The Zavkevičius/Zawkiewicz Family Story

World War II and its Aftermath in the Displaced Persons Camps of Germany

By Barbara Zawkiewicz Conaty

This brief account traces the journey of the Zawkiewicz family from Jurbarkas, Lithuania to Chicago, Illinois from July, 1944 through December, 1949. During the war, my parents, Wacław and Stefanija Zawkiewicz were Lithuanians living with their four children in Kaunas though they also lived in Jurbarkas at the family farm. The family’s roots were in the Kedainiai region. To this day the American members of the family have strong ties to close relations still living in this region and in Kaunas. In 1944, Wacław was a businessman and Stefanija was a pharmacist. Their children were John (7), Katherine (5), Stefanija (2), and Wacław (6 months). Though native speakers of Lithuanian and Polish, my parents used the Polish language in the USA and adopted the Polish spelling of their names. On Lithuanian documents, my parents’ names were Vaclovas Zavkevicius and Stefanija Kongielyte Zavkeviciene.

July 1944

The Red Army captured Vilnius. The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was re-established. Prit Buttar, in his book Between Giants, reported that Red Army units reached the Niemen Valley southeast of Kaunas by July 30.

My father, Wacław Zawkiewicz, obtained a train pass from German authorities allowing travel for 8 family members from Jurbarkas.

October, 1944

Oldest child John Zawkiewicz remembered in a 1991 interview that he witnessed Russian soldiers advancing on rooftops shooting at fleeing German soldiers in the town of Jurbarkas.

October 8, 1944

The Zawkiewicz family evacuation from Lithuania began. Wacław got hold of two wagons along with four horses and assembled most of the immediate family except young Stefa, age 2. She was not at Kaunas apartment but at the Jurbarkas farm with a caregiver because she was ill. Wacław quickly went to the farm on a bicycle to retrieve the toddler but Russian soldiers had already occupied the area and he was forced to turn back.

The Zawkiewicz family with its wagons was pushed ahead of the German army with other refugees. German soldiers set charges as they retreated and pushed the desperate civilians westward. The Zawkiewicz family arrived at a railroad station, possibly in Insterburg (in present-day Kaliningrad then under German control), along with a group of refugees from Jurbarkas.

October 12, 1944

Wacław received a pass to leave Insterburg and travel to Vienna.

Wacław was able to obtain a boxcar for the Zawkiewicz party and managed to get it hooked up to a train heading west to Austria and eventually to another train heading to northern Germany.

Many Lithuanians believed at this time that Germany would eventually win the war because Hitler was said to be building devastating weapons. Wacław and Stefanija probably believed that they would be able to return to Lithuania eventually.

Upon arriving in Germany, Wacław was assigned to a factory. The horses and wagons were confiscated by German authorities but household goods were stored in a garage.

Wacław’s own account of this journey written in 1974 states that the family arrived eventually in Schwerin in northwest Germany and found refuge in a large castle where 300 other refugees already resided. (Wacław’s account attached at the end of this chronology.)

Winter, 1944

In Lithuania, Stefanija’s mother, Teresa Kongiel, was notified by young Stefa’s caregiver that the family had left the toddler in her care. The caregiver was told by a witness that the Zawkiewicz party was killed in a bomb blast. Despite the fierce winter weather, Teresa sent her husband, Peter, and their daughter, Jadwiga, to fetch the toddler by horse and wagon. Young Stefa stayed with Teresa for about 6 years, and then moved to live with her aunt and uncle in a small town called Sirvintos till 1960.

Late 1944 – Early 1945

A decree was issued by German authorities that those refugees who were not working and productive would be liquidated. In Schwerin, ration cards were issued to control the distribution of food.

Stefanija and the three children were ordered to Stargard, (probably present day Burg Stargard), one of the camps where Nazi authorities collected refugees and other unwanted people. The extreme conditions of the camp resulted in many deaths though the record shows that many people were simply killed.

