|Podziemne Wydawnictwo ,,Kwadrat" - ,,Solidarność" Toruń|
Betty J. Iverson
Journeys to Survival
VOLUME THREE: WIESIA, WOMAN OF HOPE
Based on interviews with Wiesia Krzyżanowska and Edward Staszkiewicz and Daria and Steven Helfrich
CHAPTER ONE: A Wedding
CHAPTER Two: Romance In These Times? ..........167
CHAPTER THREE: A Year Of Many Surprises ............ 171
CHAPTER FOUR: Two Births ............................. 175
CHAPTER FlVE: Changes Within And Without .............. 183
CHAPTER Six: An Apartment Of Our Own .............. 187
CHAPTER SEVEN: Lydia's Death ................,............ 193
CHAPTER EiGHT: The Suspicion ........................... l95
CHAPTER NINE: The Years Roll By Swiftly ......... 197
CHAPTER TEN: The Future Is Now ........................... 201
What happened to Poland after Worid War II ended? Did the Polish
people simply accept that they were nów a part ofthe Eastern Soviet błoć and
live unhappiły ever after? Not quite. Communism dominated all aspects of
life in Poland. Throughout the 1940's and even into the 1980's, in spite ofthe
fact that most ofthe population opposed Communist rule, the Communists
dominated everyday life. The Poles rioted because they were discontent with
the government and USSR domination.
The Communists used rigged elections and police power to crush
resistance. The PSP (Polish Workers Party) merged with the Communists
but used the name PSP. Wadyslaw Gromulka, the First Secretary, who had
led the Lublin government, was removed in 1948 and placed under house
arrest. No trial was ever held. His position of Deputy Premier was filled by
Bolesław Bierut, a firm Stalinist.
The Communists also put pressure on the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Wyszynski was placed under house arrest from 1953-1956.
The resilient spirit of the Poles was likely due to their staunch Roman
Catholic faith which sometimes led to defiance and resistance. While
the Comrnunists promoted atheism, the Polish people remained loyal
Roman Catholics. In 1952, a Soviet style Constitution was forced
on the country which was then renamed The Peoples Republic of
Poland's economy was controlled by the government which quickly
established collective farms after the war. The Communists did not
take into account that the Polish farmers had been independent for
centuries and would resist collectivism. The collective farms ceased in
1950, while continuing in neighboring countries.
Col. Joseph Światło, a high ranking Official of the UB (Urząd
Bespiecznstwa) Polish Security Services, wrote an expose' of the terrorist
actmties in the UB. People, even high ranking Communist Party members,
were astonished to learn to what extent Moscow dictated aspects ofpeople's
lives. Some policemen were arrested, Gromulka was released from house
arrest and the head ofthe UB was dismissed. Światło defected in 1954 and
began a series ofbroadcasts from Radio Free Europę. (Broadcast frorn
Prague) Swiatlo's expose' blew apart political life.
Josef Stalin died in 1953 and was replaced by Nikita Khrushchev. In
1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin's rule in a speech to the Twentieth
Congress ofthe Communist Party. This fueled turmoil and strikes in Poland.
The indusrrial workers heid strikes in 1956. Gromulka who had resumed his
position as Deputy Premier, convinced Khrushchev not to send in troops, and
said hę could contain the situation. Gromulka released Cardinal Wyszanski
from house arrest, and the Catholic Church was allowed to resume normal
activities. Some Russian officers in the Polish army were sent home.
In the 1960's studenrs and intellectuals ciashed with the police. The
musicians, poets and writers objected to censorship and limitation on
Gromulka was re-elected party leader in 1968, but was incapacitated by
a stroke. There was never apublic announcement regarding his disabilities
as a conseąuence ofthe stroke, but Gromulka was simply replaced as First
Secretary by Edward Gierek. Gierek improved communication with the
Roman Catholic Church, which strongly supported the workers. When
Gierek was ousted, hę was replaced by Stanislaw Kania. In 1981, Kania
resigned as Party Secretary and Wojciech Jaruzelski filled that position.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Kraków, was elected
Pope. Hetook the nameofPopeJohn Pauł II. The Pope visited Poland
in 1979, 1983 and 1987. Hę praised the workers, and later Solidarny.
Polish Secretary Jaruzelski recognized the popularity of the Pope and
knew hę would have to accommodate the church sińce it was a strong
force in Poland. The Communists viewed the church as a rival.
Lech Wałęsa is considered to be the founder of Solidarity, which
spread across Poland as a trade union and an underground resistance
movement. On August 31, 1980, Wałęsa announced the birth of
Solidarity as an independent trade union. "We have the right to strike.
We arę an independent self^governing trade union." Wałęsa said.
Solidarity would eventually play a major role in the demise ot
Communism across the Soviet błoć. After Walesa's announcement,
an Inter-Factory Strike Committee emerged, and the Solidarity Union
grew to some ten million members. Guided by Lech Wałęsa, the
Inter-Factory Strike Committee won important concessions from the
Communists in the Gdańsk Agreement of August 31, 1980 regarding
Iowering the prices of food and goods.
In spite of the Gdańsk Agreement, Solidarity did not remain
just a trade union movement, but rapidły evolved into an umbrella
organization with a broad rangę of political and social groups opposed
to the Communist regime.
The Soviets claimed that the system in Poland was no different from any
other, such as Capitalism in the West or Communism in the USSR.
When Khruschev was dismissed from office, the USSR morę tightiy
What was life like for the average woman during these changing
times? We will see what happens as we follow the story of a woman
who marries a mań active in the Solidarity Movement. Although a
legał workers' union, Solidarity remained active underground and the
risks and dangers become part of her life. Wiesia Krzyzanowski, an
accountant and bookkeeper knows ofthe hardships under Communism,
but is she prepared for the dangers and risks? This shrewd woman is
realistic, yet hopeful for her furure in Poland. This is her story.
A We d di n g
Looking back, I find it remarkable that the mań I loved and married
would change the course ofmy life in profbund ways. We were ordinary
people, yet we were drawn into danger and intrigue that I could never
have imagined. To this day, I believe our commitment to resist oppression
contributed to changing the destiny ofour embattied country.
I arn especially amazed when I realize how events evolved sińce
we were average citizens with limited possibilities after Worid War II.
Tlie war had destroyed our country and the Communists were tryng to
destroy our hope and incentive.
My grandparents moved to the city of Toruń, in northwest Poland,
because my grandpa had a job ofFer. His brother needed hełp in the smali
factory hę had started which rnelted old metal scraps and madę machinę
After three years, the Communist government fbund out about the
factory and closed it saying that my grandpa and his brother were too
rich. The Communists forbid any kind of private business, believing
that everyone should work for the government and earn oniy what the
government allowed. After the factory closed, my grandparents decided
to stay in Toruń anyway because there was nothing for them back in
Thus, I was bom in this city of Toruń. I remember how frightened I
felt as a child when I walked in the old section of Toruń. There were tali
buildings, so many ofthem. Some were very beautiful, and my mother
told me that this city was a medieyal city so the buildings were not
oniy old but prized. This was Toruń Old Town which I could see from
across the Vistula River side. Herę also was the birth house ofNicolaus
Copernicus, who was considered the famous son of Toruń.
While I lived on the same side of the river as rhe Toruń Old Town,
our neighborhood was not so elegant. We did however, live near a lovely
park. My famiły lived in a smali apartment, as did most of the people
I knew. Our apartment had three rooms: a living room, which was also
used for sleeping, a bedroom and a smali kitchen. The beds in both the
bedroom and living room were fold-out sofas. Our famiły's bathroom
was across the hali. Other bathrooms were shared by several families.
My parents, Zofia and Władysław Krzyzanowski, my brother, Stanisław,
and I lived in the apartment.
I took the usuał courses in the Liceum, (equivalent to high school in the
U.S. or a four year college preparatory school.) I focused on accounting and
math courses so I could get a good job with a company. I did nor plan on
going to a university because taking a lot of tests and scoring high points on
the tests always madę me anxious. So I felt the better plan for me was to work
for a company. I enjoy accounting and have always been able to find a job. I
worked most often at an automobile manufacturers office, as I am nów.
I am happy working herc, because my good friend from school, Lydia
Staszkiewicz works with me, in this year of 1969.
One day, she came into the office looking happy and breathless with
excitement as she heid out her finger to show me her new engagement
ring, a smali ruby. (Most women would prefer to have a diamond ring,
but very few did because diamonds were not oniy expensive, but scarce.)
She said she was getting married in three months and wanted me to
come to the wedding. "You can meet my famiły, and of course, my
new husband, Stefan. My brother Edward will be there, too. He's an
interesting guy and very nice."
"Oh really," I said, not at all interested in meeting a mań, even if
hę was her brother. But I said politely, 'Tm looking forward to your
wedding, and I know you'11 be a beauriful bride."
We didn't get much work done that day because we were focused on
Lydia's wedding plans and her wedding dress. Lydia wanted to buy a
wedding gown, but none were expected at any ofthe shops for at least six
months. "I guess I'll have to shop for some materiał and sew it myself,"
I thoueht of myself and couldn't imagine getting married. I hadn't
mer anyone who I wanted to datę, let alone marry. Im just not ready yet,
I thought. Anyway, there's no hurry. Most of my friends who got married
ended up living with their parents because there were no apartments
available. Even if you bought one, you often couldn't occupy it for a
number ofyears, because ofthe shortage.
