Chapter 1: An Inquisitive Youngster in the Stalinist World
My earliest reminiscences, going back to 1945, were associated with travels from central Poland, where my family lived during the war, to my birthplace, Sopot, on the Baltic coast. My father went ahead of us during the last months of the war, intent on helping to establish Polish administration there, and we joined him in the spring of 1945. The trip of less than 350 km took in these very uncertain times about a week.
The uncertainty did not end upon arrival, either. The so-called Ziemie Zachodnie (Western Lands), allocated to Poland at Yalta by the great powers as a compensation for the loss of almost half of the pre-war Polish territories to the Soviets, were at the time something of a Wild West. There were overlapping Polish and Soviet administrations here and there and the balance of power was very uncertain, indeed.
One day a group of Soviet soldiers arrived and started robbing house after house on our street of whatever movable goods they hoped to take with them back to the Soviet Union. Local Sopot authorities, where my father worked, alerted the Polish security police and we observed a real battle between the Russians and Poles along Kosciuszko Street, where we lived. Interestingly, Poles won, took away the booty from the Russians, but never bothered themselves to return them to their rightful owners…
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