My comment on the article Exploring Poland’s Lake District by Emma Thomson in The Sunday Times, 27 September 2020.
The article is representative of the Communist narrative. This is a region whose inhabitants either fled or were expelled later in a totalitarian action. Practically the entire population of this large region was purged. The region was split by an arbitrarily drawn border and the Soviet enclave of “Kaliningrad” was installed north of it. The Koenigsberg of Immanuel Kant and several hundred years of history were annihilated.
“The capital of the region is the “garden town” of Olsztyn”
It is not a garden town. It is full of Communist blocks of flats. This was East Prussian Allenstein before WWII.
My wife’s grandmother Wera Głuchowska and her son Witold, my wife’s father, then a little boy, happened to be in Allenstein as refugees in 1945, just as WWII was coming to an end. Their home was in Iwacewicze, town in eastern Poland under Soviet occupation, presently under Belarussian control. Food was extremely scarce. Wera died of disease and exhaustion in 1945, after the war ended. She is buried in a neglected cemetery behind the church of St Joseph (current name, I am not sure of the German name). An office of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance is located just across the street from the church. The name is misleading, however. A short walk to this cemetery is enough to expose the lie. This has nothing to do with remembrance and everything with forgetting and subjugating to the official propaganda.
This cemetery bears witness to a great tragedy. Graves of little children who came to the world in the aftermath of WWII, graves of older Polish folk, who died in a foreign land instead near their farms in the fields, where they grew up and farmed. Graves of pre-WWII Prussian inhabitants, whose descendants fled, were killed, or were expelled. Most neglected, their boundaries sometimes difficult to recognize.
“The farm near Utka was bought by her great-grandparents for a small sum when the borders were redrawn after the Second World War. This previously German region became Polish, the Germans left, and residents from modern-day Lithuania moved south.”
The name of the place in Polish is Ukta, not Utka. It is quite an achievement to falsify so much history in two sentences. “Borders were redrawn”? By whom? Who did that? Why? No mention of an illegal Yalta agreement to which, sadly, the British government were part.
The phrase “bought by her great-grandparents” is meant to suggest a legal transaction as well as create an air of a long Polish history of the place. The sentence “This previously German region became Polish, the Germans left, and residents from modern-day Lithuania moved south” is a classic example of a totalitarian story-telling. The tragedy of the people is presented like a simple house sale. It was anything but.
This is the Communist narrative subordinated to the Soviet/Russian narrative.
The phrase “residents from modern-day Lithuania moved south” is simply a lie. I am a son of those “residents”. They were indeed residents, but not of Lithuania. Post-WWII, they resided in Communist concentration camps in northern Russia, Arkhangelsk region, for quite a long time. They were lucky to get out alive. Before that, they were citizens of Poland. They were stripped of their Polish citizenship by the Soviet occupiers. Both of my parents lived in eastern Poland, now marked as part of Belarus.
I was born in Kętrzyn/Rastenburg and grew up among refugee families from eastern Poland. We had a very small flat in former German barracks. Among our neighbours was a quiet German-East Prussian family. They may have been evicted from their house or farm. They left for Germany in the 1970s. Two of my childhood friends also moved to Germany during that time. They had a Polish father and a German mother.
As time went by, I gradually realised the enormity of the tragedy of all the people in that war.
And what are we served by The Times? No mention of vandalised country houses, ruined farms. It is all sweet and beautiful. “Bought for a small sum”. Really? This area is not my place and not my heritage.