Partial Transcript: April 7, 1977. Oral History project of Andrew S. Fidler...
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Mitchel Cegielski talks about his childhood years in Poland during the Great Depression. He says there was plenty of food but there was no money to buy it with because there were no jobs.
Keywords: Depression; Food; Money; Poland; School; Unemployment; Warsaw
Partial Transcript: During the war, of course, you didn't go to school?
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about his years out of high school that he spent fighting in World War II.
Keywords: Euro Mountains; Germany; Hitler; Kosciuszko Army; Labor Camp; Polish Air Forces; Polish Armed Forces; Prison Camp; Resettled; Russia; Second Polish Army; Stalingrad; The Fifth Column; Traitor; Turkish Republics; Uzbekistan; War
Partial Transcript: You mention the public opinion as to the German invasion...
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about how they expected victory over the Germans and how the German occupied side of Poland were passive to actively resisting the Germans at all times.
Keywords: Blackmarket; Defeat; German; Hate; Invasion; Puppet Government; Quisling; Resistance; Survive; Traitor; Victory; Work
Partial Transcript: Do you know of an organized underground movement...
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about the organized underground movements on the German side of Poland.
Keywords: Armia Krajowa; Armia Ludowa; Boy Scouts; Communist; German; Hostile; Movement; Organization; Peasants Battalion's; Russian; Underground; War
Partial Transcript: How was life under the Russians?
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about life on the Russian side of Poland and the Russian program of forced transfer of the Polish people away.
Keywords: Camp; Collective Farm; Farm; Katyn; Officer; Polish Police; Refugees; Russia; Russian; Shortages; Transfer
Partial Transcript: You know that in 1942 there was a exodus of Polish people from Russia...
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about how Russia had to release the Polish people causing a great exodus of families.
Keywords: Africa; Alliance; British; England; Exodus; General Anders; Germany; Iran; Katyn; Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; Polish Army; Prison; Russia; Settlement; Treaty
Partial Transcript: Then after the war you returned to Warsaw?
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski describes his life after medical school and coming to the United States to further his career.
Keywords: Apartment; Bank; Car; Children; Doctor; English; Foreign; Hospital; Immigrant; Intern; Krakow; Language; Medical; New York; Omaha; Passport; Physician; Poland; Polish; Rent; Resident; School; St. Louis; Visa; Work
Partial Transcript: After living in the United States and experiencing the war...
Segment Synopsis: Cegielski talks about the variety of changes he sees in Poland now.
Keywords: American; Attitude; Bus; Catholic; Change; Coal; Eisenhower; Europe; Fiat; Foreign; Freedom; German; Germany; Gomulka; Hotel; House; Industry; Job; Movies; Oil; Ore; Poland; Politic; Russian; Socialist; Supply; Travel; University; Warsaw; Work; Worker
-Andrew Fidler (AF): April 7, 1977.
Oral History project of Andrew S. Fidler.
Today I'm interviewing Dr. Mitchell Cegielsky.
When were you born?
-Dr. Mitchell Cegielsky (MC): 1922, in Warsaw.
-AF: In Warsaw Poland?
-MC: Yes and also raised in Warsaw.
And your next question is how long did you live in Poland?
Between 1920 to 1939 and then between 1945 and 1959.
How was the life in Poland?
-AF: Did you experience like the
Yes, very much so.
-AF: How was the life in Poland during the Depression?
-MC: During the Depression was real difficult.
Because there were, basically unemployment.
The basic factor in the Depression was unemployment.
People were out of jobs.
And I remember my father being out of work00:01:00
for about three or four years.
And all we had to live were my mothers savings.
Then things were really tough, you know.
To buy a new school uniform, a new pair of shoes,
that was lots of head scratching.
Should we buy or should we wait?
So, I was a school kid then, you know.
Not even high school.
Let's say on the junior high level.
But I still remember that we had to
be frugal, let's say.
We weren't starving.
We weren't at the bottom of the situation.
But we really had to live frugally
because my father was off, you know.
He would get an odd job here and there
but he wasn't employed for about three or four years.
Then around 19 what 34, 35 things started
moving again and then he was working00:02:00
and things got better.
-AF: What type of work did your father do?
-MC: He was a technician in a huge forest industry.
You know, saw mills, building lumber,
crates, stuff like that.
So he never, he was seldom at home.
When my father was home that means
there was no work for him.
Because usually he lived in Warsaw but he was working
somewhere where the forests were in Poland.
-AF: Was it hard to get food and everything, too?
-MC: Food was, I mean, to buy plentiful.
It was plentiful.
Just there was no money.
People had no money to buy it.
At least, the farmers were working.
They were producing the food
and the stores were full.
It's just that people were pinching the penny
to buy just the minimal necessary.
On the other hand the farmers who had the food
didn't have the cash.00:03:00
They didn't have the money.
So that was the proverbial splitting a wooden
match in two halves or four quarters
to save money on the matches.
-AF: You mentioned you went to school in Warsaw.
-AF: Your early school.
-MC: Yes. Uh-huh.
-AF: And this is through
-MC: Through 1939, yes.
I got out of high school in 1939.
Just before the war started.
-AF: During the war, of course, you didn't go to school.
-AF: Were you in a service?
-MC: I was (stutters)
You know, it's a period of six years
and I was partially I was in the labor camp in Russia.
