Elżbieta Wrzosek

* 1930  

  • "It was 1945. The Polish school in Baranowicze was opened. We lived ten kilometers away in Stołowicze but I attended school in Baranowicze. I remember the 1st of May and I remember everybody speaking Polish. There were some old Polish teachers: Mrs. Chmielewska, Mrs. Zaręba, Mr. Dąbrowski. I can’t remember all of the names... There was a lady who we laughed at a lot – we called her silly Katiusza – she used to teach us Russian language. The headmaster Mr. Gutto taught History. The rest of the teachers we had were good and old Polish teachers. On the 1st of May we were told to meet and glorify the Bolsheviks. Nobody went. On the 3rd of May all of the teachers and the school children organised a huge manifestation. We brought the Polish flags and that kind of stuff… The local government closed the school on the 10th of May and we were banned signing up to any other school. That’s how it was. My family and I were from Stołowicze and we had to leave the village because of me. We moved to Mołczadzi with my aunt Zosia. Finally, I managed to complete the school unofficially, here".

  • "I really learned my lesson. I had to work as a teacher in a camp. The Soviets called me, they frightened me at the beginning but after that they asked politely. They told me I could be very helpful teaching the prisoners in the camp school. They said “ For sure very few student will come. They will come just to look at you” ( people used to say I was quite pretty). “They will stay with you for a day at school so they will stop wandering around and committing stupid crimes around the camp”. People were ready to kill themselves, they were drinking and doing terrifying things in the camp so the Soviets forced me to work here. I was in the camp three times a week. About fifty prisoners used to take part in my lessons. I got friendly with them and they turned out to be really nice prisoners. I helped them as much as I could. The most important thing I could do for them was taking and bringing letters. According to the camp regulations, the prisoners were allowed to send letters once every three months or once every six. I took the letters always when they asked me. I often carried about twenty or thirty letters. Every time passing the guards, I had this silly smile on my face. Naturally, nobody never inspected me. To make it more exciting, I must say that it wasn’t a kind of camp for political prisoners but for sexual ones. My superior was a headmaster of the school".

  • "The Soviets camps were just dreadful. One boy from the other camp used to visit me from time to time. He was very nice Ukrainian boy. I looked after him. When he was sixteen he left his home village, starving, to find a job in a town. He intended to earn some money and send it to his parents who stayed in the village but he didn’t manage to earn any. He borrowed the money and after two months somebody came and said: ‘Give the money back’. ‘I don’t have them’ – he answered. They told him: ‘We’ve got something to take care of, you come with us’, so he did. They were plundering the shop while he had to watch the place around if anbody came. The police caught them and he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for the group robbery. I used to bring some things for him to the camp. After a few months, I found out my boy Dzima spiting something out. He avoided meeting me and seemed to be embarrassed. He became a wretched men. I don’ really know what happened to him, he stopped visiting me. In general those prisoners were very grateful people. It’s difficult to describe what special kind of people they were. Once I came to the camp in tears because my baby – Tereska was dying of an inflammation and I had no medicine to save her. The baby was dying and there were no medicine, no doctors, nobody, nothing! The prisoners asked: “Dear Elizawieta, what happened? What happened to you?’. “My baby is dying of an inflammation”- I answered. They asked: “Why didn’t you tell us?’. Russia in that time and even now is a kind of a strange country. It really is and I can’t understand it. Can you imagine this – in no longer than thirty minutes I had everything I needed – a bottle of spirit, the medicines that were impossible to buy – the penicillin, the streptomycin. It was forty-five years ago, those medicines were just not available. I got some fruits as well while we weren’t used to eating much fruit, as it was too difficult to buy them. All of a sudden I had full bag of fruits. They packed the whole bag up with the fruits, the spirit, the medicine and some other things. Only those people in the camp knew where it came from. Because I worked in the camp, I spent the time with the prisoners, I treated them well– Tereska stayed alive".

  • Full recordings
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    Baranowicze, 13.06.2011

    duration: 03:09:28
    media recorded in project Oral History Archive - Budapest
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To make it more exciting, I must say that it wasn’t a kind of camp for political prisoners but for sexual ones

Elżbieta Wrzosek
Elżbieta Wrzosek
photo: Archiv - Pamět národa

She was born on 7 September 1930 in Mława in a higher class family with  artistic roots. The first few years of her life, she spent in Warsaw. In September 1939, the family left Warsaw and went to the East. Her Father was killed by the Soviets. Elżbieta Wrzosek’s mother with her small kids and sister settled in Stołowicze where they stayed the whole time during the war and occupation. While the Jews were exterminated around Baranowicze and Słonim, the Wrzosek’s family  took the trouble to save two Jewish children. The hideout for one of the kids was disclosed to the Germans and the girl was executed. The Jewish boy survived and afterwards he emigrated to Israel. After some years, Elżbieta Wrzosek’s mother - Teresa Dołęga-Wrzosek, for her attitude to the Jews, was conferred the title on Righteousnes among the Nations. She died as a result of sustained injuries caused by the Germans and because of the exhausting investigation made by the KGB. Elżbieta Wrzosek was the one who had to maintain and assume responsibility for the family. Thanks to the scholarship she got, she managed to get a degree from the State College of the Foreign Language. She graduated in German and Romance studies. She worked for a while in Prużany as a teacher, then she got married. Together with her husband, who was an engineer,  they settled in Kujbyszewo. She was a headmaster of the Polish Social School  in Baranowicze. She continues to be a very active person among the local community propagating Polish culture.