Teresa Boehm

* 1934  

  • "Once, at evening in a dark, the German policeman came to Purdy and said: All of us naw muß fliehten alles Germany. My mom said: God, the bread is still in the owen. It was just known that we need a lot of loves of bread for the way. The policeman added: Okay, but hurry up, hurry up! When we set off and reached the main road it was full of carts, we saw a column of carriages that we joined. What did a carriage look like? They were pretty big. There was a pole on the top and it ended with a kind of a trestle, they were also covered with woven sidewalks. Carriages were full of oats for the horses and packed with all the staff we managed to take from the house. It was terribly loaded cars. We drove all night. I remember that we had to stop many times because the German Army left the area around and we were pushed to the side, to the side, when it got quiet we could go further. We arrived - probably in the morning - to Barczewo. We drove to a crossroad and then some people turned, others went straight. Well, somehow we went to the train station. We were told that we all could take a train. Horses, provided with food stayed. But the train didn’t come, the Russians were already in Olsztyn. And in the morning, maybe at noon ( after all happened, there was a lot of farmers, some old people but no youngs) - they all said – We're going home. My mom also said: So we will go home too. My brother was fifteen years old ... so we drove home. Nobody rushed us, nobody blocked the road, the German troops already left the area. Just shooting was heard behind us".

  • "Locals and all those who came here on our land - a lot from Warsaw but also repatriates from the former Polish territories beyond the river Bug came in numbers, we all attended one church, the Catholic Church. Service was in Latin, so we all responded in Latin, and we were equal in a church. The cermony was in Polish but we understood enough. In fact the priest, our respectable priest Czeczka spoke probably a little local dialect. But really, there was no trouble in understanding. Some of us didn’t know the Polis dialect, maybe did not understand, but we all answers in Latin, and it brought us together. This is who we were: outcast people – those people who left their homeland, their country, their belongings and settled here with us, and we – very poor people, we had nothing, only lands, sometimes homes if they were not burned. Nobody had any machine or even a horse, just nothing. And we prayed together in the church. And it my opinion, the church brought us together. If I mentioned a church I need to add a few words about the Protestant church in Olsztyn. When I moved to Olsztyn in 1956, I used to attend the cathedral - to the Catholic Church, just because it was our parish. Everyone went there, Catholics, those who had been here before, and those who came – protestants. But no Catholics attended to the Protestant church. Only the people who were born here, and who grew up as Protestants. There were also no protestants in central Poland, maybe just a few. The refugees from Elk or from Mazury who stayed here in Olsztyn, who could not escape, and who simply decided to live in Olsztyn – they were protestants. There are a lot of people from Elk who were stayed here until now. Many of them wanted to go back to their houses, but there were no houses anymore, someone else has already settled in their homes and took their farms so they stopped in Olsztyn. This evangelical church belong unwritten to the German minority. Maybe not even a minority, there were many of us here that time. And we were Germans and we were Protestants. I always attended a Mass at 10 in the Cathedral when I lived in Olsztyn. When the Mass was over I used to go to the Protestant church. The service there ended in the same time so I went to meet my friends who were Protestants. I think the Church had very important role that time. We united with those who were driven out from the east. But the Protestant church was also a kind of Protestatnt German enclave. And there was such a division. But what did the House of God mean in this time? The House of God could be Protestant but it is still the same God. Germans who were born here went to the Lutheran church. We were united with people who come here from the former Polish territories beyond the river Bug. And they always asked - when the Germans will be back here? When will the Germans come back? We want to go, we want go back to our land, beyond the river Bug. To Vilnius, we want to be in Vilnius again. They always repeated: We want to go Vilnius. This is how the life went on".