And then I joined the Polish Armed Forces
and then I was in the in-service in combat.
Let's say first half from 1939 until 1943
I was in the Russian occupied territories00:04:00
first of Poland, you know.
Russia divided Poland from Germany in 1939.
And then I was in the eastern part of Poland at that time.
Where we lived under Russians.
And then Russia forcefully moved
large number of Polish population from these territories
deep into the native Russian territories to, they resettled.
Some were put in prison camps
and some were just resettled.
Put in Siberia and Kazakhstan and so on and so on.
So my father and I, we were forced to live in southern,
South Central Asia in Uzbekistan.
You know, all those Turkish Republics.
And we lived, my father spent the whole war there
because he was too old to go in the Army.
But I was, in 1943...00:05:00
1942 I was drafted.
And the first draft took me into a labor camp.
It wasn't a prison camp, it was a labor camp.
It's a little different story.
It was a little easier.
And I worked in the Euro Mountains
on railroad constructions, power station constructions,
factory constructions, you know, just construction work.
Until they started forming the Second Polish Army.
It was late 1943 when the Russians, you know,
they made a break-through by Stalingrad
and they were pushing the Germans back.
And they realized that at a certain moment in time
they will get into Polish territories.
So they picked up all the Poles that were left in Russia.
All the young men and some young women
and all the, whatever was left.
And they formed what they called the Kosciuszko Army.
The one that was under Russian control
as opposed to the First Polish Army in Russia
which was under British control.
Later on they left Russia.00:06:00
So and then I was in the Polish Army since 1943
and then since 1944 I was in combat until 1945.
I finished around Berlin, Dresden,
you know, all these big battles.
And then I went back, I was dismissed,
discharged from the Army.
And then I went back to Poland and then I went to school.
Back to university.
-AF: Did the people of Poland
or did you yourself anticipate the takeover?
-MC: We anticipated the war.
It was known that it was our turn.
You know, after...
Hitler took over the...
Czar, you know first.
Then Austria, then Czechoslovakia.
We knew it was our turn, that he would attack us.
But, we were at least, you know I'm talking for myself
and people from my, I knew that we were so naive00:07:00
that we thought that we could resist the Germans.
We were kind of cock-sure that
we'd beat the hell out of them.
But things turned completely different.
It was a disaster, it was a complete defeat.
We still are proud that Poland was the first
country that offered any resistance to the Germans.
Czechs didn't resist, Austrians didn't resist.
We did but we still weren't beating anybody.
Four weeks and 30 days, everything was over.
-AF: I understand the German intelligence was such,
or the German undercover, if you will, people
within the Polish government had a lot to do with that.
-MC: There is lots of talk about it.
That there were some that were traitors that were German
agents that were cooperating with the Germans.
There is a story, well know, that the Polish,
the commander of the Polish Air Forces which wasn't too
big but was pretty good.00:08:00
In middle August, just two weeks before the war started,
he ordered a general overhaul of all the planes.
So all the planes, when the war started,
all the planes or most of the planes were grounded.
Because the engines, they were dismounted.
The engines were taken out and the mechanics were working.
How true is this, I don't know.
But that's one of the stories I can just quote you.
And of course they had what they call,
I'm sure you know the term, The Fifth Column.
That they had The Fifth Column in Poland.
There was lots of panic.
There was lots of studies that nobody can verify.
But I'm sure they had some sabotage of the railroad
stations and radio stations and so on.
-AF: You mentioned when you worked in the labor camp,
this was under Russian control?
When the Germans took over or,
was there a lot of oppression,
censure of books?00:09:00
-MC: No see I was never under German occupied territory.
-AF: I see.
-MC: So I can give you only second-hand account.
Which doesn't mean probably much to you.
I was always on the Russian side of the division
or the dividing line.
So I'm sure you know about all those atrocities.
First of all they closed all the schools
that was for six years.
Polish children had no education
except what their parents taught them at home.
There was absolutely no schools.
Not even grammar, not even elementary schools.
They closed all the schools.
So that's, you know, they closed all the universities
and even the primary schools were closed.
For six years children learned only
what they could learn at home from their parents
or from all their brothers and sisters.
There was some underground education.
But it was done more on the higher level.00:10:00
More on the college and university level.
Then on the grade school level you just can not,
people didn't want to expose, you know.
Because these were persecuted.
So people didn't want to expose 6, 7, 8 years old
children to persecution.
Besides they couldn't keep it secret either.
So they mostly learned at home.
-AF: From the Russian side?
-MC: No on the Russian side they were forced to go to school
with the Russian children.
They were on the opposite compass of education.
You mention the public opinion as to the German invasion
and it was, you could anticipate the German invasion.
-AF: But the people had no real idea as to when it was
going to happen or
how it was going to happen?
-MC: No, we didn't know when.00:11:00
And we didn't know how.
And we anticipated, you know, at least people on the street
anticipated victory, not defeat.
But it was just the other way.
-AF: And your only contact with the Germans then
was through combat?
-AF: The attitudes towards Germany,
the people after the take over.
Did they look down on the Germans,
a hatred for the Germans?
Did this develop in time?
-MC: Yes, from what I know about the life
under occupied territories.
There was hatred and there was a spirit of
anything from passive resistance
to active resistance.
It was, how can I explain to you?
There was no cooperation, no official cooperation
between Polish people and Germans.00:12:00
There were traitors, you know, turncoats.