Im the kind of person who plans ahead. I began making payments
on an apartment as soon as I finished the Liceum. I didn't think of it
as my future apartment, just as a possible apartment. (While getting an
apartment for a couple was difficult, it was nearły impossible for a single
person, sińce couples were considered morę important.) Srill I continued
making payments, because I wanted to increase my odds of ownership
in the future.)
Oh my. There were aiready four adults in our apartment and then
add to that another mań? I got back to work and put any wedding
thoughts out ofmy mind.
The day of the wedding arrived and I was very excited. One of my
girlfriends went with me to Lydias wedding. Lydia was one ofmy best friends,
and I looked forward to helping her celebrate her special day. We walked to a
pew in the middłe of the large Catholic Church and sat quietly awaiting
the bride's arrival.
We stood and glanced backward as the organ announced the arrival
ofthe bride. Lydia looked beauriful and was radiant with joy. There were
two young men standing behind us, and one of them kept clearing his
throat loudły. I was annoyed and turned around to scold him but instead
gave him a withering stare. How rude, I muttered to myself.
As my friend and I walked out ofchurch after rhe ceremony, the mań
who had been clearing his throat did so even morę loudły when we walked
past. I glanced at him and noticed oniy that hę had nice hair, but I kept
going. We walked out of the church to greet the bride and groom and
toss some coins for the usuał money shower.
As the couple stood in front of the church everyone congratulated
them, and dropped money on the ground all around them. Of course,
the couple then had to stoop down to pick up the coins. This is a custom
couples look forward to as every coin counts in a tough economy. The
custom also implies that people wish for the newly married couple to
prosper and be stable financially in these days of hard times. This is a
jovial custorn that usually brings lots of laughter. The picking up of rhe
coins which were scattered all over was very funny and set a happy tonę
for the wedding day.
I was not invited to the reception, so my friend and I went home. I
thought about the young rnan clearing his throat who had tried so hard
to get me to look at hirn. I wondered who hę was and why hę wanted me
to notice him. Lydia told me later that she wished she could have invited
me to the reception as it was quite restive with lots of food and drink and
lasted unrii łatę inro the night.
In the coming weeks, Lydia madę it a point at work to talk to me
about Edward. She said hę often asked about me. As she described him,
I was almost surę that hę was the young mań behind me at the church
who kept clearing his throat.
Then one day Lydia told me that Edward was in the hospital because
hę had back surgery due to an injury. Hę was in the army and stationed in
Toruń, she told me, and was nów in the military hospital. "He'd like to see
"Oh, I don't know," I hesitated.
Lydia then asked me to come to her house so she could show me
some of the wedding presents. "Why don't you come over tomorrow?
We could meet at the train station."
"Oh, I'd enjoy that," I said and we agreed to meet at 1:00 p.m.
Lydia and I met, but it seems she had another plan in mind. Instead
of taking me to her apartment, she took me directły to the military
hospital where Edward was a patient. I was surprised to say the least, and
unsure ofhow to handle a visit with a mań I had never even met before.
When we arrived at the hospital, Lydia led the way to a large ward of
five or six beds. We found Edward looking rather miserable, propped on
his side with pillows. There wasn't much room next to his bed, but Lydia
and I pulled up chairs and sat down.
Hę turned to face us and thanked us for coming. Lydia introduced
me, and my guess was confirmed. Edward was indeed the mań standing
behind me at the wedding, who kept clearing his throat. I muttered rhat
I hoped hę was feeling better.
"When I was called up to join the army to hełp quell the workers' strikes,
I didn't realize how tense things were in the army. The Major in charge ofour
unit had ordered his men to lift or carry heavy loads almost every day. For
what purpose I don't know, but I ended up with a herniated disk because of
the heavy lirring, so here I am," hę explained. "In fact, I'm not the oniy soldier
who has had back surgery because of lifting those heavy loads, but I feel like
I'm improving every day." Hę sat up straighter to drink some water and then
sank back against the pillows.
In spite ofhis brave words, I did not think hę looked as ifhe felt well.
Hę continued to tell us about the army. "I feel lucky to be stationed here
in Toruń. However, the army is quite strict, and I don't often get a leave so
I can visit my famiły or simply leave the army barracks to take a walk."
Hę turned to me and said hę would like to get to know me better.
"When I was injured and had to have surgery, I had time to think about
things. Do you think we could get together for coffee sometime?"
Before I could answer, Lydia leaned forward and said she thought
that was a good idea. "Why don't you tell me when you arę free to meet
Wiesia, and I will let her know at work."
Edward thought that was a good way to arrange it. Nów they looked
at me for an answer. I wasn't quite surę what to do, but I felt obligated
to agree. What did I have to lose? My oniy problem was that ifl didn't
like Edward, it could end my friendship with Lydia. "Ofcourse, I'd like
to meet you for coffee, Edward." I said.
Edward smiled broadły and seemed happy that I would see him. Then hę
taiked some morę about the tension in the army because the army was divided
about how to handle the strikes. "This is especially difficult for me as I am an
unofficial leader ofa group. One day our superiors will tell us that ifthey see us
shooting people, they will shoot us. Then, at other times, they will order us to
shoot people. There arę some soldiers who really do want to do that. I feel that
shooting people is bad and that Communism is a real personal danger.
Nów that I am in the army, I know that the government is bad, too."
I told him that I was sorry the army was so unpleasant and
contradictory. "How long will you be in the army?" I asked.
"I have a two year obligation. The main thing I can't overlook is the
pledge we have to mąkę in the army: "We will faithfully serve at the side
ofthe USSR army." I don't mind serving my country, but I'm not happy
about being obligated to the USSR." Hę sighed and then asked me about
myselfand what sort of things I enjoyed doing.
At that time, the USSR included Poland and the Czech Republic as
pan ofthe Communist Błoć. The Eastern błoć included the Baltic Srałeś,
Romania, Bułgaria, Hungary and East Germany.
"Oh, I like to read, hike, or have coffee with friends."
"My oniy problem nów is getting up and walking again and then
being able to get a leave." Hę added. "I hope we will be able to get cogether
soon. Ifl ever leave the barracks without official permission, I could be
sent to prison." Edward stressed that hę had to be very careful.
"Well Edward, I'm glad to see you looking better all the time,^
encouraged Lydia. "Let me know when youre ready to have coffee with
Wiesia, and I'll tell her."
"I have enjoyed getting to know you a littie bit, Edward. I must leave
nów as I have a long streetcar ride home. I hope to see you soon," I said
as I stood up to leave.
Lydia stood up, too. Edward thanked me again for coming to see
Lydia apologized for not telling me in advance about stopping at
the hospital to visit Edward. "I just think you two would be so good
"I am flattered that you think so, Lydia, but I really have no idea, as I
have just met him and do not know what hę is really like. We'11 have to
take things a step at a time. I hope you won't be angry with me ifthings
don't work out between us. You know what I mean?"
She smiled and said I shouldn't worry as our friendship had lasted a
long time and would certainly continue. "Lets go look ar presents."
After viewing her vast array ofpresents, which impressed me because
times were lean, I was surprised to see some expensive items among the
gifts. There were many sets of towels and sheets and a few table cloths
and some smali appliances. I thought they were a lucky couple, indeed.
"You and Stefan arę starting out with lovely things."
I left Lydias apartment quickly. I wanted to walk home from the
streetcar stop while it was stiii light. On my long ride home, I had
ample time to think. I enjoyed the brief visit with Edward, in spite of
the uncomfortable circumstances. I did want to get to know him, but I
decided to carry on and not worry about whether things were going to
work out. After all, life is fuli ofsurprises.
Romance In Tfcese Times?
I snapped out ofmy reverie when I realized my street car stop was
next. I laughed to myselfas I pondered ifl had just had a first datę in
a hospital. Nów the question was, "When will I see Edward again?"
Actually, the next week at work, Lydia told me that Edward was up
and walking about and would probabły be released in a couple ofdays.
"Hę wants to take you to coffee this Friday. Hę said he'11 ask for a pass
to leave the barracks that day. Will that be okay with you?" I nodded
that it would be fine with me.
Strange as it may seem, few ordinary people in Poland had telephones
in those days, even though it was the łatę sixties, earły sevenries. Oniy
the Communist government, business offices, and the post offices had
phones, as well as most Communist families. This was just another
example of the difference between the treatment of ordinary citizens
and those who were Communists. Edward's mother, Irena, never had a
phone, but Wiesia's mother, Zofia, finally got a phone in the nineties.
That first datę, (or was it our second, ifyou count the hospital visit) was
enjoyable. I felt comfortable with Edward, and hę was quite a charming
guy. Hę told me hę really didn't like being in the army, but there was no
choice. When hę became obligated to join the army, hę delayed going, but
the army came and got him. "At least, I madę them work to get me," hę said
with a chuckle. "Two soldiers showed up one day and told me to come with
them, and that I was nów in the army." Hę shrugged as hę added, "On the
other hand, I have a hard time getting leaves, while most soldiers have no
problems with that. Maybe it's because the army had to come and get
"What kind ofwork would you like to do?" I asked, wanting to
change the subject.
"Well, I went to a school to learn the trade ofan auto mechanic. I
like working with my hands. I finished all the courses at a technical
school, and learned how to do the job while working at a shop untii
the army caught me. I'll probabły go back to that shop when I finish
my army duty." Hę turned to me and asked about me and what kind
ofwork I did.
"I focused on accounting courses because I planned to work as a
bookkeeper rather than go on to a university. I enjoy working with
figures, and Lydia and I get on well together."
Edward nodded. "I know. You and Lydia have been friends for a
long time, haven't you?"
I nodded. "Yes, we have. I feel as if I have known her forever.
Working with Lydia makes the work day go by quickly."
"Lately, the army is using me as a sports instructor. I like that a lot
better than being sent to quiet strikers. I teach the men exercises and
jog with them."
"After we left the hospital last week, Lydia took me to her aparrment
to sec her wedding presents. She and Stefan got quite a number of
"Oh, ifyou saw her apartment, you saw where I lived before joining the
arrny. I live with my folks who own that building. My grandfather bought
the land and built that house long before the war started, and my mother,
Irena, has lived there all her lite. When the Germans came, they took over
the house and occupied it for a short time, but then my famiły got it back.
The Communists wanted to claim the house, too, but after they saw the
place, they decided it was too old.
"This house has three apartments with separate entrances, and each
one has two rooms and a kitchen. The biggest drawback is that none of
the apartments have a bathroom, but there is a wooden toilet outside.
Believe me, this is miserable in the winter. We bum wood or coal in a
big brick kiln for heat and hot water. There is also a basement."
I was a bit stunned about the outhouses. I thought thar was
primitive. Even my famiłys apartment had its own bachroom. "Well,
I must have scen your house when I went to Lydia's apartment to sec
the wedding gifts."
*'0h yeah. Lydia and Stefan moved in right after the wedding.
They were lucky that mother had an empty apartment, as she keeps the
other two apartments rented out most ofthe time. My father has been
frail for some time, so my mother takes care of things like that."
We raiked about the problem of securing an apartment and the length
of time you usually have to wak, while you keep making payments. I told
him I was making payments nów for an apartment in che future and hę was
surprised that I, as a single woman, would plan so far ahead. Hę added that
Lydia was lucky she got an apartment right away, but she is not too happy
with the bathroom situation, because she would like to have a bathtub. She
and Stefan arę also making payments on an apartment.
"You know, my mother has had a tough life. She told me that
when she was a young woman, she watched a German soldier shoot her
brother in Worid War I. Then she was forced by the German Army
to work as housekeeper for a German officer who beat her. In spite
of these beatings, she felt hę was good to her compared to how other
housekeepers were treated. The Polish women were considered slave
labor by the Germans. After the war, she married my father and bore
five chiidren. She lost two ofthem when they were just babies, so nów
there arę just the three ofus: Lydia, Maryla and me."
Edward asked about my famiły, which was smali in comparison
as there was oniy my brother, Stanisław, and me. "Stanisław is a quiet
mań who keeps to himself. Hę works at a factory with my father. I'd
like to get to know my brother better, but hę is very shy."
We continued drinking coffee and chatting about our families,
Edward was fond ofboth his sisters and happy to sec Lydia married.
After my second cup ofcoffee, I said, "Well, I have enjoyed getting
to know you, Edward, and I'm glad to sec chat you arę walking so
well. Is the army taking it easy on you as you recuperate from your
"Well, a littie, I guess. I think the Major feels guilty that his orders
caused so many of his soldiers to need back surgeries. At least no one
has to lift those heavy loads any morę. How about having dinner with
me sometime? I know this really great cafe."
"rd like that," I grinned. I felt relaxed with him, and anticipated
that I probabły wouldn't be worrying about Lydia.
Edward and I enjoyed being together and soon began dating
regularły. Lydia was quke happy to be the go-between.
Then suddenly Edwards father died. Edward was very upset
because his dad was in a hospital in Toruń with lung cancer and very
iii. Edward wanted to go sec his father, but hę couldn't get a leave, so
hę ran away and got to the hospital at 9:00 p.m. His father had died at
7:00 p.m. Afterward, hę came by to sec me. Hę was devastated. "I'm
going back to my unit, but I will probabły have to beg to get a leave
to go to my father's funeral. I shouldn't have trouble with that but I
expect I will."
Lydia told me later that Edward did have trouble getting a leave to
attend the funeral. The army officers wouldn'r grant him a leave untii
Irena and Lydia went to the Generał and begged him to let Edward
out for the funeral. The Generał reluctantly agreed. After the funeral,
the army wouldn't issue a guń to Edward because they feared hę would
shoot them for their coldness when grandng him a leave to attend his
When Edward told me about this larer, hę said hę was glad hę oniy
had a short time left in the army. "Im the kind who doesn'r like to
be hemmed in by rules and regulations. I'm morę of an independent
A Year Of Many Surprises
Edward and I continued to see each other regularły and began to
talk about getting married. I could hardły believe it, but I enjoyed being
with him. Then one day hę told me that hę woułdn't be able to see me
for a couple ofweeks as the army had set up a special drill.
"Where will you go?" I asked, dreading the days he'd be gone.
"Oh, I won't be that far away, just at the old fort outside of Toruń.
You won't even miss me while Im gone, and I'll oniy be a few miles
As things turned out, hę wasn't gone long enough for me to miss
him. I was surprised one evening by a light tąp on our door and opened
it to find Edward standing there.
"What arę you doing here?" I asked, sińce I had not ezpected to see
him for another week or so.
"Let me in quick. I ran away because I missed you so much. I just
had to come."
"You're joking, aren't you? I thought you were so independent that
you wouldn't be bothered by a littie separation." I laughed that my
future husband had a tough exterior and a soft heart.
Edward looked embarrassed and then enfolded me in a warm hug.
Hę turned and left quickly as hę did not want to be nabbed. But I
was happy to see him, and watched him leave with a warm głów in my
We finally set our wedding datę after Edward was discharged from the
army, having completed his two-year obligation. We were married earły in
1972 at the same Catholic Church where Lydia and Stefan were married. Like
Lydia, I madę my own wedding dress. We had a smali wedding and invited
about thirty people to a reception in my parents' apartment. We rnanaged
to have lots offood and drink, and everyone had a good dmę, especially
Edward and me.
The big question was where should we live? Irena invited us to
live with her as she was all alone sińce her husband had died. Edward
wanted us to live there, at least for nów, sińce hę felt his mother was
rather sad and lonely. The rooms were a littie larger than in my parents'
apartment, so I enjoyed the space. I got used to taking sponge baths,
too, but never liked that chilly outside toilet.
Edward decided that hę should be honest with me about all of his
interests and activities. Hę had long been a competitor in both boxing
and wrestling. I was airight with the wrestling but didn't like the idea of
boxing at all. I didn't want a husband with a battered face. Hę agreed
to give up boxing.
Nów that hę had returned to cmiian life, Edward went back to his
job as an auto mechanic. Hę liked the work but madę very littie money.
Hę earned barely enough money for a married mań, let alone one with
a pregnant wife.
I don't know who was morę surprised, Edward or me. I had barely
gotten used to being married and nów I would be a mother, too. I had
not expected things to move so quickly, but was thrilled with the idea
ofhaving a baby.
Edward was not one to delay necessary action. Hę quickly figured
out that we could not manage very well on his Iow salary, so hę decided
to become a taxi driver. Hę borrowed money from his mother, my
parents and an aunt. With the hełp of our families, Edward became
an independent businessman with his own taxi. Hę enjoyed driving
people around, and with his friendly personality and sense of humor,
hę soon had lots ofregular customers.
Edward was concerned that I take good care ofmyself. Long before
our baby was bom, hę began talking about names. If our first-born
was a boy, then hę would name him Piotr. We never got around to
picking girls' names, so it was probabły good that we had a son. Piotr
was a smali baby and had an illness in which hę cried a lot after hę
ate. Fortunately, I had taken a maternity leave to care for our new son.
When the doctor advised me to hołd Piotr in an upright position after
eating, my son began to improve and gain some weight. Gradually hę
stopped crying after eating.
Irena was happy being a grandmother again, as Lydia's son was nów
older. My parents were thrilled with their first grandchild. When I
started back to work, either Irena or my mother, ifshe wasn't working
that day, would baby-sit.
I was glad that I could stiii work with Lydia at the car manufacturing
At this time, oniy trade unions were opposed to Communism,
some morę active than others. In 1976, after strikes in Radom, a union
named themselves a Committee of Workers' Protection. Edward was
interested in this Committee, and listened to their speeches and read
their leaflets. They couldn't give taiks in Poland but gave interviews to
foreign-based radio stations. This group was actively seeking members.
Their main goal was to hełp fired workers by giving them money. The
union leader was Jacek Kuron.
Edward was very proud of his littie son. Hę told him of his plans
and how Piotr would be a smart young mań and that life would be
better for him when the Communists were not in charge. Although hę
worked long hours into the evening, Edward always saw his son as soon
as hę came into the apartment.
1978 was a happy year for Poland when the Archbishop of Kraków,
Karol Wojtyla, was elected Pope. Hę took rhe name of Pope John II.
The Pope visited Poland in 1979 and praised the workers. The media
quoted the Pope as saying, "Do not be afraid" but the reporters left
out the second pan of that sentence which was "to open the door for
Edward taiked a lot about the Pope s visit. Hę was a staunch Roman
Catholic and against the Communists. Edward often told me about
his childhood when the Communists allowed Catholic churches to
hołd services, but forbid them to build new churches. The men would
secretły build a church at night. During the day, women came to the
church site with their chiidren and walked around so the Communist
troops could not destroy the building. By 1973, the Communists
had restored censorship, and party members received special pay and
The Catholic Church continued to be a haven for the people, and
the police no longer shot people. Instead, they would come to the
church, sit in rhe pews, and take pictures of people. (This practice
continued into the 1980's.) I didn't like it, and Edward was disgusted
by the constant police harassment.