  • "If you ask me now, why we are here ... [I am a guide and Germans tourists ask about it sometimes]. I really hate this question. First - you need to understand people. Yes we left but remember – we were farmers, we owned the cattle that stayed in the houses! It’s clear – when nobody urged us as soon as possible we returned houses. Germans ask why I stayed, why I am still here, why all in all I am here. They ask the questions: Warun sind Sie nicht gefliehtet’ (Why didn’t you escape?). I answer: Thank God we stayed alive. Thank God I'm alive. This is the only answer".

  • "So we returned home. It was Monday when we came back. The Russians came on Wednesday morning. Yes, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning. As they came, we sat in the basement. [Dear God and Jesus, what that was!] People used to say Run away to the basement, they won’t find you there! But it had no sense. Well, they came in the morning and the first things they took were horses and then the harmony. It was my father’s harmony, he used to play it. So they took it. They were dressed in white and the uniforms made them invisible. They went on. They didn’t care about people ... I didn’t bother. I guess they wanted just horses so they didn’t have to walk on foot anymore".

  • "When French were here... my parents arranged Christmas Eve for all of them in our house, in the biggest and best room. My parents were like that, very hospitable. So the French had a very special meeting. They often got some Christmas presents and always shared with us. There were some chocolates for us – for children, as we didn’t have them very often during the war. So the French celebrated Christmas evening in the living room. There was a custom in Warmia – we had szemel - white horse made of mesh covered with a sheet walked around the village. There was a man who carried it on his back and he looked as if he was a rider. And these French people were so surprised, they were so surprised! And the man who used to walk with szeml had a bag and always asked for some small gifts. Oh, and they [French] shared with everything they got for Christmas. It was so much fun! But I remember one thing very well – we were told many times: German families or children are not allowed to eat together at the same table with French who worked for them. We all usually ate in the kitchen but the French had a separate small table (next to ours). But at Christmas Eve we were all together, the whole family. My father, my sister, my mum, brother and me, nobody from the village. It was as I remember. It was so nice, they used to sing ... It was, how the memories are".

  • "The old man and his wife lived with us – he was mowing, my mom was tying and my job as a child was to drug the sheaves into the barn. So in the wintertime it was threshed with flails and the seed was ground. Bread was always at home, we always had some bread and potatoes to eat. So I can not say I was starving. There was no milk, just potatoes and bread – and they were basic products for us. And what else did help us to survive? It's hard to imagine now, but the village where we lived Pajtuny is near the river Kośna and this river was full of crayfish. So we all used to go down the river with baskets, kind of wire potatoes baskets, and we always came back home with the baskets full of these cancers. The crabs were cooked in the big kettle, the one that was usually used for cooking potatoes for pigs, there were so many of them! And we sat all day, peeled and ate pieces of cooked crabs. Somehow we are all equal in God's eyes! There was no meat, no milk, no eggs, just potatoes and bread – brown bread and those crayfish. But after few years they suddenly vanished. They all died, we didn’t know why. They slowly began to appear again but not until twenty years later. There, in Pajtunach, really, it was like manna in the desert. Those cancers appeared all of the sudden, a lot of the, so we had enough. Honestly everybody caught them, everyone gathered crayfish. We walked and looked under the roots of trees and we caught as much as we could".

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    Olsztyn, 05.09.2012

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People used to say Run away to the basement, they won’t find you there! But it had no sense

Teresa Boehm
Teresa Boehm
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

She was born in 1934 in Pajtuny near Purda in Warmia. Her parents had a farm. They were a Catholics family. When the war started in 1939 her father was drafted into the Wehrmacht, mother, together with three children stayed on 15-acre farm. The French forced laborers worked for them. After a failed escape attempt in January 1945, the family came back home. After the Russians entry, in spring 1945, she hid with her mother. Teresa Boehm enrolled to a Polish school in Purdzie in September 1945. Then she completed the State Communication High School in Olsztyn (building department). She moved to Olsztyn in 1956. She married a Pole. Teresa Boehm worked in few construction companies. She completed a training course for a tour guides in the late 70s and since then she shows German tourists round the town.