Class 4d

How I studied during the occupation

1. The closing of the school
2. I join a class
3. Learning conditions

In June 1942, the Krzemieniec Lyceum swarmed with young people and their parents. The end of the school year. Shows, presentations and the awarding of certificates. Who would have thought that those doors would be closed to pupils for such a long time.

The Germans took over Krzemieniec during the holidays. The Lyceum building was turned into a hospital. We were forbidden to enter. The occupiers piled up all the papers and the contents of the library and burned them. None of the authorities thought about the education of the youth, who had to work and leave for Germany.

Somehow, I managed to get out of having to work. I wanted to learn, but where? One school was open where the teaching language was Ukrainian, but Poles were not welcome there and were in danger of being harassed. I studied at home under my mommy’s supervision. That didn’t last long because she had to go to work and I took care of the house. I read books, copied out readers and did mathematical exercises whenever I had free time after the housework, so as not to forget what I had learned at school.

One day my friends came to see me and told me that they were studying. Of course, it had to stay a secret. I was overcome with jealousy. They were studying and I wasn’t. When mommy came back from work, I told her about everything and asked her if I could go and study with my friends. When she agreed, we went together to my friend’s home, where the lessons were being held. I was accepted into the class.

There were seven of us girls and four boys and we were taught by Professor Karol Lach. He was a short man with a pince-nez and a vast range of knowledge. We listened to his lectures on literature and history with great pleasure. Mathematics and Latin were more tedious.

Our lessons took place between 5 and 7 p.m. When the classes finished, we quickly split up and hurried back to our individual homes so as not to draw the attention of the police units walking the streets. We were only allowed to be outside until 7 p.m. Sometimes we waited in vain for the Professor to arrive. The next day we found out that he couldn’t come because he was being watched and so he had had to walk in a big circle and scurry back home through the dark alleyways.

When my friend’s house was being observed, the lessons were held at someone else’s place, often at our home. It was a safe place because we lived on a side street at the top of a hill in a so-called “collective manor house”. The Germans didn’t push so hard for that place because they were afraid. That lasted until March 1943. Our classes took place without textbooks, in the most primitive way possible.

The authorities declared a state of emergency in 1943. Our meetings were interrupted by frequent inspections, manhunts and strict bans on moving about in the evenings without a permit. The parents, worried about us, and the Professor, worried about himself, advised us to put the lessons on hold for the time being. That time drew out to the point where everyone from our group left Krzemieniec, only to return there in our thoughts from various corners of Poland.