Regina Chwirot

* 1933  

  • "I lived around here. I had two siblings and I was the oldest one. I was 6 years old in 1939, my sister was 3, and then my brother was born. The Westerplatte bombardment started on September 1st. I lived around this place so I and my family saw the planes going down. This was the beginning of the war. Our family was quite well-off and we lived a happy life before it all started. At the beginning of the war, at the beginning of 1940 my father was commissioned to the German Army and my mum did not want to stay here in Wrzeszcz as she was born in Stogi. The place was called Heubudir, near the forest and not far from the most beautiful beach that ever existed. My mum’s sister lived there with her six children. Stogi was the most important place for my mum so we moved there. She could not forget it ... she was born there, lived there. She never got used to live in Wrzeszcz. The war was going on.. My mother worked, my siblings went to the kindergarten, I attended school. Those early years of the war were so quiet. In fact, just women worried. They were afraid of the mailman, there were waiting for a message that the father or son were killed in the war. Then there were more and more raids. And from January the refugees from the east were flocking in numbers. We also had to accommodate two ladies and they stayed in our house. Most people left but some were still there. And there were more of these raids. People sensed something was wrong. When my dad was at home he and mum agreed that whatever would happen they would meet in Stogi. So we were waiting. Even though part of the family moved to Germany, and they urged us, my mum always used to say no, she made an appointment and she waited. The situation was getting worse and worse. One day despite the agreement we left. From Stogi you had to walk through the woods or along the streets as you come to the place where ships sailed in the direction of Sweden, Denmark and Germany. We were walking down the street, and suddenly the Russian aircraft circled above us and slowly went down. I had a bag of sugar with me – before we left our family doctor said that sugar and water let us survive for a long time. So , being just 11 I was carrying the sugar, my mom and younger siblings were carrying a backpack and a suitcase. My mother together with smaller kids reached some house but I felt down on the sidewalk. The plane was approaching. Suddenly a German soldier came running, he grabbed me and put me under the truck. I have not seen any car there before. Just shooting and whistling bullets. As soon as it was over, I came out and my mom grabbed me again. She saw the moment when he got me... I was happy that she hadn’t ran out, she would have died. What would I do by myself with two small children? Then my mom said: therefore, we can not escape. We stayed in our bunkers. We had a special strong bunker near our home in Stogi so we stayed".

  • "When I was a little girl we used to live in Wrzeszcz. It was three-bedroom apartment. There were a bathroom and a kitchen with tiles on the walls. In the one rooms there were furniture made in Gdansk that my mom got as a gift, because my grandfather had a wood warehouse. This warehouse…I still remember ... Such a great place, not far from Vistula River. This tree was going down the river. We were doing well. My mother had a piano, as she learned to play as a child. She came from a wealthy family so she was taught French, English and music. She always listened to the classical music at home. I was just a small girl so I used to think: God, this is so boring. Currently I have got a music player in the room and in the kitchen, and everywhere Mozart or Beethoven can be heard in my house. I bit of Chopin as well. During the war people mostly listened to Chopin, didn’t they? My mom found the music on the radio and people could listen to it if they had a good radio… It was hard times after the war, our house was burnt and the one we lived in was not ours. We moved to another place and it was an old flat. There was no bathroom, but I wasn’t so important. My mum was a very well-organized woman. She used to say: Always remember, and never ever forget it - it must be a dinner at home when you are there. She always waited for us with the dinner on the table. It was not so easy for her to arrange- every child used to come back from school another time, my father as well. Christmas was a very special time. I always got a new dress on the occasion of a birthday or Christmas. I will never forget a smell of gingerbread. It was baked before Christmas and hidden from us in the cans. If I ask my children now what they associate with Christmas Eve, they always answer ‘oranges’. We could often buy oranges for Christmas, sometimes even a kilo. We also had packages that was called unter that time. Packages full of sweets waited for us under the Christmas tree. I didn’t care about twelve dishes, perhaps we did not have so many in my family home… I just remember looking and waiting for these sweets. They were not available in our everyday life. My mum always prepared beautifully packages".

  • "A special strong bunker was added to the building of our house. One day in the summer we sat there, inside the bunker and someone said that our house was on fire. The whole street was burned, only two houses survived. There was a man living not far from here, he was our neighbor that time and his house was burned as well. However we sat in the bunker until the day when the Russians came. And obviously the first words they said were uhl, uhl and women, [mostly women and children were there] they all gave them their wedding rings and jewelers. It was caused by the fear. In the beginning the hunger was hard to stand, but then we became completely apathetic. I just found myself sitting and being apathetic. Some old man sat next to me, his daughter had died in the bombing two days before. He sat so disconsolate and poor. We fed him with a bit of sugar. When Russian came in one of them came closer and asked this old man to give his watch. But he just sat there, not moving a muscle keeping his hands on pockets. The Russian shot him right in front of me. Then I saw the flash and I woke up for good. Russian first rummaged his pockets and pulled out a tiny lady watch, a memento of his daughter. Then he patted me on the head. As they passed through the bunker, we were drove and raced up to Gdansk, to the St. Nicholas church. I stayed there until the end of the war. We had a bench but it was too narrow so me and my sister slept on the floor. We slept on the newspapers. It was an April already but it was still very cold. I remember that the church was not burned but there was a hole at the top and we saw the sky and the stars above our heads. Women were forced to give their documents and to bury the corpses of horses in the bomb craters. And also, one day ... These are the moments that I remember the most. One day a woman entered, a Russian soldier, I do not know what grade... She started to pull some old lady out from under the bench. But this lady did not came out. Somehow she stayed there so the woman soldier lifted the gun and hit the woman in the head with the wooden part of the gun. The lady died. Then I ran away with my siblings. We stayed there, in the church, until the very end, until 9th ... or maybe 8th of May. I calmed down, I thought we could go home. The end of the war. I just looked at the sky, there were no planes. It still seemed to me that they could come flying again. I was so happy that there were no planes, and I believed they would never appear again".

