Updated: Jun 22
My grand grand dad, Ludwik Świderski, born 1852 na Kresach in Domonince/Domaninka in pow. Krzemiecki, died in 1932 in Kodeń, wrote in his last years a memoir from their life in Bucułanòwka, later in Smolary in Volhynia...
He was a szlachcic, ziemianin "gentleman farmer" both managing and then owning a piece of land, with fish ponds, sugar factory from sugar - beet, forests, animals...
at least I know where my black fingernails come from...
they are hand written and I am trying to decipher, and then translate them, by and by.
Paralelly, his wife Wanda wrote memoirs of her work at Polska Macierz Szkolna, a volunteer organisation of Polish schools in Podolia, kept going at a great cost in the face of bolchevik repressions and general lawlessness.
Here is the first paragraph in Polish and then in English; I am not sure yet how to organise this text, perhaps I will make two blog entries one for each language,
This above is one of the very few precious photographs I have of them.
(number indicates page in a written manuscript)
Village and an estate located on the Stochod (now Stokhid river), in Wolyń, in the Kowel district, on the border of the Łuck district. Diocese of Łuck-Żytomiersk, former parish of Hulewicze, now Holoby, commune of Powursk, police district of Holoby. They are six wiorst from the "Jugo-Zapadna" railway station, and from Kovel by 30 wiorst.
In terms of physiography, this corner of Kovel region is located on the border of Volhynian Polesie; to the north, muddy lowlands begin, passing further into the swamps of Pripyet', and to the south lies a wide strip of fertile, black earth, which stretches through the whole of Podole, as far as beyond the Dnieper. No wonder that the soil in Smolary is a strange mixture of various shades; however, sap-like sands predominate here, sometimes with the addition of humus. Wheat was coming well there for me, despite the fact that the peasants did not sow it at all.
Subsoil - frank,(?) in places (on Zaholiwnie) abounded in marl.
Meadows - mostly acid, better by the river and on river highs
Marshes - covered with wispy or weak trees, Wyżar and Pohonia had deep deposits of first-class peat. When digging drainage canals, huge pieces of healthy wood were found in this peat - mostly oak and alder.
Forests - were mixed with a predominance of deciduous - alder, spruce and fir grew on moist soil, oaks, hornbeams, birches, elms and ashes grew on the stronger soil - pine, birch on sandy soil. All varieties grew wild, neglected, lined with thick bushes of thick, hundred-year-old hazel, bird cherry, marsh mallow - here and there entwined with coils of hops or wild ivy.
There was no shortage of water, either. First of all, Stokhod, the right tributary of the Pripyat. It flows lazily, along many inlets "Stuchodami" - these branches create a lot of "ostrów" *little islands( on the river, and on both sides of Stochod - a wide ribbon of meadows and marshes - all overgrown with lush, good grass.
We had two lakes. Both beautiful, each one of its kind. Lake Powurskie, large, with a high, clean shore, bordered our borders. Smaller than Powurskie, the Black Lake belonged entirely
to the manor. Round, cut out like a compass, surrounded by swamps, closed on all sides by forests. The forest rises up like an amphitheatre, several storeys high. In this unfathomable lake, giant fish were swimming in silence - no one could catch them there, they were shot only in the spring, when the sheet of ice had let off and bogs had not yet thawed. When I took the canal crossing the Pohonia to the lake and the fish felt the current unknown to them - they stirred, full of anxiety , fought, jumped out and, unwilling or unable to come to terms with the new living conditions, they died out by and by. The remaining ones were stunted by the Germans with hand grenades. Other than that there was probably no puddle where a fish was not splashing; Stochod abounded in all local varieties. Pike, perch, tench, carp, ide, catfish, roach, burbot, yumy, and a number of others. In fish ponds I kept the king and Polish carp, some catfish and crucian carp.
Hunting - abounded in all kinds of marsh birds - all species of wild ducks and divers, doublets, screams, hartshhneps, curlews
and chanterelles, and also lapwings, bitterns, herons, terns and even seagulls - and kingfishers. Woodcock, thrushes nested at the edge of the forest, grouse and black grouse in peat bogs. There were also hazelnuts. There were partridges, wood pigeons, wild pigeons, turtle doves, foxes, hares and goats in the fields. There was no big game. Deer, elks and wild boars only visited occasionally, wandering in from the neighbouring forests. Only after the World War did more big game multiply and even wolves appeared from somewhere.
