Tatanya writes in 2002:
Here is our history--our life from 1939 which was told to us by parents and which I alone remember.
In September 1939 Germans invaded Poland and in 2 Sundays this war ended. Germans waged war on Poland. Our father was on this war but thank God returned alive and healthy. And so we came out under rule of Germans.
In our village, Germans built two story buildings which were named 'Placement'. There lived German officers and true soldiers. Yet were borderers. Germans took from our village all young people to Germany on forced labor. And those who were left behind in village, worked on rural farm management and on various work which Germans assigned.
We surrendered to Germans all that was cultivated in the fields. Nothing was left for people to live on. They also took milk, eggs, meat. And they would shoot any farmer who didn't give it up.
I already remember how mother milked cow and poured milk into jars. Eva and I carried to Germans to this building of two stories. It was not far from us. This cook, secretly from Germans, put into our jars kolbassy or something sweet. For adults this was not given.
I remember to us came one German named Ziba. And when Wasyl and Eva ground grain for bread with a hand mill, this German helped to grind. Germans prohibited us to have a hand mill and punished for this. But this German did not tell anyone that we have a hand mill.
He liked us children very much as he had his own children which he very much loved. And when he left for Germany, so mother gave him butter, eggs, and cream. And he brought clothes from Germany for us children, also toys. I very much remember how he brought me a big teddy bear, Eva a big doll, for brother a harmonica as well as other things.
There was another German officer, Albert. He loved to come on holy night (Christmas Eve) and brought us such big chocolates. He laughed very much when I crawled under table with Dmitro and in corner scratched. We did this so that chickens would lay eggs well. We did this customarily on holy night.
When mother gave birth to Anna, mother's breast hurt very much. Mother barely died, except this German officer brought a physician who doctored mother and healed her. So among Germans were good people.
But I do not know if these Germans, Ziba and Albert, have survived or where they live in Germany. For when started World War II, Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Then German Ziba again came to us and said that he was going to war. He very much cried that he will not see his children and wife. And he bid us all goodbye and left. I often recall him.
Other Germans came to village who were very brutal. All took on various work and tortured people. It was terrible that whoever did not obey, was very much beaten. I remember my brother Dmitro, who was only 4 years old, took a piece of sugar that Germans kept on the table. The German wanted to shoot him. Mother went to a higher officer and begged that this is a child, he doesn't know what he cannot touch. After that Dmitro did not look at what was on the table and avoided the Germans.
These Germans banished us from our house and we made a bed in a kitchen (5 of us slept there). Mother and father slept on the ground in the kitchen.
I remember mother wanted to make a bed for us and we all sat on one side. And when mother put all in order and said to lay down. I was sleepy and that to lay on side next to the wall, so I turned over and fell by stove on bench and then onto the ground. I was unconscious and mother very much cried. Germans came running to house and brought a needle to prick me and I withdrew into myself. They gave me a shot. With me was brain shock. So Germans told that I lay and not move. I didn't get up for a long time.
In July 1944, our mother gave birth to Julia. So Russian planes already were bombing villages where there were known to be Germans. I remember how mother delivered. And planes launched bombs and we from our windows saw where bombs fell. We asked God that on house bomb does not fall, that we do not die. But a bomb fell on the shed where father stored wood. Immediately after mother gave birth, we needed to flee to the bomb shelter (underground cellars lined with stone).
At this time Eva was with Aunt Anna in Wislok. And little Anna who was 2 years old was taken to Aunt Tekla, mother's sister. I and Dmitro remained with mother. Wasyl and father looked after the cow and horse.
We very much were afraid when bombing planes flew over the villages and released bombs. They so terribly buzzed, that I begged mother "Mother, let's go where people are." But from Russian planes threw cards telling people to come out to fields and cover up with white sheets. And those who did cover up, they bombed them.
I remember that one day in the morning, Germans came to the house and told mother and father to come out, cross through the creek and go on the other side for they would uproot the railroad place which was close to our house. Father took cow and horse and crossed onto other side. Mother with us went to one house.
