Upper picture: The 1930s Fablok Works stationery

 

In the middle: An OK22 locomotive manufactured in

Fablok Works in the interwar period

 

Below: A Pt 31 express locomotive manufactured

 in Fablok Works in the 1930s

 

Upper picture: A 2-8-2 locomotive for Bulgarian State Railways

manufactured in Chrzanów's Fablok Works, 1930s

 

Fablok Works in Chrzanów in the 1920s

Employees of the pattern shop at Fablok Works, the 1930s

 

 

A seal and stationery of "Fablok-Oberlok" Works in the times

 of German occupation in the Second World War

 

The administrative building of Fablok

 

Commemorative badges issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary

of Fablok Works and the Fablok Sport Society in the 1970s

 

A HISTORY OF FABLOK WORKS IN CHRZANÓW

 

1920-1939

The First Locomotive Factory in Poland, known as Fablok, has been throughout many decades not only the best known company in Chrzanów and the biggest employer in the county, but a symbol of the town as well, a symbol which made it famous well beyond Poland's and even Europe's boundaries. The factory was founded in 1920 as a private joint stock company on the ground of contract with the Polish government to deliver 1200 locomotives within a decade. A year before ministers of industry, trade and treasury approved company's statute under the name The Locomotive Factory in Poland, JSC. In 1920 the name was changed to The First Locomotive Factory in Poland, JSC. Works in Chrzanów. The area acquired by the factory was c. 80 hectares. The location of the factory was determined by convenient railway connections: Chrzanów was situated on the main Cracow-Vienna railway and had good connections to Silesia. Placing the factory in Chrzanów was also an attempt to limit negative impact caused by unemployment lingering since the end of the Great War 1914-1918. The idea of founding a locomotive factory in Chrzanów was supported by the Chamber of Industry and Trade in Cracow.

 

Since the very beginning the Polish government faced problems in getting loans to build the factory. The western countries refused any loans to Poland which was a newly established country with no solid economic foundation. The loans came from the least expected direction, namely from the north. Sweden agreed to co-finance the locomotive factory in Chrzanów if Poland agreed to purchase future factory equipment in Sweden. Polish-Swedish negotiations were concluded in 1923 giving to Fablok a loan of over one million Swedish Crowns. The founders of the factory were a group of industrialists: Piotr Drzewiecki, Stanislaw Karłowski, Władysław Jechalski and Leopold Wellisz, as well as the Bank Małopolski from Cracow and the Bank Handlowy from Warsaw. In the years 1921-1924 were constructed: the assembly shop (area 7000 sq. m), the mechanical shop (area 7500 sq. m) and the forge (area 2500 sq. m) as well as a number of auxiliary facilities and 21 houses for the employees of the factory. The factory was equiped with modern devices. In the beginning Fablok manufactured six locomotives per month. Already in the spring of 1924 the PKP (Polish State Railways) received the first Tr 21 cargo locomotive manufactured in Fablok.

 

By November 1925 a hundred locomotives were produced. In January 1926 the Polish State Railways received the first passenger locomotive of series Os 24 which was, like the Tr 21 locomotive, one of the biggest engines manufactured at the time. The locomotives were produced entirely in Poland from Polish raw materials and by Polish workers supervised by Polish engineers. Boilers for locomotives were supplied by Fitzner & Gamper from Sosnowiec. In 1926 the well-known Fablok Sport Society was founded. In October 1927 to celebrate manufacturing of the 200th locomotive the factory was visited by the Polish President Professor Ignacy Mościcki (1867-1946). A year later Fablok celebrated a new record: manufacturing the 300th locomotive. In 1928 the first Ok 22 locomotive was produced. In 1930 the 400th locomotive was manufactured and in the following year the factory began exporting its products. One of the first importers was Bulgaria. The ruler of the country, King Boris III (the one who was probably poisoned on Hitler's order in 1943), liked to drive locomotives in his spare time. In the same year Poland's northern neighbour, Latvia, put an order for locomotives from Fablok.

 

In 1932 the 500th locomotive was completed and solemnly celebrated (the engine was one of 12 ordered by the Society of the Moroccan Railways). The 1932 brought further achievements: a team of Fablok designers led by engineer Zembrzuski, one of the most outstanding designers working for Fablok, worked out plans of a new express steam locomotive Pt 31. Its manufacturing was initiated immediately. The Pt 31 could reach 110 km/h and had the power of 2000 HP. It was the first locomotive entirely designed in Fablok (earlier engines were partly relying on a foreign design). Apart from cargo and passenger locomotives Fablok manufactured in the 1930s narrow-gauge locomotives for coal-mining industry, busses for the Polish State Railways, as well as electric locomotives EL 100 for the Warsaw suburban railways and famous motor trains universally known as Lux-torpedoes, serving the Warsaw-Cracow-Zakopane railway (from 1936). In 1937 Fablok was awarded with a gold medal at the Paris Exposition for its really dashing and modern Pm 36 locomotive reaching the speed of 140 km/h. It was independently designed and manufactured by the Fablok engineers led by engineer Zembrzuski. It was not, however, the only prize for Fablok. In 1929 the factory was awarded three prizes: The Grand State Prize, The Grand Gold Medal at the Universal Home Exhibition in Poznań, and The Recognition Diploma at the Northern Fair in Wilno (Vilnius). But that was not it. In 1930 the factory received three further prizes: The Grand State Prize, Grand Prix at the International Communication and Tourism Exhibition in Poznań and the Diploma of Honour at the International Exhibition at Liège (Belgium).

 

In the years 1930-1939 Fablok exported 70 steam locomotives to Bulgaria, Latvia, Morocco and USSR. Outbreak of the war in 1939 thwarted export of locomotives to the Kingdom of Egypt. In this period 73 Diesel locomotives were manufactured at Fablok for railways, industry and coal-mining. In 1940 the factory was supposed to initiate manufacturing of cars (in mid-1939 the licence for production of cars was purchased from Renault), tractors and tanks. These plans were thwarted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Noteworthy are some figures concerning the output of Fablok: in 1934 the entire value of exported goods produced in Chrzanów County was estimated at almost 11,5 million Zloties, while the entire value of the exported products of Fablok was estimated at over 50% of the figure which was almost 6 million Zloties! In face of the nearing war the Fablok employees had actively participated in money collecting for the FON (The National Defence Found) and purchased an ambulance for the Polish Army from the money they had raised, as well as 4 heavy machine guns and 30 gas masks. The Anti-aircraft Defence Loan was also subscribed to.