Ethnography and Work - The autochthons of this land were supposedly a separate Slavic tribe, "Wołynians". The people speak the Ruthenian dialect, maintaining a specific pronunciation, softer than Podolska, phonetically more similar to Polish than in Biała Ruthenia. Because the type and character of the population were greatly influenced by Polish settlement, the traces of which can be seen, for example, in a large number of Polish surnames. Some surnames remained in their original wording: Markowscy, Potarscy - many were ruined, such as Krzysztoporuki, Sawczuki - they themselves mention that their grandfathers were "Catholics" and called Krzysztoporski, Sawiccy. They talk about it themselves, but they are too stupid and nationally ignorant to make them feel Polish.
Zajączkówka deserves special attention - this village is an ethnic oasis because it is inhabited by settled Gypsies. Completely assimilated with the natives, they retained their thieving instinct, swarthy complexion and pretty women after their vagabond ancestors. In general, the local people were not poor, but backward, uncultured, somewhat dirty and lethargic. The main basis of existence is work on the land, but the peasants maintain archaic methods of farming with a strange stubbornness; conservative, like all peasants, they prefer to stay with meager crops so as not to introduce any innovations. In addition, each farmer maintained whole herds of cattle, although they do not know dairying. Fishing and earnings from forest exploitation are a side income. Baby(women) sow a lot of flax and weave. However, yarn and homespun were not sold, they were hoarding them as a kind of splendor and family treasure.
Religion - The largest denomination here was once Uniate with a large addition of Catholic. After the uprising of 1863,
the Muscovites began converting the country. In the deanery of Kovel alone, 4 Catholic churches were confiscated: in Hulewicze, Mielnica, Opalin and the monastery in Maciejów, as well as all little Uniate churches.
Among this number our Uniate church in Cerkówka, without changing its external architecture in any way. At the same time, with truth and untruth, and often by force, they baptized anyone they could with "istinnuju pravoslavnuju vieru".(true orthodox faith)
Past - Historical, military and cultural
The mention of Powursk can be found in "Pamiat. Kij. Arch. Rom" vol. III, part 2, 49-59, and vol. IV, part 2, 180. I do not know, however, of any archival records concerning directly Smolary or Cerkówka. So I'm looking for the past on the spot, in places themselves. Their location tells me a lot about this. A manor house, a grange next to it, then courts and buildings. All this was spread out on a large hill, surrounded on all sides by marshes and meadows, a series of ponds, closed with forests and the blue ribbon of Stochod.
Our hill dominates the entire neighbourhood, looks over three fords, the only ones within a radius of the several dozen wiorst (1 wiorst =2154m)
also, when using modern artillery, over the railway bridge in the village of Zajączkówka. Hence the great strategic importance of Smolary. Just as life has an unchanging course, independent of this or other doctrine we profess, the strategy always remains the same, despite the fact that the form and tactics of the battle may change.
The territory of Smolary, the importance of which proved so clearly during the World War, has already played its role in a number of battles of the past centuries.
Traces of the distant past linger to this day in the legendary memories of the population.
With the current name "Tatar Mountains", on the southern border of our forest, and "Rycerskie Góry" "The Knights Mountains" near Stobychwa, the peasants refer to the times of fighting with the Tatars. Both armies were to camp on opposite hills, and a bloody meeting was to take place on the territory of the future farm. As historical data shows that the hordes of Batya destroyed Kovel, it is not only possible but also probable that our warriors blocked the way for the Tartars in this place to defend the passages through the fords.
The name of the "Karawan" forest, which stretches in the north beyond the village of Smolary, on both sides of the no longer existing royal road, has also remained from the period of the Tatar invasions
- and even in the name of the village "Czeremoszno".
Under King Sigismund I, the Mass Mobilization(Pospolite Ruszenie) of the Lithuanian lands under Hetman Jerzy Radziwiłł, when it captured Kovel from Muscovite, in 1534 - must have passed through our fords. Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries left a number of Swedish graves near Borówno (even the Russian government took care of them) and the "Saxon mohyl" in the Smolarski park.
Original grave. On top of it grew a fan of five old oaks. During the war, the oaks were cut down, the grave was dug up with trenches and shelters so that I could hardly recognize its place.
And in the last war of the still independent Motherlandland, 1792 - when general Judycki fought in the north against Kreczetnikov's army near Mir - in the south repulsed the pressure of Kochowski Prince Jozef and Kosciuszko
Against the Polish troops, that were leaving from Lubar through Ostróg and Dubno, Włodzimierz at Dubienka attacked their wing Lewanidow. Levanidov must have gone through Smolary, since he later left for Kovel and in ten thousand. troops attacked Opalin. Tormazow with 8,000 at Dorohusk, and Kachowski with 25,000 attacked Dubienka and Kościuszko, having only 8,000, had to heroically retreat.