In this house Germans took the horse and they started to relate to mother. There lived mother's father son, his wife and boy of 2 years. This wife Tanya said that she will go to Germans and ask that he return the horse. And mother-in-law did not want her to go to the Germans for they could beat her. And after some time, saw through window that German came on horse down the road.
And everyone started to take notice of him. But here unexpectedly flew Russian plane to bomb Germans, and horse runs. Then all ran outside to look for horse.
I also ran and was held onto by this Anna's hand. Mother with Julia, Dmitro and this boy were left behind in the house. And mother also came to window to look. But boy became scared and started to cry. He sat in kitchen on hearth and mother turned her back to him. The window panes shattered and flew off house and glass was everywhere. Mother hid with children behind stove. This plane flew again and launched another bomb. This bomb fell on our orchard. It was like a rock, big like a table, burst and scattered in all directions.
Anna held me by my hand and I see that she falls down beside me. I return to the house. Mother checks me to see if I was wounded. But I couldn't hear anything. I became deaf. And I couldn't speak. Then came Anna's husband with his parents came running and said that Anna was hit.\
Then we were very much frightened when Russians approached. Germans left so already with us was the front line. Germans helped incinerate harvest. They ransacked all they could carry. Very much took from us -- horses and clothes. Mother asked that they not take clothes for children, so German spit chew after mother. But thank God chew not break apart.
Russian soldiers came and told us that to emigrate to another village away from the front. So we went to village Prelyku were lived mother's sister. But after a time, we returned to Oslawica.
People all went to one house. Mother, I and Dmitro went to the house and went into the basement. It was full of water. People sat in darkness. Mother gave Julia to me and alone barely got out. We were very much drenched and chilled. \
The next day father and I went to the garden to dig potatoes. And Germans started to shoot. Father carried potatoes so German shot at father. Bullet fell on his shoe.
And then let loose such bullets that it tore apart into pieces. Started to pierce our wall in the house. And Russian soldiers came running to kitchen. Took us into arms and hid us behind stove.
Mother from garden was going to the house and mother fell. People who were in the garden ran to mother but mother was alive. Near mother found 24 bullet pieces. Russians already told us to leave from village and said that they will announce when we can return to village. And so we again left for Prelyk.
And we went through the field, with the Germans still shooting after us. Mother's skirt was torn by a bullet. But the bullets did not kill us. God protected us.
When we returned to Oslawica, the front was no longer there. We dug potatoes in November. Already was strong frost. That already so lived when after front.
Father's relative's house burned. There was not very much to eat or clothes to wear. Still with us, the cow was nourished. Children didn't go to school. And this is how we lived until April 1946 when they evacuated us to Ukraine under Akcia Visla / Operation Vistula.
Operation Vistula - Evacuation of Oslawica....
In April 1946 year under 'Akcja Wisla', we were evacuated from village Oslawica, Sanok raion. This was conducted on Saturday, after Easter holiday 'Paska'. Father along with my brother, Wasyl, went to the field to sow flax. I, brother Dmitro, Anna and little Julia were all playing outside.
Polish soldiers came and said that in 15 minutes we will have to leave our house. Said go find mother and father. Our Eva was at our Aunt Anna's. But the Polish chased all people out of the fields and told them they will not need these fields anymore.
Mother started to pack. Her sister came to help us. The Polish very much hit aunt and chased her to her home. And beat her until she arrived at her house. They thought that this is a 'bandit'. Our father and mother hid utensils and dishes in a tin box, buried all into ground. Another pot they tied by ears (handles) and dropped it into well. Clothes also put into sacks, in steel barrels and buried in ground. Even calf weighing 150 kilograms he killed, salted into oaken barrel and buried into the ground. He hid all this so if soldiers came from the front, they would not burn our possessions.