 

 

1939-1945

In September 1939 Fablok was taken over by the Germans. The most valuable and modern equipment and machinery, tools etc. were evacuated by the Polish authorities eastwards in 36 lorries (where they most probably fell into Soviet hands) before Germans occupied Chrzanów on 4th September 1939. Speedy capture of Chrzanów by German troops prevented entire dismantling of the factory. On 14th September 1939 the Germans created provisional management of the factory led by engineer Arsen Szumowski, a Ukrainian, former employee at Fablok. In the following month the management of the factory was given to a German company Henschel und Sohn Gmbh from Kassel. The name of the factory was changed at first to the Erste Lokomotivfabrik in Polen A.G. Chrzanow (which was just the literary translation of its Polish name), and from 1st January 1940 the name was changed to Oberschlesische Lokomotivwerke A. G. Chrzanow/Krenau O/S in short OBERLOK. During German occupation the output of Fablok was entirely subordinated military needs of the Third Reich. The factory manufactured, among others, narrow gauge locomotives and cargo locomotives R44 and R52, road rollers, break devices etc. The customers of the factory financed by the Deutsche Bank in Katowice were mainly German State Railways, the Wehrmaht, the Eastern Railways and the Herman Göring Works in Gliwice and the Bergwerks-Huetten Company from Sosnowiec. Efficient functioning of the factory was very important to the Germans and that is why already in mid-September 1939 all former employees found employment in Fablok and those returning to Chrzanów from evacuation eastwards were given their jobs immediately.

 

In the following years German job centres directed even more workers to work at Fablok. Initially (September 1939) 680 workers and 80 clerks were employed. At the end of the war Fablok employed 3350 persons. The employees were warned by German authorities about the penalties for sabotage against German interests. In the beginning of the war German management of the factory estimated that the employees are not friendly towards the occupiers but they work willingly. Living standards of Polish employees of Fablok had deteriorated drastically when compared to the pre-war period: wages plummeted and food was rationed in quantity of 25-65% smaller than for Germans. Already in November 1939 the first strike was organized at Fablok. Only thanks to mediation of the Austrian manager, Guido De la Cerda (pre-war vice-manager), who was sympathetic to his Polish workers, the strikers avoided brutal repressions by the Gestapo. In Fablok existed a branch of the underground White Eagle Organization responsible for miscellaneous forms of sabotage in the factory. Its leader, Henryk Ślubowski, was arrested in 1941 by the Gestapo and murdered at Sosnowiec. A secret radio broadcasting station existed in Fablok. It was detected by the Gestapo in 1941. In the years 1941-1944 the industrial intelligence of the AK (Polish resistance, the Home Army) which operated in the factory was sending to London intelligence on German production even including blueprints of locomotives. In 1944 in face of the nearing Soviet offensive Germans started to dispatch to Kassel some of the factory equipment. Several employees of the factory were deported to Germany, too.

 

 

OD 1945

Right after the end of German occupation, in February 1945, Fablok has manufactured its first steam locomotive for the Polish State Railways in Cracow, the Ty 42. In the beginning wages were not paid to the employees, who instead received the UNRRA food parcels. In 1945 a 3-year Mechanical School was opened by the factory. It was to educate the future employees. In June 1947 the factory which had been under provisional state management was nationalized and became state property. As if this was not enough in 1951 the factory was named after the bloody chief of the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka, Felix Edmundovich Dzierzhynskyy, who had blood and suffering of thousands of innocent people on his hands. The name of the factory was thus changed to: The Felix Dzierżyński Locomotive Factory. In the years 1945-1963 Fablok manufactured, among others, almost 3600 locomotives exported to: Albania, Bulgaria, China, Hungary, India, Korea, Rumania, Vietnam, USSR and Yugoslavia. In 1956 the factory received its own Culture House with the Fablok cinema. In 1959 the factory celebrated its 35th anniversary and completion of the 5000th locomotive. In the years 1948-1993 Fablok manufactured over 5400 Diesel locomotives, and in 1962 manufacturing of tram gears was initiated. In 1963 Fablok finally concluded manufacturing of steam locomotives.

 

In the years 1973-1975 the factory produced 37 engines for Morocco and in 1974 it celebrated the 50th anniversary of locomotive manufacturing. In the 1970s gradual shift in manufacturing profile was introduced: apart from Diesel engines Fablok was manufacturing increasing number of other equipment, e.g.: building machines, drilling platforms, mechanical shovels, crane under-carriages etc. In connection with changing production profile in 1977 a new name of the factory was adopted: The Building Machine and Locomotive Factory BUMAR-FABLOK. In 1980 the factory was awarded a gold medal on the 52nd International Fair in Poznań for its crane Hydros T-253, and four years later the factory celebrated the 60th anniversary of manufacturing. In 1991 Bumar-Fablok was transformed into a company of the state treasury. Since 1990 the factory has produced transport platforms of carrying capacity up to 10 tonnes and also steel constructions for German companies and road cranes. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of railways in Poland in 1995 in Warsaw three Fablok locomotives were exhibited: an express Pm 36 locomotive, the Ok 22 and the Ty 45. In 2009 the original name of the factory was restored: The First Locomotive Factory in Poland "Fablok" JSC. In May 2003 a Court in Cracow declared bankruptcy of the company. The event started liquidation procedures before the dissolution of the factory which has existed for almost a century.

 

Postmarks from

Chrzanów, 19th c.

Chrzanów postmarks

from the interwar period

German occupation postmarks

with two name versions of the city:

CHRZANOW (to 1941)

and KRENAU (1941-45)

Chrzanów postmarks 1945-1989

CHRZANÓW AND CHRZANÓW COUNTRY IN PHILATELY

 

CHRZANOVIANA IN PHILATELY TO 1945

The first postage stamps which appeared in Chrzanów Country were naturally Austrian ones. They remained in use from 1850 to 1919 and even slightly longer as in January 1919 a whole set of Austrian stamps was overprinted for use in Galicia. With an overprint reading "Polish Post" they remained in circulation in Polish Galicia until 1920, when a new currency, the Polish Mark, was introduced in Galicia alongside with Polish postage stamps. Neither the Austrian, nor the Polish postal services of the interwar period paid any attention to Chrzanów and Chrzanów County. But this can be forgiven easily as in those times many fewer stamps than nowadays were issued and the topics for the stamps were chosen exceptionally conservatively, focusing mainly on stamps bearing likenesses of sovereigns and views of the biggest cities of the country. The situation did not change much during the German occupation in the Second World War (1939-1945). The County of Chrzanów was divided between the German Reich, where German stamps were in use, and the Generalgovernment of Poland, where special stamps issued by German occupation authorities were in use. The situation started to change after 1945 following the re-introduction of Polish stamps.