I enjoyed our littie son who grew up quickly and soon started
school. Piotr was a bright and strong boy. Edward felt hę needed
to have a sport, but did not think that hę was suited for wrestling or
boxing. Instead hę took Piotr to a Judo coach. Even at his young agę,
Piotr took to Judo like a duck to water. Hę would often tell me about
all the challenging moves. Hę felt proud ofhimself, as ifhis power was
superior to the power of another.
By the łatę seventies, I was pregnant again and eager for another
baby. 'Nów, as a pregnant woman standing in linę, I had the privilege
of being served faster. I sought to buy all those things I would need for
my new baby, who was due in 1979. Ali the baby items from Piotr had
been passed along to others who needed them. I shopped for diapers,
baby clothes, lotions, botties and soaps. At rhe same time, I bought
clothes for Piotr because hę was outgrowing everything. I often bought
pants and shirts too large for Piotr to wear later. For myself, I knitted
vests and skirts, and my mother sewed some dresses for me.
When I told Edward about buying Piotr's clothes a couple sizes too
big, hę laughed. "When I was a kid, I got a pair ofshoes that were two
sizes too big. My grandfather stuffed them with newspaper untii the
shoes actually fit me."
Finally the happy day I anticipated arrived and in 1979,1 had a beautiful
baby girl with curly blonde hair. Edward and I named her Daria. I focused
on shopping for healthy foods for my baby girl, carefully omitting any foods
that contained hormones. A friend livmg in the country brought me some
rresh beef, which I cut into pieces and froze SQ I could cook smali amounts
at a time. Baby foods were not readiiy available in the stores, so I prepared
most of the foods I fed Daria, even the fruit Juices.
Shopping continued to be a gamę ofsurprises. One day I expected
to buy meat and found toilet paper instead. I bought some and threaded
it on a ropę which I hung around my neck, so I would have my hands
free for my baby, to ride the tram or to do morę shopping. (I had learned
earły on that every good shopper carries a ropę in her purse.) Instead
of being an enjoyable experience, shopping continued to be tiring and
frustrating. I never liked the long time spent standing in linę.
Not long after Daria's birth, we moved in with my parents and
brother. My mother, Zofia, would be doing most of the baby-sitting
when I returned to work, so that would mąkę my life easier.
The second important birth that year was the birth ofSolidarity as
an independent trade union after the Gdańsk strikes in 1980. Daria's
birth was far morę important for me. Yet, for me and every other
worker, Solidarky was our hope! On August 31, 1980, Lech Wałęsa
announced the birth ofSolidarity as an independent trade union. Prior
to this there had been independent workers' unions, but the unions
wanted to be independent from Communism.
On August 14, 1980, some 17,000 workers seized control of the
Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk to protest and raise a number ofgrievances.
Lech Wałęsa emerged as the leader. Hę barely avoided arrest by rhe
secret police that morning and came to the factory, scaled the shipyard
gate and joined rhe workers inside. Workers in twenty other area
factories joined the strike in solidarity.
The Communist government or the PDZR United Polish Party,
resulted from the merger of the PPS and PPR parties in 1948. The
PDZR, in fact, became the primary Communist Party. The PDZR
granted recognition ofthe basie right of workers to establish free trade
unions, and in return, the strike committee agreed not to function as a
political party. The workers promised to abide by the constitution and
conceded the leading role in State affairs to the PDZR.
Solidarity continued to exist underground. The workers were
dedicated to non-violence and bettering the life ofthe average person.
The issues continued to be the high cost of food and the shortages
of clothing and goods for which people stood in linę for hours. The
workers wanted their Solidarity unions.
Edward was happy about Walesa's announcement and quickly
Joined the Solidarity Trade Union. Hę brought some taxi drivers into
the union, eventually 80% of all drivers. I did not hesitate to join,
neither did my father, Władysław or my brother, Stanisław. Edward
anticipated that Solidarity would need to continue underground, but hę
was happy that their union oftaxi drivers was nów recognized.
"This is a new day for us, Wiesia. Solidarity will continue to
function much as it has been with the deliveries of the illegal papers,
sińce the Communists arę stiii in charge. And we'11 stiii look after any
members who have been arrested and their families need help."
We were not the oniy ones who joined the Solidarity Free Trade
Union. In fact, ten million workers joined Solidarity. Many signed up
because it was independent of Communism. Workers in Poland joined
up, and laborers in other Eastern Błoć countries did as well. I was very
pleased about this, and Edward was stiii ecstatic about having 80% of
the taxi drivers in Solidarity.
"Edward, just think of it. Solidarity is the first independent
movement in the Eastern Błoć. The Communists want to kill any
private business. Because you arę a taxi driver and in Solidarity, the
school fees for Piotr have increased. When I go back to work, I will no
longer get any ofthe extras I used to get, like vacation pay."
"The sacrifice is worth it, but this is all part of Russia sending a
message to us from Moscow, against the privatization of farms and taxi
drivers being in an independent union. The Communists want all ofus
workers to be dependent on them. They want Moscow to control the
people and everything in our lives. But they aren't going to win."
With recognition and morę power came problems. The government
backed down to some of Walesa's demands, but the Secret Police
rounded up and jailed some Solidarity leaders, including Wałęsa, who
was detained for nearły a year.
Jaruzelski declared Martial law December 13, 1981 to break
Solidarity and Wałęsa. A curfew was enforced, and Solidarny was
banned in 1981. Jaruzelski claimed hę was trying to save Poland from
the Soviets. He was, in fact, loyal to Moscow and sought to be a strong
ruler in Poland.
When Wałęsa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, he sent
his wife, Danuta to Oslo, Norway to receive k for fear hę would not be
let back into the country.
As a taxi driver, Edward was valuable to Solidarity because hę
often drove Solidarity leaders to their meetings and delivered the illegal
newspapers and leaRets. I asked about the papers and leaRets because I
hadn't really read them and knew Edward was taking a risk in receiving
and delivering the illegal press. Hę often stored these papers in Irenas
garage. Irena didn't rnind because she told Edward that this was her
contribution to the Solidarity cause. While Edward knew hę could be
jailed, Irena also knew that she was at risk.
Edward explained that some of the illegal papers carne from other
countries and highlighted the activities there that opposed Communism.
The papers also reported news about people in Solidarity who had been
jailed and their families were in need. "We will continue to let others
know who needs hełp, hę added."
2005: Wiesia and Edward at Gdańsk.
2005: Celebration of Solidarity at Lenin
shipyard where the strikes occurred.
Sculpture at the Lenin shipyard
2005: (from left) Dana, Edward,
Piotr, and Weisia at the Solidarity
plaque in Toruń.
Edward and Wiesia in their apartment in Toruń.
Wiesia ó" Edward in St. Louis, 2006.
Steven dr Dana in St. Louis, 2006
Changes Witbin And Without
Everyday life continued to be a challenge. Certain hours each day
the water would be shut off. One never was quite surę when that would
occur. Electricity also would suddenly go off, with the oniy warning
being a Hickering of lights for a few moments before the actuał shut-
down. This gave tirne for the citizens to get their candles ready.
I was disgusted by this because I could always count on the fact
that when it was time for the news, the electricity would be on. The
government wrote the news from start to finish and wanted the people
to watch it. I considered the news to be propaganda written by the
Communists, and I refused to watch it. I turned the television off and
put candles in our windows as a protest. But on one rare occasion when
I did watch the news, I laughed out loud at the absurd accusation that
American planes had dropped potato bugs over the fields to cause a crop
failure. Ridiculous propaganda!
As before, shopping continued to take up much ofmy time. Finding
good quality goods and groceries was difficult. Often I would stand in
linę for hours even though I had no idea what was being sold that day.
Whenever I spotted a linę, I stood in it. Sińce I nów had an infant, I was
one ofthe first to be served. Oniy then did I know what I was buying.
Even though the kem was useless to me, I bought it anyway and later
exchanged it with someone else who needed that kem. The exchanges
I madę were amazing: a pair of boots for candy, shot glasses for coffee.
This kind of shopping was tedious, and I regretted the time spent in
linę. Piotr didn't know what an orange was and oniy had bananas on
special occasions. Meat was rare and ham available oniy on holidays.
Sweets could oniy be bought during the holidays. It is no wonder that
a Black Market had arisen and was thriving. Bur one had to have lors
ofrnoney to buy on the Black Market.
There were not oniy shortages of meat during the earły eighties,
but other products, too. The main reason for this was that everythinę
Polish farmers grew and produced had to be sent to Russia. Oniy a
smali percentage could be sold in Poland. We all knew this and saw k
as another way for Russia to control our agriculture and economy.
Before long, the government issued coupons for coffee, chocolate,
sugar, meat, oil, cigarettes and shoes, to name a few. If I wanted to
buy butter or cheese, I had to take the chiidrens health books along.
The shopkeeper would then write down what I purchased, put stamps
in the books, and the manager signed them. This was to ensure that
I oniy bought the amount ofmy monthly allotment. The oniy things
I could buy without coupons were salt and vinegar. I never seemed to
be able to buy shoes.