But, officially there was none.
You know, in Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and Romania
they had what they call puppet governments.
There was never such a thing in Poland.
Poles never would cooperate.
They couldn't, they tried, the Germans tried.
They couldn't find somebody who meant something.
You know, they could take somebody off the street corner
and make him the president of the occupied
Polish territory but that wouldn't do.
But among prominent Poles there was not a single fellow
that would go to work for the Germans
as a representative to the Polish people.
And they didn't have what they call the Norwegian
There was no quisling in Poland.
They couldn't find one.
And there was, of course, passive.
At least passive resistance that means
anything you would do to hurt the Germans was a good deed.00:13:00
You were almost a hero of the underground.
Like black marketing in food, in money, in booze, anything.
Black marketing was a good thing.
It was good during the war.
It kind of demoralized the Poles because
they kind of learned to do these things
and they sometimes do it after the war.
But slow down your work.
You know, you work just because you had to work.
You had to make a living.
But nobody was ambitious to do a good job.
To give your maximum your production.
To other things, to slow down.
To the bare minimum just to survive
without being beaten up by the supervisor.
That was the work attitude.
And it takes one heck of a lot of effort
to the Polish government now to change it.
And I don't think they still did it.
Completely, at least.
You know, the new generation.
The one that doesn't remember the occupation,00:14:00
it's kind of different.
But the old people, they still keep the attitude
that the government, the representative (heavy accent)
was the enemy and anything you could do to fool,
to trick him was an honorable thing.
It was an act of heroism, you know.
The people who are smuggling meat from the country
to the city to feed to people who lived in the city,
they were considered, considered themself
the underground fighters.
-AF: Was there, do you know of an organized underground
movement or was there?
-MC: There were several organized underground movements.
That was one of the weakest points in the underground.
There was at least four major underground organizations
in Poland during the war.
One was the Armia Krajowa00:15:00
Which was pro-western oriented.
This was definitely the strongest and most powerful,
the best organized, best equipped.
But they were pro-British.
They were London oriented.
Americans didn't participate in it.
So they were London oriented.
They would listen to the British radio.
They had the headquarters
were in London where all the Polish government in exile was.
They were communicating by radio
and by messengers and so on.
They were pro-western oriented.
They were severely persecuted by the Russians after the war.
The members of this underground.
And then that was the Armia Krajowa
Then there was the Armia Ludowa.
Which was pro-Russian.
Which was socialist or communist.
Well communist were a small group but they were
pro-Russian oriented and they were a little weaker.
But they were more active in combat, too.00:16:00
Well it's hard to say who was.
Because, obviously, the Polish Historians now,
they kind of play down the action of the Armia Krajowa
and they exaggerate a little bit, or bring into foreground
the action of the Armia Ludowa
These were the two major forces.
Then was the (speaks in Polish language)
Which was, again I'm telling you from what I know
about them from the post-war Polish.
But they were kind of
neutral toward the Germans and hostile against Russians.
They were, now they were considered almost
that they collaborated with the Germans
and fought against the Russians.
At least treated the Germans neutral.
They were less, numerically, they were less.00:17:00
They were what you call, they were the...
Anti-Russian mostly elements.
They were considered, you know, they were fighting
and they were active.
But they were considered, if you want a comparison,
equivalence of American rednecks.
You know, in the way they were anti-Russian, anti-Jewish,
They were kind of chauvinistic.
But they were still with civilian combat
And the fourth organization was the
(speaks in Polish language) The Peasants Battalion's.
Which were the in the country mostly
and they were either cooperating with the
Armia Ludowa, with the pro-Russian,
more pro-Russian oriented groups.
And then there was, of course, there were the Boy Scouts
who were with the Army of Krajowa again and so on and so on.00:18:00
So that's what I, at least, what I know about the
-AF: You yourself had no direct
association with a group?
-MC: I had no association
whatsoever because I was wasn't under occupied territory.
I was in Russia.
-AF: How was life under the Russians?
-MC: Well, you know that this is a rather
relatively short period where Polish territories
were occupied by the Russians.
Between September '39 and June '41.
And it was very difficult.
Because Russians were imposing their rule
and there were shortages of everything
from food to coal to clothing.
And the country was over-crowded with refugees
from the western part of Poland plus Russians.
And there was a constant turmoil
because the Russians were organizing, you know,
forced transfer of people from this territory00:19:00
into the depth, into Siberia, or Kazakhstan, or whatever.
They cleaned out, first the cleaned out the Polish police
and they captured Polish officers.
And these were taken to concentration, to prison camps.
Policemen, the government officials.
Local, you know, the representatives.
And the officers.
And then, you know, the officers went to the camps
and, you know, nobody knows what happened.
Nobody ever saw them again.
I'm referring to the Katyn story.
Then they took all the priests and of all the people
they didn't like, the street-walkers, the prostitutes.
So they rounded them up and moved them far back into Russia.
Now these, they weren't put into camps,
they were just settled.
They bring them to a little town and say,00:20:00
"okay you're going to live here find yourself
"a job, find yourself a place to live."
You can not leave the town but you are not confined
to any camp, any compound, you know.
And I met several of them when I.
And then later when they started moving the people
who weren't born in this part of Poland.
Like I was born in Warsaw but I found myself
getting to work in the eastern part of Poland.
