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Maria Complak

Maria Complak in 1957 - a photo from Foto-Elite studio in Starowiejska Street in Gdynia.

Fragments of Maria Complak's diary provided by Małgorzata Marcinek, her granddaughter.

The author of the diary is Maria Zofia Complak, nee Kowalewska - my grandmother Marysia. She was born as the daughter of Malwina and Piotr Skulski, March 25, 1901 in Blizin. She had three siblings - an elder sister Halina (who lived after 1945 in Gdynia) and younger brothers, Zygmund and Sławek. Sławek, who was a sailor, after World War II, settled on a British farm and died there in 1964. He is buried in Wales.

Maria got education in the lodgings in the Caucasus under the care of her aunt Czesia, who lived there with her husband, a Russian officer. Maria attended seven-grade Girls' High School in Kislovodsk in the years 1915-1918. She finished it in May 1918 with a secondary school leaving certificate with excellent results in all subjects, for which she was awarded the silver medal. She was taught in the Russian language. On the basis of the then law she received the title of a primary school teacher, which gave her the right to teach. At those times it was a very good education. After the outbreak of the October Revolution she had to flee in fear of losing her life. As an eighteen-year old girl she fled from Baku through Turkey and then through the Mediterranean Sea got to France, where, together with the Haller’s army she returned by a circuitous route to Poland. She got to know her husband Karol by letters. At that time it was fashionable that well-mannered young ladies wrote letters to the soldiers fighting on the fronts of World War I to make their stay on the front and the war experiences more enjoyable in this way. Maria and Karol’s catholic wedding under the sabers took place on 2 or 3 June 1923 in Radom.

Grandfather Karol, as a young volunteer after the outbreak of World War I in 1915, joined the Polish Legions and thus bound his life to the military service. Maria along with her husband moved and lived in different military units (Radom, Przemyśl, Jarosław, Warsaw). They had two children: an elder daughter Malwina and younger son Leszek, my father.

In 1935 my grandfather Karol was moved to Warsaw, where he worked in the General Staff. In September 1939, according to the command, together with the Polish Army he left Poland and never again returned. As a soldier he fought during World War II on the Allied fronts under the command of General Maczek and General Sosabowski (he had many medals and awards, but that's another story). Grandma Maria, along with her two minor children, was supposed to join her husband in September 1939, but their paths diverged. Maria reached only to Lublin and having learned that the troops had already crossed the Polish border, she returned with her children back to Warsaw, where she spent the gloomy years of the German occupation. She lived for two years on the area of the General Staff of Germans. Later, she was moved to Marszałkowska Street, close to the Saxon Garden. During the war she made a living by trade, running a snuff commission shop. In Warsaw she survived great trauma when her son Leszek, my dad, was arrested on Good Friday and imprisoned in Pawiak. She spent the night in St. Christopher church, praying and begging the heavens for release of her son. In gratitude for the release of Leszek until the end of her life, on the first day of Easter she was always fasting. Shortly before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 she had moved to nearby Józefowo and this way saved herself and her children, because the house where they lived at 142 Marszałkowska Street, along with all personal belongings and documents, was completely burned and destroyed in the aftermath of a bomb explosion. For this reason, family heirlooms did not survive.

After the war, Maria received from the allocation of the mayor of Warsaw an apartment in Mokotów, in Bałuckiego Street. Since along with her husband in 1936 she had purchased the property in Gdynia in Zalewskiego Street (today Górna Street), and on the basis of statements by witnesses who testified about that fact, she regained the above-mentioned property after the war conflagration. She left Warsaw and moved to her beloved Gdynia.

Because of her fluent knowledge of the Russian language she was a secretary of president, an employee of the Provincial Library, run a commission shop on Świętojańska Street, and was a Russian teacher in primary school number 4 and 9. In June 1957 in the framework of family reunification (after the political thaw and coming to power of Gomułka) she set out from the port of Gdynia to emigrate to her husband in the UK, who had been staying there since the end of World War II.

12 June 1957
12 June 1957
12 June 1957
12 June 1957
13 June 1957
13 June 1957
13 June 1957
14 June 1957