One day I could not get to the storę myself because Daria was iii,
so I sent Piotr. Hę stood in linę for several hours and then took a break
to play with his friends. When hę came home, hę handed me the three
eggs hę was able to buy. Eggs were rationed to ten per month.
There was one time I did enjoy the shopping. May Ist is a holiday and
there is always a paradę to celebrate the Communist workers. Everyone was
required to march in it. Piotr refused to do this and madę surę hę could
avoid the paradę by giving the teacher a doctor's written excuse so hę could
stay home. Hę knew the teacher had a list ofthe students who should march.
(Piotr had a strong dislike ofanything Communist.) But on this parricular
day, I insisted that hę march with Daria and me in the paradę for just a
short section, so hę would be noted. Hę reluctantly agreed. This was such a
good way to shop because we could buy things in the stores or from parked
cars, rare items like oranges, hot dogs and sweets. I was happy to be able to
purchase such special items without standing in a linę.
Martial Law madę me feel as ifwe were at war, sińce the television,
radio and telephone had to be turned off. Without a telephone, I
couldn't mąkę any kind ofcall in an emergency. I had heard that some
people died because of this.
I had a terrible problem one night when Daria was iii with a very
high fever. Edward was out on his taxi runs, and my parents and
brother were gone, too, so I was alone in the apartment. I felt I had
to take the risk of leaving the apartment to take her to the hospital.
The curfew started at 11:00 p.m. and lasted untii 5:00 a.m. I left the
apartment and looked for a soldier to assist me. The strange sight of
tanks and many policemen on the streets astonished me. Finally a
policeman took pity on me and offered to take me to the hospital with
my sick baby. By the time I got home, Edward was there and felt guilty
that hę had not been home to take me.
Taxi drivers continued to drive their taxis during the curfew but
attached red and white Rags to their radio antennas. Many ofthe taxi
drivers were arrested, and Edward suspected the Secret Police were
considering arresting him as well, but thus far, they had not.
Martial Law was repressive in various areas. A few private service
companies as well as public ones were taken over by the army. In
stores, post offices and other public places, I saw soldiers and shop
assistants wearing uniforms. The restrictions affected the arts and
theatre, too. Actors were not allowed to put on plays, so they boycotted
the theatres and performed oniy in churches or private homes. This was
a frightening time for me.
May 3rd was Constitution Day, and the Universky Cathedral was
holding a special service. The professors and students would attend
this anti-Communist Mass, and Edward and I decided to go, too. We
took Piotr and Daria with us. As we went inside, we noticed policemen
holding batons standing around outside watching as people went into
the cathedral. Werę there going to be arrests? I was concerned.
I glanced over at Edward who was clenching and unclenching his
fists. I could see that hę was itching for a ftght. When the time came
for us to me out of the church, I leaned over and placed Daria in his
arms, so hę had to carry her out. With his baby daughter in his arms,
hę couldn't fight. While the policemen were beating the students with
batons, Edward went home with his famiły. I don't know if hę was
angry with me, but I felt I saved him from a fight, and possibly from
Solidarity continued to receive strong support from the Catholic
priests, university professors and students. The goal remained to integrate
people in ways they could hełp each other and oppose Communism.
Edward was glad for this support.
A young priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, had been a chaplain for
Solidarity workers and performed secret Masses for them. Hę had also
been an outspoken supporter of Solidarity. There was an assassination
attempt on his life on October 13, 1984.
But on October 19, 1984, three Polish Secret Policemen stopped
his car and both the priest and his driver were handcuffed. The driver
was able to get out ofhis cufrs and ran off. Meanwhile the policemen
tortured the priest on a bridge over the Vistula River. After they had
murdered him, they weighted his bodywith stones and threw him over
the railing into the river.
Jaruzelski heid a public trial for the three killers, who were accused
of murder. Ali three received light sentences. The priests funeral
was attended by many people. Members of Solidarity came, but kept
themselves discreet, sińce they knew that the Secret Police were taking
notice of the attendees.
Not long after that, the Secret Police learned about the day of the
press delivery. Edward knew hę was in for trouble when hę saw four
policemen, two standing at each corner of the building. Hę was surę
they wanted to arrest him. Hę hurried up the stairs and packed two
bundles of old newspapers, put on a wig, got Piotr and they climbed
into his taxi and took off.
Meanwhile, I changed Daria's clothes, put a hat on her and I wore
one as well. We hailed a taxi and went to inform one ofthe leaders that
the delivery was not going to happen. We would have to pick a different
day. When we got home later, we learned that the deliveries had been
done that night by someone we didn't even know.
An Apartment Of Our Own
I didn't sec Lydia as often anymore because she worked in a different
building. I had noticed that she seemed rather unhappy. She hinted
that she was having trouble in her marriage and she was worried about
the chiidren. I got the impression that her husband was abusing her,
but she was ashamed to talk about it. I asked if there was anything
Edward and I could do. She shook her head sadły. "I may have to get
a divorce if hę doesn't change. These sort of things I never imagined
when we married. Thanks for hstening, Wiesia."
"Well, what arę friends for? Even morę so nów that we're famiły.
Please let me know if ever I can hełp," I said with a sigh and hugged
her. Not long after that, Lydia started divorce proceedings. Edward
was just as worried as I was.
The day finally came when we were informed that we could move
into our own apartment. I had lived so long in other people s apartments
that I had almost forgotten we might eyentually have our very own
Nów we had to focus on buying some furnishings. I don't know
what I would have done without my parents. I had looked and looked,
but the stores were empty without any furniture available to buy.
My mother stood in linę for a month to buy a rug for us. We had to
use a system where you wrote down your name and the item you wanted
to buy. The morę people who used the system, the less time you had to
stand in linę. On the day the product was scheduled to be delivered to
the storę, you had to come. The rug delivery took place once a week,
but oniy five or ten rugs were brought in. I joined my mother in linę
that day so I could choose my rug.
That is how we bought everything for the apartment from our
refrigerator to our washing machinę and vacuum cleaner. Often my
parents stood in linę for me while I took care ofthe chiidren at home.
Without my parents, I would have had to hire "professional standers."
These were retired people who got so littie pension that they were
willing to do most anything, like standing in linę, to earn a few morę
While furnishing the apartment took us a long time, the end result
was thrilling. The first day I walked into our very own apartment and
saw our place furnished, I burst into tears. This was one ofmy happiest
When Darła turned two, I headed back to work. I was fortunate
that my mother was willing to baby-sit her, as she had Piotr a few years
ago. Daria loved her grandparents and was happy to stay with rhem.
One day when I picked up Daria after work, my mother told me
about Daria's favorite gamę which was to stand up all her dolls on the
couch and teach them lessons. She had watched as Daria explained a
lesson to the dolls and ended by shaking her finger at them. Daria told
her that she wanted to be a teacher and mother had są id that she was
surę Daria would be a good one. I was happy to hear that at such a
young agę, Daria aiready had chosen teaching.
Because we were not in the Communist Party, our daughter could
not go to a pre-school. I chafed at the special prmieges the Communists
enjoyed. They could also buy groceries at a storę without standing in
linę and shop at specialty stores for all sorts ofciothing, shoes and toys.
Most of these prmieges were for upper-level Party members.
When kwas time for Daria to enroll in kindergarten, she was accepted
in a good kindergarten because Edward s cousin was a superintendent in
the school system. As soon as the kindergarten teacher and the principal
found out that Daria's dad was in Solidarity and not a Communist,
Daria had to change schools. Most ofthe teachers were Communists
as well as the principals, and it was not difficult for them to find out
who was not in the Communist party. They asserted that sińce Daria's
dad was a taxi driver and independently employed, hę musr be rich and
could afford private day care.
During the period before Daria was enrolled in the new school,
she was home alone. Daria insisted she didnt mind because her father
Stopped in often and she passed the time trying on my clothes and
PUttine on my make-up. Sometimes Edward took her along with him
in the taxi and she would ride in the back seat with a client. Edward
said it was very funny to watch her try to figurę out what hę and this
nice mań sitting next to her were talking about. Hę said that none of
his clients seemed to mind sharing the back seat with a pretty littie
girl. Daria told me how grown-up she felt riding around with her dad
in his taxi.
Edward had developed the habit of collecting various pieces of
information about Solidarity members, usually their names and
addresses, which hę wrote on bits of tissue paper. Hę placed the tiny
papers in a plastic bag and hę kept this tucked in his cheek. When
this got to be cumbersome, hę took the locks out of the doors in the
apartment and stuffed these bits of tissue paper in the locks in the doors.
I accepted this, although I was disgusted that none ofthe doors in our
apartment could be locked.
I saw my life as being without great demands. I learned not to
waste anything and was creative in my kitchen. I enjoyed meeting my
friends in the park or at work where we could share ideas and trade
clothing for our chiidren, often passing things down from the older
ones to the younger. I thought this was a wonderful system and could
understand why it had been around for centuries. I oniy had one son
and couldn't pass his clothes on to Daria, so I was happy to give Piotr's
shirts and pants to a friend for her son. Then someone else would give
me outgrown dresses for Daria.
Dniy a few people could be served at a time in the meat stores as
meat continued to be in short suppły. Once I signed up to come in at
6:00 p.m. and the meat was not expected to come in untii the next day.
I went home at 8:00 p.m. to put the chiidren to bed and rest a bit. I
returned to stand in linę at 1:00 a.m., walking there because the buses
did not run łatę at night. After they had served the pregnant women,
Red Cross members and the disabled, I was eighteenth in linę, and there
was nothing left except soup bones. My chiidren did not have meat for
three months during that time.
