing in the southeastern powiaty (counties) where my family members lived during the inter-war years from the Census of 1931:
Brody, Tarnopol 36.0%
Kałusz, Stanisławów 18.2%
Kopyczyńce, Tarnopol 43.1%
Rohatyn, Stanisławów 28.4%
Złoczów, Tarnopol 47.7% 13
Beginning in 1921, the veterans who had received land grants on the Eastern frontier were sometimes given an old plow or a horse, but usually land only. Sometimes the land granted had been a former World War I battleground with large craters left by the huge cannon of that war; but other than this, it was untouched, virgin land. It was up to the pioneers to build and establish their kolonia (colony) or osada (settlement) themselves.
Sometimes a settlement’s inhabitants were all veterans from a particular brigade who had served together during wartime. Sometimes the colonists varied in their former military rank from general to private. Primarily ethnic Poles lived in the colonies. There were also a few veterans from other countries or ethnic nationalities who had fought for Poland and received land grants.
Life in these early years was extremely difficult because the settlers were starting with a clean slate, from scratch. First they had to build their houses while simultaneously clearing the land to establish their crops which would become the majority’s livelihood. Tarnopol land was very fertile and was widely known for its fruit, so besides the normal crops, the fruit trees had to be planted since they would not immediately yield results.
Besides this, the pioneer settlers would have to build their churches and schools and establish the governmental and other infrastructure of the kolonia. Since some were not carpenters or builders previous to their emigration, some of the earliest houses were slipshod affairs and little more than temporary shelter, just as they were in the pioneer days of the United States. New settlers were moving in all the time. After a while land became available for purchase.
Some did not know how to farm, but they learned from those with more experience, and the Polish government also had farm agents throughout the frontier. These were like the county farm agents still present in the United States today, whose purpose was to give advice to farmers on the latest methods or to provide general help. The settlers also formed farming cooperatives. By pooling their crops, they had much more of a financial impact. Again, there is strength in numbers.
The pioneering life was too much for some, so they sold or let their land to others, moving back to Poland proper. Still others moved to nearby towns and rented their farms. The majority, however, “toughed out” the early years and remained.
By 1923 my grandparents had moved to Sassów, Złoczów, Tarnopol, where they built a brick two-family house that still stands today. By this time they had three young daughters, Maria, Cecylia, and Teresa. In Czabarówka, my granduncle Michał and his first wife also had three young children, Maria, Tadeusz, and Mieczysław.
In 1925 the last land reform bill was passed by the Sejm. In “the early 1920s Ukrainian nationalists waged an underground war against” Poland.14 There was agitation on the shared Polish eastern border with Soviet Russia, which was probably a combination of Soviet manipulation of the local people plus border skirmishes on both sides. A special border force was created to deal with this, some of who were also osadnicy (settlers). Much of the rest of Europe was undergoing great internal strife and social upheaval. The entire world experienced the Great Depression, which hit continental Europe much earlier than the United States.
Inter-ethnic relations must not have affected my Jesionka families in Kresy at this point in time. All must have been tranquil because sometime after 1927 my grandparents left Sassów and moved to Hallerczyn, a kolonia next to the village of Wysocko in the powiat of Brody. Prior to their move, they had two more children, Lucja and Kazimierz. My grandparents purchased property and had their house and mill built in Hallerczyn. Later the two youngest children, my father, Adam, and his sister, Aniela, were born there.
Hallerczyn was named after Gen. Józef Haller of World War I Haller’s “Blue Army” fame. Gen. Haller had voluntarily turned over his land in Tarnopol to the Polish government as part of the much-needed land reform. Gen. Haller attended the dedication ceremony of his namesake kolonia, which was an important event, observed by the colonists with much pomp. One of my aunts wrote a dedication poem to Gen. Haller which was recited, and he took refreshment in my grandparents’ home.
Of utmost importance to all colonists in Eastern Poland was the Roman Catholic Church, for they were devout worshippers. My grandfather was instrumental in the church building project in Hallerczyn, where all Roman Catholics of nearby villages and colonies worshipped. Worshippers at Hallerczyn’s church totaled 1,674, where Roman Catholics in the general vicinity were barely 15 percent of the total population.15
Hallerczyn is not listed in the 1929 Business Directory of Poland, probably because it was too new and was barely established at that time. Wysocko is listed there with 873 residents, and most probably Hallerczyn’s colonists were included in this figure. By 1939 the combined population of Hallerczyn and Wysocko increased to over 1,000.16
In Czabarówka my granduncle Feliks had married Maria Horodyska and their children Edward and Krystyna were born. Unfortunately my granduncle Michał’s first wife had died. Sometime later he married Rozalia Filas (b. 1904, Spytkowice, Galicia), and they had three sons, Adam, Józef, and Kazimierz. Czabarówka, where my two granduncles lived with their families, was not a kolonia but was already on the map and established prior to World War I, and still exists today. However, my granduncles were both considered settlers, osadnicy, living a distance outside the village. Czabarówka was a stone’s throw from the pre-Treaty of Riga Russian border. (Author's note: Czabarówka was so close to the Russian border that when Michał married his first wife in 1917, the priest listed his place of marriage as "Russia.")