When Polish soldiers came, they chased us, so we could not take much. Mother tied quilts and whatever was in house, she put onto the wagon and sat us down. Mother took small barrel to mix bread. Polish said that mother will not need it. We all thought that they were taking us to shoot us like German Jews. But still we took the cow, tieing her to the wagon.
We were all chased to a field near the church where we stayed the entire night. Mother's sister at once knelt there and mother asked the Polish, to let us spend the night at the house. So we slept in house until morning but mother did not sleep. Wasyl and mother were by wagon. This was Saturday.
On Sunday morning they evacuated us to station Zahiria. And when we passed by our house, I stared at our house. I will always remember how house stood, . . where the trees grew. . . the creek. . . Left behind the forest. Now, I picture it before eyes, I remember everything.
So we came to Komancza. There Polish gave us a little bit to sleep for even cattle wanted to eat. And on Monday morning again, everyone started for Zahiria. Polish crossed through creek at night light. And there cows were stolen from many people.
Our father once again asked to be allowed to travel to back to Oslawica, for still had something to get for himself. The Polish allowed it. But when father returned to village, he dug up all utensils, clothes, meat. He also took harrow, chopped straw, plow. Still remained behind was broken flax and hemp. This was not dug up.
With father were several other farmers. After they departed from Oslawica and arrived in Komancza, when we turned around, we saw a big fire. And this was Oslawica burning. Families arriving in Zahiria very much cried that there will be nowhere to return to. All had the belief that yet they would eventually return to their homes. And so all homes burned to the ground, only chimneys remained.
The next day after evacuating us, our Eva came running from Aunt Anna in Wislok to Oslawica. But already nothing was in village only cats meowing. She ran to the house, saw her doll and my teddy bear in cupboard. Cried and ran back to Wislok, to Aunt Anna's. This was 15 kilometers and she ran so hard through the forest to Wislok. By this time, the Polish began to evacuate people in Wislok also. So she came with them to Ukraine.
In Zahiria they shuffled us into service cars big enough for 5-6 families. Service cars were for goods. Goods that were covered and on other families fell upon uncovered. All of us were brought to Ternopil oblast, Piegvolochushkij raion, village Kachanivky. There scattered us to homes already vacated by Polish families.
Our father found house where there still lived a Polish family: 2 adults and 2 children. Father loved orchards and by this house was a nice orchard and garden. And father brought us to this house. Mother was afraid that Polish would butcher us. And Polish woman told mother and her baby, to go into the house to sleep. The rest of us would sleep in the barn, until they departed.
Mother slept overnight in house and the next day got up, milked the cow, gave us and these Polish milk.
Mother became friendly with this Polish family. Polish mother took to burn straw so that to cook food, and then with straw, baked bread. Father started to help Polish to pack things. Mother sewed sacks from this material that she brought from Poland. And gave them 2 tins of grain and 2 tins barley so that they had something to eat. Garden also they had completely planted and showed us their fields sown. That for father and mother very much fell on good for we would not be hungry. <
Father signed on emigration document that we had little ground, no woods, no orchard, no meadow. For it was said, that those who had much field, would be shipped to Siberia (Stalin's revenge against 'Kulaks' who wouldn't collectivize). So my father wrote that we only had 3 hectares of land when in fact we had 15 hectares (30 acres) of field. No one paid us for these lands when we were evacuated. In 1947 there were very many hungry from the neighboring oblast. Very many people arrived begging for bread since nothing grew.
At this time father and mother found out where they took the evacuated people from Wislok. And Wasyl left to look for Eva who was 16 years old. So brought her home almost barefoot. She had only socks, which Eva herself took. Aunt Anna gave her nothing on footwear. And on head were lice. When Eva saw mother, so fell upon her and said,
"Mother, I'll never will leave you."
For entire week, mother removed her lice and father made boots. And in the summer, father sewed footwear from leather, and in these we walked. Then we bought shoes and slippers.
When summer came, mother, Eva, and I carried produce to be sold: cherries, apples, butter, eggs and this is how we lived and came out of that impoverished situation. Money and debt repaid by Autumn. And then near house gave us a piece of land with weeds. So needed to hoe, weed and dig.