Wacław, at first unable to intervene, travelled to Berlin. He was assigned to a university to work. He obtained permission to recover his family from the camp in Stargard. Upon reaching the camp and finding his family, he was horrified by the desperate conditions. Stefanija warned him not to stay, that only death awaited them there.

Commandeering a nearby bicycle with a carrier attached, Wacław collected the three starving children and put them in the carrier. He put his wife on the bicycle seat. He delivered them to a Red Cross aid station where they were bathed and dressed in fresh clothing.

All returned to Schwerin where they were able to recover their goods. Knowing that the Red Army was approaching from the East, the family made its way on foot to Berlin.

January 1, 1945 onward

In Berlin. Stefanija got a referral from a German official to work at one of several pharmacies listed on the referral document. Food was scarc. The family searched daily for their bread and ate meat mixed with woody fibers. 

Knowing that Berlin would fall soon, the family put their goods in a wagon, obtained a broken-down horse and got on the autobahn to stay ahead of the Red Army making its way westward.

Two airplanes overhead started to strafe the wagon and the road. Wacław threw the children from the wagon to find cover. No one was hit though clothing and other things on the wagon were riddled with bullets.

At gravesite of Wacław, Stefanija and two surviving children
At gravesite of Wacław, Stefanija and two surviving children

Spring 1945

Wacław, Junior, died of pneumonia in a hospital. The family thought the child was improving so were shocked at his death.

April 1945

The Soviet Army encircled Berlin April 20-May 2.

May 2, 1945

Lubeck, in northwest Germany, was liberated by British forces. The Zawkiewicz family was here at war’s end on May 8. The family stayed for some time in a dog training school where a one-armed German officer had been living alone.
Two men on bicycles had looted the family’s possessions while the family was briefly away. Upon spotting the looters while returning, Wacław grabbed the bicycles by the handlebars and the officer came up to intervene. The men fled leaving the bicycles and goods behind.
One morning the family looked out the window to see what was roaring outside – it was a convoy of trucks with stars on their sides. Wacław reeled in despair, believing the trucks were part of the Red Army.
The officer said not to worry, these were English trucks with white stars. The convoy gave the family food, milk, and chocolate.

In Lubeck there was a British soldier at the bridgehead directing traffic. German soldiers were congregating in a nearby open area. The soldiers and officers were ripping off the insignia on their uniforms and tearing up their documents.

There was one officer who had two wonderful horses and a wagon. He offered them to Wacław because he did not want the Russians to get them. Wacław wanted them but said no and regretted it for a long time.

Though Lubeck was liberated by the British, Russian forces quickly moved in according to a predetermined separation line.

The Zawkiewicz family kept going along the autobahn. They walked along with a Russian-speaking family whose hand cart they attached to the Zawkiewicz wagon. The two families kept together for several weeks. Son John recalled that he learned some basic Russian from them. The family walked to Hamburg in the British zone where they found refuge at the displaced persons camp in the Wentorf region.

May 8, 1945

Germany surrendered to Allied forces.

June 8, 1945

Refugee registration card of John Zawkiewicz
Refugee registration card of John Zawkiewicz

The family was registered at the American Expeditionary Force Assembly Center. Each person got a registration card recording the name, nationality, place of origin, and that a DDT spray was administered.

The camp used to be a German military base. The barracks were very long and large. Each family organized a little cubicle for themselves, Lithuanians together, Poles together. Each person received utensils and containers for food rations to be collected from the central kitchen. Son John was responsible for the family’s ration cards and once misplaced them.

John attended a Polish language school. The children played outdoors and some were injured or killed playing with war gear of all kinds. John hung around the garages and tried to help with the vehicle maintenance work.

Stefanija began to work in the camp pharmacy. Wacław traded in both the open and black markets. With a bicycle and a small green wooden trunk, he carried goods from Wentorf into Hamburg and back. John aided Wacław in trading in the black market. Often this was dangerous work and even as a child he faced serious consequences. During a period when German police were not allowed to administer order, there was widespread wheeling and dealing. At one point, John was threatened by an angry farmer whose window John had broken in some bit of mischief. A Serbian buddy was able to grab John away. Both youngsters escaped.

