September 23, 1939 marks the first transport of Polish women to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany during World War II. On this day, let us honor the memory of the 40,000 Polish women, young girls and children who were prisoners of the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
It is an established fact that they comprised the single largest numbers of prisoners at Ravensbruck. Sixteen thousand Polish women alone were sent to the camp after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Thousands died of starvation, succumbed to worked beyond their endurance and sent to the gas chambers. Two hundred of the women were shot. Seventy-four underwent illegal and unethical medical experiments. Eight thousand lived to see liberation.
In her account of life in Ravensbrück, Halina Charaszewska-Brückman mentions that although it was strictly forbidden, whenever it was possible, the women held group prayer services. “Every day, when the lights were out, we prayed together in our rooms. One of the prayers constantly recited by all Polish female prisoners was the litany I composed during my work in the factory, during the period of the greatest persecution and stress.” The following is an excerpt of that litany:
Holy Lord, Holy [and]Mighty, Holy [and]
Immortal - have mercy on us
From [pestilential] air, hunger, fire and war - protect us Lord
From sudden, unexpected death, lameness
and hostile intrigue - deliver us Lord
To survive slavery with honor – assist us Lord
Support the weak and frail of body and soul,
heal the sick – we ask of you Lord
Unity, courage and sober thought be our
strength – teach us Lord
Enlighten the heart and mind of our enemies – we ask of you Lord
From the winds of war, camps and jails – extricate us Lord
Inspire our conscience with fairness and justice – we ask of you Lord
May the blood of innocents
never stain our hands – fulfill this Lord
But in righteous grievances, support us
give us strength and courage – we ask of you Lord
From fratricidal war and domestic feuds – protect us Lord
Through your holy mercy, peace and freedom – return to us Lord
To the land of our fathers, beneath our family roof or the
open sky, with our families – connect us Lord
For new creative work in health and the strength to stand – allow us Lord
People of good will walking the path of truth and love – bless Almighty God
Sinners who have recognized their faults – be loving Lord
For the souls killed in action and died for the holy cause
of an independent Fatherland – shine upon them dear God
And if you decree us a swift death, grant us a useful death – we beg of you Lord
But Almighty God in the unity of the Holy Trinity
pass your judgements –
That we may leave this frightening dark labyrinth of slavery and step into the light of true freedom....
Cześć ich pamięci. Let us honor their memory
Author translation. From the book by Zbigniew Stanuch. Ravensbrück. Historia nie do zapomnienia. Perspektywa-polska. Szczecin 2020 Digital pdf version can be found at:
Every year, come the fall season, my mother would make great batches of thick plum jam that she called powidło for sandwiches and for making her special spiral sweet bread with jam at Christmas and Easter. Her plum of choice for making the jam was węgierki, that is, Hungarian plums (Prunus domestica-photo).
This variety of plum, known in Poland for over 700 years, is believed to have come to Poland from Hungary (Węgry)via Asia Minor. According to Polish etymologists, the word “powidło,” meaning jam, appearing in the Polish language at the end of the 15th century, comes from the tool used to stir the fruit mass during the slow cooking. Another name for the “Hungarian” plum is śliwka domowa or home plum. Many a Polish manor house had its own orchard, including the plum tree whose fruit could be eaten raw, baked, fried or stewed and gained wide use in the kitchen in making compote, sweet breads, dumplings called knedle, preserves and liqueurs and, of course, plum jam.
Here is an excerpt from the diary of Marianna Malinowska Jasiecka at a time when Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Russia and Austria and Poland as a country ceased to exist on the maps of Europe. Marianna was considered gentry, married to a man of considerable property, had servants and enough free time to keep a diary. She lived in a manor house in Polwica in Wielkopolska(Greater Poland) that was under Prussian rule at the time of her writing.
Polwica, September 1892
“Plum jam is cooked in large white enamel kettles, not in the kitchen but out in the open air, in the orchard. The three-legged trivets I have from Pakosław(where she used to live) and I can still use them. The caretaker will be responsible for the fire beneath the kettles and the jam will cook under a slow fire. One of the kettles can hold up to 60 pounds of plums with the pits having been removed earlier. Cooking the plums takes three days and is fairly tiring work. But this year I have the cook, the parlor maids…three women over three kettles have to continuously stir the fruit with large wooden paddles being careful not to let the plums burn over the fire. I don’t use any sugar at all in the jam. When the jam is ready, it is poured into crocks, placed in a bread oven to bake in order for it to completely dry, then covered with parchment paper and placed in a cool dry pantry. Well-cooked plum jam keeps its splendid flavor until the next year.”
From the book titled Marianna i Róże (Marianna and Roses).
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.