Poland's Class of 1936 - A WWII Survivor's Quest
January 3, 2004 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Poland's Class of 1936 - A WWII Survivor's Quest. 'There were twenty-five proud graduates in 1936 from Krzemieniec High School, famous as Poland's Eton. From their graduation photo they smiled confidently -- university and illustrious careers awaited them in a Poland that had recently arisen from the ashes of World War One. A Nobel Prize in their chosen field was a legitimate ambition ... ' [more inside]
posted by plep (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
'But those dreams would be shattered in 1939, and barely eight matriculants would survive World War Two. Janina Sulkowska, my mother, was one of the lucky students ... "Janka" certainly never foresaw the years of imprisonment, suffering and permament exile that would afflict her and her family and friends. My mother, who died in 1997 at age 83, spent the rest of her life lamenting her lost studies and crushed hopes, and searching for her missing classmates. Janka's graduation photo became an icon of what befell Poland under the tyranny of Nazism and Communism ... '

Letters and diaries of various family members, and a gulag and Holocaust memoir. Good links page.
posted by plep at 8:11 AM on January 3, 2004

I thank God that my grandparents managed to get out of Poland before WW I (my paternal grandfather actually sailed on the Lusitania to Liverpool). Years of poverty in America, perhaps, but freedom and opportunity.
posted by tommasz at 9:10 AM on January 3, 2004

My folks didn't get out of Poland until the 1970's. My dad was 6 when the Germans invaded so he has quite a few memories under their rule (and then the Russians). My mother was born in '46 and she has quite a few memories of the Russians and their influence herself. Thankfully my parents came to the US and then I was born in '81. How many Polish speaking Mefites are there?

(I'm 1)
posted by crazy finger at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2004

[the look of the page may be a bit iffy, but I thought the story was really interesting - enough to link. YMMV]
posted by plep at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2004

I can't speak Polish, I'm afraid. My parents both could, though both of them were US-born. My mom could read and write it, but my dad never learned. His father, on the other hand, was fluent in Russian and German as well as English.

We used to send kid's clothes and other things to Poland when I was a kid in the 60's. That stopped in the early 70's, I'm not sure why.
posted by tommasz at 12:50 PM on January 3, 2004

I was born in Poland in '82, moved to the US in '89 after two years in Germany. I speak Polish, of course.

Thanks for posting the article plep. There are so many stories to be heard, I'm glad some of it is getting posted online.
posted by romanb at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2004

I was born in Poland in 79, moved to the US in 91.

Things changed in Poland during the 90s. During that time - and perhaps still - there were more opportunities there for smart/clever individuals than anywhere. Emerging markets are the greatest.

Most of my family came to the US, but it's our friends who stayed behind that got rich via arbitrage opportunities and entrepreneurship. Funny, huh?

posted by Witold at 4:38 PM on January 3, 2004

I was a Fulbrighter twice (Lublin, Gdansk) in the '80s. Reading comprehension is weak, but I can shop fluently . . . the handle's a bit of Polish slang.
posted by palancik at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2004

Born in Szczecin, 1980. Came to Canada '85. Obviously, as I was 5 at the time, my Polish isn't as good as it could be -- but I can understand conversations fairly well.
posted by mkn at 5:32 PM on January 3, 2004

Most of my direct ancestors got out of Poland before WWII and came to the US. My grandparents were born here, save one born and raised in Germany after the family was kicked out of Russia (I am primarily Polish and Russian, but I don't know any Polish).

Nearly all of my relatives who did not leave Poland before 1939 died in pogroms or camps. A few escaped to Israel. Two years ago, we were found by relatives we had never known we had. They live in Haifa. They shared their research and photos with us. One of their children looks exactly like me.

This is a really amazing find, plep. Thank you.
posted by swerve at 12:04 AM on January 4, 2004

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