Despite the family’s efforts to save some cash, the 1948 devaluation of Reich mark, wiped out the family’s nest egg. Two thousand RM could be turned in for 50 Deutsch Marks.

At this point some 3000 people of Soviet Union origin were compelled to return to the Soviet occupation zone.

Baptism of Barbara Conaty with her siblings John Zawkiewicz and Katherine Smith, 1945, Wentorf, with godparents Napoleon and Regina Sabaliunas
Baptism of Barbara Conaty with her siblings John Zawkiewicz and Katherine Smith, 1945, Wentorf, with godparents Napoleon and Regina Sabaliunas

November 1945

Barbara Zawkiewicz was born in the Wentorf displaced persons’ camp near Hamburg. Because Stefa was a pharmacist, the family was allowed to move into a cottage, a onetime officer’s house in the camp. The family hired a German woman to teach them all English. The lessons lasted for about a year.

September 1946 Zawkiewicz family lived for a while in the Polish PWX camp in Wentorf. However, in the British zone, the quotas for immigrants to British destinations were quite full. The Zawkiewicz family decided to seek immigration to the USA instead. They had to get transferred into the American zone.

September 1946

Zawkiewicz family lived for a while in the Polish PWX camp in Wentorf. However, in the British zone, the quotas for immigrants to British destinations were quite full. The Zawkiewicz family decided to seek immigration to the USA instead. They had to get transferred into the American zone.

Military barracks used for refugee housing in Wentorf.
Military barracks used for refugee housing in Wentorf.

Nov. 17, 1946

The family managed to move from Wentorf in the British zone to Frankfurt in the American zone. The Zawkiewicz family now applied for immigration to the USA through the National Catholic Welfare Organization which filed the applications with the American consul in Frankfurt. The application process was stalled for years.

Early 1947

Back in Lithuania, Teresa Kongiel received a letter and photograph from the Zawkiewicz family in Germany with news of their survival. Daughter Jadwiga, married with a young son, had been raising young Stefa as her daughter. She returned the girl to the grandparents. Teresa, Peter, and young Stefa continued to live with Jadwiga’s family in one dwelling though at opposite ends of the home.

The family in Lithuania was quite worried about having close relations living in the West. Fearing deportation to Siberia at any time, Teresa kept parcels of warm clothing and large pillowcases filled with dried dark bread always at the ready in case the NKVD/KGB should come to deport her or any family members to Siberia. Wacław’s older sister and her husband and two children had been deported to Siberia in June, 1944.

Stefanija Zawkiewicz with Barbara or Beata  and Katherine and a colleague, 1945, Wentorf
Stefanija Zawkiewicz with Barbara or Beata and Katherine and a colleague, 1945, Wentorf

August 10, 1947

In the DP camp, Stefanija bought a used Underwood typewriter according to a receipt dated August 10, 1947. It made the trip to the USA and was used by Stefanija for many years and also by her children when learning to type as high school students.

November 1947

Beata Zawkiewicz was born in the displaced persons’ camp.

June, 1948

The US Congress passed and President Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Though Truman had serious misgivings about the law, flawed by discrimination against Jews and Roman Catholics, he signed it since it allowed 200,000 displaced persons to be admitted to the USA in the next two years. The Zawkiewicz family finally qualified for admission under this law.

September 1948

Stefanija Zawkiewicz wrote an eloquent letter to Wanda Rozmarek in Polish from the displaced persons camp urging her to continue her support for refugees and thanking her for the help from the Polish National Alliance, a social service and community organization based in Chicago that was very active in refugee assistance activities. (Read the letter attached at the end of this chronology.)

October 31, 1948

Stefanija Zawkiewicz received certification as a pharmacist in Bad Kissingen in the US zone.