Another time, we needed butter and it was due to be delivered on a
certain day. Piotr and Daria went with me and we waited in that stuffy
storę for two hours to buy the butter using our coupon, ofcourse.
I rninded most of all the atmosphere of distrust. Sometimes rhe
clerks were rude to the shoppers. We all were often short of money,
but even morę, we lacked coupons for important items. The philosophy
was that all money belonged to the government. This was another idea
promoted to mąkę us feel dependent on the government.
The one item that was always plentiful and cheap was vodka.
Sometimes I suspected the government allowed this situation so people
would drink a lot and get drunk or sleepy. Then they wouldn't complain
or plan a revolt, lacking the urge to fighr for what was right. Alcohol
was truły a great oppressor.
Back at work after my maternity leave had ended, Martial Law
ended, too. Sińce I had belonged to Solidarity before, I became active
again and was assigned to be the leader oftwo women. I also had two
leaders, our usuał protocol to preserve our anonymity, as I oniy knew
the two people above me and the two of which I was the leader. We
continued to distribute the illegal leaHets, books and other materials
throughout the building.
One day, we decided to do the distribution differently in our
building ofsix Hoors. We placed the leaflets in the bathroom on each
floor at the same time. The security guards destroyed them as soon as
they found them, but the Solidarity members replaced the flyers every
twenty minutes. We did this untii the end of that work day. Another
time we placed Solidarity stamps on most ofthe doors in the building.
I found rhis frightening because if we were caught we could be sent to
prison. I didn't think we would be caught, but the risk madę the action
We were committed to what we were doing, so the next plan was
to organize a protest. We marched from our workpiace to downtown
Toruń. This was scary because we were marching behind people who
were suspected ofbelonging to Solidarity. We marched for about ninety
Sińce Edward and I were under almost constant surveillance by
the Secret Police, they knew whenever anyone came to our apartment.
The Ambassador to England was in Toruń and wanted to meet with
members of Solidarity. We invited him to stay with us, so we sent Daria
to my mother's and Piotr to Irena's for the night. We heid the meeting
at our place and pretended we were having a birthday party. I cooked
lots of festive dishes and even baked a birthday cake.
The reality was that we were having a meeting, but wanted to give the
impression that we were celebrating a birthday. The Secret Police did not
barge in because ofthat and also because they knew the English Ambassador
was there. Yet they were all over the building as they wanted to guarantee
the safety of the Ambassador from England and sec the faces of our
guests. I chuckled that ours was the safest apartment in Toruń that
There was one other time when the police were all over our building.
Edward and I had taken the chiidren and visited Maryla and her famiły
in Gdańsk for the weekend. Edward had hidden some illegal press in
the apartment sińce hę had not had time to deliver them.
When we came back home and saw all of the police around, we
were surę they had broken into our apartment and found the illegal
publications. When we walked inside and saw that nothing had been
disturbed, we were relieved. We soon learned from our neighbors that
the police were there because of a problem with tenants on the next
I felt concerned because Edward's demands had increased sińce
the arrests started again. Hę often helped people run away through
balconies, or hę took women to visit their husbands in prison, at no
cost, even though the prisons were often hours away. Edward also
organized food packages for the prisoners, or transported lawyers for
the political prisoners.
One evening when Edward got home after meeting with a friend,
hę appeared uneasy and told me that hę had been cautious as always.
Hę was with a taxi driver friend for an hour or so. When they walked
down the street, hę noticed rwo Secret Policemen following them.
I asked if hę was scared, and hę admitted that hę had been. "I'm
glad you were careful and noticed the Secret Police."
During these times when we were stiii under the Communist thumb,
Edward and I belonged to a movement of groups who met in various
apartments and invited a professor to come and teach about history,
the real version, nor the Communist version. This was considered
illegal. The practice was dangerous because meetings weren't allowed.
For protection, one had to know the password to get into the meeting.
Sometimes the meeting would be cancelled because on chat particular
night it was too risky. We were very careful and never got caught.
One person always srayed outside and watched durinc che meeting. At
other times, we would rneet to watch a forbidden movie or a movie that
depicted the real motives ofCommunism.
Oniy a few people had a VCR. These could oniy be purchased
in special stores using American dollars. Then the purchaser had to
leave his/her street address, narne and personal data. I was told about
a mań who smuggied in a VCR from France. When the VCR was
found at the border hę was arrested and sent to prison for having a
"non-registered possession." Edward and I never bought a VCR, but I
couldn't hełp wondering why there was a requirement that American
dollars be used for the purchase. There were oniy two stores where
VCRs could be purchased: Pewex and Baltona. This was another one
of rhose unexplainable things.
Edward and I were both working morę, and our responsibilities with
Solidarity had increased. I ofren did accounting in the Solidarity orfice after
work at the auto manufacturer. Piotr did not mind assuming responsibility
for his littie sister. Hę often took her to and from school. Sińce everyone at
school knew hę had a black belt in Judo, no one dared to pick on her. She
adored her older brother. I ofcen told Edward that we were fortunate to have
such great chiidren.
Lydia finally divorced her husband, Stefan, in 1984. Hę had not
oniy abused her physically, but also cheated on her. Even though I oniy
saw her nów and again at work, I noticed she often had bruises on her
face and wore heavy make-up to cover them.
Edward and I had not scen Lydia and her famiły much because
Stefan kept them away from us. Lydia mentioned to me once that she
was concerned thar hę was abusing their daughter, too. Perhaps that is
what finally convinced her to get the drrorce. But a few months later
Lydia told me that she and Stefan were trying to reconcile and get back
together again. Edward and I were skeptical and discouraged her.
Edward was wary because Stefan had episodes ofanger nów and again,
and hę wanted to be surę that this was not continuing. Lydia assured
us that Stefan was a changed mań.
Suddenly one day, we received a cali that Lydia had been found dead
in the bathroom ofher apartment. Her teenage son, Daniel, had found
her when hę came home from school.
Edward and I went to her apartment immediateły. Apparently
Lydia had died in the bathroom. The circumstances of her death
appeared very scrange. The sink was pulled out of che wali, including
the pipes. Her son said thar Lydia's head was in the bathtub which was
fuli of water because she was doing laundry. Her arms were outside
the tub, with one leg in and the other leg out. One arm was twisted.
Hania, her daughter, was very distressed.
The official word from the police was that she had died of a heart
attack. The Communist police were adamant that they had investigated
the case. They had done an autopsy and the cause of death was listed
as a heart attack and drowning.
The way Lydia was found seerned so bizarre to me. I couldn't hełp
but feel that she had been murdered. She must have struggied with her
attacker so fiercely, and heid onto the sink so tightiy, that the pipes were
pulled out ofthe wali.
Edward felt guilty because hę had scen others in Solidarity whose
famiły members were killed or threatened. Sometimes a person would
jump out the window ofhis apartment or be killed by a fire. In these
cases, nothing was ever proven, but the opinion was usually that they
had been pushed out ofthe window or a fire was set to kill the person.
Ouite possibly the death occurred to warn the person who was in
Edward was called to the investigator's office. Hę told me that while
hę was there, hę saw many files of underground people on the desk. Hę
felt this was intended to be a warning to him.
Stefan, on the other hand, did not care one way or the other about
Solidarity. Hę admitted to us that hę stiii had angry episodes, but
denied any involvement with Lydia's death. I thought hę seemed
Lydia's two chiidren, Hania, nów fourteen, and Daniel, sixteen,
were staying with Stefan in his apartment. Hę received money for the
chiidren, but I wondered how much of that hę spent on them, or did
hę spend k on himself?
Saddest ofall, the Secret Police would not let us bury Lydia for ten
days. This delay madę our grieving morę pronounced. Edward and I
both felt that we were being watched.
The funeral was very sad. Edward s mother, Irena, grieved
inconsolabły about this strange death ofher lovely daughter, oniy thirty-
eight. She said over and over again, that she couldn't understand why
such a thing happened to a lovely woman like Lydia.
I said the same thing, myself. She was such a good person, and I
•will miss her terribly. Edward and I hope to see that her chiidren, who
arę almost adults, arę taken care of.
Lydias death was similar to the murder ofthe young priest, Father
Jerzy Popieluszko. Edward said again that hę felt the Secret Police were
trying to teach him a lesson by killing his sister.
A short time later, Edward noticed that hę was being followed
constantly, but hę told me hę had no idea why there was a renewed
interest in him.
One afternoon, I happened to be home earły from work when two
Secret Policemen showed up at our apartment and said they had come
to take Edward with them to police headquarters for questioning. They
were not in uniform but showed us their badges. One ofthem said to
Edward, "There were murders last night. A series of nve women were
killed. Sińce you drive at night, you arę suspected." Then hę added,
"This is not an arrest, but just a suspicion."
Edward appeared stunned yet not afraid. The accusation was so
ridiculous; I wondered how they could possibly prove such an outrageous
"How long will you keep my husband," I asked.
"Oniy for a few hours," one of them answered.
Edward walked out the door with them. Hę was not hand-cuffed,
but simply guided by one Secret Policeman holding onto his elbow. I
thought this very unusuał and not according to how things were usually
done. If they really meant to arrest Edward, regular policemen would
have come, not the Secret Police. Also, Edward would have received
a letter first. I knew they couldn't hołd him for morę than a day. I
planned to cali other Solidarity members if Edward did not return in
a few hours.
