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Krystyna Markut

Krystyna Markut on graduation day

My name is Krystyna Markut, nee Sawa, and I was born on 1st May 1935 in Lviv. My parents had a one-storey house with four flats in Lewandówka, in the outskirts of Lviv. My father, Józef Sawa, was a watchmaker and ran his own shop in downtown, at ul. Chorążczyzny.

Our peaceful and prosperous life ended on 1st September 1939. My father served in the air force and, just like the greater part of the destroyed army and air craft, was sent to a Romanian camp but he managed to escape. He reached France where general Sikorski mobilized the survivors and transferred them to England. During the entire war my father served in No. 300 Polish Fighter Squadron.

My mother, Maria Sawa nee Rehorowska, survived the war, as well as the period of the Russian, German and once again Russian occupation in Lviv. During the last Russian occupation we had to leave Lviv with just a few of bundles, leaving everything else behind. We spent the next ten years in Rozwadów at the San river, where I graduated from 4-class Financial Technical School and I began working as an accountant in the Gmina Cooperative.

In the meantime I met my husband to be, Jan Markut, who came to Rozwadów to visit his parents while he was studying in Poznań. We got married on 19th March 1955 in Bytom and my uncle Edward Sawa, who was like a father to me, stood by me during the wedding. In Bytom Jan, an artist by profession, designed interiors of shops, cafés, etc. In 1956 our first son, Tomasz, was born, and in 1958 our second son, Maciej.

In 1964 my mother got a permit and a passport to leave and join her husband and my father after 25 years of being apart. She died of pancreatic cancer one and a half year later. She is buried on the Polish cemetery in Glasgow, Scotland.

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My uncle Edward Sawa, who emigrated with his entire family to the USA in 1963, sponsored my entire family and in February 1972 we boarded TSS Stefan Batory and went to New York. Then we took a coach to Chicago where we lived for six years, adapting to new living conditions.
In 1978 we moved to Clearwater, Florida, where we finally settled. Our small "Little Europe” restaurant was the meeting place of our countrymen and back then there weren’t many of them in the district.

When on 13th December 1981 general Jaruzelski introduced martial law in Poland, my husband initiated a protest. We organized a rally in Crest Lake Park in Clearwater. We painted signs, sew flags and Janek painted a large portrait of Lech Wałęsa. The rally was held in mid-January 1982. One of its participants were mu customers, Wally West and his father Florian. At the next meeting of our countrymen in "Little Europe", chaired by Wally West, we decided to set up an organization. Wally became its chairman and my husband the vice-chairman. There were several board members and I became the paymaster. This is how the American Institute of Polish Culture in the Pinellas County was established. Our aim was to promote Polish history and culture among Americans who knew very little about our academic achievements and our rich culture.

Wally retired after 28 years of incessant work. I followed in his footsteps one year later, resigning from my function which was now assumed by a younger individual. Due to the lack of better alternative I’ve recently been appointed the chairwoman to continue promoting Polishness in the Washington's land.

Our greatest and the most long-lasting achievement was founding the general Tadeusz Kosciuszko monument in Williams Park, St. Petersburg, Florida, carved by a Polish artist, Andrzej Pityński.
During 30 years of the AIPC existence we have organized lectures given by renowned writers and historians for higher education students, historical exhibitions, plays, Polish music concerts and film screenings.

My husband died on 15th November 1993 after a long illness. Two years later, at the age of 60, I received a graduation diploma after completing a two-year healthcare administration course in St. Petersburg Junior College.

Three months later I passed the accredited exam allowing me to perform a managerial function at the medical record department. At the age of 73 I passed an exam allowing me to work in medical coding.

I’ve always dreamt to return to my city of Lviv. After many years, when the political situation and my financial situation allowed me, I went to the Polish Eastern Borderland. I took my friend with me and it’s been the ninth time when I visited my countrymen still living there. Every year I try to collect some money from my friends and good people to provide aid for our poor people still living there. For them “We won't forsake the land we came from” are not just a poet’s words but their way of life. I still remember the fact that if my mother had not decided to leave Lviv in 1945 I could have been in their shoes or I would have died just like many thousands of our countrymen deported to Siberia.

Interviewed by Edi Pyrek in 2011 in Clearwater, Florida.
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Displacement from Lviv
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War exile of the Sawa family
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A rough start in exile
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Emigrate to create
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What is homeland
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Gloomy welcome to America
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For the audience
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A saga of the Sawa family