Excerpts from my diary:
January 8, 2013
After visiting so many web sites and bookmarking them, today I am printing the early sites that I found that were on my computer to finish that portions of what I have already done.
My thinking is that once all is printed, I need sit down and really read through all the print material and go from there. A Russian interpreter is a must. And then a Polish one for the letters. I will be starting with my dad’s letters to mom since his printing is legible from the initial year they were reconnected and before they were married in 1943. They may contain some information about what he experience, even though they probably talked about that a lot when they reunited and no longer wrote about it. But you never know what I will learn. I will have the interpreter do a summary of two weeks’ worth of letters at a time and if there is something in her summary that strikes a chord, I’ll ask for a translation.
Then I’ll start with mama’s.
There is so much intriguing history surrounding Polish, Ukrainian and Russian history that explains why there was so much ethnic tension and hatred for one another. Some human governmental decisions also added to the obvious result. Take for example the region where mama and tatus (mom and dad in Polish) were raised was inhabited predominantly by the Ukrainians. Post WWI boundaries and boarder wars gave those territories to the Poles because they had them before in the 18th century. A victorious border war with Russia gave Poland that region. The Ukrainians and Pole as a result had to assimilate. As I recall, stories told by mama were about how her father taught Polish history to Polish children, in his basement during a time when they were ruled by Austo-Hungarian Empire. He was a real patriot, who wanted to make sure that Polish heritage and culture lived. That region, Stanislawow, which is essentially a state within Poland, was very Ukrainian and the Poles were the minority. Both my parents came from that region. There was never a mention in those stories mama told that the Poles were the minority. In 1931, in my mother’s town of Kosow, 7.2% of the population indicated that Polish was their first language while 85% indicated Ukrainian was their first language. In my dad’s hometown of Stryj, in the same region, the percentage was 16. % vesus 69.6%. The Nationalistic movement within the Ukrainian Republic, which was annexed by the Soviets after the revolution, was very strong. There were other issues that fueled the hate, such as Polish settlers coming into the border regions that were acquired by the Poles, post WWI. Polish soldiers that served in WWI were given parcels of land to farm and settle in the region that previously was a part of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. During the inter-war years that borderland region was called the Kresy. There is no evidence that my parents’ families were settlers, since many of the settlers were encouraged to relocate in the 20’s and early 30’s and both families were already there.
Just knowing that my dad came from the Kresy helped me figure out which unite he would have been in at the start of the war. His papers had Kresy on them.
The Kresy was taken over after the Russians invaded Poland. The Ukrainian Republic wanted to re-acquired its territory as a result of the invasion. There was the notion that one day there will be an independent Ukraine but of course the Soviet Union took over all those territories. The Nationalistic extremists wanted all the Poles out of their region. This is where the subject of mama’s mother’s killing comes in. There was a big push to purge, actually killing and burning villages was the means of ethnic cleansing. The timing for that was 1943 where the majority of the murders occurred and into early 1944. I found a document that said that mama’s mother died on March 30, 1944. So she almost survived the war, because in 1944, the Poles were given an option of leaving willingly or be killed. Mama always spoke of her mother being shot by the Ukrainians.
There are so many issues that would or could make for an interesting non-fiction or historical fiction novel, or it may be very boring. The string for the story is still anyone’s guess.