 

With years more and more stamps were issued, and although the Polish Post never indulged Chrzanów and Chrzanów County, the former century yielded a crop of 20 stamps on Chrzanów and Chrzanów County. The oldest stamp in the history of philately dealing with Chrzanów, however, is a 30 groschen stamp of Austria issued in 1935. The stamp features a portrait of Archduke Karl Ludwig von Habsburg, who inherited Chrzanów estate in 1822 following the death of his adoptive father, Duke Albert Casimir of Saxony and Cieszyn.

 

In 1939 Bulgaria issued a set of stamps to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bulgarian railways (1938). The set included two stamps dealing with locomotives produced in Fablok. A 2 leva stamp featured a Fablok locomotive manufactured in 1930 for the Bulgarian Railways, while a 7 leva stamp featured King Boris III of Bulgaria (reigned 1918-1943 and was the father of the last king of Bulgaria, Symeon II, who was Bulgaria's Prime Minister, 2001-2005) known for his passion of driving the Fablok-made - but not those only - locomotives. The stamp featured the king of Bulgaria in a Fablok locomotive manufactured in Chrzanów. Polish weekly The Rola nr 29/1939 informed its readers about the event:

 

A Polish locomotive in a Bulgarian post stamp. Bulgaria has issued a new post stamp celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Bulgarian Railways. The stamp features a Polish 1-D-1 locomotive, one of those delivered to the Bulgarian Railways by the First Locomotive Factory in Poland.

 

 

 

1945-1989

In 1948 an 18 złoty stamp was issued to mark the European Timetable Conference in Cracow (who would have thought that such matters were decided by conferences!). It featured the Pm-36 locomotive manufactured in the 1930s in Fablok-Works in Chrzanów.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1952 a 3-stamp set was issued to commemorate the construction of a power station in Jaworzno near Chrzanów (45+15 gr, 1 zł., 1.50 zł.).

 

In 1953 the Indian Post issued a stamp commemorating the centenary of Indian railways. The stamp is featuring the broad-gauge 1WP locomotive manufactured by Fablok-Works in Chrzanów. Thirty such locomotives were made in Chrzanów for the Indian government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1970s it was Chrzanów's turn, as stamps issued then concerned the best known company operating in Chrzanów and its product - the First Locomotive Factory in Poland Fablok. In 1976 a 4.90 zł. stamp was issued. It featured the Ok-22 locomotive manufactured in Fablok-Works in Chrzanów.

 

Two years later, in 1978, Chrzanów was distinguished with three further stamps. The first of these, the 1 zł. stamp, features one of the miracles of Fablok engineering and aesthetics, the superbly handsome Pm-36 locomotive in her streamlined, futuristic shape, typical of the art déco and the 1930s in particular. This dashing engine in her aerodynamic version won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1937 for her breath-taking design. Another stamp, the 1.50 zł., features the electric engine EL 100 manufactured by Fablok in 1935-36 using the licence of Metropolitan-Vickers. The third stamp, the 5 zł., features the façade of Fablok-Works in Chrzanów and the Ty-21 engine, quite charming, too. It was manufactured in Fablok.

 

 

SINCE 1990

A 60 gr. stamp issued in 1995 featured the famous 1930s train, the Lux-torpedo, which, too, was manufactured in Fablok-Works in Chrzanów. Lux-torpedoes serviced mainly the Warsaw-Cracow-Zakopane line and were the object of particular pride of Polish citizens prior to the Second World War. Those who had lived their young years in the 1930s recalled Lux-torpedoes with affection for many, many years after the war ended.

 

In 1999 the Polish Post issued a stamp featuring a bas-relief of Our Lady of Kozielsk from the Church of St Andrew Bobola in London. The artist is a sculptor born in Trzebinia near Chrzanów, Mr Tadeusz Adam Zieliński (1907-1993), who created his masterpiece clandestinately when imprisoned in a Soviet POW's camp at Kozielsk during the Second World War.

The 21st century greeted us with a couple of small monuments commemorating Fablok-Works in Chrzanów in shape of postage stamps. In 2001 a 1 zł. stamp was issued to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Polish State Railways (PKP) featuring the Tr-21 locomotive manufactured in Chrzanów prior to the Second World War.

 

The Post of an African state of Guinea issued in 2001 a set of stamps featuring the world's historic locomotives. The 950 franc stamp features the Ol-49 locomotive manufactured in Fablok-Works in Chrzanów in the 1950s.

 

The 2002 was exceptional because the Polish Post issued as many as three stamps having Chrzanów County as the subject. In the Historic locomotives set two engines manufactured in Fablok-Works in Chrzanów were shown: the Ol49-7 person locomotive (1.10 zł.) and one more time the Pm-36 but in its standard version (2 zł.).

 

Another stamp about Chrzanów County is the 1.10 zł. featuring the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the church of the same name in Jaworzno.

 

In 2005 the Polish Post issued a personalised stamp in the series I love you (1,30 zł.). The tab of the stamp designed by Mariusz Paździora commemorates the Birth centenary of Piotr Baliś II (1905-1988) coming from a well-known Chrzanovian family, the Balises. The tab features a likeness of Piotr Baliś II from the 1930s and an ancient coat-of-arms of Chrzanów featuring St Nicholas. It is the first stamp of its kind referring to Chrzanów.

Modern postmarks

In 2009 the Polish Post issued another personalised stamp referring to Chrzanów (1,30 zł. from the set Polish embroidery). The tab of the stamp designed by Mariusz Paździora commemorates the centenary of the birth of Maria Baliś née Listwan (1911-1989) who was married to Piotr Baliś II of Chrzanów. The tab features a likeness of Maria Baliś from 1938 and the coat-of-arms of Chrzanów.

 

Maria Baliś née Listwan was born in 1911 in Sucha to a townsman's family. She was orphaned early: her mother Helena died in a tragic accident in Chicago, Illinois (USA) in 1914, and her father Teofil passed away in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. She was brought up by her aunt Józefa Cholewa. In 1938 in Sucha Maria married Piotr Baliś II of Chrzanów. At that time, the Cabans (the natives of Chrzanów) were divided into two categories: krzaki ("the bushes", i.e. those who were born in Chrzanów) and ptaki ("the birds", i.e. those who did not originate from Chrzanów but became members of the Caban families by the virtue of marriage. Maria Baliś belonged to the latter category. She was a woman of sacrifice and great personal courage. During the Second World War the aunt who had brought her up, Józefa Cholewa, was deported by the Germans to a hard labour camp at Lauban in Lower Silesia (now Lubań). This occurred when the Polish villages around Sucha were ethnically cleansed of their Polish inhabitants to make room for German settlers. Maria Baliś disregarding all perils she had been exposed to, did her utmost to have her aunt released from the concentration camp with help from a German family she knew. She also offered assistance to the remaining members of her family deported by the Nazis to a forced labour camp at Marklissa (now Leśna in Lower Silesia).

