Updated: Apr 21
(interview conducted in Polish, translated by the author)
This photograph portrays my maternal grandmother Zofia Luty, née Szwajcer, my babcia Zosia. In this portrait she is flanked by her children. The girl on the right is my mom, who must have been about 14 years old when this photograph was taken. Her younger brother, my uncle, stands on that platform on her left side. The picture was probably taken during WW2 or shortly after it ended. My grandfather was captured by the Germans during the September Campaign and spent most of the war in an Oflag camp as a prisoner of war.
Babcia Zosia was born in Tashkent, which is now the capital and the largest city of Uzbekhistan. Back then it was a part of the Russian Empire and my family ended up there as a result of deportation, which many Polish people experienced living under Russian rule. In the year 1918, just after the Soviet Revolution, we were allowed to go back into Poland, settling in Czestochowa. Babcia Zosia was about 15-year old then.
Naturally, I don't remember my grandmother as the woman portrayed in this photograph, but I can easily recognize her here. I have always loved how she looks in this picture. I am especially taken by her hairstyle. She looks so elegant. I also like the shining shoes, which were obviously polished for the occasion of having this photograph taken.
My mother told me that babcia Zosia loved her husband very much and would do anything for him. This love defined her as a person. He was an army N.C.O. and she did not work but took care of the house, the children, and him. Every day, as he was coming home from work and his boots were rumbling in the hallway she would immediately rush to greet him and serve him his dinner. She never stopped loving him even when he left her for another woman. However, him abandoning the family changed her life forever. In order to support herself and the kids, she was forced to work in a factory. She despised her job and going there every day a nightmare for her.
Babcia Zosia lived just across the street from my mother’s house and she was constantly present in my life. She took care of me after she retired from the factory job and my mother worked at the post office. I have many vivid recollections of us doing things together. One of my fondest memories includes us walking together to a farmers’ market in our neighborhood. It was beautiful summer day, probably as early as 7AM. I am completely dazed by light and smells in the air!
Babcia Zosia adored nature and loved to garden. She spent hours in her vegetable garden, weeding on her knees despite her arthritis. She was always singing aloud while doing this. Otherwise babcia Zosia was a quiet, modest person. Her other passion was cooking. She graduated from a culinary school and was an amazing cook. I still remember her vatrushki!
Babcia Zosia died when I was 14-years old and this was the day when my childhood ended. I remember my mom cooking her first meal for me I was so surprised that I asked her: “You can cook?”