Were Your Ancestors Colonists/Settlers in Kresy?
Eastern Poland is an area that could easily be overlooked by family historians as an area of, in this case, emigration, versus immigration. As written above, Kresy has always been a choice destination of pioneering spirits throughout time. But chances are the settlements begun by those who colonized the area prior to World War I can still be found on maps today, for yesterday’s settlements are today’s towns, whereas the interwar colonies begun by people such as my grandparents cannot.
Throughout this article the words “colonists” and “settlers” have been used interchangeably, but let us now discuss the differences in terminology used by residents of Eastern Poland between the wars. In the south, the geographical place of residence was usually called a kolonia, “colony” in English. You will sometimes find the word kolonia on pre-World War II maps when they have been included. “Colonists” or koloniści, the plural form of this word, was used in the south. In the north and central areas, the place of residence was known as an osada, “settlement” in English. Sometimes the abbreviation Os., will be found on documents, even in the south.
The word osadnik, “settler,” seems to have been universally used by all to describe the head of household, rather than the word kolonist, “colonist.” Many in the south never used the word Kresy to describe where they lived in Eastern Poland.
In trying to determine if your interwar ancestors were settlers/colonists in Kresy, here are some clues—but please note that these are general guidelines and exceptions will apply:
- You cannot locate their place of residence on any modern map printed after World War II.
· You have determined that, using pre-1914 maps, the colony would be in very close proximity to the Russian border. “As the crow flies,” Hallerczyn would have been 11 kilometers, approximately 6.84 miles, from the Galician/Russian border. Czabarówka was closer still, as written above.
· The colony was begun after World War I, usually sometime in the 1920s.
· The settlements sometimes had patriotic-sounding names. For example, many were named after those who figured prominently in World War I. There was even a Wilsona, after President Woodrow Wilson! There are many Piłsudski variations and at least three named after Haller. Cavalry figures importantly as a root word, i.e., Ułanów, Legiony. There were many colonies named after Polish cities: Warszawka, Rzeszówianka, etc. Other than this, normal geographical naming patterns apply.
· Your ancestor was usually either a veteran of World War I, the Polish-Russian War, or both wars, and was usually from elsewhere in Poland prior to the first World War.
· The residents of the kolonia were primarily ethnic Poles.
The Piłsudski quote at this article’s beginning describes so perfectly my families’ life after World War I and tells exactly what it meant to live in Eastern Poland at that time. Unfortunately the same quotation foreshadows what was to come the colonists’ way during World War II. It has been almost 65 years since the settlers and their children were forcibly deported to Siberia and other areas of the Soviet Union during World War II, and the colonies that they worked so hard to establish were destroyed as if they never were. Their very names and those of their settlements are in danger of being lost forever.
If you have any information regarding the names of interwar colonies in Eastern Poland or their settlers’ names, please contact me.
1 Józef Piłsudski, from his speech given at Stefan Batory University, Wilno, at the University’s opening on 11 October 1919. See Stalin’s Ethnic Cleansing In Eastern Poland: Tales of the Deported, 1940-1946, Association of the Families of the Borderland Settlers, (London: Self-Published, 2000), p. 116, ISBN: 1 8772286 88 7. For more information about the book: http://www.stalinsethniccleansing.com/
2 Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki, A Concise History of Poland, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 195-196
3 Ibid., p. 202.
4 Ibid., p. 202.
5 Ibid., p. 200.
6 Ibid., “Map 8: Rebirth of the Polish State, 1918-23,” pp. 198-199.
7 Ibid., p. 200, 202-203.
8 Ibid., p. 202.
9 Józef Piłsudski, from his speech to veterans upon awarding land grants, n.d., Assoc. of the Families, Stalin’s Ethnic Cleansing, p. 485.
10 Lukowski and Zawadzki, p. 60.
11 Ibid., pp. 204-205.
12 Assoc. of the Families, Stalin’s Ethnic Cleansing, p. 9.
13 Paul Havers, “Eastern Borderlands of the II Polish Republic, Kresy Wschodnie II Rzeczpospolitej,” http://www.kresy.co.uk/, 1931 Census Statistics of the Southeastern Woj. extracted from Na Rubieży (Poland) magazine, http://www.kresy.co.uk/1931_gus.html - Tarnopol.
14 Lukowski and Zawadzki, p. 205.
15 Havers, Wysocko-Hallerczyn, condensed and extracted from Na Rubieży magazine, http://www.kresy.co.uk/wysockohallerczyn.html.
©2004 by Eve Jesionka Jankowicz
- Dear Eve, Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article ! And the Polish accents came through just fine ! Krystyna Szypowska, Canada ... From:Message 2 of 2 , Jan 1, 2005View SourceDear Eve,Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article ! And the Polish accents came through just fine !Krystyna Szypowska, Canada----- Original Message -----From: Eve5J@...Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2005 10:17 AMSubject: [Kresy-Siberia] Article: "Polish Pioneers: The Push After World War I to the Kresy"
Happy New Year! I have attached, and also cut and pasted below, an article I wrote which was published in the ezine GenDobry yesterday. Hopefully the Polish accents will carry through and not be garbled. If so, they will be included on the attachment.