Zawartka, the hope dies last.
With thanks to the Zawartka family for sharing this hurtful story.
In December 2016, the first entry about Zawartka family from Kobryn was published, and it can be read here .
A few months later, Mr Grzegorz came to me and decided to share the history of the Zawartka family after reading the entry. Mr Grzegorz’ grandmother is Alicja née Zawartka, the baptism photograph of whom was shared in my first article.
I was very keen to faithfully recreate the events, which took place 77 years ago and earlier, which is why the following article is almost entirely an accurate account of history told through the eyes of Alice née Zawartka.
Here is what could be determined about the history of the Zawartka family.
The story of Zawartka family as told by Alicja, the daughter of a policeman murdered in Katyn, written down by her grandson. With the consent of Mrs Alicja, Mr Grzegorz gave me this story. We all hope that the memories of those events will last and will be a warning to the future generations.
From the left: sister of Józefa Zawartka – Stefania Rak, child – Alicja Zawartka, mother of the child – Józefa Zawartka, brother – Zdzisław Zawartka, father of the child – Jan Zawartka, a colleague of Jan – p. Kindracki. The last two were policemen in the pre-war Poland.
In reference to the entry from 2016 Mr Grzegorz wrote: “Wujenka(aunt) about who you wrote (article „ Rodzina Zawartka -Kobryń” is my grandmother’s mother – Józefa Zawartka (nee Makowska) – and is my great-grandmother. Helena (everyone called her Wanda) Ostrowaska was sometimes a guest at my grandmother’s house in Proszowice. Grandmother was at the funeral of the son of Ostrowski family, she visited Helena (Wanda) in the hospital, she attended Helena’s (Wanda’s) funeral as well as the funeral of Roman. Both passed away and are buried in Prandocin. Ostrowscy family are described here.
He was born in the Proszowice region in Łętkowice, near Kraków in 1902. He attended school there. Between 1923 – 1925 he served in the army. After finishing serving he started working as a policeman in Miechów, then in Jermicz near Kobryn. He got there in 1928 with his wife, who came from Józefin near Słomniki.
Jan and Józefa had two children, Alicja and Zdzisław. Jan also had a sister, Karolina.
Karolina Zawartka married Antoni Gaweł. During the occupation, the Germans shot him as part of the liquidation of the wear, sick and defenseless (he was bedridden, paralyzed – he did not move at all). Karolina and Antoni are burried in Łękowice. They had a daughter Helena Wanda, who later married Roman Ostrowski.
Zdzisław Zawartka got married to Halina Dziuba, then Zawartka. They had two daughters and a son, the son lived in Konskie, but he is no longer alive. His son also died, so the Zawartka family line ends here.
Below is a photograph of a baptism Zdzisław Zawartka
From the left: Jan Zawartka, then mrs Kindracka (the wife of the godfather of my grandmother, whom you know from another photograph), Józefa Zawartka and mr Furgalski. The baptism took place in 1928.
Alicja discovered in him painful cards from the history of her family.
Jan Zawartka was a policeman – a constable.
All of the policeman in the area were ordered to go to Romania. Every policeman, teacher and all of those who were associated with a wider culture knowledge or intelligence had to report. Jan cycled to the assembly point. On the way he was chased by a dog that broke free from its closure. Jan turned around and walked the dog back home.At that time, his wife wanted to persuade him to desertion and escape to Poland. Jan refused. Grandmother (Alicja nee Zawartka) says,that he always abided by the law, and apart from that he knew that desertion equalled being shot to death . And so he escorted the dog back to home and went to the assembly point. There, it turned out that it was a mystification, a hoax done by the Russians and everyone who came to the assembly were transported to the Ostaszków.
Some time later a letter arrived addressed to the family of Jan, in which because of the censorship he only wrote that he was in a camp and asked Alicja to pray for him. Then it was only Katyń, the months of hunger and 'imprisonment’ before ending with a deportation to Katyń.
Jan Zawartka died in 1940.
His life ended in Katyń (publications like “Katyń: Lista ofiar i zaginionych jeńców obozów Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk (Katyn: A list of victims and missing prisoners of camps in Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk) published by ALFA – Warsaw 1989, p. 85 confirm his fate. An obelisk with a list of people murdered during the war is erected in Piotrkowice near Kraków. On that obelisk also, the name of Jan Zawartka can be found. The information can also be found here.
The family of Jan realized that they were first in the line, as a family of a policeman, to be deported to Siberia. They knew that their days were numbered, the NKVD operated in the area and were writing down everyone in order to prepare the grounds for the purge.
The man with whom Jan and his family rented a room moved in with Józefa, stating that since Jan is not there he will be the 'ruler’ and will replace Józefa’s husband for her. His story ended terribly, because after the change of power in Russia he was accused of something, he asked some favors from Józefa, but was finally shot by the representatives of his homeland.
The Polish border has shiftedand an escape.
Józefa reported herself to the commission which resettled the repatriates. As a proof of having relatives, she has submitted a letter from her son Zdzisław, who was staying with his grandparents in Poland waiting for the beginning of the school year (which, of course did not happen because of the military plans of our neighbors in 1939). It was a good luck that Józefa sent her son on holiday to her family. He was to return to the east in September 1939 to begin school. The war broke out, he did not go home. He sent a letter thanks to which his mother and sister were not sent to Siberia.
Eventually, they managed to get a Soviet train to Poland. To make sure that the NKVD would not stop them at the last minute, they went to the station early in the morning. And they made it.
The Russians took all of their valuables at the border check, but they managed to reach Poland, to Biała Podlaska, where they had to change to a German train. There too, they could wash – the army carried our the order for the bathhouse with lethal efficiency – large chambers for adults of both sexes and for children. Gray soap, Russian supervision.
Eventually, Józefa and Alicja got off the train in Słomniki and lived with uncle Makowski in the area of Słomniki. There, they lived with 11 people in one room with a separate kitchen. Jan’s wife, Józefa looked for him for many years, hoping that Jan was still alive. Her hope, however, died when, after many years a book published in London with a list of the victims of Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostaszków come into her hands.The book was hidden for a long time in fear of the repression of the communist authorities. Only after 1989, the family could officially seek to obtain information about Jan Zawartka.
In a letter from October 12, 1992 from the Archives of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, the family received an official confirmation that Jan Zawartka was a prisoner of war in the Ostaszków camp, murdered in Tver by the NKVD and buried in the forest near the village of Miednoje. The family never managed to get back the mementos of Jan, but they did receive two bags of soil from Katyń. One was put in the coffin of Józefa, and the other in the grave of their son Zdzisław. That was his last will.
Alicja, the daughter of Jan, married Józef Popiołek and moved to Proszowice where she lives to this day.
On April 19, 2008 an article describing the history of the Zawartka family, also presented by Alicja, appeared in the Dziennik Polski – Dziennik Proszowicki edition. The article was entitled “Adresata niet”.
Alicja shared the painful card from the history of her family.
Author of the entry:
Ania Bernat- Mścisz
History written from the stories from Zawartka family.
Information and photographs are published in this entry with the consent from Zawartka family.
The photographs are family-owned.
Is the wonderful film, „KATYŃ” based on this story? I will watch it again tomorrow. There seem to be common threads, which is not surprising. Thank you for sharing this story.