Tadeusz Brzeziński

* 1929

  • "I saw those adult people, they were contending with all this every day, the struggle for survival. Settling in a new house here after arrival, looking for acquaintances, friends. But, on the other hands, you need to say that there was such human solidarity. At the beginning there was a great deal of antagonism between the population from the East and the local people, the Poznań people. They called us “potatoes”, “Eastern potatoes”, and we called them “Poznań potatoes.” There were such antagonisms among the adult people. But I could not see them among young people. I know that when I was going to the secondary school in Trzcianka, there were friends from both Poznań and central Poland, and from the East, there were plenty of us, but we came to agreement very quickly. But there were such antagonisms among the adults. The best example that all this normalized is that I married a “Poznań girl”, a Lvov boy with a Poznań girl. I know that when we went to have our banns published, the priest told us: Well, from two ends of Poland! Where this boy from Lvov, where this girl from Poznań! But things were like that. Of course, it faded away gradually, those differences. Today, nobody calls another person a Poznań man, they only say that they are from Krzyż, the "Krzyż people."

  • "That west was presented as a kind of a Mecca, as something new, that everything was waiting for us there. Because they said that those territories were given away but the “Regained Territories” were the compensation, this is how it was called then. And a paradise was supposed to be waiting for us here. No paradise was waiting for us! There were houses, there were flats, but you had to prepare everything on your own. No one waited here with open arms. There was the State Repatriation Office (PUR), which apparently was to deal with repatriates, but there were many corrupt people, they were only watching what to loot, what to take away, where to sell. They were not very interested in people. The local authorities were not yet operating properly, so the early beginning were difficult. Very difficult. The more so that it was still dangerous in Krzyż, because the Russian Army, which was retreating from the West, and its main trans-shipment, an interchange, was here, so they often stopped here, went to the city, drank, and there were shots, shots were fired – you even had to hide sometimes. The Russian headquarters did nothing – they were themselves scared of those soldiers. They were all drunk, the end of the war, they were drunken looting soldiers, and it was scary! The band went forward and was coming back through the town... The first group was always the worst. The early days here in Krzyż were not quiet, either. You had to be careful."

  • "In 1945, following the treaties signed, Poland’s eastern lands were incorporated into the USSR. We were sold in Potsdam and earlier in Yalta! Unfortunately, Poland’s eastern territories were incorporated into the USSR and we were given a choice: either you sign the Soviet citizenship or you leave. Of course, we did not even think about it – we chose the latter option. On 1 May 1945, we left Kolomyia under the repatriation program. The journey was naturally in goods wagons, it lasted 11 days, and, on 9 May 1945, the day on which the war ended, we arrived in Kobyle Pole near Poznań. An interesting thing happened there – because our transport stood on a side track, and at night from 8 to 9 May, some terrible gunfire started. Of course, we all woke up, we ran out of that wagon. What did it turn out to be? It turned out that a transport of Soviet soldiers who were coming back from Germany was standing nearby and they fired a salute, because the war ended. For me there was an unpleasant event, because I was carrying three pairs of my carrier pigeons in a cage on the roof of the wagon from the east, from Kolomyia. As they started to fire, the pigeons started to thrash about in that cage, so that the cage opened and the pigeons flew off. It was a tragedy, of course. I despaired awfully! But, oddly enough, those pigeons did not go far away and, in the evening, we went with my father along the route of our transport and we saw the pigeons sitting under the roof of one of the wagons. They were so scared that we managed to catch them – all the six of them – and bring them back to that cage. I was delighted, my pigeons came to Krzyż with me."

  • "I had also experienced such an unpleasant moment, sad one. One day we went with my father by horses to Przeborowo. At Przeborowo we entered one flat, my father wanted to talk to somebody and we looked around: everything open, a pot on the stove, potatoes were boiling, and everything was open. Plates on the table, as if waiting for us to sit at the table, to have lunch. It was the moment when they fell in and took the Germans away, chased them out. Today, for example, we rebel when they, those expelled, gather somewhere and have some grudges, grievances. But it was also a kind of exile. I know it was an international treaty, an agreement that… But they were expelled, too. It just occurred to me that we were expelled and they were also expelled from here. It was such an emotional experience for me, for a young man, that those people were expelled, too, unfortunately. Of course they are punished for unleashing World War II. But that German who was [chased out] of his home, is he politically responsible? People say that collectively they all supported Hitler. They all supported Hitler, but did they all want war? I doubt it. A crowd is only a crowd. If we saw those phalanxes of Germans screaming “heil, heil!, I do not know if they were all so willing to raise that hand. Perhaps at the beginning he managed to delude them. This is always the case. After all, we will not explain it, because the Germans were defeated in World War I, and the war tribute, and they had to pay it all, and they were tamed. And all of a sudden, there was a leader who said: “I want to raise us now, we need to rise.” Propaganda does its job, and Goebbels knew how to run propaganda. But right here, those people, that our Siegfried Jaren, the owner, where we lived in Wojska Polskiego Street, later Niepodległości Avenue, and Wilhelmstrasse at that time, what was her fault? It was not her fault, either. They killed her husband, and she was left with her daughter, then they expelled her and that’s it. They knew they would have to leave, but I do not know if it was all done as it should, certainly not. People could have been given time, quietly, “pack your things”, some transport. And here – one day and off you go. Perhaps it was not like that everywhere, but from what I know, it was rather like that, that it was still a war decision."