In 1809, muscovite troops passed through here on their way to assemble in Włodzimierz and go under the command of the Ksc. Golitsyn on Lwów and Kraków and pursue a vile, ambiguous policy, making it difficult for Poniatowski to perform his brilliant actions.
And in 1812, the Great Army must have crossed here somewhere with its flank during the retreat, as evidenced by the monument in Kovel. This monument is located in Piasze, in the city, and is currently equipped with a plaque "1569 - 1919" to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the unification of Volhynia with Poland.
The plaque was placed by Poles from the Kowel district.
In the winter of 1801, the corps of Russian cavalry and Gen. Gejsmar (he got Gródek near Rzeszczyniec) walked this way through Smolary.
Finally, in 1863, one of the insurgent units of the dictator Langiewicz was hiding in the local forests. I couldn't find out any details about it, they mention only a grave from that time in the forest, in Nowiny, opposite Jaworowy Brod.
Personally, I suppose it is of older origin, judging from the age of the pines growing on it.
Worse, however, than the graves and spilled blood was the abyss of ruin into which the muscovites threw this country, when, suppressing the uprising of 63 and russifying the country, they destroyed everything that was Polish. Churches were taken, laid in ruins the former castles of Milnica and Holoby, estates and manors were plundered. The hitherto numerous brickyards, weaving mills, tanneries, tar factories, tar mills, etc., disappeared somewhere. The prototype of the old industry perished.
Agriculture was no better. Serfdom was abolished, but the seed of destruction was already in the alleged benefit. By granting land to the peasants, a bizarre chessboard was created in order to exacerbate the reluctance smoldering in the hut towards the manor and to keep it in a state of eternal festering. This is how the country was held in darkness and savagery since the last uprising, and only after the revolution of 1905 there was some, admittedly relative, yet improvement. This was due to the revival of the country that took place a few years before the war. In this respect, the self-governed "zemstvo" the landowners council, did a lot, but above all the private initiative of our landed gentry.
As far as our neighborhood is concerned, I brought a big impulse here before the war.
The World War, like a wave of a raging element, completely wipes out not only ours but also the previous generations' achievements. Just think that for three years, three years in a row, all the peoples of the entire warring world gathered here, on this piece of land, so that Stochod would run with their blood. After all, General Bezobrazov was deprived of the guard corps for having deployed 40,000 guards here in one day. And such fortifications as here and near Ikskül on the eastern front were unknown. From Batyj's hordes to Wilhelm's corps - all of them were driven by the same - the strategic importance of the hills above Stochod. Numerous bulletins and official communiqués of the headquarters of the Russian troops testified to the battles in Smolary, numerous cemeteries scattered over our forests and fields testify, and finally our ruin proves it.
I have not known them for a long time. Previously, Smolary and Cerkówka were part of the Powurski estate, which was formerly in the Koźlinicze estate. The owners of the Powurski estate were the Piniński family. One of them built a nearby, in Cerkówka, a brick church - the Uniate church and surrounded it with a wall, within which he himself got buried.
The Muscovites incorporated the Uniate church into the Orthodox parish in Czeremoszne.
Piniński's tombstone and the wall around the church were dismantled by soldiers during the war, and used the bricks for stoves in the barracks .
Powurszczyzna was purchased consequently from the Piniński family by Wacław Mogilnicki, a relative of my late First Wife, and old Mogilnicka gave these goods as a dowry to her son-in-law Julian Głębocki. At that time, the estate included the villages and Powursk, Czeremoszna, Cerkówka, Smolary, Lubarka and the farm Brickyard - with a total area of about 12,000 tithes. Głębocki sold the forests, they were bought by engineer Feliks Sabatowski, in partnership with some two middling gentry; they laid a special railway from Kowel beyond Czeremoszne to exploit the forest. It was an astonishing effort, considering contemporary conditions, all the more important that there was no railway line connecting Kowel with Sarny and now it passes through Powursk. At that time there existed only the Kowl-Rivno railway. Of course, the value of the forest increased incommensurably - you could buy several such estates for the value of this forest alone.
However, it is the nature of a Pole that he is capable of extraordinary effort, but he will never put it to gain.
The associates were having a ball.
The forest went to hell and the Jews made fortunes. Glębocki, when he got the money, built a large manor house and a farm in Powursk, all made of brick and solid, but when his wife died, he became addicted and drank the rest.