After six hours, Edward walked in the door and had a strange tale
to tell me. "The oniy question they kept asking me was if I knew a
mań named Grzegorz. They sat me in a room with a window covered
by bars. They did not ask rne any other questions, which I thought was
very unusual. Every few minutes a different Secret Policeman would
walk by and look at me intendy through that window as ifhe was trying
to memorize my face. Then after five or so hours, they lec me out and
told me the whole thing was all a mistake."
Edward laughed and continued, "Wiesia, they may know my face,
but nów I know a lot oftheir faces, too. I'm surę I will recognize any
of them if I see them following me or standing in linę with me. And
the astounding thing is, while they may know of my nickname in
Solidarity, they do not know that Grzegorz is me!"
I asked him ifhe planned to change his nickname. Hę nodded that
hę had aiready thoughr about that and planned to use a new nickname,
After that incident, Edward told me hę had noticed some of the
same Secret Police following him. The most frightening incident
occurred a week later when they tried to cause him to have an accident.
Edward was driving his taxi and had a friend with him, when one Secret
Policeman drove in front ofhim and another behind him. As hę drove
by a diesel truck parked on the side of the road, the cars seemed to be
squeezing him. Hę saw no way out but to drive toward the side of the
truck. At the last moment, the two cars let him out, and hę escaped.
"I tell you, Wiesia, they did this to show me that they have power
over me. While I will continue to be careful, I do not feel they have
as much power as they think they do. There is much about Solidarity
they do not know."
Tfoe Years Roli By Swiftly
Usually at the fourth grade level, the students start a foreign
language course. None of the schools offered English yet, and Daria's
school offered oniy Russian. Edward and I preferred that Daria learn
English because it would not oniy be morę useful, but we disliked most
anything Russian. I met with Daria's teacher and asked if English could
The teacher said, "No way, uniess you find a teacher to teach
I went to the teacher a second time and told her that I had found
an English teacher. The teacher stiii refused. I wasn't going to give
up so easiły, so I went to the Superintendent, who told me to write a
petition and get signatures. Dana got signatures from the parents of
her friends, while Edward also got signatures. Hę went łatę at night
to mąkę copies for the Superintendent. When Edward took the copies
to him, the Superintendent told him that hę had done enough and hę
would find an English teacher. And so hę did.
Daria and the students in her ciass learned English, not Russian.
The teacher was not happy about this and was shocked that one famiły
was able to accomplish this. Even morę ciasses offered English language
dasses the following year.
One of Daria's teachers who taught Polish told her students that
Communism was good. Daria told me that she did not dispute what
the teacher said but disagreed silently. Daria said she had seen the
ineauities in Communism, not the goodness.
I was well aware that Edward had indoctrinated both our chiidren
against Communism. Hę had an easy task sińce Daria had aiready
seen in school the difference befween her friends whose parents were in
Solidariry and those whose parents were Communist Party members.
They did not face the sarnę shortages or shopping restrictions as the rest
of us. Candy was not a difficult item for them to buy, but I had shed
a few tears through the years for not being able to buy candy for my
Piotr aiready felt a strong dislike for the Communists, so Edward
had no difficulty influencing him, either. Piotr was fascinated with
history, and told me this story one day. "I was intrigued by the massacre
ofPolish officers, over four thousand ofthem, who were buried in huge
graves in the Katyn Forest earły in Worid War II. These murders were
carried out by Russian Secret Police, and the graves were discovered by
the Germans when they invaded in 1941. I asked my professor about
it today in ciass."
"What did your professor say?" I asked.
"Hę stopped what hę was doing and asked me pointedły, "Who told
you about the Katyn Forest Massacre? Where did you read about it?
How do you know about this?"
"The questions came at me so rapidły that I was uncomfortable and
sensed there was something morę behind these questions. I was not
about to tell the professor that my father had told me about it. Instead
I just said vaguely that I had read it somewhere and didn't remember
"The professor shrugged his shoulders and said this massacre was
a white stain on the world's history. Nobody knows what happened."
Piotr was concerned and asked me how I thought hę handled it.
I told him I felt hę handled the situation very well and that I was
proud of him. "I hope you never give up your love of history. Piotr."
Piotr kept his love of history and also studied Physical Education
and German, eventually earning a Masters Degree and excelled in
the Technicum. (A fiye year course of study to learn a profession.)
Piotr then attended the University in Gdańsk, majoring in Physical
Daria went on to the Liceum and stiii taiked about becoming a
teacher. Her favorite subject had been English and she hoped to be
accepted at a teacher training college at the University. She would need
to take a battery of tests in order to move on to the University. Tests
have not been a problem for her as they were for me at her agę.
Edward and I had an important decision to mąkę. The Polish
government had offered to send us and our chiidren abroad to America.
I was excited but wondered if we should go. Edward, however, was
adamant that we stay here. Hę said hę wanted to remain so hę could
mąkę Poland a better country for his chiidren. Some of his friends
accepted the government's offer and emigrated, but with a one-way
passport. In other words, they could not return to Poland once they
emigrated to the United States. These offers were being madę to people
who fought against the Communists or had caused problems. The
government wanted to get rid ofthem. I was proud of Edward and his
loyalty to Poland. Hę would never want to leave if hę was unable to
return to the country ofhis birth.
We often taiked about our famiły and the problems and challenges
through the years. My mother, Zofia, mentioned her brother, Stanicy,
and his experience in the Second Worid War. When hę was on a train
headed to a concentration camp, hę found a loose board on the floor
which hę pried up. As the train stopped, hę and a friend quickly fell
down through the hole to the tracks below and laid flat untii the train
had passed over them.
As soon as the train went by, they jumped up and ran toward dense
woods. German soldiers shot at them. Stanicy and his friend hid in the
thick stand of trees. The Germans came into the woods and searched
untii they found them. The soldiers lined them up with other escapees
in front ofa firing squad, putting Stanicy at one end ofa linę with ten
men, and his friend at the other. After the shots rang out, Stanicy and
his friend fell down and pretended to be dead. The Germans came and
looked over rhe men, kicking some and prodding others with their rine
butts. Stanicy lay stiii and did not breathe. Hę did not look up untii
hę was certain the Germans had gone. Hę and his friend left and madę
their way back to safety. Most everyone knew that Hitler not oniy hated
Jews in Poland, but Slavs and others as well. They were also killed in
I didn't remember our Uncle Stanicy very well, except hę sent us
a few packages through the years. Hę left Poland soon after the war
and went to West Germany. There, hę married a woman and the two
ofthem emigrated, traveling by ship, to the United States. Stanicy was
just twenty-five and arrived in the U.S. with five dollars in his pocket,
Hę worked hard and was able to buy a home in two years. My mother,
Zofia, was astounded by that.
Zofia told us that she appreciated the packages Stanicy sent us
through the years, though the government never missed opening the
packages and any letters hę sent. One tirne someone scattered cocoa all
over the clothes in the box. If Stanicy sent money, it was often taken.
Once, Stanicy came to visit us in 1983 and we were all warned by the
government that it was dangerous to have any contact with Americans.
In fact, they told Edward that Stanicy was a spy.
Finally Zofia asked Stanicy not to send packages or money anymore
because the government opened everything. In fact, after she was told
not to have contact with an American, she was so distressed; she decided
it would be safer to cut off contact with Stanicy for awhile.
Tfce Future Is Nów
In 1990, Edward suffered a heart attack and took a six month
leave of absence to recover. This was hard on us financially as hę
received no disability pay as a government worker would have. There
was no insurance to cover this, but the hospitals were public as well as
the entire health department. The biggest hardship was that Edward
couldn't work, but I was stiii working, so we managed as best we could.
Edward has always been an active mań, so the forced rest time was an
adjustment for him. Hę felt hę would be a happy mań the day hę could
climb back into his taxicab again.
But this was not to be, and hę couldn't return to his taxicab upon
his doctor's orders. Instead, Edward and I managed a smali grocery.
Surprisingly, all his old taxi driver friends dropped in to see him often.
Edward loved people and soon many neighborhood people dropped
His taxicab #242 was so well known, that someone even wrote a
book about him, because of his involvement taking people to places
opposed to Communism and the many brave things hę did for people
1989 was a significant year. Solidarity was legalized again and
we had our first partially free election on June Ist. In the past, a 60%
Communist government was required no matter what the resuits. But
this time, Solidarity won 99% ofthe seats in the Senate. The second
house of the Parliament is the Sejm, and in this house the ratio was
60% Communist and 40% other parties. We were told that our next
election would be completely free.
I had heard chat some older people wanted a return to Communism
because of the security. If these people did well because the Party •yŁ
was good to them, they wanted it back. Did they vote Communist?
Not openly, yet I heard that some did vote Communist. Present day
Communists cali themselves Socialists. (SLD is the imion of the left
When the workers demanded that the government resign, Jaruzelski
stepped down and appointed Mieczysław Rakowski as the Prime
Minister. On a later occasion, Wałęsa debated Rakowski and won
the debatę. A new wave oflabor unrest forced Poland's government to
negotiate with Wałęsa and other Solidarity leaders.
Wałęsa began negotiations to include Solidarity in the government.
Four cabinet seats were given to Solidarity. In 1989 the Senare, a second
legislative body, was formed. At the 1989 election, Solidarity won
ninety-one out of one hundred seats. Rakowski was the official head
In the 1990's, things began loosening up a bit. A free market
economywas allowed and foreign investments increased. A Communist
was stiii the head of state but Wałęsa had won the election and was
sworn in as president on December 21, 1990.