December 1948

Zawkiewicz family was in Mattenberg Displaced Persons Camp K-109 in the US Army Zone. Once the processing began for emigration, the family received medical exams.

John was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was admitted to a sanatorium for a three-month stay where he received calcium shots in treatment.

January 28, 1949

John and Katherine both received certificates confirming that they had been students at the camp’s primary school from Sept. 1948 till Feb. 1949.

February 1949

Wacław Zawkiewicz was certified as having worked at the Vocational Technical School as a maintenance engineer from Dec. 1948 till Feb. 1949.

April 6, 1949

Zawkiewicz family heading for home in the USA.
Zawkiewicz family heading for home in the USA.

The Zawkiewicz family arrived in the USA on the U.S.S. General Taylor at the port of New Orleans. The entire family was seasick the whole two weeks except for Wacław who took care of them all. Household goods included a radio, a baby buggy, and linens. ( Read Stefanija’s own account of this voyage at the end of this chronology.)

Each family member was tagged with a paper tag and string. Mrs. Rozmarek met the family and about 50 other refugees whom she had sponsored as well. Promptly, the family boarded a Chicago-bound train. Mrs. Rozmarek helped them with finding housing and jobs.

Wacław began to work at the J&S Mushroom Farm in Mount Prospect, IL. Wacław purchased his first car in America, a 1934 Buick, for $200. John got his first driving lesson in that car. He was 13 at the time and got his license at 14.

Wacław, hat in hand, at J&S Mushroom Farm job.
Wacław, hat in hand, at J&S Mushroom Farm job.

October, 1949

Stefanija applied for a license to work as a pharmacist and obtained a certificate allowing her to practice as an apprentice pharmacist. Despite considerable experience as a licensed practitioner in the displaced persons camps and in Kaunas and Jurbarkas, Stefanija was advised by the Illinois Pharmacy Examining Committee that she would be ineligible to work as a registered pharmacist until after she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree from an approved school of pharmacy as well as another year of experience as a licensed apprentice pharmacist or after she gained four years’ experience as a licensed apprentice pharmacist. Unable to either return to school or work at apprentice wages for four years, Stefanija was forced to seek work in a new field.

December 26, 1949

The family’s first American citizen, Danuta Zawkiewicz, was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Chicago, IL. The family lived for some time in the basement of the Rozmarek home in Chicago and then moved to its own apartment on Paulina Street in the old Polish neighborhood along Milwaukee Avenue. Later, Wacław bought and with John’s young help rehabbed two buildings on the lot on Paulina Street. The family was on its way to settling in as immigrants. Wacław and Stefanija obtained American citizenship in 1957.

Attachment I

Letter from Stefanija Zawkiewicz to Wanda Rozmarek, the family’s immigration sponsor
(Original, in the Polish language, translated by Barbara Conaty)

  • 16 Kassel-Mattenberg
  • Ps Camp Forty Second 14/1,
  • Germany

Sept. 5, 1948

Honored and Dear Mrs. Wanda,

I just recently sent you two letters through my acquaintances in England. Perhaps because it is vacation time, my letter has not been answered. So I am writing to you directly and can tell you that at the main Post Office in Hamburg, it is possible to mail letters for just pennies. This is a big help to us and I need no longer ask you for Reply coupons.

We are listening to the news, appalled. The recent news is that the Commission for Emigration in New York visited some camps and concluded that there is no one left to help as the individuals still in the camps are not suitable for emigration. We are unimportant people and poor so we have no political influence. Apparently, even the most democratic nations do not want to extend a hand to help. Oh, what a contrast between us and Berlin! Every family has a veteran soldier who stubbornly threatened the Allies and sought revenge by killing unarmed people and prisoners of war. For them there is plenty of bread and even luxury. The Occupation Forces supply them with everything they need. We hear airplane after airplane flying overhead in the night blinking with red lights. No ask asks about the moral position of Berlin. Today it is the final manipulation, why not, that is diplomacy. I am sorry that I write about this but we are suffering terribly. We have lost our liberty and are unable to get ourselves out of Germany through our own efforts.