So they came one night and loaded me and my father
in box cars and we rode about a couple weeks
and then they brought us to a collective farm
to cull us and said, "okay you're gonna live here."
No barbed wires, no electric fence.
Just can't leave the place.
There was no way.
There was 300 miles of desert around you.
-AF: Nowhere to go.
-MC: Nowhere to go.
Besides, you know, if you don't have a passport
you can not leave the place.
Because in this place they know that you belong.
But if you found yourself in the next,00:21:00
they catch you and then you go back where you came from.
So then we worked there
and as I said, my father spent the whole war working
on the collective farm.
I worked in the cotton gin, on a cotton
factory for a while and then I went into the labor camp,
labor unit, and then I went in the Army.
-AF: If someone tried to get away from one of these farms
or camps and was brought back did they impose
penalties on them?
-MC: No, no.
They felt, if you escaped, they put you either in
another work compound or in another.
But very few people tried to escape, you know.
Because there was no point.
One was as bad...
You know, you could try to get farther south
where the climate was better or where the food
was more abundant but basically there was no way to escape.
You know that in 1942 there was a00:22:00
exodus of Polish people from Russia.
You know that story?
-AF: I didn't do much research on that.
-MC: Okay 1941 when Germany attacked Russia.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was,
Russians were no more friends.
You know that before Germany attacked Poland
in August, or July or August of '39
Russian and Germany signed a pact.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, okay.
But in June of '41 Germany broke that pact
and they attacked Russia.
Then Russia became an ally of the
British, Americans, French, and national Chinese
and so on and so on.
So one of the basic conditions of this new treaty.
This alliance was the release of Polish people00:23:00
from all the prisons, from all the settlements way North.
and formation of the Polish Army.
The Army and then the commander
of this Army was General Anders.
So there were thousands and hundreds of thousands
of Poles released from the labor camps
and prison camps way north and also from the settlements
up north and they were moved south.
Just because the climate was better.
And the living conditions were better.
So I've seen these people.
I've met them.
They were coming like from the other world.
And then General Anders Started forming a Polish Army
in several places.
And he had, you know, hundreds and thousands of soldiers.
He missed the officers because they were never seen again.
That's going back to the Katyn story.00:24:00
What happened to them?
In 1942 when Russia really had the German news
-WOMAN: Busy busy here?
-MC: Yes, busy busy.
-WOMAN: Are you hungry, maybe?
-MC: The Polish troops decided that,
it appeared that Russia may just be defeated.
You know, that was the bleakest part of the war for Russia.
Is your mic on?
-MC: Bleakest part of war for Russia
and the Poles didn't care too much
about helping the Russians.
So the whole Army of I don't know,
sure over a hundred thousand soldiers,
they pulled through to Iran across the border.
It was agreed by a deal with the Russian authorities.00:25:00
They pulled out
across the border and then from Iran, Iraq, Turkey,
Palestine, they went back to England
and they also fought in northern Africa,
(unknown) and so on.
And with these troops that took also large number,
I can not tell you how many hundred thousand, of families.
Women, children, elderly folks.
Somehow I didn't get into this group.
I was too deep in the desert to catch up to join them.
Too far away.
When we found out about it they were all gone already.
This was Christmas '41 and early '42, this exodus.
So this was the first.
Then they joined the British
and they fought in England and so on.
-AF: You mention the cutting story?
-MC: Katyn. K-A-T-Y-N. Katyn.
-AF: What is that specifically?00:26:00
-MC: Katyn is the, well, okay.
In 19... well, you know that, I told you already,
that when Anders started forming the Polish Army
he had plenty of soldiers but
-AF: No officers, right.
-MC: No officers
and he went to the Russians asking, "where are these,
we know that you captured about 13, 14 thousand
of Polish combat officers."
You know the (unknown), the professionals.
And where are they?
We need them now to form the army.
And they gave them some kind of a run-around,
some kind of excuse and they never
gave them a full explanation.
In 1943 the Germans started a story that
in the town of Katyn, in the forest around Katyn.
Katyn is just a town in northeastern Russia,
in northwestern Russia called Belarus,
the white Russia, okay?
They found graves, mass graves of Polish officers00:27:00
about four and half thousand of them
and they dug the graves out
and they say that Russians murdered them when
they were retreating.
And they had a committee of all kind of people
from Europe, from Switzerland, from France, from Poland,
from the Red Cross.
So anyway, so the Germans put a committee together
of, you know, forensic medicine specialists,
and all kind of quote unquote experts.
And they took them over there and they trumpeted
this up as a Russian crime.
They say the Russians did it and they kind of tried
to convince the whole world that the Russians did it.
And then they covered up the graves
and planted some birch trees
and things were, for awhile, quiet.
Then when Russians pushed the Germans back00:28:00
they started turning things around.
They got their committee, you know.
They had their own professors of anatomy
and forensic medicine and all kind of experts
and they had some people from Poland,
some Americans even, they invited an American lady
and they dug up these cadavers again
and they investigated the whole thing
and they took pictures.
And they said that the Germans did it.
When they were retreating, they say,
we couldn't evacuate this camp.
There was a camp.
And we couldn't evacuate and the Germans
captured them and the Germans killed them.
And there is lots of speculation
and many books and articles written
and nobody really put the dot over the I who did it.00:29:00
But the Russians point to the Germans,
the Germans point to the Russians.
Right after the war anything you said about the Germans
people would, knowing all the atrocities they did,
you know it's just one more.
