HOMELAND OF MINE AND MY FAMILY

WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA

Their biographies are similar but they are an unusual mixture of tempers, talents, beauties. Also their common feature - despite their young age – is a serious attitude to life, modesty and a kind of cultural humility, rarely seen today among the Polish youth. However, they do not have any hang-ups, and know very well who they are and who they want to be and are proud of it. They are stubborn, persistent, ambitious and want to learn well. And they are keen on singing and dancing.

Is it a dream of the future Polish generations? Yes, but such young people can be seen today in real, in a kind of unusual place, which is the School for Poles from the East (College of St. Stanisław Kostka – a secondary school for the Polish disapora), hidden with a dormitory in the labyrinths of the buildings complexes at Borowiecka street in Warsaw.

Do Poles eat mushrooms?

Iwan Łysakowski from Kazachstan, from Azastan, has been in Poland for 2 years. Why did he come to Poland? – In order to return to the homeland of my ancestors - he answers very seriously. My dad has always said: You are a Pole, you live here as our ancestors were sent here…In Azastan he attended the Sunday school of Polish language and here he got to know about this Polish school. When he finished his eighth year of education he arrived in Poland.

At home we had a Polish coat of arms – Edward Święcicki from Kazakhstan says proudly. – My preat-grandparents were sent there in 1939 and left on a field. In Kazakhstan my grandma and dad were born. It was a big family who lived in Zielony Gaj…My sister and I were born in Pawłodar.

When I was about 8-9 years old – says Edward – I began to attend a school in which we learnt Polish language, danced, sang in Polish. My sister was the first to have decided about leaving for Poland, to Bydgoszcz, where we had acquaintances. It was 4 years ago. She passed her GCSE exam there, now she lives in Warsaw where he studies at the Fine Art Academy, and I also arrived here…

Olga Siedlecka from the first year of the secondary school arrived from the north of Kazakhstan. As she says, she has known from her childhood that they are Poles, as her great-grandmother came from Poland, her family was sent from Kazakhstan in 1936. – I also – she says – want to live in Poland as this is the homeland of mine and my family. In the 30s my great-grandma Petronela was sent to Kazakhstan where my grandpa Bronisław was born and later my dad – a student of the final year of the secondary school Włada Dobrowolska from Kazakhstan knows a lot about Polish roots of her family. The fact how much this Polishness was present in their life is proven by a funny event a few dozen years ago. My sister, Włady, being 7 years old then, asked during a family lunch: Dad, do Poles eat mushrooms?

Włada follows her older sister who knows that Poles eat mushrooms as she has lived in Poland for a long time, has Polish citizenship; she graduated from the Jagiellonian University at the faculty of law.

What to do with this Polishness

Dana Kuszel arrived in Warsaw 2 years ago from Petersburg, and she speaks Polish fluently as she has been learning Polish language since she was 6. – My great-grandparents from my mum’s family line had their property in Belarus – Dana tells us a family story with great emotions. – My great-granddad was taken to the inland of Russia and we do not even know where he was killed and where his grave is. The great-granddad’s brother was shot to death….In archive we found even documents that members of our family had held their seats in the Polish Seym.

Andżelina Rapcewicz was born in Petersburg and 4 years ago she got to know – thanks to documents found in the archives with a lot of difficulty - that she must be Polish. Strond Polish roots are in the family of her father. – When it was already possible, my dad began to investigate the history of his family – says Andżelina – and it turned out that my great-grandpa was born in Wileńszczyzna. My dad mentioned that in his childhood he had used to visit his grandma in a village where they always spoke Polish. My great-grandma was trying to bring up her children and grandchildren in Polish, in a Catholic way so that they would remember about Poland and Polish tradition. And my dad passed over this feeling to us, in order to do something with this Polishness.

Andżelina and her younger brother attend the School for Poles from the East now – she is in the second year of the secondary school and her brother in the first one.

Denis Kidiajkin from the last year of the secondary school has been in Poland for three years. He says about himself that although he is Russian, he has known since he was born that he is a Pole. – Before that my brother and sister arrived here – he says but my parents still live in Russia. My mum would like to live in Poland but my father must work in Russia, as he runs his own business and it would be hard for him to give up all this.

Pride of Polishness

Nadzieja Pielichowsa from Kiev has Polish roots both from her father’s family line and her mother’s. However, she knows much more about her father’s ancestors. – My great-grandparents – Nadzieja says proudly – come from the Kupniewicz family, from Żytomierz. They were sent to Amur from there. My great-grandma was Catholic, in spite of the discontent of her relatives. My grandpa was born in Crimea. Later my great-grandparents and their children, that is, my dad and aunt, moved to Kiev. My father is very proud of his Polishness but he is not going to move to Poland. I would like to stay here.

For Roman Iwasyk from Sambor in the Lvov district his arrival in Poland was not shocking. He has been feeling emotionally connected to Poland since his childhood, as he used to arrive here on holiday, to Christmas Eve dinner in Cracow, to Opole where his mum’s family live in Rzeszów. His older brother lives in Poznań and is graduating from his studies this year.

