Class 5b
Elementary School no. 2 in Hrubieszów

My wartime experiences

The year 1944 was very woeful and bleak for me, because that is when I experienced a lot of sadness, suffering and misery.

In the spring, the Germans and Ukrainian bands and were committing terrible crimes in Polish villages, murdering the innocent Polish population, sparing no children and burning down entire villages. In my home village, many innocent people died tragically, and the rest fled to nearby towns.

Our family along with two others stayed in the village, because we had no cart on which we could leave, and we didn’t want to abandon our property, as it would certainly be lost if left unattended. We felt like we were alone in the desert, everything around us was so empty, strange and scary. It seemed like the entire world had ceased to exist. Even the singing of birds wasn’t as nice and beautiful as it usually is in spring. The fields were somewhat sad and empty, despite the fact that spring had already came.

The forest – usually so beautiful, lively and gorgeous in spring – was now terrifying, because it contained the Ukrainian and German criminals who were constantly organizing armed raids on our village, robbing and setting it on fire. Whenever they were in the village, we stayed in the shelters dug underground – often for several days, unable to see the sun or other people, only dark walls made of dirt and horrible darkness. It felt like we were in a grave. When we finally returned to the surface, villages were burning all around.

One day, the Ukrainian bands came to burn down our village. This time, we did not hide in the shelter – instead, we left everything behind in the house and ran to the forest. We felt very unsafe in the forest, where we heard hear terrifying sounds: the miserable barking of dogs, the mooing of burning cattle, the menacing shouts of criminals, and the continuing sound of gunfire. We were lying in the forest, shivering from cold and fear, patiently waiting for death. Luckily, we all somehow survived. We thanked God for saving us. At night, when everything went quiet, we returned.

This night journey through the forest, where we had to make our way through the thicket and bushes, was very unpleasant – especially since the night was cold. We got out of the forest and stumbled upon a terrifying view – a sea of flames as far as the eye can see – the miserable whimpering of dogs, and the squawking of chickens sitting in the trees. Upon seeing these barbaric crimes, our hearts filled with sadness and sorrow. It took only a couple of hours to destroy what people had managed to build, working hard for several dozen years.

We left these ruins and wastelands on the very next day, and facing many dangers and difficulties, we got to the nearest town. We thought we would be safe there, but even greater misfortune befell us: my dad and my 18-year-old brother died.

In spring, dad and my brother together with many neighbors and relatives went to our village to get the grain which had been buried there. We worried and waited for their return in vain. They were killed there – together with my uncle, cousin, paternal uncle and two neighbors – by ruthless Ukrainian bandits. Our family felt great sadness and sorrow. This date – 11 May 1944 – is very important and memorable for me, as on this day I was separated for ages from the people dearest to my heart.

We couldn’t even bury their corpses, because the Ukrainian bands were still there. A year later got to the village, where with great difficulty we managed to find bones and rotten shoes in the bushes. The shoes proved that the bones belonged to my brother. Our hearts were filled with so much sorrow. We carefully collected the bones and buried them on the same spot, because there was no way to take them to the cemetery. We also found a grave of my dad and uncle. They had been buried by my aunt who died a year later than my dad, orphaning five children. My life has been sad and difficult ever since.