Eva finished 4th grade and didn't go to school any more and pastured the cows. Dmitro and I helped her graze the cows. And mother was ill very much and could not work.
In 1948 again USSR started to register land property and all goods that people have at home. My father and mother didn't want to sign on collective property and frequently fled from the house. I remember that we were in the house and to us Bolshevists kahibisti entered in by force when we slept and very much beat us and burned on table. We were very much afraid and mother with father fled from house.
Mother then got very badly ill. Got cold, bronchitis,asthma and heart hurt very much. Father then was stronger. But every day they came to the house and took my parents to village counsel. There they were forced to sign into collective property. Horses, wagons, harrows, plows, pitchforks, calves were taken to collective property and field. They only left us with one cow. They pulled down the barn and lodgings. And then even took grain. So started collective property life. We were left with nothing. Some people had very nice houses, so at night the government men came and transported them onto Siberia and the leaders themselves took over these nice homes and lived in them. And these farmers couldn't take anything with them.
By now mother was too sick to work on collective property. Father worked; drove the horse and transported all that needed to be carried. My sister Anna was mixed up on the registry and Eva was not added to the registry with us. I went to school and when I came home I helped Eva. She worked for two years for collective farming. She was paid very little for work as a laborer. They calculated the labor every Autumn. If on the property was good harvest, so paid good and if not grew well, so people fruitlessly worked.
And so when it was harvest, Eva went quietly there to clean the grain for milling and dried it thoroughly. And those who took even .5 of it, God forbid, were taken to court for judgement and were given two years in prison. Mother begged Eva not to take anything. But when she was long overdue to come home, mother prayed that she would come home successfully.
Father made a bit more because he worked with horses. I, with Dmitro, pastured our cows and also our neighbors. They paid us for this.
In 1948 Wasyl went to work on spirit (alchohol) factory and frequently came home drunk and started to teach us if mother was not home; beating me, Dmitro and Eva. Once father beat him. And mother begged him, "Wasyl, you already earning money, so buy Eva something to wear, shoes and a dress." But he bought her nothing. And he so brags now how he loved and looked after his sister.
Wasyl's grandmother's sister was trying to get Wasyl to come live with her. So when my father beat him, he flew to aunt's and lived with her. In 1950 he married Maria; didn't even ask for father's blessing. Eva went to work on brick factory in Pigvolochushkuna and was earning enough to buy herself dresses and shoes. Then she went to Crimea to work and earned much; that she even gave me money.
Dmitro went to school and pastured the cows. Aunt took my other sister to live with her in Komarno where she went to school. I ended school and went to learn on bookkeeping. Dmitro finished school and went to work in Donets in the mines. He sent home money to parents for my schooling in Chortkova. My youngest sister was now going to school and pastured the cows. Finally Eva came from Crimea.
I learned for two years and got ill with black lung and was sent home. Aunt took me in and healed me with fresh milk, cream and I ate many tomatoes. I didn't get any shots nor tablets. In two months I became healthy.
In Autumn I went again to learn for two more years. I fell upon work in Komarno and near home was a controller for whom I worked. Fo me it was good. My father then lived in Sabir, in village of Biskovichi for 4 yeas. Wasyl and Maria moved to Ripne. When Eva went to visit Wasyl, he gave her to Michael. So her life changed -- she was now married to a drunk who raised two sons to be drunks. They all beat her.
Brother Dmitro worked in the mines on Donets Basin. Two times the mine fell on him but was always saved. Mother always prayed for him so that nothing happened to him. And God protected him. When mother was near death, we sent a telegram that he come home but when he arrived, mother had already died. Mother was 50 years old when she died. Father was 56.
Dmitro was earning money and Maria, like a fox, convinced him that he should live with her and Wasyl, not with us. I was already earning money and carried grain after grain to father making it easier for him. And then Dmitro went to the Russian city of Ydomlya and began work on building atomic electrostatics. He worked and lived by himself, his wife did not want to follow him. He had his own room. He loved to catch fish on the many lakes there. All the cats knew him, and followed him for he went carrying fish and threw the little fish to the cats.