  • "At that Kobyle Pole a discussion started, because, actually, we were going to Poznań. But women were already fed up with that journey; men would still want to look for something. And I do not know if they drove us a bit closer to Poznań, anyway we were stopped somewhere near Poznań. And we went to the city, that is to say, my father, I, and a group of other people, because there were a few wagons in the transport. It so happened that we went to the Old Market, which was totally destroyed, the entire old town. When we saw those ruins, at once: “No way, we will not stay here, we will go further.” And we went further westward. And we arrived here, at Krzyż. Our wagons were stopped at railway dispatch, men again went for reconnaissance. They came back – because my brother-in-law was travelling with us of course, because my sister had married him in Kolomyia. Men said: “we are going to Bydgoszcz!” Women, however, went on strike, that we would not go any further, it’s over, that’s it, that’s enough. Then, my father went to the town here in Krzyż, I popped off to the street. Today, it is Staszica Street, I do not know how it was called then, I know there was a German woman in the window, when she saw me, she shouted at me: “Polnische Schweinerei!” This is how she greeted me here – because some Germans still were here. I do not blame them, because they already started to expel them – it is known how it was – but it was such an experience. “First time in Krzyż”, I think to myself, “a fine greeting.” My father was very smart, so, after some two-three hours, he brought two horses with a large platform on rubber wheels. Of course, he bought it, because at that time things were happening at Krzyż! Poles were coming back from the West. They came to Krzyż by carts, for example, by some wagons, which they left here, sold them, got on the train and went further deep into Poland. So barter trade continued. I know that my father probably gave grain for those horses – we had some grain, I think in the wagon, some two sacks... I know we has a large sack of walnuts. We trade in them somewhere... besides, the truth is that we had some “illegal” money in the form of dollars. There was a time that dollars, keeping dollars or gold, was punishable with a death penalty. So my father came up with that cart and horses and then we went to the town to look for a flat."

  • "We had some food, some clothes, some dishes... But there were no furnishings. You had to buy it all, collect, bring from another house... I do not even known where they took it from, because there were no shops at that time! Barter trade, money was of no significance. I know we had a sack of nuts, so I was going with my friend to Poznań to the Jeżycki Market, and selling those nuts, because it was a good rate. And I was nabbed there by Security Service agents for trading. They took us both, me and my friend, to Kochanowskiego Street, to the Security Office, and they were making us believe that we were trading in dollars. Of course, they kept us for some three hours perhaps. First him, then me, then they took me again and told me that he had already pleaded guilty and I was to tell them, too, where those dollars were. Of course, I did not tell anything, because we had no dollars whatsoever – we were selling nuts. The harassment was like that. Yet, they let us out, but they told us that God forbid we should never come back to Poznań again, because they would lock us up then."

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    Krzyż, 17.08.2007

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“At the beginning there was a great deal of antagonism between the population from the East and the local people.”

Tadeusz Brzeziński
Tadeusz Brzeziński
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

Born in Lvov on 27 October 1929. In 1933, after the death of his father, who was an employee of the Polish Post, his family moved to Kołomyja (Ukrainian: Kolomyia), where Tadeusz Brzeziński’s mother worked as a purchasing manager in a Polish boarding house and remarried. In Kolomyia the family survived the war. In May 1945, Tadeusz Brzeziński went to the “Regained Lands” together with his family, first to Poznań, and then to Krzyż. He completed secondary school in Trzcianka, where he passed his secondary school-leaving examination. Because of his involvement in the religious life of his parish he was not admitted to journalistic studies. In 1950, he started working as a teacher at a primary school in Herburtowo near Krzyż, and, in 1951, at a primary school in Krzyż, where he taught history, geography, and physical education. He completed the state teacher’s college, extramural teacher-training studies in Poznań (1955-1958), and extramural teacher-training courses leading to a master’s degree in Opole (1961-1966); from 1967 he was the headmaster of a primary school in Krzyż, and from 1973 – the district schools headmaster. Until his retirement in 1991 he was the headmaster of Primary School No. 1 in Krzyż. An active member of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), founder and long-standing instructor of the scouting organization in Krzyż. He also worked at the municipal and provincial government, e.g., he was chairman of the Municipal Council in Krzyż for two terms of office after 1990. He lives in Krzyż.