Five children remain. They locked up their son Józef in a madhouse. The daughters drew lots. Powursk was given to Miss Magdalena Głębocka, Brickyard to Lionja Pomorska, Czeremoszne and Lubarka to Mrs Małachowska.
Małachowska sold them to Wołchowski, and he sold them to Jeńko-Darowski - just a so-so, uninteresting Muscovite. Smolary and Cerkówka were given to Miss Marja Głąbacka, who married an engineer, Aleksander Chalicki.
From Chalicki family bought Smolary Ś.P.(late)Witold Świderski, making a down payment of 10,000 rubles. Witold offered me the redemption of the property.
I saw it and accepted his offer in 1912.
I paid off Witold and Chalicki.
Program and work.
After having gone to Smolary and having carefully studied the characteristics of the property, I set out a predetermined program of action. I knew that I had not only valuable forests, but also an excellent, though completely unused, workshop. Having spent my whole life on the Podolian soil, I did not really trust the sands of Smolary, and I did not want to treat the land there as the only, or even the main,
source of income.
The land was perfect for fish farms, as if it was asking for them. I also had suitable conditions for breeding and dairy farming. I decided to move the cowshed from Bucułanówka - all that was needed was to expand the farm.
For 5000 rubles Engineer Chalicki prepared plans, measurements and costs for all fishing equipment, which, according to his estimate was to amount to 25,000 rubles.
I estimated the enlargement of the manor, outbuildings and farm at several thousand rubles.
In total, as I calculated then, I needed to invest about 50,000 rubles in the estate.
Two questions arose: where to get the money for the investments, and how to make these contributions effective?
Invest over time, or at the level to have an income right away?
I decided on a one-time investment so that in a few years everything would be up and running.
For the money, I could get it by closing down Bucułanówka and selling a plot of forest in Smolary, being satisfied with my annual income, live affluently and quite peacefully. With this in mind, I tried to obtain permission to cut down several hundred tithes of the forest. However, the forests were so beautiful and valuable that it would be a pity.
I was thinking
about the future and my Children.
To strip Smolary of the forest meant to leave the property without its greatest asset, and of its permanent value. However, having connections, enjoying a well-established reputation and simply infinite credit, I could incur a debt without too much worry and a debt of 50,000 rubles in total wouldn't be too burdensome for me.
I decided that it would be better to save for a few years, so as not to make an investment at the expense of the forest. Leave the forest as fixed capital - a kind of endowment fund that is constantly growing, and it is growing disproportionately in relation to other values.
And later when it came to the division, the son taking the estate, would be able to pay off the lion's share of his siblings' shares with the forest and the Podolian lease.
During two years of tireless, purposeful work and huge contributions,
I built a whole farm, quads, forester's lodges, fishermen's buildings.
I expanded the manor house, enlarged greatly the park, established a large commercial fruit garden.
I brought in two teams of Latvian specialists who worked on building the fish ponds, carried out leveling and earthworks. I drained the forest and meadows in the entire estate, got rid of wastelands. I managed to clean and bring
ca 300 tithes of the forest to proper condition.
I built several new roads, and I brought all the old ones to proper condition. I brought in my first class Simonthaler(?) barn.
I brought over the most valuable specimens of my Anglo-Arab horses; I did not import the entire stud as I had no intention of breeding them; I became convinced that thoroughbred horses should be bred as a noble pleasure, not as a source of income.
The income from fish brought me about 9,000 rs in the first year, and in the future, the annual income from fish was estimated at 21,000 rs.
I did not forget about the farming. I brought tools and machines. I introduced crop rotation. I used artificial fertilizers, made experimental plots. The couch grass i was ferrying out by wagonloads.
I improved my agricultural culture considerably. Stefan Włodarski (Toborczyk, who was taken from me as a reserve officer on the first day of mobilization) helped me zealously and with great skill.
I was also concerned with the industrialization of the estate. I planned in advance how to do it. I started with the oil mill. Due to a faulty installation, the machines were not assembled until the war, and it so happened that I put it into operation only a few months before the property was destroyed. Together with the oil mill, I opened a flour mill.
Later, putting off its implementation for a few years, I was to build a second farm near Cerkówka
in "Obszarze", expand the mill and erect a distillery.
To sum up - I put a lot of work, energy, ingenuity, my soul and capital into Smolary. I did not spare myself or money, because I saw how this virgin land began to pay back handsomely.
The World War has first of all forced me to liquidate the Podolian lease and my Podolian interests, which was a significant loss for me - in the next move it razed to the ground everything I had created, not leaving me even smouldering ruins.
By the irony of fate what remained was only worthless, ruined soil and - debts.
It couldn't be worse - and yet subjecting my plans, calculations and my work to a meticulous, conscientious review, I state with all firmness that the plan was good, the calculation sound and the execution purposeful.
Yet by God's will along came the war and thwarted everything, ploughed through the work of the whole life, and took it from us and our children.
If you, God, are in charge of this sacrifice, then make it worthy at least for the country.
The first period of struggle
I left Smolary on a day memorable for me, September 16, 1915.
Apart from mass requisitions of horses and cattle, the estate remained untouched.
Russian troops, fleeing from the Germans, evacuated the entire country. They forcibly displaced us. After 3 years of wandering abroad in 1919. we started to gather again, sneaking back to the nest by different routes. The first to return to Poland was Władzio and soon he learned about the fighting near Lwów. Naturally, his first impulse was to join the army; and so that the estate would not remain at the mercy of providence, he gave it to his cousin Bronisław Łychowski for management. He made a rough management plan with him and stipulated that if I or one of my siblings returned from Russia, we would take over the administration on demand.
Having agreed with Władzio, I gave Łychowski my Glębock and Pomorska estates for administration.
It should be added that Smolary, as an abandoned property was threatened to be taken over for reform or otherwise given to the peasants - in a word, one of these emergency laws, so numerously produced in Kresy by the Eastern Territories Board, was to be applied to Smolary and Powursk.
Having miraculously escaped from Czerezwyczajka, and seeing the deaths of all my former friends and neighbours, I did not stay in Vinnytsia any longer, but as I stood,
with a stick in my hand, I crept to the MotherLand, through fields and forests, as much as possible, like a pilgrim, like some thug being hunted almost set on by dogs.
When I arrived in Powursk, I found Jan already.
After Zdzisław Grocholski's departure, Jaś held the office of the Polish Commissioner of the Podolian Land in Winnica and held it until it was high time for him to beat it.
To avoid snares John had to take a detour through Romanian territory. He, too, wanted to join the army at once to avenge wrongs. More sensible, however, having looked around and seeing what was happening in the country, he decided that he would be more needed on the spot. He wanted to look after the estate and prepare some pied-à-terre for the family. That he was ragged, barefoot and hungry, so he took the position of a judge in Powursk.
As soon as he was settled, Jan zealously took up social work, he fought as much as he could against the orgy of lawlessness that was unfolding in our Borderlands. Finally, partly from the salary and partly from the money obtained from Smolary, and mainly thanks to his connections, he set up asylum in Powursk for children returning from Russia, hundreds of whom were dying because their parents could not feed them, because they themselves were dying of hunger.
Edzio came (my grandfather) Manuta (my gran, wife of Edzio) and Jadzia arrived.
All emaciated and sick. Edzio barely escaped, leaving his apartment, studio and well-started scientific career in Kiev. In order to get started somewhere, Edward takes up the post of the district doctor in Kowel in January 1920.
When I returned to Poland, I asked myself whether I was the one who was freaking out, or whether the war had so distorted today's people that they couldn't agree with their pre-war principles - then the memories of those battles that my Sons fought would excuse my disgust. Orgies (of lawlessness) took place in the Borderlands.
Muscovites, half-wits and rabble ruled.
In the name of subversive slogans, the young Polish statehood was damaged at every step.
We, the local people, Poles, and especially landowners, were harassed as if we were enemies of the country, "Ukraine", socialism and God knows what else. Moreover, our borderlands were a haven for all social scumbags gathered from all over Russia and Poland. Theft, bribery, anti-Polish activity. The police - real mockery. It got to the point that Edward, for example, publicly, at a meeting of officials, accused (I believe Dr. Kapustyński) of having committed such-and-such thefts. His report fell on deaf ears. Edzio (my grandfather Edward Świderski ) therefore declares that he will not shake his hand, and if he meets him, he will give him a beating. There were many such inccidents. In this atmosphere, the Świderski Brothers had many enemies, but I must admit that they did a lot.
For the returning echelons, transports with grain and potatoes, grain for sowing fields arrived - they were a kind of unofficial authority that everyone naturally acknowledged on the spot - representating the Polish, borderland soul.
I am ashamed to mention this government in Kresy and the entire administration, it is not bitterness that speaks, but the humiliation of an honest man disappointed in his national pride.
Finally, in February 2020, arrived in Powursk on a Jewish cart also Mama, smuggled across the border. Sick and emaciated, she worked in Winnica until the last moment, staying at her post and not wanting to leave Macierz.
What I found in Smolary was more than a ruin. Never mind that the fields laid fallow throughout the war. The earth was scarred by trenches, bullets, so wrapped with wires that not only could it be cultivated, but it was literally impossible to reach it. There were places that I hardly recognized. No trace of the manor house, trees, or buildings. In a few places, only the remains of brick foundations and a few burnt wheels on the site of the oil mill.
The forest - the most valuable trees were taken away by the Germans, with two railway lines moved specially for this purpose; the worse went to build blindages, barracks, which forests and roads were full of.
Only the worst selections were left.
Fish equipment ruined, dikes dug up, destroyed. Great nothing.
It was bad in the whole area. The population resettled into Russia by force in 1915 was just beginning to return. Hardly anyone at all
had managed to return - they were decimated by poverty and disease, they were returning without livestock, without money and without grain to sow the fallows. They nestled in forest barracks and in soldiers' dugouts - a misery. None of the residents yet. The surrounding estates in ruins - as an oasis - Powursk stood out, where a manor house and a few farm buildings survived.
Magdalena asked us to stay in the manor in Powursk, which was very convenient for us, so I willingly accepted.
It is difficult to express the feeling experienced by a worn-out man who has looked death in the face so many times, when suddenly he feels his own soil under his feet and his own sun in the sky, and his loved ones around.
I pulled myself together very quickly and started thinking about the future.
I was not satisfied with Łychowski's administration. It consisted of selling huge masses of war material left over from the fighting armies, the removal of which was, in a way, a condition for starting work on the estate. Mountains of accumulated cement, brought in for fortifications, iron-enforced concrete embedded in positions, barracks in forests made of sheet metal and rotten wood, from which the Germans built entire cities, camps. Millions of trees in cemented trenches and shelters, and thousands of versts of barbed wire and cables. Most of these goods were in Smolary and near Cerkówka, much less in Powursk and the Cegielnia.
Łychowski, if initially was, apparently, sincere in his work, later
he looked after his own interests. The worst thing, however, was that what he gained from the liquidation, he used somewhere else, not thinking about re-starting a farm in Smolary.
It hurt me that he didn't build anything and didn't even touch the land.
This state of affairs could not satisfy me, but feeling the soil under my feet I was not afraid of hardships again, and so decided to take over the administration as soon as the agreed settlement date came, and meanwhile I started to secure things myself, on my own.
I was not afraid of work, the Boys and Mother were there, and moreover, having heard about my return, my faithful forester Kłym and former fisherman Klubinski, who had a job somewhere in Lubelskie quit it to come back and share toils with me on their beloved Smolarskie ponds.
It was a difficult beginning. Reluctant, slow, unyielding - from the scratch. I had to gather all my strength, wind myself up just to start; I begun - and it went. First, I bought a horse and a plough - and started to scratch the ground.
After settling accounts with Łychowski, about 200,000 Polish marks turned out in my favor (I could say a lot about the settlement itself, but never mind). For this money, you could buy an untouched estate in the Kingdom or in Poznań. I admit I didn't even think about that. If I could live in the Borderlands all my life in prosperity and plenty, then to leave these parts now just because they were poor and dilapidated seemed to me something unworthy. I did not want to be an intruder in foreign lands.
I wanted to share the good and worse with this land of mine, work for it, work on it, raise it from ruin as long as I can - challenge the fate. Cash enabled me to purchase the necessary inventories. I worked and sowed some land. With Klubinski I restored and stocked up a couple of ponds. I restored the rooms in Powurski manor, which we had taken as a flat for ourselves, and moreover, we arranged a chapel in the manor for local Catholics, railway officers and orphanages, where Holy Mass was held. celebrated by Fr. from Kowel, surname Pierzchała.
I started collecting construction materials for buildings in Smolary.
I collected the best material of choice, although the costs were huge, because breaking some trenches sometimes took several weeks, but I had first-class concrete for foundations and blocks from fortifications for buildings.
I prepared and sorted it out and in the summer of 1920 I started to put down foundations and sheds. At that time at Czorcz lived a helpful and exceptionally righteous landowner, Starczewicz, and Popławski had already returned to Police. Others, on the other hand showed up, turned round and ran away again. Perhaps their reason was that they did not make investments, as I did, but then - seeing how creative i was in my work, I was asked from everywhere to look after their assets.
