Kresy, or “the eastern borderlands” in Polish, refers to parts of present-day Ukraine, Lithuania, and Belarus that once belonged to Poland. During World War II, thousands were driven out of their homes in these Polish lands.
Once again, I travelled to Ukraine this past summer and once again it was a very emotional journey.
I have taken this trip since 2005 and each time I am swayed by the tides of my emotions.”
"Thanks" to the Yalta agreement in 1945, we now refer to this land as Ukraine. But to me, and many others, it is my lost Kresy, my city of Lwów and most of importantly “my people” – Poles who still live there.
They represent the words of the Rota (1) "nie rzucim ziemi skąd nasz ród" - "we will not leave the land of our ancestors". These women live in total poverty. They stayed behind waiting hopelessly for the return of their husbands and sons from the war or from Siberia. They try to survive on the minimal pensions of peasants. They appreciate our annual visits. They know they are not forgotten and it helps them to survive another year.
I was joined by my friends, Maria Mirecka -Loryś and Danuta Skalska. We travelled to the most remote villages to reach Polish people. And they are everywhere. It is easy to find them. The greatest resources are Polish organizations and churches because the priests know their parishioners well. It is amazing how after so many years they still remember the Polish language, pray and sing songs in their native tongue. Here in the United States, keeping up with Polish traditions and culture is easy. It is a free country. But these Poles in Kresy lived under the Soviet regime and were forbidden to express their nationality and religion. Our beautiful churches were devastated or converted to storages of fertilizers, salt or other commodities. Slowly these churches are being restored to their previous, original function.
I have to admit, it is very emotional for me to go there, but as long as I physically can - I will. It is the desire of my heart.
P.S. Maria Mirecka-Loryś stopped going with us at the age of 102. On 7th of February 2020 she will be 104. God Bless her.(1) Rota ("The Oath") is an early 20th-century Polish poem, as well as a celebratory anthem, once proposed to be the Polish national anthem. Rota's lyrics were written in 1908 by an activist for Polish independence, poet Maria Konopnicka as a protest against German Empire's policies of forced Germanization of Poles.
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