It's quite quite plausible.
But then later on we really don't know.
If you want to I can lend you a book about Katyn.
It's in English if you want to read it.
-AF: Yes, yes I would.
-MC: Okay, so you can borrow it.
-AF: So to this day, no one knows.
-MC: To this day, they point in both directions
depending whom you read and who writes it.
In Poland they don't like to talk about this story.
I mean, you talk privately with people
but officially it's a closed chapter.
They want to leave the skeleton in the closet.
They don't want to drag the skeletons out of the closet.
But that's how we stand on it.
-AF: Then after the war you returned to Warsaw?
-MC: After the war I returned to Krakow
I got in medical school there so I lived in Krakow00:30:00
From '45 until '59, until I came to the United States.
-AF: Then you completed or you returned to medical school?
-MC: Oh yeah.
-AF: Did you leave Poland for any specific reason or?
Better opportunities in the United States?
-MC: Better oppor..? We just, you know, we had sponsors here who helped us.
Are you asking there were sponsor?
Yes, we are both physicians.
We are both sponsored by a hospital.
We are invited to start work in this hospital.
That's how we get the American Visa.
To get a Polish passport was a different story.
Took a little bit of a wheeling, dealing.
But it was possible.
We took couple years, you know, it's lots of red tape
and lots of talking to all kind of people
and then so on but it was possible.
-AF: Then originally you came just as a visiting physician?
Did you intend to stay00:31:00
-MC: No, no, no, no.
We had immigrant passports.
We had immigrant Visa's.
We weren't decided but we were immigrant.
We could stay right away.
-AF: You left Poland solely for the advancement of your
And not because of Russian occupation or
-MC: No, no.
-AF: Past events.
-AF: Did you come directly to Omaha first?
-MC: No, one year in New York, five years in St. Louis,
and then 15 or 12 years now in Omaha.
-AF: And in New York was it as a resident in a hospital or?
-MC: Intern in a hospital here.
-AF: And same with St. Louis?
-MC: St. Louis I was a resident, yes.
-AF: Did you learn English in Poland or?
-MC: I had a little bit of English in Poland
but most of my English, I learned it here.
I had some, I had no practice in talking in English.00:32:00
I could read well and I could talk to my
English teacher in Poland but when I got here
I went out on the street in New York.
I certainly couldn't understand the cab driver
or the bus driver when they gave you directions.
No, no way.
But I learned quickly.
That wasn't a big problem.
-AF: Was the transition hard?
Changing from life in Poland to life in the States?
Yes, for me and especially for my wife.
It was very difficult.
Of course, the children, they picked it up immediately.
They were small and they don't remember anything.
They remember very little from Poland.
-AF: Your children were both born in Poland?
-AF: Did you find life easier here in the States?
-MC: Well the beginning was hard, you know,
the things that you had to learn that nobody told me.
For instance, when I got a job I went out to look
for a little apartment to live.
And you go to an agent and he shows you the apartment00:33:00
and he looks at you suspiciously because
you speak with a very broken English at that time
and then he says, "okay I'll show you the apartment.
"where is your car?"
and I said, "I don't have a car yet."
So he was even more suspicious.
And then he says, "okay, if you would like the apartment
where's your banking account, where do you bank?"
And I said, "I don't have a bank.
"I'm about to start a job and start work."
And they just wouldn't rent me an apartment.
I was, without a car, without a checking account,
I was a nobody.
They wouldn't rent me the apartment.
So I finally found somebody who had an apartment
and he bought a house so he sublet me his apartment
until his lease expired.
So I wasn't renting the apartment from the landowner,
from the house owner, I was subletting from
the guy who had a lease on this apartment.
Things like that.
It took me about almost two years00:34:00
before I got my first car.
Until then getting places was a big problem.
Buses didn't come around too often
and to the hospital was about a two mile walk.
So I just walked.
People get suspicious of people who walk down the street.
But these are just minor things.
-AF: Did you hear stories in Poland about the streets
in the United States being paved with gold
and the land of opportunity?
-MC: No I heard these stories here.
When I came over here they told me that everybody
tells the story about the young Italian fellow
who thought that, he wrote his first letter.
When he writes back to home he says,
"there are three things I found about America.
"That the streets are not paved with gold,
"and some of the streets are not paved at all.
"and the third, it's me that's gonna pave those street."
So I heard all these stories, you know.
But you have to take the bad with the good.00:35:00
And certainly there is more good than bad.
-AF: You say people are suspicious.
Did you find, then, very many anti-Polish attitudes?
Were people suspicious that the Poles
coming from Europe and taking over their jobs or?
-MC: No, well, I heard about it.
That Pollack is a dirty word
and the Poles are very low on the social scale.
Like right above the blacks and then certainly
below the Italians and the Irish.
But I didn't.
I was in a hospital where all the interns were foreign.
There was an Irish and a Turk and a bunch of Filipinos
and myself so we really weren't.
We were discriminated as foreigners
but not especially because I was Polish.
There was the attending, the local doctors,
they used our work but they certainly00:36:00
wouldn't accept us socially, something like that.
But that has changed.
Now I don't feel, you know,
I don't know if I would join the Omaha Athletic Club
if I would be accepted if I applied.
But outside of that I don't feel any discrimination.
As a matter of fact, I heard more Polish jokes
when I came to Omaha than when I was in St. Louis or
in New York.
