Friday, 25 May 1945

Return to Poland: Maria Kawecka

"30 km we drove with the military, direction Frankfurt (Oder). There were two soldiers who drove a horse-drawn carriage and took us with them. Then one of them got a handcart for us. So we walked along the motorway Berlin-Frankfurt. We slept in the woods because the weather was nice. We had wine to drink. We always looked for bushes, each one had two blankets, we spread out the fern leaves, then the blankets and so we slept. We were afraid to go to the Germans, but also to the Russians. That lasted six days. About 10 km before Frankfurt the Russians took us with them, then they dropped us off not far from the station. But there were so many tracks crossing there, that we did not know how to get to the station. We met a German who explained the way... We had food. But we were so afraid of hunger that we did not use up our supplies during these six days... We learned that a train with halfway normal wagons, without a roof, but with side walls, was to leave soon. We boarded the train and that's how I arrived at Łódź. I went to my aunt, sent a telegram home and my mother came to pick me up. So I arrived home. Our farm was completely run down. The children had grown up in the meantime."

Maria Kawecka is 24 years old when she is deported from Piotrów in Poland to Güstrow in April 1942 for forced labour. She manages to return to Poland, but during a raid on a tram in Łódź on November 17, 1942, Kawecka is arrested again and deported to a camp in Berlin-Reinickendorf (Walderseestr. 21). She has to work for AEG and for the company Dr. Klaus Gettwart (Köpenicker Straße 50) in the production of aircraft and submarine parts, among others. When the company's factory is badly damaged during an air raid in November 1944, the company moves production to Klausdorf near Teltow. Here Maria Kawecka experiences the liberation on April 28, 1945.

In the following days, Kawecka and two Polish friends collect food in nearby camps, constantly on the lookout for Soviet soldiers chasing the Polish women in the village. Kawecka first finds accommodation with a Polish family from Warsaw, who had been deported to the German Reich after the Warsaw Uprising. They share their provisions and provide for themselves together. In July, Kawecka and a Polish friend make their way home on their own. In the summer of 1945, their means of transportation are severely restricted and the return journey is difficult. Kawecka reports: "The return home was not easy. The trains didn't run, you had to find other ways to help yourself. My colleagues and I loaded the provisions onto a small handcart. This way we were well provided for and protected from hunger."

Food is scarce and must often be purchased in exchange. In Poznań Kawecka gets some sugar in exchange for tobacco, which she had previously received from a boy. When she arrives home, Maria Kawecka has to realize that not much is left of her old home: "When the parents came back, there was neither a chicken, nor a pig, nor a cow, nor a horse-drawn carriage. There was simply nothing. So I had no choice but to look for a job. So I went west." Later she returns to Łódź, marries, has two children and finds a job at the Technical University. In 2007 Maria Kawecka died at the age of 89 in Łódź.

(Source: Interview with Maria Andrzejewska, née Kawecka, Łódź, 22 August 2004; letter from Maria Andrzejewska to the Berlin History Workshop, Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre)