Niwiska, October 8, 1998
Dear Cousin and Family!
Thank you very much for the letter that made me so happy. I’m glad that we have somebody although he is very far away wants to get to know his family a bit better and to learn the family genealogy. And so that means where we are from, what is the family like, what did they do, and how did their ancestors live and where they lived. It’s very beautiful that you have sought to find all this out and cement it together in order to write a family history.
We here in Poland and especially I and Uncle Frank sometimes talked about that subject. We did not know about a lot of things, especially the siblings from the first wife of our Grandfather, Michael Grabiec. Sometimes my father spoke of Aunt Karoline, that is somewhere in America, but apparently she never corresponded with Grandpa while he was alive nor with the remaining brother in Poland from the second marriage.
At any rate, here in Poland, there was no one left from the first marriage- nobody from the family said anything about them and nobody knew about them. Uncle Joe from the second marriage found himself in America when he returned after serving with Anders’ Army, He made his way to America from England and wanted to get to know his compatriots, that is to say cousins from his village. Somehow he found them and sometimes he would write mostly to Uncle Frank about them.
After the war my sister and I were going to school and somehow we got busy and lost interest in all this. We had the most contact with Aunt Anna, Clementine’s mother. She helped us after the war when we were poor, for we were “naked and happy” (meaning we had no possessions, but we were happy). Neither rolls or bread nor coats were to be found in the stores there was a shortage of everything. We didn’t have an honest roof over our heads when we returned after the war and having been resettled for a time. She with Uncle Leo Lipowski supported us as well as she could. She sent packages of clothing and food and laundry detergent. May God repay her and Uncle Leo with heaven for their kindness.
She took my sister under her roof when she landed in a German prison camp. She wound up in Sweden and Auntie sent her the papers she needed to end that homeless wandering and go to America.
When Uncle Joseph when he was in England we were going to school. He also took care of us as best he could. He even sent us military blankets and a certain tailor sewed us coats so that we could dress and go to school. After the war in Poland there was nothing. The Germans took away everything they could. They left very little and most importantly, thousands of Poles and people of other nationalities as well as Jews were murdered in gas chambers and in executions.
Maybe I’m writing too much, but somehow my hand is writing what my heart dictates. Thanks to your letter my eyes were opened to many things because I didn’t know much about things there. My Dad especially did not say much because he didn’t know.
Those poor people who went to America looking for bread because in Poland there was so little of it. The occupiers didn’t take much care in making bread available to Poles. Neither did they care to provide schooling. As a result, many Poles did not know how to read or write, so how were they supposed to become interested in the country of their family from which they were separated. They were hungry. They only had potatoes and cabbage that would grow in the sandy soil to live on.
I am so very glad that you have taken an interest in all of this, but I write so much that maybe, you are having a difficult time reading all of this. Maybe the priest will be upset that he has to translate all this, but since he knows Polish this shouldn’t be too troublesome.
If you plan to write a book, there is a need to collect a lot of information about our family and their dedication not only to the family but also to the fatherland during the Second World War. If you would like to write such a book and you think that an introduction of how our village was formed from out of the forest, where the people came from, how the first settlements came to be and how the first church was built. I could add things about what the people did for a living, how they dressed and so forth. Who is the patron of our parish in the present church and the former chapel- that’s St. Nicholas. I’d say how we observe our patron’s feast day, St. Nicholas Day. He’s the patron of the first to come to settle here. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, because I know that to translate is a bit of trouble.
Regarding your upcoming trip to Poland, I am so very glad about it. Please don’t worry at all that you don’t know the Polish language. Maybe the priest could come too. We have a young niece who is in school studying English in Mielec. I could ask her to help us and I’m sure that somehow we would be able to communicate. I spoke with my sister’s daughter so she would go to England or America in order to get experience in speaking English in live situation.
I wrote a lot, but I’ll write more about the family another time.
I sincerely wish you and your family all the best.
We’re looking forward to getting a letter from you!!