New elections were set for 1991 and 1993, and the number of
political parties declined from twenty-nine to six. A new Constitution
was approved in 1997. Religious instruction was guaranteed in the
public schools, and the Catholic Church was given autonomy from
the state. Poland has a Presidential-Parliamentary system. The Prime
Minister runs the government and the President is the political leader
In 1995, Wałęsa lost the presidential elecrion to Aleksander
Kwasiewski, who endorsed the market economy, privatization and
membership in NATO, even though hę was formerły a Communist. ^
Hę sought closer ties with the Wesr and had attended a university in
the United States.
Poland was invited to join NATO in 1997 and was admitted in
1999. George H. Bush, U.S. President, visited Poland in 2001 and
Yladimar Putin, Russian President, visited Poland in 2002.
In the 2001 election, Kwasiewski was re-elected. For the first time
in over a century, Poland was at peace with all its neighbors: Russia,
Germany, The Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Ukrainę.
Ties with the United States remained important.
There was one Russian cartoon on television and oniy Russian
movies, but no Disney or Western films. Furthermore, musie, comedy,
composers, singers and Polish news were not scen on television. Polish
movies were j ust beginning to be produced but were not seen untii
later in the 1990's. The youth listened to musie, and the songs were
often opposed to Communism. Polish plays against Communism were
attended secretły by students at the universities.
I was glad to sec some changes beginning in my country so that life
was not as restrictive as it had been. And I was happy that my chiidren
were moving forward with their education. Daria was accepted at the
Toruń University and enjoyed all her teaching courses and was nów
quite proficient in English. I couldn't hełp but be a bit envious that I
stiii couldn't speak English. Perhaps there will come a day when I will
need to speak English.
Piotr was nów a Physical Education and German teacher in Gdańsk
and coached Judo. Hę stiii loved history and always had interesting
tidbits to tell me.
After all we had been through in Solidarity, I was amazed when one
day in 1998, Edward received a medal for his bravery with Solidarity.
The medal was from President Kwasiewski. Hę signed the certificate
in recognition of Edward's work with the underground and sent it to
the Toruń government leader who presented the certificate to Edward
in a special ceremony. Edward is such a humble mań; hę was a littie
embarrassed, but I was so proud of him. When I thought of all the
chances hę had taken through the years and the times the Secret Police
harassed us, who would have thought hę would be honored by our
government? Edward also received two other medals: a Silver Cross for
service and a medal for distributing the independent press. Lech Wałęsa
also presented him with a certificate ofthanks from Solidarity.
My hope has not been misplaced. We arę living in a new day, and
I know there arę morę good things to come. Many morę.
Edward and Wiesia stiii live in the same two bedroom apartment.
Wiesia's brother, Stanisław, nów lives with them. Hę moved in with
them after the death of their father, Władysław in 2004. Zofia died
Life is better for them, but the high building maintenance fee won't
go away because it was billed under Communism. The building is
governmenr owned. Edward refers to this as one of the "Communist
leftovers." One significant change is that you can nów lease or buy to
own your apartment, and even sell it ifyou want to.
Daria visited Żona s brother, Stanicy, Darias great uncle in Godfrey,
Illinois, in the summer of 1999. During the visit, Daria's cousins swam
Ąn. a competkive swim meet and Daria attended. Their coach, a young
mań named Steven Helfrich, noticed her, thought she was cute and
knew he'd like to meet her. She had noticed him, too.
Steven was serving a ministerial internship at a church in Alton,
Illinois. Hę spoke at a youth ministry event, which Daria attended with
her cousins. She was very touched by his talk and introduced herselfto
him as a fellow Christian. Steven's attraction to her deepened, and hę
thought ofways they could get acquainted. Hę asked her ifshe would
like to go hiking, and she accepted. They enjoyed their time together
and saw each other a few morę tirnes before Daria headed back to
Poland. This budding romance led to many letters and phone calls.
Daria was interested in Steven right away, and had been impressed
by his message to the youth. Daria had grown up as a Catholic and later
joined a Catholic Charismatic community which sang praise musie.
She felt a renewal of faith at agę fourteen and sińce that time she has
felt a personal connection with God.
Steven flew to Toruń to see Daria later that year during the Christmas
holidays. Daria went back to Godfrey in the summer of 2000, and
Steven Hew to Toruń during the Christrnas holidays again. The overseas
courrship continued and their love for each other deepened.
On Valentine's Day in February, 2001, Steven called Daria to tell
her hę would be visiting her in March. When hę returned home after
the Christrnas holidays, hę had been bothered because hę failed to ask
Daria an important question.
Then on March 21st, hę came to visit and proposed. Daria accepted.
Steven would have liked to ask her rather's permission to marry his oniy
daughrer, but hę didn't know Polish, and Edward didn't speak English.
Steven and Daria told her parents together.
Daria's next visit to the United States was on a "fiancee visa." She
and Steven were married on October 27, 2001 at the same church where
they had mer in 1999.
Wiesia did not think Daria would actually be able to obtain a
fiancee visa to go to the U. S. She was shocked when Daria did get one,
but also saddened to realize that her lovely daughter would live so far
away. But she wanted Daria to be happy and could see that she was
deepły in love.
Edward, on the other hand, was happy for Daria, and hę felt his
daughter could represent him in the United States. And hę was happy
that nów hę could visit the U.S. and stiii return to Poland.
Edward and Wiesia came for Daria's wedding and they plan to see
their daughter every year. Sometimes they come to the U.S. and other
years Daria and Steven go to Toruń. Piotr, nów a successful engineer,
also came to his sister's wedding. Daria and Steven went to Piotr's
wedding in Gdańsk in 2005.
Daria lives with her husband in Godfrey, Illinois. She nów has a
permanent resident status and can appły for citizenship. When she
becomes a U.S. citizen, she will have to give up her Polish citizenship.
She is a busy lady teaching school and working on a Master's Degree
in Education. Steven is a Minister at a smali church in Godfrey and
has completed his seminary requirements.
Edward's mother, Irena, and his sister, Maryla, emigrated to
Germany in the 1990's. Irena sold her house.
Both rhe widespread rnovement ofSolidarity to other Eastern Błoć
countries and the fali ofthe Berlin Wali have resulted in morę open and
less restrictive countries. Edward and Weisia know that they have in
their smali way contributed to making Poland a better country. Edward
and Weisia have never regretted remaining in Poland and feel they have
the best ofboth worids. Ali ofWeisia's hopes have been realized.
Solidarity in Toruń '81-'89
Polish tv pirate
Journeys to Survival
- książka o Kwadracie
- ,,Nowości'' o książce
- prezentacja książki
Telewizja ,,Solidarność'' 19855 r.
- wnuczka o Hanaszu
- foto Beni
Czas Ludzi Niepokornych
- Rozmowa z W. Polakiem
- Złota Kareta dla W. Polaka
- Śmiech na trudne czasy
Podziemniaki - piosenki: Na wzwodzie
|Zdzisław Dumowski ,,Jedna Noc'' całe opowiadania|
Marek Czachor ,,Jak zatrudniałem się na PG''
R. Sojak, A. Zybertowicz Lustracja dla chóru
Konrad Turzyński - Czas
- Czy wszyscy byliśmy „umoczeni”?
- Krystyna Kuta
Jakub Stein Ich troje w monitoringu
dot. Stanisława Śmigla
- mili-cjant: zbrodnie komuny przedawnione (1982 r.)
- dot. Andrzeja Murawskiego (1982 r.)
- dot. Kazimierza Kozaka (1986 r.)
-pobicie A. Kuczkowskiej podczas internowania (1981 r.)
- dot. Artura Wiśniewskiego(1986 r.)
- walka z krzyżami w szkołach (1984 r.)
- dot. Tymczas. Prezydium ZR(1982 r.)
- dot. drukarzy TIS (1985 r.)
- dot. Toralu (1983 r.)
- dot. S. Kamińskiego(1984) r.
- dot. Andrzeja Zielińskiego((1984 r.)
- dot. Zbigniewa Smykowskiego (1981r.)
- ZOMO-wiec 1 maja 1982
- sfałszowana teczka o. Wołoszyna
- fałszywa teczka ks. Janusza
- Bezprawne internowanie
- dot. Andrzeja O.
- list gończy za SB-manami
-dot. Anny Zygnerskiej
- dot. Kazimierza Kozłowskiego
- dot. R. Muellera i A. Madraka
- SB-man oskarża dziennikarza
|konsul chiński ucieka|
|spotkania kumbatantów : 2002 , 2003 , 2004 , 2005 , 2006 , 2007 , 2008|
- 50 lat minęło
- Pierwszy wyrok dla SB-mana
|lista Wildsteina , IPN: konfident, ubek, poszkodowany w jednym worku|
|Uwaga! dla konfidentów SB|
|Dlaczego to wyszło nam inaczej|
Stan Wojenny - Pierwsze godziny wspomnienie
|Łamanie prawa wyborczego przez urzędników|
|teczka B. Andruchowicza|
Stowarzyszenie Wolnego Słowa Toruń
- wolność słowa w Trybunale Konstytucyjnym
- Lekcje SWS Toruń
- Stowarzyszenie Wolnego Słowa W-wa
- spotkanie po latach
|Marzec 1968 w Toruniu|
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