Maria Popławska

* 1925  

  • "So to GDR and someone had to… One had to get the ID, Entlassungspapiere, showing that one was allowed. I don’t know exactly what it was. We got the papers. And I couldn’t recall where my cousin lived, what’s her name and where she lived. Two aunts I had, three – my mother’s sisters. And then later that young soldier came and said: “What are you waiting for?” But we hadn’t know each other. I said: “I don’t know where they live, what are their names”. He says: „You, you’re stupid. They don’t know you, so they don’t know your relatives. Remember, tell us what name, and remember, say it now and that’s how you will be called. And your cousin or your sister lives there and there. They aren’t checking it, they don’t have time".

  • "Many times we stayed in the forest for a day and night. And once..There is Łańsk (a peninsula), Lalka, as you know, a lake in the middle. They were the Russian, they came from the both sides, and we didn’t see them because it happened early in the morning. Then my mom came and said: “Hide Marycha! The Russkie are here”. So I wanted to run away to the forest but one Russian saw me through the window. He leaped out the house. I was almost in the forest and he had only a gun. But how could I know that he wouldn’t shoot me from such distance. And I also thought: there was a snow everywhere so he could easily track me and catch all of us. So I decided to go. And I was retreating, I was retreating and saying that I had a child as my sister had a 3.5 months old baby. So I was walking with him. And there was and old woman who also hid a girl. And she knew that this old woman had a daughter and that I knew where they were hidden. In spite of that her daughter was there too. And then this Russkie asked: “Where is her son, how many sons does she have?” And I said: “She has no sons” – “So where is a daughter?” So I said “She doesn’t have a daughter” and so I was lying. I was thinking: if it’s going to be me, I won’t betray her. So he took his gun and put it to my head that I couldn’t move my hand. He was holding it, making me tell the truth. And I think to myself, he will shoot me no matter what, now or in a month’s time. So I didn’t tell the truth. I said that this woman had nobody. So he just put the gun above my head and shot. And I didn’t care about that, he really could shoot me. I didn’t say the truth and I didn’t sell my body for the butter, the margarine, for sleighing, I had to walk. I did not sell myself".

  • "All I had was the clothes on my back and nothing else. I had no hair, to I put some wool here in the back and put the scarf like that. As they used to carry it in the old times. And I was saying: no and no. I went to Berlin to that diplomatic office I guess. And I went home. We came to Olsztyn, and when I had to change trains, they were asking me, in German, since we didn’t know Polish then – (and some were like that… I understand these people, they also lived through a lot. There are good and bad people in every nations, aren’t there?) - where is that town in which we need to change. And then they could see that we are German. And one of them says that the train should stop, and he would throw us out. They also weren’t allowed to travel. That was our welcoming to Poland, that home of ours, it was so painful. And Olsztyn was so dirty, the railway station robbed. There was no washroom, no toilet, everyone had to… All very dirty. Then we started crying, we crouched and were up for going back. We went to this PUR, Polish Repatriation Office and said we didn’t want to go back home anymore. We were only 27kilometres far from the house. We didn’t want to see this house again, we wanted to come back where we came from. But it wasn’t possible anymore".

  • "From Szwaderki to Olsztynek, from Olsztynek where we were for about 5 days, in Gryźliny where the airport was, the girls who must have been with the Russians for a few days came. And they had the lice already. And then they took all of us, like in a train. And so we were going. They sorted us in Morąg – married apart, the youth apart, they took us to the bigger towns by cars. It was Dobre Miasto and also one of these towns, they took us to the three towns, almost to Tilzit. I don’t know how it is called in Polish now. Just before Królewiec. Łyna almost flows there, Insterburg in German. And there, on 28th of February we were loaded into the wagons. We were going for 23 days. On the third day we got a bucket with water. And Russian wagons have such a big wheels, not such like we have. They have a railway already made in Insterburg. So we were going. We passed Czelabińsk. And everything started there. Such an old barracks. I didn’t work there at all because I was always ill. I had to work once – it was lazaretto. But it was just another normal barrack and there were those who just couldn’t. The bedsores – as it was without any mattresses, with nothing and without a straw, only boards. And the boards – just holes, one was upper, the other was lower, so they got tumors. And I was supposed to be, as we say in Polish, to hold. So I couldn’t hold it and dropped it. So I got slapped in the face. But I held it in because it was our enemy, right? And we were enemies for them too. So it was like that, was like that and after 9 days I got recovered and stayed in the other barrack where the straw was. It was much better there. And all these diseases outbroke. And there was shooting when the first transport of people came. They were shooting like that in May. So I asked: “Wita, are we going to be free?” Such a joy. We got better food. And such a „ruki”, such a joy, the Russians sang like that. And it was forbidden for the Russkies, only the captain could come in, because it was a watch at every door, there were women at ours. So it was only him who could come in, any other couldn’t. What I also say is about the difference between civilians and the officers or the higher range. It was a war and the soldiers were more guilty than the women who didn’t hurt anybody. But they had their adjutants, they had their military badges, they could wear them, they got better food".

