Friday, April 27, 2012

In Search of Family History

My mother ( right) photo from website.

There are so many questions I have about my parent's past life during WW ll in Poland and still looking for answers. Both my parents died young, my father Walerian Brejwo at the age of 68 died of a massive heart attack, my mother Katarzyna Meilnick was killed at the age of 55 by a drunken driver. When they died they took their memories with them. As a child I was protected from the cold careless world. I had turned my back on my history growing up for what was the past to someone like me who only had dreams of the future. I feel an unexplainable desire to learn and write about the foundation of my life. Today I read documents , look at old photos, conscious of the power of names, places, my roots. I now crave the past.

During my search, a facebook friend posted a website, A site with WW ll photos and videos of war time Poland. There are thousands of photos on this site of different cities in Poland during the war. These photos are priceless and show the tragedy and hardship of life during WW ll. Some photos were submitted to the collection by family members or friends, and then there are those photos that have no information at all. In my search of this website I came across a photo in the Lida section , the first  photo as I opened the page. I looked at the photo very closely and I knew the person in the photo, it was a photo of my mother sitting in the front row on the right with two other women and a group of children standing behind her. According to the web page the photo was taken approximately in 1941 so she must have been 26-27 years of age. I was stunned, tears of joy, and so elated that I came across this photo. I contacted the person who established this website and asked him if I can have a copy of the photo of my mother. He was a gentlemen and the very next day he Emailed me the photo. I do not have many photos of my mother in her younger years and cherish the ones I have. This photo is priceless. I do not know the history behind this photo but I will do my best to research it.

My mother was born in 1914 in Wilno, Lida area, she was left an orphan at the age of two. Her father died fighting WW l and her mother was killed during the war. During WW l , Lida was occupied by German troops. In 1919 the Red Army established Soviet power. On September 30, 1920 Poland and Soviet troops fought in and near Lida, the battle of Niemen. In 1927, there were twenty four factories in Lida. 1928 were rapid years of growth. Lida was an important garrison of the Polish Army. From June 1941 to July 1944, it was occupied by the German troops who killed almost 25,000 people. On September 18, 1943 the Jewish Community of Lida was rounded up and taken to Majdanek, where they were murdered. By September 1944, Lida was in the Grodno Region. This area in now known as Belarus.

I also received a letter from the International Tracing Service ( ITS) about my Uncle Jan Brejwo, my father's brother. I have never met my Uncle and my father never saw him again after 1947. According to the letter I received , he was held under German war captivity in Poland and put in Stalag Xl-B as a POW. He was imprisoned at Torun Poland in a fort that held Polish POW's that was converted to a Polish prison. The district was Grudziadz Poland and the location of a German concentration camp, a sub camp of Stutthof.

This has been a successful week in my searches. I  feel I need some kind of closure, there is a mystery that haunts me. So many people that endured and suffered during the war kept their memories to themselves and have died with them. The first generation of children are now searching to answers of the past. Those that are fortunate to have their parents living is a blessing. Then there are those like me that have a burning desire to  want to know . I will not stop, there isn't a day that I regret that I did not ask my parents questions or show interest of their past. Then on the other hand ,  they left the war time memories behind and started a new life all over again like so many. Their new struggles in a new country, America


  1. I already read on this topic a lot, but your posting is great as well. Got some thing clear! Hardship Letter

  2. Your post gave me chills. Thank you.

    It also brought to mind a recent experience. I was reading Edward Herzbaum's diary of life as a Polish Jew in Italy during WW II. He ran into "Jurek Kluger."

    Later, I was reading Jerzy Kluger's memoir about being Pope John Paul II's close Jewish friend. He was in that same place in Italy at the same time as Edward Herzbaum, father of my friend, Krystyna Mew.

    Also, recently, I was reading about El Alamein. I suddenly realized I had three friends whose fathers were all at El Alamein, some on the allied side, some on the Nazi side.

    Small world.