In 2009 the Austrian Post issued a miniature sheet commemorating the bicentenary of the Austrian victory over Napoleon's army at the Battle of Aspern and Essling. The author of the Austrian triumph was Archduke Karl Ludwig von Habsburg (1771-1847), who later inherited Chrzanów estate (in 1822). The souvenir sheet (€1.10) features an equestrian portrait of the Archuke.

Arranging layers of the pieczone in a cast iron pot (photo courtesy of Mr Béla Incze)

The ingredients are to be arranged in layers.

The contents are to be covered with cabbage leaves

TRADITIONAL HISTORICAL CHRZANOVIAN CUISINE

 

Chrzanów has its own exceptional and particularly tasty dish which can - with its flavour and incredible taste - win anyone. It is of course the pieczone (a baked potato dish). The pieczone is a traditional Chrzanovian dish until recently hardly known outside Chrzanów and the region. To the ancient residents of the town the pieczone has always been the most natural thing to eat like the pizza is to the Italians or the carp to most Poles (including the Chrzanovians) for the Christmas Eve dinner. The pieczone comes from the Cabans of Chrzanów, descendants of an extraneous population who settled down in Chrzanów during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. The Cabans were subsidiaries of Mongol troops serving simply as herders taking care of herds of cattle feeding the Mongol armies invading Mediaeval Europe from the East. Following the sudden death of the Mongol khan and speedy withdrawal of huge invading armies from Poland, the Cabans who had been unable to follow the pace of events - in confusion - were left behind to their own devices. Suddenly from simple herders they grew to owners of a huge capital at the time: the herds of cattle. One can simplify and say that the Cabans had turned out the "new rich" overnight and became a local elite. The best known Cabans in recent times -to mention a few- were the families of: Baliś-Balisiński (Jacenty Baliś-Balisiński was an 18th c. assessor, Jan and Leon Baliś were Piłsudski's legionnaires and Piotr Baliś II defended the City of Lwów during the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939); Oczkowski (Jan Oczkowski was the Mayor of Chrzanów in the late 19th c. and supplied arms and materiel to the insurgents fighting the Russians in the Kingdom of Poland 1863-64); Buliński, Bytomski, Dulowski, Palka, Starzycki or Wartalski.

 

THE PIECZONE

(also known as the cabańskie baked potato dish)

Served by Mrs Lucyna Paździora née Baliś of Chrzanów, of the ancient Caban family, the Baliśes.

 

The ingredients

Depending on the number of persons about 1 kg of raw product should be prepared per person (i.e. 5 kg for 5 persons):

c. 0,6 kg of peeled potatoes,

c. 0,1 kg of smoked and fat bacon,

c. 0,1 kg of sausage,

one big onion,

c. 0,1 kg of carrots,

a lot of parsley leaves,

one medium sized beetroot

(beetroot is used only to colour and flavour the dish, it is rather not supposed to be eaten),

2-3 cabbage leaves,

salt and pepper.

 

The enamelled interior of a cast iron pot should be covered with slices of bacon to protect the ingredients from burning. The bottom of the pot shout be covered with a rind of bacon or pork fat. After this we fill up the pot with layers of thickly sliced or diced potatoes, sausage, onion, carrots, beetroot, lots of parsley leaves with salt and pepper added. A chicken or rabbit's thigh can be put inside, too but this is not required. We finish up by a layer of potatoes and beetroot covered tightly with 2-3 cabbage leaves. Then we cover the pot with aluminium foil extended outside the pot. On it we put a lid and press it tightly with a piece of turf cut from grass. It is supposed to be placed upside down to avoid the soil getting into the pot. Its function is to press the lid down and to prevent the steam produced during baking to get out of the pot.

 

The pot prepared in such a way should be placed on a pair of bricks and a fire should be lit around it. The baking process should last around 1 hour and 10 minutes. The aromatic smell coming from the pot is usually a good sign that the dish is ready to eat. Baking the pieczone in such a way requires some skill to avoid burning or undercooking it. In the beginning a stronger fire should be lit, later it should be weakened to maintain a constant baking temperature. After baking is over we carefully remove the pot from the fire, then the turf, the lid and the foil (make sure that the soil from the turf does not get inside the pot). Use a fork to try whether the potatoes on the top are soft. If they are, we pour the contents into a big pan and serve it on plates. The pieczone is best savoured when served in the open air on a sunny day.

 

 

The pot of the pieczone is ready for baking. Baking of the pieczone

The baking is finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pouring the contents off the pot

The dish is ready

A document of 22nd May 1793 signed by Jacenty Baliś.

The PAU Library, Cracow

 

 

 

 

 

To the Fine Confederation of Cracow Province. Most Honourable and Kind Lords We hereby signed Citizens of the Town of Chrzanów, the Catholics, as well as the Jews, having here a detachment of the National Cavalry consisting of 40 troops, we have to feed them on 6 Polish zloties per month, i.e. 6 groszy per day per a soldier, as well as provide 12 horses and carts, guards, people to cut the chaff, light in five places, collect fire wood and moss in the woods for the horses. And all this for free. We kindly ask good graces of your Most Honourable Lords for justice and guarantee in writing whether it is our duty to feed a single soldier for 6 groszy per day and giving horses and carts and light as mentioned earlier. Moreover, today, with no apparent reason, the commander had summoned the town government after which they were thrown into a dungeon. Another Mayor returning from the Castle was chased like a dog and [the troops are] not treating these people like human beings, forcing them to drink liquids which are contrary to the human nature and which, if not death, will certainly bring grave illness upon them. Written in the Town of Chrzanów on 22nd day of May in the Year 1793 Wawrzyniec Oczkowski Bailiff of Chrzanów, manu propria Sebastyan Wartalski Mayor of Chrzanów, manu propria Jan Oczkowski Mayor of Chrzanów, manu propria Jacenty Baliś Town Councillor Marcin Kieres Town Councillor Tomasz Piekowski Town Penman of Chrzanów, manu propria

A register of realty owners written in the period of the Free City of Cracow (1825) mentions three branches of the Baliś-Balisiński family from one of which came the earlier mentioned Jacenty, town councillor and owner of a house at Market Sq., who passed away during a cholera epidemic in the summer of 1831. One of his sons, Jan Baliś-Balisiński (1803-1872) inherited the Baliś House at Market Sq. In 1872 when he passed away the house was inherited by his son Kazimierz Baliś-Balisiński (1831-1905). He was married thrice and left numerous issue. His recently rebuilt tomb is still to be found in the old quarter of Chrzanów's parish cemetery. It is noteworthy that some of his descendants continued to use the name Baliś, while others changed it to Balisiński dropping the somewhat longish Baliś-Balisiński form. The final stabilization of spelling, which is corroborated in documents, came in the 1940s when freedom of spelling the family name (Baliś or Balisz) was replaced by the Baliś form. However, some members of the family inclined to the Balisz form, decided to choose that one and such a name is still present among Chrzanów's residents. As it seems Kazimierz Baliś was not lucky in business, and his debts became a serious challenge and further burdened his mortgaged house.

