Today was an extremely productive day in a number of ways and one of my best in Poland. I saw beauty, met relatives, and learned some very painful stories. Of all my days in Poland, today had a bit of every type of thing I hoped to see and learn – and all in a single day. If you only read one of my updates all the way through, this is day to read it all. The stories our cousin told me are heartbreaking.
After another ridiculously large breakfast, we set off to Tarnow where the Catholic archdioceses is located for this region and therefore where we could research the repository for copies of all the records one would find in the local parish. The only down side is that it is very unlikely one can learn anything about current relatives as no one there is likely to know anything about your family.
But there was a way around this problem. Without getting to deep into the records, I found a lot regarding both the Rosiek and Paruch lines and much of the bare details are shown below in my ancestry.com tree (to which anyone interested is invited to examine…just let me know).
After getting information on Jan Paruch’s siblings, we cross referenced them against an old address book I have of my grandmother’s and we headed to the municipal offices (sort of like township offices) and tracked down the clerk of the township. She examined what we had found and looked at my grandma’s old address book and suddenly pointed to a name and said in Polish “Oh, that’s my aunt” small world. Anyway, we tracked down the name and address of the youngest son of Jan Paruch’s youngest brother, Pawel. His name is Marian Paruch and he still lives on the property on which Jan Paruch was born and raised.
After thanking the clerk for her help we headed off to Marian Paruch’s home hoping we would find him home and that he would not be put off by an unannounced visitor. I, again, needn’t have worried. He was very surprised to meet me once Zen explained who I was and….of course…invited me for a drink. He advertised the drink as brandy but what I saw on the bottle read “bourbon.” Now, I like bourbon, but I don’t drink it straight all that often but it is clear to me after a week in Poland that it would be insulting to refuse a drink from one’s host and so down it went.
He told me all about his family (his daughter lives near NYC) and what he knew about his father’s siblings. He also told me that he was in contact with Jan Paruch and Aunt Rose (Dovitts) when they were alive and that both of them would send money, clothes, and food to them during the communist days. He also pulled out some photos that were sent to him…one of which was from my Aunt Arlene (Michnal)’s wedding! Again’small world.
They have a lovely home and after a while Marian took me out to show me where the old house was…and he brought out a cool surprise, the only photograph he knows of showing the old house in which Jan Paruch lived.
I told Marian that I would very much like to snag a rock from the area where the old house was to take back to the US. Something must have been lost in translation as he grabbed a shovel, plastic bag and dug out a clump of dirt and scooped into a bag which he then presented to me.
Once I returned to Washington DC two weeks later after dragging it around Poland, I found the bag again and wondered what to do with this bag of dirt. So I poured the bag’s contents into an old mason jar I had from my mom’s house to hold my little piece of Poland. However I hadn’t been very careful pouring the dirt in there and the sides of the jar were very dusty and sort of obscured the view through the jar of this Polish soil. So I took out the sprayer on my kitchen sink and sprayed the inside walls of the jar to clean them up a bit and something unexpected happened a few days later:
Next, Marian took us to the parish cemetery to see some of the Paruch family’s final resting place. It was here that I heard the two most moving stories of the trip.
The Jewish Family
Marian first told me about the Jewish family that lived other side of their barn and had a small store. After the Germans reached Rozdziele, the Jewish family hid in the forest. Before the war the home sheltered both parents and several of their adult children living with them. At some point, the school teacher in town procured identity papers for the children making them appear to be Catholic Poles and they were able to escape to Krakow where they worked in a hospital until they were able to escape to America. The parents weren’t so lucky. They continued to hide in the forest during the day and then they would sleep in the cellar/basement of the Paruch home at night.
Unfortunately, they were eventually discovered in the forest and executed by the gestapo. The villagers were pretty upset by this and took their bodies away and gave them a proper burial somewhere. Years later when the family’s children must have been much older, a daughter of this Jewish family, Donata, who had escaped to New York returned to Rozdziele and asked Pawel to show them were their old house was and where her parents were buried. Pawel took them to where their old house once stood and the woman, Donata dug up some dirt to take back to America. This must be why Marian thought I wanted the same. Anyway, he noted that Donata asked about Jan Paruch and said she remembered that he had emigrated from Poland to America.
The second story was even more painful. Jan Paruch’s youngest sister, Anna, who was only about six years old when Jan left for America, stayed in Rozdziele until the beginning of the war when she was taken along with others by the gestapo and forced to work as slave labor in Germany during the duration of the war. These Polish slave laborers were generally not treated well and many died before the war’s end. Anna Paruch, however, managed to survive the war and allowed to go back home to Rozdziele.
As told to the Paruch family by one of Anna’s friends, the train in which they were riding back to Poland was unexpectedly stopped along the way by the Ukrainian soldiers the Germans used to police occupied territories held by the Germans. These thugs had a reputation for brutality and that characterization appears to be apt. The train was boarded by these Ukrainian soldiers and many women were dragged from the train. These women were then brutally raped and murdered by the soldiers. Anna Paruch was one of them. Thankfully, I suppose, her friend found her family and told them what happened.
Marian was clearly holding back tears after these stories as was I.
All in all it was a wonderful and moving day and I have been invited to stay with them whenever I’d like. Marian noted that they had more cars than people to drive them and he’d be happy to let me borrow one when I visit next.