I have always known that I will come to Poland for sure but not earlier than when studying here. However, when in our Polish Sunday school in Sambor we found out that in Warsaw there is a good secondary school for the youth from the East, I and my mum decided not to waste time. So, now I am here, in the third year of the secondary school in Warsaw at Bobrowiecka street. I am planning to stay here to get to university to do art and movie studies, maybe at the Warsaw Advertisement School…. Maria Khmel comes from Dniepr, that is, an area on the eastern side of Dniepr. For the last year she has been living in Cherson to where her father was seconded, who is a soldier of the Ukrainian army. She found out about her Polish roots from her father of her mum’s family line. – My great-grandparents – she says – lived on the former territory of Poland, but because of the repressions they moved to the east. My grandpa told me that my great-grandmother had to change her Polish nationality into the Polish one in order to avoid troubles. My grandpa has had a document with the crossed out Polish nationality till today.

Although Maria has been in Poland only for three months, and is in the first year, she is sure that she will stay here.

Poland is a great dream

My great-grandma was Polish and her name was Anna Kobylacka – says Tatiana Majmieskułowa from Taszkient. – During the war she was deported to Russia where she was almost dying from hunger. Later she was in Uzbeksitan. I do not know where she lived in Poland, as all documents are lost. In Uzbekistan my grandma was born and now I am here…. Before her arrival in Poland she was learning Polish for 4 years and went to dancing classes at the Polish Centre of Culture. – My dad also thinks about going to Poland in the future, but now he must still take care of my grandma and granddad, who cannot arrive here… - Tatiana says sadly.- My dad fell in love with Poland, now Poland is a great dream for him, and he would like to spend the rest of his life here.

Tatiana would like to graduate from the faculty of pedagogy or psychology. Now she is waiting for two younger sisters and her older brother; her sisters are coming to this school next year.

Maria Buszkiewicz from Brześć in Belarus has known since her childhood that in the future she will go to school in Poland. Her family was going to send her to Poland not earlier than when she was to study but they found out that she is in a Warsaw secondary school for Poles from the East, she had already arrived here in 2017 and now she is in the second year. One of her two sisters is already studying in the Warsaw School of Economics, Maria would like to follow her. Her parents run their own company and at least for now they are not going to Poland forever.

Illia Mielnik from Majchrowskoje in Belarus found out about his Polish roots a few years ago when he received a Card of a Pole. – It was my mum who found dpcuments and I know – he says -that my grandparents stayed in their place of living, in Belarus, although it used to be Poland.

Illia is in the second year of the secondary school now and does not still know what he is going to study, maybe economics. Surely he wants to stay in Poland as his mum has lived here for not a long time, renting a flat.

Noel Martirosjan from Armenia in 2016 was in Poland on a camp for the youth from Caucasus. He met two Armenian girls there who learnt in that school, praising it. He decided to have a try. His story about his Polish roots is colourful: his great-grandpa was a Pole, lived in Poland, now it is Belarus. Later he went to Magnitogorsko and to Armenia from there where he got married to a Greek woman. His great-grandpa’s name was Kościuszko-Wałużyniec and during the Soviet times it was difficult to have a Polish surname. He changed it into a surname which was not outstanding – Wałużyniec. – My dad is Armenian, my mum is a Pole in 50 percent – Noel jokes – and I was 7 when I knew that I had Polish, Greek and Austrian genes.

Why did Noel choose Poland? Mainly because thanks to his contact with the Union of Poles in Armenia he began to absorb Polish culture in his childhood. He did not have any particular plans, but only knows that he wants to sing. In Armenia he used to sing in church, priests thought he had a good voice which must be trained and the same was said by professors at university. He hopes that it will be possible in Poland.

Dreams by the head-teacher

The head-teacher Ew Petrykiewicz would like – and she has already made the first steps -to establish the Centre of Education and Culture named Ignacy Paderewski, an educational centre for Poles returning to homeland, with their particular attitude to the East and Kazakhstan. In this centre, beside the already exiting secondary school and the primary school, an administrative-legal organ would function which would help families of the students of the School for Poles from the East to settle down in Poland. We would like to have a mini-hostel – the head-teacher says dreamingly – where families could stay for a short time. We would like to organize in our school the whole system of teaching Polish language, help them get prepared for a job, and their retraining.

Thanks to the graduates of the school a lot of families have moved to Poland; every year 3-4 families arrived to live here permanently, and there have already been 12 years like that. – If we had our own suitable headquarter – says the head-teacher – we could bring students here and also prepare a route of their families’ arrival, certainly, in a wider social cooperation.

Whereas the school is struggling with everyday life, hardly making two ends meet. A hard problem is paying the high rent. From September to December there is a shortage of money for student’s food, as donations for this purpose from the Senate of the Republic of Poland cover only half a year.

We live only on donations – says the head-teacher Petrykiewicz. – We are calculating all the time how much money we can spend. Only thanks to our cooking on our own, which we managed to organize this school year, we are not in debts for catering which we paid off in installments before. Now we are worried about the ‘input to a boiler’ for which we are begging, where we can. Recently a man has come to us to donate potatoes and other vegetables….Meat and diaries, essential in diet of young people, are very expensive. Fruit, yoghurts are a luxury for us… We are trying to help our youth eat delicious food and as much as they need but it is not a minimum yet which we should provide to them. However, the youth do not complain. And they differ from their Polish friends at their age in it.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 51-52/2018 (23-30 XII 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl