Anna Kruszyńska

* 1935  

  • "The Germans were in the village, because they were retreating and they didn’t have any other place to go. Not to Gdańsk, because the Russians were there already. The Germans knew about that. They danced, went crazy and drunk, becauce they knew that they would not go any farther. The Russians were chasing them from the direction of Elbląg, and one could not get to Gdańsk anymore, so they stayed in these villages. My grandma had then bread ready for baking. An officer came and he says: - You have to pack and when I get back here in two hours, you better be gone. Grandma says: - I still have to make this bread, so that I can take something to eat with me. – I said two hours. If you bake the bread in this time it’s fine, and if not, everything stays here. Grandpa was not there, and the bombing of the village was already on. The Russians knew that the Germans were here. Grandma tells me: - Go and look for grandpa, he is probably with other men at the other side of the village in Folkstum. Grandpa did not belong there, since he was a cripple, but they were meeting there. Cheese used to made there, but later it was turned into a house. There was a good, strong cellar there. I guess they were making vodka there and drinking it themselves. What else were they supposed to do there. Grandma told me: - Go close to the fence. If you see the planes flying low, throw yourself down next to the fence, so you won’t get hit. When they flew low and saw someone walking, they shot. From one end of the village to the other it was at least half a kilometer. I reached this place and of course the men were sitting there. Grandpa was not that drunk yet. I say: - Grandpa, grandma said that you have to come home immediately, because a soldier came with a gun and said, that if we don’’t leave he will shoot grandma. Grandpa says to that: - What are talking about, child. Then he thought a bit more, got up and said – We’re going. And then I see planes flying low. I say to grandpa – Grandma said to throw oneself down next to the fence. – Ahh, whatever, if I’m to be hit I will get hit. I tripped him, and he lied down. (laughter). And then I could not lift him up".

  • "It probably happened on a military area, close to the hall: - There are 2 big ships waiting on a roadstead but they cannot sail into the port as they are too big. But they want to take people in. There is no chance to go to Germany as they don’t take in more people, we can go only to Denmark. So we got there. People were pushing each other so much that half of them got into the water. Firstly, they took us on these small boats to the big one. It couldn’t sail into the port. Anyone who could tried to climb the ladder, but everyone was pushing each other so many go into the water. Grandma was panicking about big water. So people from the big ship lowered boxes bigger than a table so that small children and grandma could be lifted. Grandpa managed to climb somehow. At the top we started to look for each other. There were only me and grandpa, we couldn’t find grandma and a cousin. There were two ships. I got up on this box. I don’t know how it happened that I stayed with grandpa. He held my hand all the time. Maybe he didn’t climb too? He held my hand so tightly not to lose me. Then he looks: - Where is grandma and Hans? My cousin’s name was Johannes but everyone called him Hans. Grandpa looked down to see if there’s anyone one left. But there was no one. Everyone drowned. When everything got calm as there was no more space for new people, my grandpa took my hand and went to the captain or someone else and said that he lost his wife and grandson. He asked if it’s possible to call them or look for them somehow. It turned out that they were on the other ship. There was no chance that grandma came to us so we decided to change the ship. That was our luck. That ship got sunk on its way. We were bombed too but managed to reach Denmark with a lot of trouble. There, the Danish said they were not taking more people in. There were lots of people there. All the week we stayed on a roadstead close to Copenhagen. We were still bombed there. Well, it looks like it wasn’t the time of our death. It wasn’t the end of the war there so the Germans ordered them to take us. On the 1st of May we sailed into the port and went ashore. There were lots of people too so we had to be taken deep into Denmark. We were taken in the wagons which you can find only in museums today. It was a train that you get on straightly, like to the britzka. The doors were locked and we were sitting 4 people in a small compartment. On the one side of the compartment there were 4 of us, and on the other side there were two sisters with their daughters. They were from the Olsztyn county, from the East. We weren’t travelling for a long time so we didn’t catch the lice but they were on the road since January. When they took us it was already 1st of May".

  • "We were taken to a peninsula. It was called Jutland. There we were put into a camp behind barbed wire. There, there was fifty thousand people, Poles too, in one camp. I went to school there. One wasn’t allowed to come to the wire closer than five meteres. We didn’t have a bal lor anything, so grandma sewed us one from some old scraps. The ball was often landing next to the wire fence. I was always so brave that I was crawling on my belly to get it. Maybe they wouldn’t have done anything, but we were afraid. When they say it’s forbidden, it’s forbidden. For two years we didn’t have no shoes, no dress, all while we were growing up. Grandma had bed sheets in white-and-red or white-and-blue pattern. This was fashionable at that time. She says: I have to sew some dresses for you for the summer. Someone had a needle and lent it. It was a terrible time. I still have the papers from this Denmark. In that Denmark we didn’t have any notebooks. The pencil was brought from somewhere by a teacher. Sheets of papers, with something printed on one side, to be filled out, and with an empty page on the other side. On these empty pages we were taking notes from German, geography, and other subjects, and on the printed side we had maths. When we had nothing, they were giving us toilet paper. It had a color of table sheets. On one side it was smooth, so that you could not write on it even with a pencil, and on the other side it was rough. We wrote also on that side. That’s how we learned and we did learn".

  • "On the 5th of May, when the war was over, they fenced our buildings so we could only walk on the area where the school was. My money was worth nothing. All 2.5 years we stayed in Denmark behind the barbed wire. We were in school maybe for 8 weeks. Later it may have been a school there. Then the lice related typhoid epidemic outbroke. Every day small children and elderly people died. We were lying in this classroom: first it was my cousin (so that I didn’t argue with him), then grandma, me and grandpa. Next to my grandpa there was an old lady lying, she was more than ninety years old. They took her as she had typhus too. Many people from our room were taken due to the illness but we, somehow, resisted it. When the Danish got to know about it, they made us to do the “vaporization”. They told us to take off the clothes and we they were taken to the special room where the lice should be vaporized. The epidemic was over some time later. Probably, they also didn’t have too much to eat under the German rule. Then, in the beginning of May, there weren’t potatoes yet. They gave us 2 small potatoes per person. Luckily grandma had something with her. People from village always had something smoked with them. Grandma took with her all bacon, pork fat and a piece of a ham. It was very heavy to carry but grandma never let anyone help her. We gave it also to the others, so that they have something more to go with these 2 potatoes. They gave us also one slice of bread. I was very weak after recovering from measles. All the children who resisted typhus were weighted. If someone was underweight, they were given additional food. That was happening in a kind of school cafeteria. I was going there every day with a piece of paper and they were feeding me. It was a breakfast and a dinner. They gave out so much of this food, that when my cousing weighed a few tens of grams more, he didn’t get anything. The cafeteria was very low and I always sat next to an open window, with my cousin standing on the other side of it. We weren’t allowed to take the food outside. I was always taking something for him and he was always sitting there. He ate a lot, and I could give him more from my portion. That was fun. I will never forget this".

  • "There was that teacher who came from beyond the Bug river. She liked me from the beginning. Initially I did not want to go to school and I was crying. I was then as tall as I am now. By the age of twelve I was so high that… That teacher was very tiny. I went to school because they said: - You have to go, you are twelve and you have to go to school. A must is a must, so I went to that school. She wrote down all my information. She could speak German. There used to be discipline in German school, so I was standing up all the time. When she finished she said in Polish – Sit down, but I didn’t know what it means. Everyone started laughing, because my cousins had already started learning before. And in that first class there were older children too. Kids of various ages were there. No one learned anything there. Maybe speaking a bit, but no one knew how to write. I guess they didn’t fell like learning. Everyone’s laughing, and in the end she said: - Setz sich, so I sat down. I was all red and ashamed, but what else could I do. She didn’t ask me for the whole year, but I got the reading primer. I was very puzzled why she was not asking me. I always did what she asked and I learned to read everything that I had to. I taught my cousins too, since they knew nothing. The teacher was beating them often for not learning anything. I was doing a bit better. At the end of the school year she says to me: - I have to write out the final report card for you, so I will ask you a bit. Can you read something? I say – Yes. She started somewhere in the middle and I read, a few pages further I read, at the last page I read. She says – What about writing? Come to the blackboard. – Good. She was speaking, and I wrote everything without any mistakes. In the end she says – Where have you learned all that? I say – Here, I don’t have time at home since I have to work the fields. She had her window facing our house and she knew that just after coming back I was throwing down my backpack and going to work in the field. I was working for about two hours until dinner, and later, after the dinner, until the sunset. That’s how it was. In the end she says: - I cannot let you go to the second grade, you will go immediately to the third. In the village the first and the second grades had classes together, the same for the third and the fourt. There were not so many children there. I was doing all my exercises, when she was walking and giving things to do to the fourth graders, I was doing them too and raising my hand. She asks: - Have you done everything? – Yes, even the stuff for the fourth graders. She says: - Really? She was calling them names all the time – Oh you so-and-so, you know nothing. The Poles were also learning with us, but they were not that good as well. When the end of the school year came she tells me: - You will go straight to the fifth grade. In order to go to the fifth grade one had to go to another village. I came home all happy that I had gone straight to the fifth, and my aunt says to that -You will not go anywhere. In Germany the school was over at fourteen. You will not go to school anymore. I started crying over not being allowed to go to school. The teacher said – You are so smart, you have to go to school. But I did not".