-AF: Was it difficult to find employment in this hospital or
(talking over each other)
-MC: A physician can, but this is just...
I think anybody who wants to work will find a job
in the United States.
I haven't, you know.
Especially being as qualified as I am.
I didn't have any problems.
-AF: Did you have to...
-MC: Again when I was.
When I applied to certain places and I was competing
against American born and American educated doctors00:37:00
they got the first preference.
But outside of that I had no problems.
-AF: Did you have to take any courses in medicine
while you were here in the states?`
-MC: I had to repeat the internship and the residency.
Lots and lots of examinations.
Took me about, all together, about six years
until I finally could start practicing where I'm, you know,
joined the Creighton clinic and start practicing
like anybody else, six years.
But, you know, I was making a living
from the very first day.
Not up to the American standard
but it wasn't living off anybody's welfare, you know.
-AF: I've heard of a doctor, I believe he's in Sioux City,
Dr. Bloomar, I don't remember where he was educated.
But when he came to the States he had to practically
go through the entire medical school program again.
-MC: I don't know.
-AF: Because of something with lost papers because of the war.
-MC: Oh, if he lost his papers he couldn't prove00:38:00
that he was a doctor, that's a different story.
But I didn't lose my papers.
-AF: After living in the United States and experiencing
the war, do you still find, or do you find at all any
anti-German, if you will, attitudes or anti-Russian?
Some people now look back and someone says German
they say (unknown)
and sum up their entire feelings.
-MC: Well, I'm trying not to but certainly you can not
control all your feelings completely.
I was in Germany about two years ago.
Just for a couple weeks visiting
and I admired their industry and the cleanliness,
their organization, and then the hospitality,
the commercial and airport function is very efficiently.
Much better than some of our airports function in the.
So on and so on.
But still I felt certain, at least, uneasiness.00:39:00
I wouldn't say hostility.
But uneasiness towards the Germans.
And the same with Russians.
With the Russians it's a different story.
It's the government that I feel uneasy with.
The people are, Russian people are basically good.
On the one to one basis they are, you know.
But it's the system that makes me feel uneasy.
But I wasn't in Russia since 1945.
So, many things changed there I'm sure too.
But it's still different story.
-AF: When you were in Germany did you detect the same
uneasiness or attitude of the German people
toward you or toward Polish people?
-MC: I had very little contact.
I visited some friends and there are so many foreigners,
you know Europe is so, the western Europe is,
there are no borders, no passports.
There are foreigners all over, Germans all over Europe00:40:00
and lots of foreigners in Germany.
Foreign workers, the Turks, the Greeks, the Albanians,
the Italians, so it's.
If they have any feelings they don't let you feel it.
Live in a hotel, Alice says that they are too polite
and too hospitable, professionally hospitable,
to show you that they dislike you or something like that.
I couldn't feel it.
-AF: You have been back in Poland.
-MC: Yes, several times.
-AF: What are you attitudes towards Poland now?
Do you see a great change?
-AF: Of course there's some change
because of the war.
-MC: There are great changes.
Especially when you gone for four or five years.
You see the difference.
First of all, the standard of living.
It's still way below our standard here.
But the standard of living is going up.
There are still fluctuations.
There are periods of shortages and then
supplies get better but people.
The worst problem, I think, after the war was housing.00:41:00
The housing conditions were unbelievably poor.
Especially in big cities.
Especially in Warsaw where the city was completely destroyed
So you could find three families living
in one little two bedroom apartment
and sharing a kitchen, and sharing a bathroom,
and of course when you cramp people together
they're fighting, they antagonize each other.
They even, you know, comes to physical violence.
Gradually they start to, nobody builds houses like we have.
You know, free-standing houses, with a yard and all this.
But, big huge blocks of apartment houses
and at the beginning they were small and kind of.
Small rooms, small kitchens.
Now they are building bigger and better and better.
So people live a little better than they did,
let's say, 10 years ago and certain than they did
20 years ago, that's for sure.00:42:00
And that's one thing that I see changed.
The work attitude of people changes too.
They try to do a little better job.
They get a little more ambitious.
The work, again, becomes the point of pride.
I well done job is a source of pride or satisfaction.
We are separating from those war time attitudes
where you did the minimum, the bare minimum, of work.
It was not to get thrown in a concentration camp.
And then there is certainly great amount of freedom
in Poland, much greater of any other of the socialist
side countries there is.
For instance, there are two Catholic universities in Poland.
There is no other country to Slovakia, Armenia
that they have it.
No government controlled university.00:43:00
They have at least one in Lublin.
I think it is one now, there's a Catholic university.
Of course they don't have the school of medicine or law
but they have literature, mostly humanities
and anthology, of course.
Poland is the only country where they have more
than one political party.
They have the Peasants Party and they have,
they're not called party, the Work Party
applies only to the ruling party.
To the United Workers Party.
But they have what they call Stronnictwo Ludowe.
Which is peasants or farmers political organization
and they have the stronnictwo demokratyczne,
the democratic group.
Which is, it represents mostly the
professional people, religious people, who don't want to.00:44:00
They are, of course, they are under good control
by the government and by the socialist or communist party.
But there are two political organizations.
They aren't in cooperation officially with the
government line but there are.
And freedom of travel.
You see lots of Polish people traveling all over
Europe in the summer.
They like to travel.
They have a little Fiat or little Volkswagen.
They load the family and the tents and go all over
Europe, northern Africa, wherever they can.
Freedom of expression as far as movies, theater,
So these things are gradually improving.
Of course, there are, there is always high tide and low tide
and sometimes the screw gets a little bit more tighten
up and then relaxed.
But basically the progress is towards more relaxation00:45:00
and more freedom.
-AF: Comparatively speaking with other countries
under Russian control
-AF: The poles are...
-MC: I think Poland has the most
individual freedom, personal freedom.
Politically they are controlled by Russia.
But you don't see the Russians on the street much.
You don't feel their presence.
You feel that the government is.
There is of course a huge military encampment
in western Poland, you know, the headquarters
of the Russian troops in Europe.
In east Germany and Slovakia and in Poland.
But you don't see, outside of this town,
you don't see too many of them.
You'll see them sometimes.
But the ties are political, you know.
The government feels that there is no other way
for them now, there is no war.
No other way for Poland to exist except
in cooperation with Russia.
And then of course the ties are economical.
These things are.00:46:00
Poland depends on the ore and the
export of coal and so on and on oil.
The only place Poland can get oil,
until now, was from Russia.
There was no other way, you know.
To get it from the Arabs, Poland didn't have the dollars
to pay for the oil.
So they were economically dependent.
If you remember after, when was?
1968 when they ousted,
When Gomułka came to power and he was trying to,
Eisenhower was the president.
Poland tried to get financial aide.
-AF: In '68 or '58?
-MC: Then was '58
-MC: 1958, Eisenhower was the president
and Poland badly needed money
to develop industry, to get raw material00:47:00
to keep the industry going.
And the way I know, you know, I don't have any
access to official sources but the Polish government
sent delegation to America to say, "help us,
"we need a loan, credit to keep our industry going."
And apparently they got either a token or nothing,
I don't know exactly what.
Mean time they had to, you know.
So they went back home and they start
and the Russia just clamp down
on all the supplies.
Cut out the supplies.
And if you don't have cotton you have to close
the textile factories and that's a big industry in Poland.
And you don't have the ore you have to close the
steel mills and so on and so on and so on.
If you don't have the oil you close the refineries.
So that's how they explained.
So eventually they, you know, Poland wasn't00:48:00
controlled militarily there was almost on the verge
of confrontation 1958 but it didn't come
to military confrontation.
So simply Khrushchev was in power in Russia
cut off all the supplies and Poland had to go back
and accept the political control for economic incorporation.
That's the, now the situation is different
because they present Polish government is trying
to get a little more independence.
For instance, they are building a huge
harbor, port in Poland at old Gdynia
Specifically to transfer oil.
To get the...
Arab, from the Arab countries, get the tankers.
And you have some independence from the Russian oil.
And then, again, they're from the biggest export
from Poland is coal.00:49:00
They have lots of coal and now with the oil prices
coal becomes very important.
So they pulled the...
Ships from Poland go to Sweden with coal.
They unload coal which Sweden needs badly
and they get loaded with ore and they bring ore back.
I don't know which Poland doesn't have any.
So and then you can see Swedish and if we can, you know.
You can see that the contacts with west are getting
bigger and stronger and stronger.
You walk down the street and they play movies,
For instance, Love Story, the queue was a mile long
when they played, you know, for people to see Love Story
in the movies.
Or, what else, The (unknown).
They are crazy about that movie.
All the John Wayne movies.
If you watch television in Poland you can still see Bonanza.00:50:00
You can see Gunsmoke.
You can see The Untouchables.
Old American flicks on Polish television.
So that is the story.
You can get Coca-Cola in Warsaw
and Pepsi Cola in Krakow.
Not everywhere but it's Coke in Warsaw, Pepsi in Krakow.
American cigarettes, American books and magazines.
They are crazy about them.
Records, of course.
Blue jeans, long hair, stuff like that.
This is only on the street level.
And then you can see lots of industry that,
American industry is too expensive for Poland and too far.
But for instance they have British buses in Warsaw
and French buses (unknown)
The Polish car industry.
Finally, they've broke away from the Russians.
They were producing old Russian prototype car
for many many years which was obsolete.
Finally they say to heck with it00:51:00
and they are building Fiats in Warsaw.
The most popular car in Poland in Fiat.
They are building them in Warsaw, in Poland.
They get their license, their documentation,
their know-how from the Italians
and they are building Fiats.
You can have, there is a, Swedes build hotels.
Skyscrapers in Warsaw.
Very efficiently, very beautifully.
They have a huge office building
where they rent the space and they get their money back,
There is a very elegant, you know, the Hilton type
hotel in Warsaw where for big money,
only for dollars, you can stay really get good care.
Somebody told me there was even a Holiday Inn in Warsaw.
So really there isn't, the Iron Curtain is full of holes.
And of course this is all done with, the government00:52:00
knows about it, they are pragmatics.
(unknown) the head of the Polish party of government
he's a pragmatist, he's very practical man.
He's, you know, by education he's an engineer.
So, he knows that politics is politics
but people have to work and want to live
and want to get rest and so on and so on.
They still have some unrest there.
But basically the situation is changing,
really improving, towards improvement.
It's kind of zig-zagging, it's not a straight row
But it's certainly, there is a difference between,
let's say, '50's, 1950, 1960, 1970.