  • "My father agreed to this. He was afraid of the journey and actually…of everything, and it was completely... My mom was definitely suffering. It was terribly hard for my mum. I know that. Somehow I just felt it. That's why she was reading so much, she lived in her own world. Nevertheless she was always full of energy when it comes to the house duties and kitchen activities in general. I just remember her asking again and again for a better radio. We had a radio after the war. There was a small radio on the wardrobe playing all day. It was switching on and of, antenna was adjusting all the time.... Then my mom got the Czech Radio, it picked up a signal from the whole world stations and she was so happy then. When Church bells rang in Gdansk in Christmas Eve, it was Christmas Eve in Germany for her. In the 60's she used to say she would like to have such a big radio with the speakers, a large one. I managed to buy such radio".

  • "We could not stay like that. My father went to the office and applied for the Polish citizenship. We could get it on condition that we went to school. We had to go to school. It was one big fight in the house for the next two months. My mum didn’t want to stay, I didn’t want as well. My younger siblings were satisfied because they weren’t hungry anymore and because my dad was with us. Life as usual. Finally I was enrolled to the Polish school. The teacher beat me punished me in the very beginning. We were told to sing Christmas carols but I did not know Polish so I was reprimanded by the teacher. Apparently it went not so well. He terribly beat with the stick ... I got punched in my arm. I thought that I was punished because of all this, because of this war, because his wife was ill ... I sang not laud enough so he found a reason to give vent to his anger. I said nothing at home, I did not complain. Anyway, one day I came back home and my mum said: You know it, I was born here, and I want to die here. The silence has fallen at home... Then three of us went school. I missed the first year of school that I started in Germany. In January 1945 our school was evacuated to Jurata and it was the end of the German school for me. Therefore I had to start the Polish school being in the first grade. I attended this school just four years. Pretty soon I learned Polish".

  • "Afterwards I went to the high school. I completed it and passed a high school diploma. I wanted to start a medical school but I did not manage, mainly because mostly boys were admitted to the university that time. Anyway, I did not really learned the chemistry so I got married. I was 19 and I got married. My husband was an officer. We had to leave for Rzeszow for two years. I was unhappy there and I missed Gdansk. There in Rzeszów, my daughter was born. I did not want to be there so I begged my husband to return to Gdansk and finally we did. I took up a job. I worked in telecoms office, I mean in accounting. My husband died tragically. I stayed alone with my daughter. I changed job. I was mentioning medicine a few times at work and... somehow the director knew. Atmosphere at work got bad. My parents were encouraging me to study, they said they would help me, they promised to take care of my daughter… But I gave this plans up… Then I changed my job again. I was employed in the Town Hall. In the meantime, I got married the second time. I was at work and one day I had to replace the secretary, she was sick quite a long time. At that time the city council president was called a mayor. I was new and nobody older wanted to work with him, they knew how it was… He was a man full of energy. He took care about building engineering in Gdansk, he built tunnels, houses, and developed the port industry, and shipyards was developed as well. He was so full of energy, two secretaries wouldn’t be enough. But I loved it".

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    Gdańsk, 05.09.2012

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The end of the war I just looked at the sky, there were no planes. It still seemed to me that they could come flying again I was so happy that there were no planes, and I believed they would never appear again

She was born on September 11th, 1933 in Gdansk, Wrzeszcz as the oldest of three siblings. Her father was commissioned into the Wehrmacht in 1940. Her mother together with her children returned to her family house in Gdansk, Stogi. Regina attended the German school and then gymnasium. After a failed attempt to escape from the city in late March 1945, the family hid in the bunker. A few days after they were found by the Russians. They all were chased to the church where they stayed until the end of the war. Their house was bombed and burned. The mother and brother suffered from typhoid. After the war the family managed to find an apartment to stay in Gdansk. They decided to wait for the father, who finally returned from captivity in Norway in December 1945. Her mother wanted to leave for Germany, but her father wanted to stay in Gdańsk what they did. Regina attended the Polish school. Right after graduating she got married and moved to Rzeszów where she gave birth to her first daughter. After two years, they returned to Gdansk. Her husband died and she had to take a job as an accountant. Then she was employed in the City Hall. Soon after she got married again and gave birth to a son. She worked as a secretary of the chairman of the City Council and as a translator. She was leaving on many business trip to Germany. She worked over 30 years in the City Hall, and then for eight years in the German consulate in Gdansk.