  • "It depended on a man. Not all of them. You could talk to some of them whom you knew longer. But some of them were – I can just say – mean, or stupid, or with no honor, no good behavior. What did it help you if I did nothing to you and you called me “Fritz”. You even don’t know that “Fritzs” are just a kind of nation, like in Warmia here or Fritz in Germany. Or the Nazi. Who was the Nazi? They were just the normal people. It is just stupidity, to show something.. It wasn’t like that at all. Only once there were two people who denounced and listened carefully. As you couldn’t listen to Radio Free Europe. So they were standing at the window and listened. He was such an intelligent, well-educated man and they caught him next to the window. People surrounded him, here, from this side of the road as here was no asphalt. Because he was standing. Here it was another window. I couldn’t arrange a bedroom here when it was so cold. Stupid me, I had to change it from time to time. So when the man went to the forest I get the neighbour “Come on, Greta, we’ll take it, we’ll change it”. –“Again?!” So they overheard us. And one guy of this neighbour who was helping me.. They were building some buildings for the farmers and I helped to build terrace, and she went there, she prepared second breakfast for them. No one knew that her husband reported to the authorities. And me.. Her husband came back from the meeting, and I was telling it to her only once. And for the next day her husband had to go to the county office and the officer said: “If your woman says that once more, I will sue her”. So nobody will not.. But I didn’t tell about it anybody, neither a neighbour nor that woman, because she was innocent, she musn’t have known about it as she would let it. She would argue, she wouldn’t agree with that".

  • "So the worst thing was when you couldn’t speak and see because you were swollen. Only like the others, when the all barrack were singing – „Näher, mein Gott, zu Dir” in German, “I want to stay closer to you” in Polish, but the words were different. So you could just listen. And you were so thirsty! And the eyes – I was lying up there – you were opening the eyes to see someone downstairs. And with the whole strength you were calling out “I want to drink, I want to drink!”. But no one heard. This was horrible. And I have always been saying: every man, every generation should go through something like that for at least a month and a half, then it would be a different world, different people. They would respect this piece of bread, they would respect each other, they would live in peace. Especially they would respect the bread – they would not throw it down or say: it’s old, stale, it has to be fresh. That’s how things should be. I don’t mean that... but people should know how to maintain respect for life, for… I don’t know how to explain it. And then, getting ready for transport..It turned out that…It was like that for 3 days. The American Committee came so we were examined. Sometimes we had to walk naked in front of committee 3 times a day. They pinched us, to check the skin. Then they chose. And this Russkie captain, the one who had been promising, when I was lying down, and I could not see anymore, he took my hand and pointed, and said that Hitler kaput, the war kaput, du fahren nach Hause. And only eat, whatever there is, but eat and survive. And later he put his word in when I was there, at the camp… He promised me, I lived through all this, all of them dead, the ones with diphtheria, I survived, so… He promised that I will go on the first train. And they listened, and I went".

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    Nowa Wieś na Warmii, 11.09.2012

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And I have always been saying: every man, every generation should go through something like that for at least a month and a half, then it would be a different world, different people They would respect this piece of bread, they would respect each other, they would live in peace

She was born in 1925 in Rybaki. She was a daughter of Rozalia and Johannes Meik. She graduated from primary school in Orzechów. In February 1945, after entry of Russians to her village, she was hiding with her family in the forest. From her home village, she was transported to Insterburg via Olsztynek and Gryźlin, (now Czerniachowsk in Kaliningrad Oblast). She was waiting in the barracks for being transported to Germany. There were lots of diseases. She was suffering from typhus and diphtheria. Soon, in 1945 she was transported to Wittenberg. The journey took 23 days and the conditions of travelling were very tough. Maria Popławska got to Roslau (Upper Franconia). There she got job in a restaurant of Emil Schulz where she cooked and did the cleaning. She spent 1.5 year there and after that, through Berlin, she came back her home village. In 1948 a family of Maria Popławska bought a house and land and settled in Nowa Wieś. She got married (her husband was born in 1911) and had 3 children (the first one was born in 1949).