We have been saving money and could have travelled the whole world with our savings until the devaluation. We could have done it with no help from anyone and asked for no assistance, but now who can be our guarantor? We have no valuable characteristics; we are neither beautiful nor wealthy. We are not diplomats, we know only how to work hard and walk the narrow road as our parents taught us.

Please do not be offended by my letter but if the camps are to be the source of injustice then soon in truth there will be a transformation. Bitterness will arise in the people and they may even turn to violence. Right now, there are still many devout and honorable people who maintain stability and order. It must be stressed that there is no shortage of extremists who want to recruit DPs to assist in sabotage and espionage.

The earth is so vast yet at the same time there is a lack of space. Naturally, the problem would be easily resolved if we would just heroically put our heads into the noose and let the hammer and sickle destroy us. Here we have to give some credit to our will to live which by instinct pushes us to life and protects us from extermination. We know that Russia is one huge prison and cemetery. It would be only through an outside force that we might return to our homeland or anyplace else in the East.

Dear Mrs. Wanda, our entire hope and future lies in the hands of the West. Please do not criticize us and blame us for imagined offenses. Please protect us and save us because it is not as bad as the world says it is here. These complaints are really caused by the politics.

I know that you belong to an organization whose sole purpose is to wipe misery and evil from the surface of the earth and put in their place goodness and love. We know that you are personally extraordinary from the words of your honored father, may he rest in peace. If you will support us, the unfortunate ones, before the Emigration Commission then we will be redeemed from the long wait for departure and from the fear that we are deceiving ourselves about obtaining our freedom.

Here another winter approaches. It is terrible to think of a journey with small children. How shall we feel in a new place in the cold and without funds? Here we need not worry because with your help, we will arrive right under your roof and into an apartment. This is a debt which for us, who once had all we needed, is a bit unpleasant.

We had hoped that perhaps the voyage would be less expensive. We hoped not to use up all our savings by relying on help from our relations and friends. If you have the capability to get us out, please advance the cost of the journey. We will repay you at once upon arrival. Wacław, thinking about having our own little place, has been collecting items that could be turned quickly into cash for our new life. We would use this nest egg to repay our debts to you.

Unless there is illness or some other unexpected event, we now have enough clothing, footwear, undergarments, and bed linens. We cannot bring a supply of foodstuff so we would need to get work, any kind of work, right away. I am very lucky to have Wacław who is very enterprising and resourceful. He always says, “If they put me naked on the pavement, I would manage” so he will be all right so long as he can hope to achieve independence and freedom of movement.

Please forgive me for taking your valuable time. I am wrong to make these complaints but to whom can I express these thoughts if not to you? It is no exaggeration to say that we view you as our savior and protector. Please do not worry about lack of appreciation. Some have been so burned by the life in the camps that they have only cinders in their hearts. But time passes, wounds heal. People will recover, will pay back their debts and if some fail to do so, then God will see to repayment of all the backlogs.

Your name and that of your honorable husband is written amongst the displaced persons in monumental letters without regard to either nationality or creed. Everyone knows the amount of effort invested and quantity of difficulties overcome to get this congressional Bill into life. So many strangers turn to us and ask for our help because they consider us very fortunate people. This makes us proud to participate so please forgive our requests and our letters.

For now let me send your whole family our most sincere wishes and add thanks in our names and also in the name of all the most grateful displaced persons,

Stefa Zawkiewicz

 Attachment 2

Stefanija Kongielyte’s Vytautas the Great University Identification Booklet from 1931 that travelled with her to the USA in 1949.