Miss Magdalena and Miss Pomorska also turned to me. I could not refuse these two ladies, treating the administration not as income
but as a neighbourly duty and a civic deed. I lived in Magdalena's house - Ms Pomorska, in the meantime, had buried her husband and was left alone with her son and also could not manage anything. I started the work, partly even spending my own cash - my soul was brighter when I saw that some work had begun around me. My funds turned out to be too meagre for all these expenses. Nothing was available on site. Prices continued to rise so much that any calculation was impossible. People starved to death in the cities, but the unemployed preferred the dole to work, and I, wanting to find a worker, overpaid enormous amounts of money, at the same time importing food especially to feed them.
So I made a start, but was economically too weak to run the whole business that was in my hands.
I was hoping for help from government. I believed that they would give us compensation for war losses, if not in full, then at least in part. I thought that, if not compensation, they would at least give us a loan, so for this reason I attached great importance to the description and inventory relating to war losses. So far, apart from trouble and cost, this has given me nothing, but in any case, I have drawn it up formally, both for myself and for my clients. I spent time on this work until mid-1920.
However, we were not destined to experience peace.
The New Exile
The great Kyiv offensive collapsed on the Dnieper, we suffered a defeat in the south and our troops retreated along the entire front. The action unfolded extremely quickly. The initial retreat soon turned into a panick and flight. I watched it, but I believed that the bravery of the army and the faith of the nation would prevail. I was ashamed in front of the non-Polish population to betray my doubts. I was staying put - I was reluctant to leave. Finally, we left Powursk with the last units of the retreating army. Again, like in 1915, we escaped at the last moment. But there was a difference. In 1915, I was deceived into believing that I was in no danger - in 1920 I knew about the danger, but I wanted to suggest others with my calmness. And again, wandering began, without future and tomorrow. From Kobryn, Mother and I went to Warsaw, and from there to Będzin. The situation at the front seemed terrible, nightmarish, hopeless. A shameful retreat.
Suddenly, a bright, radiant day of the "Miracle on the Vistula". I don't know what this miracle looks like in military terms - opinions are divided, but watching it from a distance and seeing this sudden upheaval and change in the psyche of the whole nation - I consider what happened as a Miracle to be extremely accurate.
When our troops, in their pursuit of the savages, recaptured Powursk and moved east, when a truce was announced - we stayed in Będzin.
Due to my illness, I could not return and we had to spend the winter in Będzin.
End of the Epopea
Returning to my place, I found it empty again; even the Powurski manor, which had been spared by the world war, has now been burnt down. There was no trace of it left. I had no money, no credit. Were I a citizen of France, Belgium or even Germany - the government would help me. I suppose that in other countries the issue of war losses is treated as a state issue, but Poland managed to treat war losses as a kind of failed private enterprise. Until recently, I didn't believe it. I thought that a man who lost everything because of war for the second time, who was one of the few who did not hang their hands down and wanted to work on the spot, would find at least pennies of repayable assistance. Everywhere, however, I was sent away empty-handed, and I was still told to rely only on my own resources.
On the contrary, I was told that if I did not start the estate, they would take it away from me for military settlement - and this official declared to me that my sons had "priority" to receive a "free" allowance, as long as they could prove that they were professional farmers.
All three Sons were in the army, and although the war had long ended, none of them could be released - and yet John and Edward were trying very hard. So my position was much worse than when I returned from Bolshevia, because even the Sons were not there. I knew I wouldn't get any money. I could not count on any help or kindness - and yet I stayed on the spot, settled in the wilderness and was clinging to the land. I would have kept it, even if I had to pull the plow with my breast and build on it with my own hands. Some kind of fury and a blind stubbornness posessed me, and love. And I wouldn't be afraid of anything, I would endure anything. Something else happened - and several reasons. I started hearing rumors about the alleged requisition of Smolary for military exercise fields. I didn't realize what it meant, I didn't really believe it, but I wanted to check it out. My wife's cousin Mrs. Suryn, residing in Łuck, had this news confirmed by Mr. Artur Marquis Larouelle de Georgelle
her good friend, who was working in Wołyń Voivodship at the time. The military authorities had a choice between the areas on the Szczara River and the Stochod River. They chose Smolary as the most interesting strategic point. Thus, the requisition of Smolary was to be regarded as a decisive factor. I had a choice to either sell Smolary on my own behalf , or wait for the army to take them away. Tertium non datur.
This circumstance was the most important for me, which tipped the scale. - Because what's the point of working, knowing in advance that it's only temporary? The second reason - Magdalena and Pomorska decided to sell their assets. They issued powers of attorney and dealt with a number of dealers. I had to agree that the assets I took care of would be sold, i.e. there would be a legal change of owner - no more. However, I suddenly felt many years older then. My sense of duty, maybe innate, but the duty that bound me for so many years to work, either here or there - in Podolia, has fallen. Duty, the necessity to stay at the post and guard the good of Poland and the Polish land. It was one of the moral fundations that suddenly disappeared from under my feet. For the first time in my life I felt that I was redundant. I was pondering selling. I had no special scruples because it was not a family estate and I had no obligations towards it.
