Return to Czarvszkoie

Soon afterwards we left Kiedrowka. Was this a result of the agreement between the Allies and the Soviet Union ? Who knows ? We Poles talked about it secretly among ourselves but really nobody knew anything. We tried to hope but in the meantime our living conditions didn't get any better.

This time we were billeted on some locals. We had to go through our landlord's kitchen to get to our room. It was September and autumn here is very short but as yet we weren't suffering from the cold. On the other hand it was very difficult to find anything to eat. Our 'menu' had changed but we continued to suffer from hunger which gnawed at us all the time.

The locals had small gardens and by using the bartering method mentioned earlier we tried with some difficulty to get some potatoes. More often than not we managed to get pumpkins. If they didn't contain too much water then when cooked they succeeded in filling our stomachs for a short while. Occasionally but not very often and as a result of our landlady's generosity we were given a little grated potato. But this had so little starch that it was as dry as wood shavings and was difficult to swallow. However it did at least allow us to chew on something while from the kitchen came a delicious smell of kisiel, a sort of gooseberry jelly made with the potato starch.

Czaryszkoje was situated in a deep valley : on one side there was a fast-flowing river while on the other mountains rose high up. Here and there passes led to other villages. Czaryszkoje had a main street and other streets led to the River Czarysz, the mountain slopes and to the forest. The houses were single-storey log huts and were on the whole well-kept.

In the middle of the village was a former Orthodox Church now used as a club for children. They were brought there from a very young age. From primary school age up to the age of 17. Then their working life began. I looked on them with nostalgia because I missed my school friends very much. The village also had a 'restaurant' where you could rarely eat anything other than gherkin soup: this was water with a few vegetables swimming around. From time to time we were happy to hear they were serving 'curds'. You should have seen them ! We would break off several bits of frozen curds from the block of frozen curds kept in the cold room (in winter the temperature sometimes reached -40"). In Kiedrowka it had been impossible to get hold of any salt but these curds were so salty we had problems swallowing them. But since we had nothing else we ate them anyway. Sometimes one of the luckier deportees would get to know that the 'restaurant' was serving potato soup (prices were always low and in any case the worker who earned the least had little else to spend it on). We would hurry to take advantage of it and eat some at the 'restaurant' and take some home. But unfortunately more often than not we would go home empty-handed as there was not enough soup for everyone. This is why I didn't hesitate to walk several miles to the next village through snow storms or on snow- covered roads with the hope of finding food.

In one of the small alleyways in Czaryszkoje (TcharichkoiB) there was a small pharmacy and next to it a hospital with several beds. Not long after coming back from Kiedrowka I got a job helping the pharmacist. I had to crush plants in a small mortar, weigh them out to the correct amount and then wrap them up. This suited me perfectly especially as this work improved our standard of living. As a wage earner I was entitled to a ration of bread that I couldn't otherwise have had at any price. I also remember at this time that my father gave me a sort of croquette stuffed with pumpkin. It was simply delicious and I thought life was changing for the better. It never happened again and soon I had to leave my job with all its advantages. The work had been given to another older Polish woman who had no other means of earning a living. Because of her age and experience she was more qualified than me.

The militia Headquarters was near the pharmacy and the hospital. They, together with the pharmacist and perhaps the primary school teacher, formed the local 'elite'. I noticed the pharmacist never appeared to suffer from hunger as we did and her house was also very comfortable. The cobbler on the other hand lived in a'chata masure' - a hovel - like almost everyone else and was often hungry. My father met the militia once more before we left Czaryszkoje. They called him in to identify some foreign money spread out on a table. It probably belonged to another Pole. This time they'd only needed a helping hand but we had still been very worried.