Student ID of Stefanija Kongelielytė

Attachment 3

Letter from Stefanija Zawkiewicz to a relative living in the DP Camp after the Zawkiewicz family had left

(Original in the Polish language, translated by Barbara Conaty)

April 10, 1949

I am very concerned about not hearing from you as I know there has been trouble with your little girl’s health. I thought perhaps you had already written to me at Mrs. Wanda’s. Please write to me soon. Youu know the great distance between us simply makes our bond tighter. As soon as we stood on American soil we felt our longing for those who remain in Europe who also wait and yearn.
In the night from April 4 to 5, the loudspeaker on the ship awakened us all and announced that we would soon arrive at the port of New Orleans. We were to rise immediately and prepare to stand before the Commission. So that night was sleepless and I spent the time completing various formalities and organizing our hand luggage, the cabin, and our breakfast.

About 10 am our turn to disembark arrived. We stepped onto American territory and at once, Mrs. Wanda shook our hands. She came to meet not only us but also a whole group of Poles sponsored by the American Polish community. We were led to a large hall immediately where each adult received $10 and each child received $4. Our large luggage arrived. The suitcases had been sewn into cloth covers and we had to rip those open for inspection. Packages and boxes did not have to be opened. A merciful lady collected us in her very fancy car and drove us to the railroad station where a special train waited for all the Chicago-bound passengers and by 3 we were on our way to our final destination. I say merciful because a whole group of helpers showed up to drive the 890 individuals to their various stations and other places. It was a big surprise to us to meet Mrs. Wanda here. Let me tell you that in a letter I cannot convey enough appreciation for her. When you meet her yourself you will quickly understand the goodness this person – may God allow you to do this as soon as possible.

We were on the train for 23 hours; we sat on comfortable seats and slept together. The rocking on the ship had made it impossible to rest. At the railroad station various organizations met their travelers. Our little group was met by Mr. Rozmarek himself. It is hard to describe how it looked to have all these people meeting and greeting one another. Shortly afterwards, we arrived at our apartment. I will tell you more about that another time. I unpacked what I could and sort of let my tired wings fold. For so long I had to keep them in the air but now my mind could rest. My heart lifted as this new life approaches. May the Lord help us to make a new life in the new Homeland, to stop being homeless wanderers.

Let me say that my impressions of the arrival were a bit dulled because the voyage on the sea was quite difficult. During the two weeks, we had good weather most of the time but there were high seas and the rocking was severe. Wacław was not at all seasick, john was a little bit, Katherine a little more. Barbara and Beata were not at all ill. I could eat very little during the journey and could barely stand on my two feet. I am so sorry to have missed the excitement of the journey. Wacław had to look after the children and organize things. Because of the need to take on care of his family, he was excused from performing duties on board. This was a military vessel so the displaced persons all had to do a lot of work which was not too desirable.

We are very happy to have our own linens and dishes and things we most need for daily life. We brought a lot of household goods. Not sure if it will pay off as we have not yet received a bill for transporting these goods across the country. We hope the value of the goods will exceed the cost of their transport.

Do not take the advice of others about packing and bringing your own things. Everything will prove to be useful. You can certainly find anything you want to buy here in America but money is tight. Your have to buy food from the beginning even right at the port. As you leave the ship, you are entirely on your own. It may be that the Red Cross will welcome you with coffee, bread and butter, or doughnuts but that’s the limit.

Mrs. Wanda awaits your arrival in Chicago and so do we. For the time being, we will live together, it will be summer and easy to fit in together. Just now Mrs. Wanda has five individuals in addition to us.

I have a special request to make. Mrs. Wanda often mentions you and asks “How does our friend look? Whom does her daughter resemble?” And so on. She often thinks about how it will be when you arrive and which of you can speak Polish. So it is very important that your daughter speaks Polish. Since you still have some time, please teach her. Without offending your family, let her learn Polish. Here there is no undercurrent as there was earlier. Please do this favor for your benefactor. She loves you and wishes you the best. When you arrive, you will experience her goodness. You cannot imagine how much she cares.