 

Piotr Baliś I was one of children of Kazimierz Baliś and his second wife Agnieszka. He was born in 1872 in Chrzanów and although he had inherited his father's house at Market Sq., he was forced to sell it due to the financial disaster the family found themselves in. The Baliś House passed in 1906 to relatives of Piotr Baliś I, the Oczkowskis, while he had to move with his family to another house built in 1877 at Oświęcimska St (it was demolished a few years ago). For the next century the house became a new home for the Baliśes. Apart from this Piotr Baliś I showed his initiative by finding a position with the railways, specifically he was employed by the Imperial and Royal Northern Privileged Emperor Ferdinand Railway (Cracow-Vienna). In those days railways were still a relatively new invention of human ingenuity and the employees were usually well paid. Apart from that the entire family could take advantage of free railway tickets, a very generous privilege bestowed upon all railway employees by His Majesty the Emperor and King Francis Joseph I. Spacious felix Austria, stretching from the Vistula in the North towards the warm coast of the Adriatic in Dalmatia in the South, and from sapphire blue waters of Lake Constance in the West towards snowy ridges of the Carpathians in Transylvania in the East did not appeal enough to any of His Majesty's privileged Baliśes to cross it with no particular purpose. If you think, however, that the Baliśes did not use their privilege of free travel by the Imperial and Royal Railways, you are quite wrong. The Baliśes, like their crowned benefactor from the Hofburg Palace, were practical people and travelled when needed. So they travelled on business in Galicia and in Austrian Silesia, where in Karwina another branch of the Baliś family had been established by Piotr's nephew, Tomasz (1883-1940). Farther passages did not appeal to the Baliśes much, apart from Andrzej, Juliusz and Kazimierz who shortly before the outbreak of the Great War went to America, although there they were unable to profit from His Majesty's free railway tickets. The Baliśes maintained communication with Vienna mostly via mail, although it is not impossible that they also got there by train, once or twice, thanks to the imperial privilege they had enjoyed. From those days are preserved interesting documents coming from Piotr Baliś I's archives, bearing dashing signatures of Viennese managers of the Northern Railways, usually on account of the addressee's pay raise and promotions.

The Baliś House at 2, Market Sq. (2nd from the left).

This house had been the property of the Balises from

at least the late 18th c. until 1906.

(a 1950s photograph by H. Hermanowicz)

 

 

THE BALIŚ FAMILY

 

THE BALIŚ-BALISIŃSKI FAMILY - IN GENERAL.

The Baliś-Balisiński family was one the prominent Chrzanovian families, one of the Caban [pronounced as tsaban] families, i.e. families who settled down in Chrzanów and its vicinity — according to local oral tradition —  during the Tartar invasions of the 13th century. The family had been mentioned in several preserved documents from 18th to 20th c. which are kept in miscellaneous archive collections across Southern Poland and abroad. The oldest reference, known so far, is the one making a mention of a Grzegorz (Gregory) Baliś, son of Michał (Michael) from 1719 in Chrzanów Shoemakers' Guild Register. Another member of the family was Wojciech (c. 1728-1790), who had been buried in a vault under St Nicholas's Church in Chrzanów. It is easy to find references about this family (alternative spelling Balisz-Baliszewski was used, too) in the well-known work by Jan Pęckowski from 1934: Chrzanów miasto powiatowe w województwie krakowskiem and in the modern monograph on Chrzanów published in 1998/99. Pęckowski quotes the preserved register of Chrzanów's citizens from 1701-1800, in which is mentioned the name of one of the first members of the family we are fortunate to have written accounts about. It is Jacenty Baliś, son of Wojciech, serving in the 18th c. as town councillor in Chrzanów's Town Hall. The library of the Polish Academy of Learning (PAU) in Cracow safeguards an original document issued in May 1793 in Chrzanów and signed, among others, by Jacenty Baliś. It was a protestation of the Town Council against violence unleashed in the town by a detachment of the National Cavalry, whose soldiers were much more eager to fight weaponless burghers than the Prussian and Russian troops looting the region:

PIOTR BALIŚ I AND THE IMPERIAL AND ROYAL ARMY

 

Piotr Baliś I's position not only earned a living for his family of eight and gave free train travel, but what was even more important, it exempted him from military service. How important that was would become apparent in the summer of 1914 following the fatal shooting at Sarajevo. When the walls of Chrzanów were plastered with posters containing the famous proclamation of the old emperor to his nations, Piotr Baliś I could be at ease about himself and his family: he himself would not be drafted and his boys were much too young to be. So he spent the war at home directing military trains passing Chrzanów to and fro. The only thing which could bother the family was an ongoing Russian offensive directly towards Cracow. This was, however, repulsed soon and both Chrzanów and Cracow were spared from Russian occupation. The black-and-yellow flags could freely fly above both cities for another four years. Not all Baliśes and their relatives held such privileged positions in imperial and royal service as Piotr Baliś I, and therefore had to actively contribute to defence of the imperial and royal fatherland. The most common way of giving one's contribution was by means of military service at one of the 3 fronts where the imperial and royal army was waging the war. A postcard addressed to Piotr Baliś I has been preserved from the times of the Great War. It was despatched by a nephew of his, Wincenty Dulowski, who was 24 at the time, and read:

 

Mureck, 26th December, 1914.

May Jesus Christ be praised.

Dear Uncle,

First of all I would like to thank you for your postcard. I am, thank God, healthy and I manage quite well in the military. To serve in the army, or to lead a civilian life does not make much difference to me, except that I miss terribly my Mother and my Wife. We had a very good Christmas Eve dinner served by the citizens of Mureck [now a town on the Austro-Slovenian border]. I have no more to add, so I am sending my best love to you all.

Wicek [Dulowski], Jan Oczkowski, Jan Szarek

Lively letter exchange between the management of the Imperial and Royal Northern Privileged Emperor Ferdinand Railways in Vienna and Piotr Baliś I in Chrzanów took place in 1905.

This letter announced that the addressee had been awarded an allowance of 720 crowns. On a 10-crown revenue stamp

an effigy of His Majesty the Emperor can be seen (ARB)

Wincenty, known as Wicek, had luckily survived the Great War and returned home after it was concluded. He died in 1952, surviving the next world war.