Besides - the property was stripped of everything that constituted its value, i.e. order, fishing, farm, buildings and manor house, livestock and equipment. Only the least valuable thing remained - the ruined earth . Even I perform a miracle, and under these conditions, I raise it from ruin - I or my Sons. This could be done, only theoretically, by selling part of the land or taking out a new, very onerous loan. Despite the previous investments, the property will not give any income. And how will the children share the property? Smolary are not suitable for division at all, because they constitute an inseparable economic complex - land, ponds, forest. Should one take the field, the other Stawiska, and the third stumps from the forest? With such a division, the sum of the individual incomes is never equal to the income that can be obtained from the total. And give the whole One in hand what He will pay for Siblings with? If new debts are incurred for the development, their sum, counting with my old debts, will be such that any repayments will be impossible. It was necessary to anticipate - there can be no changes unless there are conditions for it. I was not afraid of hardships, but at some point, I lost faith in the future of my work. I saw that it was doomed from the start. The consequence was the decision to sell. At that time, the entire destroyed Volhynia was selling out. So the sale of the extremely damaged Smolary was not an easy thing.
My dealer was a certain Władysław Klimczak from Radom. Bought Smolary Mr. Władysław Śliwerski, a banker from the city of Łódź. I settled with him for 14,500,000 Polish marks. We prepared the purchase and sale contract in Kowel, at the notary Franciszek Skorupski, on August 13, 1921. I wanted to include a special clause in the contract that the land could never be sold to non-Polish hands. I was told that the law does not allow for such a reservation. In rretrospect, looking at these parts, I experienced an unpleasant feeling. Almost no one left from the families we knew. They were Mycielskie in Drozdni (the old man died in exile), the Bialystok family in Woronna (the old man died in exile), Podlewski in Hołoby (the old one died in exile), and She is now Mianovska. From further neighbourhood, I will also mention the noble Starczewskis from Czorcza. Powursk, Cegielnia, Police, Obzyr, Werchy - all around sold. A lot of estates were parcelled out. New people have come and new citizenship is entering the audience, taking our places. From my heart I wish the new landowners that they would take care of themselves and not experience war like we did, that life would be good for them in our Volhynia, and for Volhynia with them.
May God also watch over the Polish soldier who will walk on my land.
I sketched these memories in Drozdni, at Mycielski's, in the winter of 1921. Now I will finish.
Throughout the war, we were plagued by financial failures, which led us to complete ruin. The sale of Smolary did not put an end to these failures. For me personally, contemporary conditions were something so new and abnormal that I could not and did not want to adapt to the manifestations of post-war life and its ethics.
My sons and son-in-law, serving for a long time in the army, were detached from real life conditions for so long that they were unable to take up business.
All along, the life of each of us was a series of moral experiences and still financial failures. Black clouds were gathering everywhere, and a vicious circle of fatalism was tightening around us all.
Then, in those tragic moments, in this terrible, hopeless period, when fate wanted to throw us into some abyss of humiliation and misery, we decided to face it with a joint effort - to break the bad fate.
Kodeń was a real manifestation of this effort and struggle for us.
The case of Kodeń, which initially seemed trivial and easy, took an increasingly unfavourable turn for us.
Some difficulties, always new, grew and piled up with an insurmountable barrier.
As the difficulties grew, so did our stubbornness.
Kodeń has become for us not a property object, but a symbol, a stake for life, a fight with fate.
We won this fight.
On May 15, 1924, i.e. (that is) the 44th anniversary of our wedding, we came to Kodeń for good.
Seemingly, nothing much has changed, yet a lot has changed. Conquering Kodeń was such a "miracle on the Bug" for our family. Naturally, we had and still have a lot of troubles, difficulties: both us elderly, in Kodeń, and children away around the world, but these were healthy troubles, and our work was creative.
Kodeń is our fight with fate for the future and tomorrow - won by a joint effort of will.
And something has changed. The storm that had been raging over us had calmed down and the sky was bright blue.
And that youstopped evil and took us under your care - we thank you - Our Lady of Kodeń.
This concludes my memoirs.
I am writing them for my grandchildren in Kodeń, in Placentia, in the year of my life, 76 AD 1928, during Christmas