So now this letter must go out she asked me to write you to strive to depart and once you arrive here, all will be well and you will be fortunate. Perhaps this letter will reach you in time for the holidays so we wish you the best and may the Lord bless you. Put aside your worries. Even knowing that the journey is hard and seasickness may come, put aside your cares and hurry here as fast as you can.

Wacław is not working yet though if it was up to him he would have found a job by now. He is taking Mr. Rozmarek’s advice and waiting for his return from Washington when something will be set up for Wacław. We feel obliged to await their direction – it is clear they do not want to force us into a bad choice. For the time being we are buying nothing though the prices are good and the workmanship is pretty.

We hug you sincerely and await your letters and news. Happy Easter!


Attachment 4

Letter of Wacław Zawkiewicz to his daughter Barbara Conaty describing the family’s flight from Lithuania and their arrival at the displaced person’s camp in Germany

(Original in the Polish language, translated by Barbara Conaty)

June 28, 1974

Dear Barbara and Joseph,

I got the letters you wrote to me in June. Thanks so much for remembering me and for the news; indeed your trip in the mountains is interesting. I am writing to you promptly because I want you to get my answer before you leave on your trip to the family.
Thanks for the clipping from the newspapers but you know I will not go to London because I will understand so little. Barbara, I do not know how it will go, let us wait and see.
Barbara, you asked where we lived and what we did when we lived in Germany during World War ll. Were we part of the hordes which fled from Berlin to Hamburg?

1. I do not remember the days nor the months but I remember that we first lived in Vienna, in Austria. We lived in a boarding house run by the Red Cross, Mother and I and three children. There was a tutor and a cook. We had two horses and a wagon and a lot of household goods which remained at the railroad station. We were able to rent a railroad box car and we travelled that way. The Communists had already arrived on the perimeter of Vienna so we departed to Schwerin not far from the Dutch border. Our first plan was to travel to Holland but we were too late. In Szwerin, we lived in an old palace; there were about 300 refugees there. The Germans seized the horses and wagon but we were able to store the household goods for security in a garage. After a couple of months a decree was issued that all of us were to be liquidated because we were unproductive yet we consumed food. This was important because there was a famine and ration cards were issued. I could not help the family and departed for Berlin where I enrolled at the university. (I even have the certificate from the university.) This made me a student and I got permission from the Hitlerian authorities to bring in my family which by that time had been sent to Sztargarden to the camp of death. I travelled to Sztargarden and found my family in horrific conditions, nearly dead. Camp guards helped me get a bicycle with a carrier. I put the children in the carrier and took them to the railroad station and soon we were all on our way to Berlin. We were there quite a while until the Communists got close to the city.

2. At this time, Germans in huge numbers began to flock to Hamburg because the American forces were already there. As a student, I got tickets for the train back to Szwerin where our things had been left. The Germans gave back the horses and the wagon. The front of the active fighting was not far away. We travelled to Hamburg with our own wagon. In the meantime, the war ended and we took up residence in a school for dogs “Hunde Sztafel”. We learned quickly that the Americans had sent up a camp for refugees from the Communists in Borgiendorf right near Hamburg. We moved there promptly and Mother began to work at a pharmacy as a manager. I occupied myself with trade in American goods. We had a lot of Reich marks but in the meantime, the Americans cancelled that currency and issued instead German marks (I think we lost a half million in value). Eventually, the Americans brought us to the USA. We settled in with my relative Mrs. Wanda Rozmarek and pretty soon I bought two buildings on Paulina St for $5000. Soon that was sold for $15,000 and I immediately bought a Cadillac for $3800. It was a beautiful car, dark blue with a white roof.

I wrote about our stay in Germany as if it were an adventure. I was transported here like pollen from a flower on the wind. Here it is eternally spring and today I got the yen to fly to London.
Be well,


Attachment 5

Driver’s License of Wacław Zawkiewicz, 1930, carried with him to the USA in 1949


Attachment 6

Possessions of Zawkiewicz Family during its transition from Displaced Persons Camps in Germany to Chicago, Illinois, 1945-1949