-AF: All they need is a Mcdonalds (laughs)
-MC: I'm sure they will have it.
Sooner or later we'll have Mcdonalds, sure.
-AF: Do you see, now, any class conflicts in Poland
between upper classes, lower classes?
-MC: Well there are different, yes,00:53:00
there are different classes now.
Completely different, you know, there are no land owners
but the ruling class, the party apparatus,
what they call the appa...
System, political system.
These are people who are
kind of on top of everything.
And there is quite a bit of resentment if these people
show them, you now, look I'm gonna show you who I am.
So this is lots of personality type problems.
And then of course there are the farmers who,
they say that the richest people in Poland now
are two, are the artists and actors, they make good money.
And then are the, they call them (unknown)
Which means the suburban gardeners.
Those that supply the city with carrots00:54:00
and strawberries and radishes and tomatoes
and flowers and so on and so on.
They really make good money because it's an open market.
But, so these are the wealthy class and these are.
But basically there is more, kind of,
a common denominator of all the people.
Of course there are people who do better and worse.
There are the professional people who have cars
and workers who ride and drive the street car or the bus.
But, not as much as it was before the war.
-AF: Before the war there was more class conflict?
-AF: Do you see this as a possible reason
for the relatively easy German takeover?
The difference in classes, people weren't unified.
-MC: I don't think so.
-MC: No, as far as defense of the country they were unified.
You know, it's like in a family.
You may squabble with your sister.
But when somebody attacks your sister00:55:00
you're gonna punch him in the nose.
-AF: Do you see attitudes of Polish people towards
the United States as, you mentioned all the
Polish industry coming in,
do the Polish people look down on the United States
for not giving them aide
when they need it or?
-MC: No, no.
It's still, I think, you know, many people have many
opinions but basically the United States is still
the land of opportunity and the good uncle
and they kinda, they see America,
they can make a little fun of them, Americans
because of the
one is the press, the propaganda.
They see them kind of like the.
They see the people who go back
and they see that they are kind of primitive
and don't know too many things
and speak kind of funny language
or wear those funny flowered hats00:56:00
and so on and so on.
So they kind of laugh at them.
But still they like them.
They are very, they feel that their real
friends are on this side of the ocean.
But they try to, sometimes they try to
sock them a little bit for money and gifts
and so on but it's just human things.
Certainly there is no resentment, no hostility.
-AF: In the national costumes and things in Poland or?
-MC: Oh, they are worn only on special occasions.
The national costume of Polish young people
are the blue jeans and the colors and flowered shirts.
Just like here.
They are crazy about that.
-AF: If you had the opportunity now
would you live back in Poland?
-MC: No, my roots are too deep here now.
I couldn't go back.
You can not go back, you know.
This is a matter of,
what, 17 years, I couldn't go back.00:57:00
I am always happy to go there and visit
with my friends and just walk around and look at the people
but I don't think I would feel happy.
-AF: You're still very much pro-Polish though in?
-MC: Oh yes, it's my country and, you know,
I was born and raised there.
But right now I am right here in Omaha
and that's where I want to stay.
I don't know what I will do when my retirement
time comes, you know.
The people are talking about the retirement
in Poland is a very good opportunity.
But I don't know if...
You know, it's a long time for me.
So I don't have to make the decision now.
But many peoples do that.
Many more and more people are going back to Poland
just to visit.
Which they were scared to do when, you know, when
I went first to Poland, what, 1968, I went there00:58:00
and people were really worried, you know,
if they would let me come back.
But now Poland in the summer, Poland is flooded with
American, all kind of tourists.
But mostly American tourists are all over the place.
-AF: Do you belong to any Polish organizations here
in the States?
-MC: Oh, Polasky Club, Polish American Congress, sure.
-AF: Are these pretty powerful or pretty strong
organizations do you think?
-MC: I don't think they are as strong as they could be, no.
They have, they are coming out now.
There was kind of a,
I understand this is, to me it's history,
Although as to you, before the war until the Depression,
until about the mid-30's I would say,
they were very powerful.
Here in Omaha they had a Polish newspaper
and Polish home and Polish schools.
And then it kind of went into a hibernation00:59:00
and now I think we are coming out of the hibernation
again, we are getting a little more active.
We are becoming little more involved
in the community affairs.
-AF: The second, third generation Poles in Omaha.
-MC: The third generation, mostly.
-AF: And they're starting to come more
-MC: They're starting to, they're becoming more interested in,
the concept of the melting pot I think is becoming obsolete.
It's again, you know, you speak English,
you are in American cities.
But, again, you have your own background.
Like the Irish, the Italians, the Germans,
the Poles, the Czechs, and so on.
And there's nothing to be ashamed of.
It's something to do, give you some unity.
Feeling of belonging to somebody.
Feeling that you are not completely lost among the wasps.
-AF: Do you think some of this is a compensation01:00:00
for the Polish jokes that are becoming
-MC: You mean, like a defense mechanism?
-AF: Yes, people say now, you tell a Polish joke,
well I'm Polish and I'm proud to be Polish.
-MC: Yeah I think so.
But that's not the only reason.
That's one of the cementing factor that keeps
people together, it's defense against the
But I don't think it's the only reason.
That'll be about it.
If you have anything else to add.
-MC: No, well we could sit and talk all night.
But, I think it's enough for the time being.
If you want to come back, anytime.