 

It seems that the Baliśes had a liking for the post of town councillor. Like the 18th century Jacenty Baliś-Baliśiński, also Piotr Baliś I held such position in the interwar years of the 20th century. It seems that he was quite active within the local community as he held several other positions: he was judiciary expert in the local court, president of the Apiarian Society, member of the New St Nicholas's Church Construction Committee and even guild master. His wife, Antonina née Oczkowska, like most spouses of the belle époque and the interwar period, concentrated most of her efforts around upbringing of her children and running the house.

 

HENRY VIII'S PROBLEMS VS. PIOTR BALIŚ I'S PROBLEMS

At first putting together the most famous Tudor sovereign and hardly known to anyone a Mr Baliś, seems quite absurd. Contrary to the king of England, Piotr Baliś I had no problems, whatsoever, securing his male succession in the Baliś family. Many kings could envy his numerous, healthy and handsome sons who were given to him by his wife, one after another: Jan (John) in 1898, Andrzej (Andrew) in 1900, Franciszek (Francis) in 1903, Piotr II (Peter) in 1905, Ludwik (Louis) in 1907 and finally, daughter Agnieszka (Agnes) in 1909. But it was clear beforehand that she was not going to transmit the name of Baliś to the next generation, therefore no hopes were ever associated with her. Five healthy sons! Who could ever doubt a bright future for the name of Baliś? Probably no one. Henry VIII must have turned over in his grave in St George's Chapel in Windsor. What a powerful king of England was unable to achieve, a humble railway employee in Chrzanów got so easily!

 

And just here parallels between Piotr Baliś I and Henry VIII start to show: daughters, daughters, daughters... Not a single son of Piotr Baliś I ever produced a son. Disappointment of the father of five sons was bitter. It grew bigger with every news of another granddaughter he got. His disappointment was probably not smaller than similar experiences in this matter, of Henry VIII, older only by over four centuries. When two daughters were born to the youngest son, Ludwik, Piotr Baliś I already knew that an end came upon the name of Baliś in his line in Chrzanów. The waning of the family who had lived in Chrzanów for centuries was the bane of his old age. So he passed away in 1955. He and his wife were buried in Chrzanów's parish cemetery. His daughter Agnieszka (1909-1990) in a way played a joke on him and bore a son in 1937. However, he did not bear the name of Baliś. C'est la vie...

THE FIRST SON

JAN BALIŚ (1898-1965): one daughter.

 

Of Jan Baliś can be said: once a soldier, always a soldier. His military career had begun in 1917 when he, aged 19, joined the Polish Military Organization (POW) and in February 1918 he took active part in organizing a strike in Chrzanów against the resolutions of the infamous Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between the Central Powers and Russia which ceded Polish Chełm province to Ukraine. Jan Baliś took part in removing Austrian flags and other national symbols from public buildings of the town. He was apprehended for this by Austrian gendarmerie but cleared of charges and released largely thanks to a patriotic attitude of the judge who was Polish. It may seem doubtful that His Majesty, who passed away some 16 months earlier (and who had bestowed the privilege of free train travel upon the Baliśes) would have approved of Jan Baliś's behaviour, but this is quite another matter.

 

In 1919 Jan Baliś volunteered to the 1st Division of Piłsudski's Legions and took part in the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920 fighting in an armoured battalion in the Wilno (now Vilnius) and Nowogródek regions and taking part in capture of Kiev. He ended the war reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant. The interwar period was not only an interval between two world wars, it was also a peaceful interval for Jan Baliś. He used the period to wed the dashing Marysia Oczkowska of Chrzanów, to have a new house built in Chrzanów's Grzybowskiego St, to support construction of a national monument, the Piłsudski Mound, in Cracow and to drive the numerous automobiles he was so keen on throughout his entire life. Through his job (he worked as chauffeur of Fablok Works and manager of Fablok automobile repair shop) he had unlimited access to a huge collection of cars owned by Fablok and he used to drive thousands of miles anywhere between Vienna and Warsaw.

 

The blissful interval between the two world wars ended on Friday, 1st September 1939. Sergeant Jan Baliś was drafted by the Polish Army and took part in combat in the area stretching from Chrzanów towards Lwów and then toward the Hungarian border in the Carpathians. Following the Soviet invasion of Poland Jan Baliś and his unit decided to cross the boundary of the Kingdom of Hungary. It happened on 18th September 1939 at 2.30 p.m., as he duly noted in his notebook. In Hungary he was interned at the Tapiógyörgye camp in the central part of the country. He tried to cross the border to get to the Polish units in France but he failed to do so. In the summer of 1940, following the fall of France, when there was no point in trying to go there to fight, he decided to return to German occupied Poland. This was possible through an agreement between the Hungarian government and Germany. After he had  received the permission of his superiors the process of repatriation began. The return was not a direct one. From Tapiógyörgye he was sent to a camp at Sárvár in western Hungary. Then he was sent to the Stallag XVIIA at Kaisersteinbruch in Austria and from there to the Stallag VIIIB at Lamsdorf (Łambinowice). His predicament had been resolved when after overcoming further complications he was released from the camp and allowed to come back home supplied with a document which read:

 

Release certificate.

Baliś Jan from Chrzanów [...] by order of the supreme command of the Wehrmacht and according to the agreement with the Government of Hungary, is hereby released to return home. The above mentioned becomes a civilian at the moment of his release and will be considered an enemy combatant if found in possession of any kind of arms. The above mentioned is obliged to report to the local police following his return home, where a report will be made on account of this document. Leaving the place of permanent residence is not allowed.

Up to down:

Jan Baliś (behind the wheel) during

the Polish-Soviet war, 1920 (ARB)

 

Jan Baliś (1st from the left) with one of his cars.

Trzebinia, mid-1930s (ARB)

 

Jan Baliś, 1939 (ARB)

 

Jan Baliś (far on the left) during the ceremony of handing over of an ambulance purchased by the employees of Fablok Works to the Polish Army. Chrzanów, spring 1939 (ARB)

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Baliś (2nd from the right) in an internment camp for Polish officers at Tapiógyörgye, Hungary, 1940  (ARB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A postcard sent by Jan Baliś from Budapest to his wife Maria in Chrzanów, 1940 with a stamp of German censorship. (ARB)

 

 

The above quoted document made its owner bury his pistol in the garden of his parents at Oświęcimska St. Until then it was quietly gathering dust in a drawer of his writing desk. After the war the pistol was not recovered and it may be that hundreds of years from now archaeologists may unearth this peculiar find from the times of a war which will be as much remembered by future students as the Hundred Years' War is by the present ones. According to the agreement with the Hungarian government Germans were obliged to release all Polish soldiers who wished to be repatriated from Hungary to German occupied Poland. In practice not everyone was released and allowed to come back home. Coming back home to Chrzanów in September 1940 did not prove to be the end of troubles for Jan Baliś. In the spring of 1941 Jan Baliś, his wife and his 15-year old daughter had been evicted from their newly built house which was given over to a Nazi policeman coming from Germany, one Bruno W. And he had no qualms of conscience when taking over a house belonging to someone else. He even appeared earlier to inspect the house and see if it would be suitable for him and his family. After this "inspection" Jan Baliś and his family got a few hours to leave their own house with a few belongings only. For next four years Jan Baliś and his family lived in the overcrowded house belonging to his parents, where other Baliśes expelled from their homes by the Nazis found refuge as well. In January 1945 when Soviet tanks were noisily approaching Chrzanów, German policeman Bruno W. came to hand over to Jan Baliś the keys of his confiscated house and ordered him to take care of the house until the Nazis returned. Faith works wonders but in this case it was rather conceit than faith. The Germans left Chrzanów, the Soviets occupied the town. Jan Baliś got both his house and his job back, and for the next two decades could enjoy his life as much as it was possible in the circumstances.