On February 20, 1980 at work at night, Dmitro stood under faucet with another worker. The pipe fell on both their head from up high. My brother and this second man were killed. Wasyl was immediately telegramed of this, to come and take him to bury him, but he didn't go for the body. When we were finally notified, we traveled by train, then flew to Moscow, then on to Ydomlya. We found where he lived. We were told Dmitro is already buried, about 3 hours ago. We very much cried. These people said that no family came to his funeral.
We tried to take him. We showed them our telegram. Then we turned over to court to allow us to transport body to Ukraine. Court allowed it. And so helped us transport the body back by plane. We had another funeral service in the home. He was in a zinc casket and we didn't open it. Priest celebrated a funeral mass and we buried him by mother and father. My sister looks after the graves.
Then Dmitro's leader wrote us a letter. He very much thanked us that we transported him home. For on this place where he had been buried, they made a road and he would have had cars traveling over him. And he came to me in a dream; I dreamed that he thanked me for moving him from there.
You asked that I write all from 1939-1946 years. I was born in 1939 year. My father, John worked in Argentina for 9 years of these years I actually do not know. Came home, bought a bit of field, threshing machine, treadmill that horses, placed in harness, drove threshing machine by hand. Bought wood for house, for house was old.
In 1939-1940 year Poland was at war with Germany. In 1944 year Russian National Army released Russians and started to release Polish line. War came through our village (Oslawica) and our orchard. Germans occupied the kitchen and Russians dispersed us also. Airplane bombs fell on our house and it burned completely.
Until 1946 year we lived at neighbors. Then in 1946, we were required to settle in Ukraine in Chervni city. With us we took cow, horse and whatever fit on wagon. Threshing machine, treadmill and everything else was left behind. In Poland even in confidential letters, we didn't claim that we had a house (They feared being sent to Siberia. At the time, Stalin's Bolsheviks called landlords 'Kulaks' and believed them to be a threat to collectivization; therefore, they would be expelled to Siberia without leaving a trace.)
We settled in old Polish house in Krunuchia. We didn't look for better because we thought that we would need to pay much. Polish from Ukraine had already emigrated to Poland. (Population exchange provided under the Yalta agreement between Roosevelt and Stalin.) By 1950 year we had our own fields and worked our own fields.
In 1950 USSR started to collect our belongings (collective farming). They took our horse, wagon and other instruments. At the beginning, when we worked on collective farming, it was not counted as a day, so then they started calling a 'working day'. At the end of the year, we were given grain based on working day, which came out to 10 grams. And in 1955-1960 our working day ration came out to 1 kilogram and some money, about 10 kopeks. However, if someone went to harvest some ears of corn illegally and were caught, they were sentenced even up to 10 years in prison.
Life between 1960-1990 became easier to live. Young people went to work on factories, building started and there was stability to receive money. Work was plentiful. Now when Ukraine became independent, then communists which were in power, stole all money we had saved in our bank books. Russia does not think about returning, so now in Ukraine we need to start from the beginning, from zero. And we don't have good leadership.
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Komancza, Poland
My name is John Dennis. My father came from Oslawica (I believe). His original name was spelled Andrew Denys but he changed the spelling after emigrating to the US. I have been trying to find the exact location of the town, as my father said it was completely destroyed. Today while searching I discovered your page and was struck with how closely the details of what they went through matched up with the stories my Dad would tell including being forced out and the total distruction of the town. Some of his family was also sent to Siberia, a brother went to Argentina, and a brother John came to the US. In the Lemko Surnames link I found Denys listed as an occupant, so I hope I'm on the right track. I was touched by the personal accounts described on your site. The human soul can survivr a lot. It puts our traffic jams" in their proper perspective of problems. Thank you for taking the time to build the site. John Dennis Jrd72342@aol.com