Sunday, 6 May 1945

Berlin Buchholz: Józefa Irena Łyskanowska-Kuncewicz

"The time of liberation was the worst for me. I had no shelter, nothing to eat, I was afraid to go out into the streets where shootings were still going on and there were loads of Soviet soldiers...
I stayed in contact with the [German] family where I had worked, i.e. the Pieel family in Buchholz. After the liberation I decided to visit them. When the boss heard that I had no shelter and nothing to eat, she immediately suggested that I move in with them. Her daughter let me have her room. So I was safe and no longer hungry."

Memoirs of the former Polish forced labourer Józefa Irena Łyskanowska-Kuncewicz

Józefa Irena Łyskanowska-Kuncewicz is 17 years old when she is deported from the Polish village of Chabielice, at Łódź, to Berlin in March 1940. In the Buchholz district of Berlin she had to work for the Otto Pieel gardening company, first in the greenhouse and later in the fields. In summer, working hours often last from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening. Józefa Kuncewicz is accommodated in the Pieel family home, where she is treated comparatively well. When winter sets in and there is not much work left in the plant nursery, Józefa Kuncewicz is sent to a farm in Berlin-Buch. Here she has to do heavy piecework on a potato field. When Kuncewicz appears at the employment office a short time later to change her job, the police arrest her. She spends two weeks under terrible conditions in the Spandau prison.

In winter 1943 Kuncewicz is transferred to a camp in the Tempelhof district. She now works in Schöneberg for the Siemens company. She arrives at work together with the entire shift group in the tram. In Tempelhof, Józefa Kuncewicz experiences a heavy air raid which also hits her camp. She remembers: "Our camp leader said: 'You Polish women are in God's favor.' For only our barrack remained unharmed. A bomb fell through the roof into my colleague's bed, but thank God it was a dud."

When parts of Siemens production are moved to Zittau because of the air raids, Kuncewicz is sent to the Siemens production site at Grüntaler Strasse 63 in the district of Gesundbrunnen. Here she experiences the end of the war in May 1945. A few days later, when she visits the Pieel family home, she finds shelter there, helps in the garden and in the household. In June 1945 the Soviet command in Berlin summons Kuncewicz and sends her back to Poland. Here she met her family again.

(Source: Letter from the former Polish forced labourer Józefa Irena Łyskanowska-Kuncewicz to the Berlin History Workshop, January 24, 1998)