THE SECOND SON

ANDRZEJ BALIŚ (1900-1985): two daughters.

 

Second son of Piotr Baliś I, called Jędrek by the family, had belonged to the generation who unfortunately spent their best years at the two worst wars of the twentieth century. So did Andrzej Baliś: he participated in two wars. In 1919-1920 he was fighting in the Polish-Soviet war, and in 1939 in the Second World War. Following Poland's collapse he was apprehended by the Germans in the end of September 1939, escaped, but was caught by the Soviets at Krasnystaw in Lublin Province. Fortunately he managed to escape again and return home. His family, like many in Chrzanów, were subjected to eviction from their own house by the Germans. In the beginning of the Second World War Andrzej Baliś's house at Henry Avenue had been confiscated by the German authorities and only after meticulous negotiations was the family of four allowed to stay in a small room on the attic while the entire house was taken over by Germans.

 

Andrzej Baliś's charming wife, Stefania née Oczkowska, was one of the very few victims of German occupation who did not fall from bullets of a firing squad, bombs or other atrocities served by that most cruel war of all wars. She died in the summer of 1944 of tuberculosis she had contracted from a friend she had been nursing earlier. She was a woman of great devotion.

 

Before the war Andrzej Baliś played in the Fablok band and with it he took part in the dedication of the Polish transatlantic ship the M/S Batory in Gdynia in 1936. We can find a reminiscence of him in Maria Ruszkiewicz's book "The Wax Candle" (Woskowa świeca) in the description of the national holiday, 3rd of May, celebrated in Chrzanów before WW2:

 

[...] After leaving the church a cortège is formed to walk through the most beautiful street of Chrzanów, Henry Avenue. The cortège is led by the marching band of the Locomotive Factory. At its rear, next to a drum adorned with flowers, our cousin Andrzej Baliś is playing clash cymbals, the instrument which is most suitable for his indefatigable nature. The quiet town is being filled with the multiplying echo of rhythmic, sharp sound coming from a pair of bronze cymbals [...]

 

Andrzej Baliś (far on the left) with the Fablok Brass Band. Chrzanów 1932 (ARB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stefania and Andrzej Baliś in Gdynia on the occasion of the consecration of the

M/S Batory in 1936  (ARB)

 

 

THE THIRD SON

FRANCISZEK BALIŚ (1903-1963): one daughter.

 

One of the most hilarious anecdotes of the Baliśes is associated with Franciszek Baliś, or Franek. His parents, his mother in particular, opposed his marriage plans to a widow of Trzebinia, five years his senior and with two children. Today such a union would probably not cause any uproar, but in the 1930s such a thing was quite unacceptable to the conservative, bourgeois Baliśes. Franek knew it all too well and in anticipation of his wedding day he decided to make some discreet preparations for the great day. Before he informed his parents of the wedding he had secretly removed all his garments from his parents' house where he lived at the time. Today it may seem strange, but in the 1930s a suitable wardrobe was pricey and indispensable to most anyone. Every day before going to his job inventive Franek put on 2 or 3 shirts, and in such a discreet way he shortly removed most of his wardrobe from his native home at Oświęcimska St.

 

On the very day when he had announced his marriage plans to his parents, his mother was furious and forbade him to marry the widow of Trzebinia. When her protest made no impression on Franek, she tried to prevent him from taking any garments of his. She was standing there in front of Franek's wardrobe preventing him from taking anything from it and said:

"You may perhaps marry anyone you will, but you won't take anything with you!".

Franek simply shrugged his shoulders unflinchingly and left his home heading for Trzebinia. Entirely astonished by her son's behaviour, Mrs Antonina Baliś opened anxiously the doors of her son's huge wardrobe only to find it as empty as the Tabernacle on Good Friday. She refused to participate in Franek's wedding. Franek, however, got what he had wished. After fifteen years Mrs Antonina Baliś finally accepted her son's choice and welcomed Franek and Marysia to Chrzanów in 1945. Franek and his wife spent the rest of their lives at the Baliś House on Oświęcimska St and were its last owners.

 

The certificate of Chrzanów citizenship of Franciszek Baliś, 1934

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Franciszek and Andrzej Baliś on a pilgrimage to Kalwaria, 1934 (ARB)

THE FOURTH SON

PIOTR BALIŚ II (1905-1988): two daughters.

 

Piotr Baliś II is the best proof of the fact that miracles do happen. Seldom, but they do. He himself experienced two miracles within a couple of weeks in 1944. But let us start from the very beginning. In April 1938 Piotr Baliś II married at Sucha Maria née Listwan. The late 1930s in this part of Europe were not the best time to wed. The young couple were to find this out pretty soon, some 16 months later, when they were separated by war for five years. On 1st September 1939 Piotr Baliś II was drafted in by the Polish Army and took part in combat in southern Poland, including the defence of the city of Lwów. On 17th September 1939 his unit was ordered to head for the Polish-Romanian border but the following day it was surrounded by invading Soviet troops on a road towards Zaleszczyki, at Brzeżany in Tarnopol Province, where Polish Marshal Rydz-Śmigły had been born. The Marshal was already safe in Romania. Piotr Baliś II was deported to a camp in the USSR (Starobielsk in Ukraine). After 3 weeks he was sent to Soviet-German demarcation line on the Bug River and handed over to Germans. In Germany he was imprisoned in Stalag XIIIA at Sulzbach in Bavaria and later in Schleswig-Holstein at Stakendorf near Kiel.

 

PIOTR BALIŚ II VS. GERMAN AGRICULTURE

Today German agriculture relies, among other things, on the system of agricultural subsidies from the EU. In the 1940s the EU did not exist and Hitler did not intend to subsidize anything. So he decided to revive the oldest method known to mankind at generating profits with contributing absolutely no costs - the slavery. Millions of people from all of Europe, POWs and civilians alike, were sent to Germany as forced labour, creating an army of slaves, which was forced to work for Germany for free. Following his internment at a stalag, Piotr Baliś II was made a forced labourer, one of many. He had to work at a Christian B.'s farm in Stakendorf. The life on the farm had been a hell until the son of the owner was drafted in. The owner's son specialized at tormenting Polish POWs working on his father's farm both psychologically and physically. He was, however, sent to the Eastern Front with good chances of remaining over there forever.

 

THE FISH SWALLOWS A GUDGEON

The fish is a clear euphemism in this instance. Actually we are referring to a shark here as we are going to deal with the Gestapo. Piotr Baliś II knew all too well that he couldn't even dream of fleeing Germany in a Polish uniform, with no money, no documents, not even being able to speak German. So he decided to make a fool of the Nazis and to flee Germany cleverly with the help of the Germans themselves. He had known that Germany needed more labourers to support the country's war economy, therefore he applied to the authorities to get permission to visit his wife in Chrzanów in order to convince her to go to Germany to work. His applications were rejected one after another for almost three years, but as the situation worsened the Germans became more desperate to find more foreign labourers to take up residence in Germany. In March 1944 his perseverance was finally rewarded: he was allowed a short visit to Chrzanów in order to bring back his wife and daughter who had been born in 1940 and whom he was about to meet for the first time. Leaving Germany he was prepared to do anything to never return again. As it happened, it was one of the few smartly planned and successful escapes from German captivity, although two miracles were needed to make the whole affair successful.

 

TWO MIRACLES RUNNING

Piotr Baliś II arrived in Chrzanów in March 1944 and decided to hide from the Gestapo. The train he was supposed to take back to Germany was hit by RAF bombs on its way through Lower Silesia, which might have convinced the German authorities that he might have died during the air-raid and his body was never found. During the day Piotr Baliś II used to hide away in a barn standing at the rear of his parents' house at Oświęcimska St. He used to leave his hiding place after dark, sneaking into the house where he spent the nights. Somebody might have recognized him, however, and informed the Gestapo. A night raid at the Baliś house carried out by the Gestapo a couple of weeks after his "disappearance" was such a huge surprise to the entire family, that Piotr Baliś II did not manage to leave the house on time. There was a huge wardrobe standing in his sleeping-room, with double doors and a spacious drawer underneath. The only thing which one could do in such a hopeless situation was to jump into the spacious wardrobe. And so did Piotr Baliś II. And here the first miracle occurred: the Gestapo had been thoroughly and systematically turning the entire house upside down, and one of the officers even opened the huge drawer of the wardrobe Piotr was hiding in, but none of them ever opened the wardrobe itself, which was the most obvious thing to do! One of the Gestapo officers even tried to bribe Piotr's 4-year old daughter with a candy to find out whether daddy was at home, but in vain. This quite incredible story really did happen and it is hard to categorize it as anything other than a miracle. Immediately after Gestapo's razzia the family decided that Piotr Baliś II must vanish from Chrzanów. The town was too small and too well controlled by the Germans and hiding there was not safe. It was decided that Piotr Baliś II would go to Tarnawa Dolna (some 50 kms/30 miles away from Chrzanów) where his wife had a house. He had to walk all the way through forests, at night only, as he was wanted and had to avoid Germans at all costs. It took him a couple of nights to reach Tarnawa near Sucha. The village was concealed in the Beskidy Mountains and it seemed a perfect hiding for the rest of the war. But here, too, the Gestapo paid a visit by night after finding out that Piotr's wife had a house there. Aided by the local Volksdeutsche, the Gestapo surrounded the house in Tarnawa on a cold night in the early spring. They burst inside and started searching the house. Piotr Baliś II managed to escape to the attic but Gestapo officers  followed him. Surprised, he jumped out through a small attic window overlooking back yard of the house, right down in front of one of the local Volksdeutsch guarding the rear of the house. And here another miracle occurred: the man, instead of alarming the Gestapo, said to Piotr in Polish: "Run to the forest!" Piotr Baliś II spent three days and nights in the nearby woods in his underwear only, with no food and temperatures dropping below freezing point at the time in this mountainous area. His wife, Maria, who stayed in the house, was afraid that it was under the Gestapo's surveillance, and she did not dare go to the woods to supply Piotr with food and clothing. It seems, however, that the Gestapo gave up on tracing him. Two night raids which yielded no result probably convinced the Germans that he had fallen victim of a RAF bomb on his way back to Germany, despite his missing corpse...

Upper picture:

Piotr Baliś II with his wife Maria, 1938 (ARB)

 

Piotr Baliś II at Zaolzie (standing 2nd from the right),

1938 (ARB)

Piotr Baliś II (marked with a red dot) as POW in Germany (c. 1940).

 

 

The Medal "For Participation in the Defence War 1939",

bestowed on Piotr Baliś II in the 1980s (ARB)

Ludwik Baliś (seated) during his military service at the 2nd Armoured Train Unit in Niepołomice

c. 1931.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ludwik Baliś with his wife Marysia. Sucha, summer 1939 (ARB)

 

THE FIFTH SON

LUDWIK BALIŚ (1907-1979): two daughters.

 

The youngest of Piotr Baliś I's sons. He was an engineer and, until 1939, assistant lecturer at the Silesian Scientific Institute in Katowice, of which he was also a graduate. Who could have guessed that his honeymoon after his wedding to the dashing Marysia Boryczkówna in the summer of 1939 would be so short! Everyone talked of war but everyone hoped it would not materialize. And everyone was wrong. Soon after the wedding Ludwik was drafted into the Polish Army and saw combat in an armoured division fighting in southern Poland. He was captured by invading Soviet troops and put into a POW transport destined for camps in Russia. Fortunately he managed to flee before the train crossed the Polish-Soviet boundary and walking by night, hiding by day in tree tops, he managed to bypass both German and Soviet troops and came back home after a couple of weeks. At home he learnt that his wife and his parents-in-law had fled advancing German troops and had been at Podhajce in Soviet occupied Poland.

 

Marysia and her parents managed in the autumn 1939 to return by the way of the infamous bridge over the San at Przemyśl (Soviet-German boundary crossing point after conquest of Poland), although they had to queue for it for two days in the enormous crowds of refugees trying to flee the Soviet occupation. The remaining years of the Second World War Ludwik spent at the house of his parents-in-law at Nowy Targ where he worked for a power plant. He got his old job in Katowice in 1945. He was decorated with the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Silver Cross of Merit.

 

After the Second World War, at the peak years of Stalin's terror, Ludwik Baliś was accused - without reason - of anti-Soviet sabotage, arrested and tortured. In such a way the communists expressed their gratitude for the many years of his thorough scientific work. Later he was cleared and released, but he never received an official apology for his ordeal from the communist government. Well, Soviet-style manners...