  • "That barber had three sons. They were doing things to upset us all the time. My second daughter fell asleep in a pram outside under a tree and I went in to fix the dinner. She was sleeping nicely, so how could I take her inside in this pram. Take her out? The she wouldn’t sleep. I only wanted to put the water on and take her back with that pram. She was half a year old then. I only opened the apartment door, and there’s a scream outside. I say: - Something must have happened. Maybe she got bitten by something. I ran downstairs as fast as I could. On my way there a neighbour told me that the Garbaliński boys had thrown a stone. They hit her straight in the eye. I see that she is not bitten, but the neighbor told me about that. First I started calming her, but she would not calm down, because she was screaming after waking up suddenly. I called them and she opened the door and said: - My boys have been home all day. – But I have a witness saying that they threw the stone. The daughter even had a mark on her face. I say: - There’s a mark and the stone is in the pram, so who threw it as there’s no one in the yard? I just went away for a minute to put the water on for the dinner. In the end he came out and said – You nazi, you kraut, what are you saying? Who are you complaining to? My kids are home! – Yes! When something happened they ran away. He was wearing glasses then. He shouted for a long time. In the end I say: - You know what? When I hit you with my fist in these glasses, then you will see. He got pale and went away. They are still alive. She got tiny and she’s pushing a trolley. We go to the same church. That priest says that some couple who are sixty years after their wedding, gave ten thousand złoty for the new pulpit and renovation of the church’s altar. They did not wish for their name to be mentioned, but it was written there. I called Oskar and he is supposed to learn if it’s them. They would not even say “good morning”, and I don’t say it to them too. They hurt me so many times… it’s not only that. We had a large garden. In the first year we planted pumpkins between the potatoes. They grew to be very large. We go one time to Osice, we come back, and the neighbor says: - Just don’t get scared when you go to the garden. Someone shot through all the pumpkins with a bow. All of them were split in half. My yard was the first from the side of the fence and they did it from their yard. They didn’t even have to go into the garden. That neighbour says: ­- These were the Garwoliński boys. I didn’t say anything, I just cried. – Damn, one is happy for something, that all these things grew so nice. I like pumpkins a lot and I wanted to make them spicy, and then it all goes to hell. They left only the small ones but such were useless".

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    Gdańsk, 09.08.2012

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Grandma told me: - Go close to the fence If you see the planes flying low, throw yourself down next to the fence, so you won’t get hit

She was born in 1935 in the village called Wossitz which belonged to The Free City of Danzig (German: Freie Stadt Danzig) in catholic German family. Her father worked in a shipyard as a locksmith, her mother was a housewife. During the war her parents lived in Danzig, while Anna Kruszyńska spent most of the time in a village of her grandparents - in Wossitz. After the war her parents and her younger sister were expulsed to Germany where they lived until the end of their lives. In 1945 Anna Kruszyńska with her grandparents and a cousin managed to escape by ship to Denmark where they stayed for 2.5 years in different refugees camps. In 1947 they decided to come back to Poland, received Polish citizenship and came to Wossitz, already called Osice. Anna Kruszyńska graduated 3 classes of primary school there. Her aunt didn’t let her continue studying. She completed primary school only after many years. In 1953, being 18 she got married to a Kashubian man and after half of the year she moved with him to Oliwa, where she lives to date.