We all have some kind of love story; whether it was our first love, the one that broke our heart or the one that we are with and can’t imagine our life without. Whether it’s painful, short, long or beautiful we all have some kind of story to tell.
With Valentine’s day approaching is hard not to think about love….well everything is screaming at you LOVE! It sometimes feels like we are being force-fed LOVE, but it is easy to see why……..love is amazing!!
I want to tell you the most amazing love story I know. The story of my Great- Grandparents……..
My great-grandma Janina was the only child of wealthy aristocrat, who owned a beautiful manor house and large land on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland. Her Mother died when she was just a little girl. On her death bed she asked her sister to look after Janina. Few months later her father married his late wife’s sister.
My great-grandpa Dominic was a very charismatic and handsome stable boy at the manor house. From poor background, large and loving family.
I know what you must think….typical story of rich and poor. Well in a way you are right, but please read on……..As is was customary in those days; Janina’s husband was already chosen for her, a man she did not care for and strongly refused to be betrothed to him. She was far too taken with Dominic to care for any other man.
She used to make any excuse to go to the stables to see and talk to Dominic; he brought wild flowers for her from the nearby fields. They were spending more and more time together a fact that did not go unnoticed by my great-great-grandfather. One day he caught them kissing and it all came to an end. Dominic was thrown out and Janina forbidden to ever see him again, but wild horses cannot keep two lovers away, and they met up in secret, sneaking kisses and love poems.
As the months went by their love grew stronger and just seeing each other now and then was not enough. Janina new that if her father ever find out about their secret meet ups it would be the end of her, so they decided to run away. She left a letter to her father pleading to understand and accept with address of Dominic’s family where she would be staying and with a heavy heart and little suitcase she left her home never to return.
Janina waited with hope for her father to change his mind, wrote letters to him pleading tirelessly, but the only letter she ever received from him was to state she was no longer his daughter, forbidden to ever enter his home and had no claim to his fortune. Still she kept writing and hoping.
In time they married, had a daughter Balbina, three years later another Jozefa (my grandma) and four more children followed. They were very happy together, Dominic kept bringing wild flowers, they were totally devoted to each other. Money was very tight, Janina home schooled their and neighbours children to earn money, while Dominic work anywhere he could.
Janina gave birth to one more child, little girl who died a year later. My grandma and her sisters always described their sister as ‘The Little Angel of Death’ as she was alabaster white, jet black hair, black eyes and never cried. Maybe a tragic omen of the bad times to come, as morbid as it sounds, you do have to take into account how superstitious people were in those days.
Their happy home was shattered with the start of Second World War, which had a devastating effect on Warsaw. Janina tried one more time to plead to her father, but still got the same answer. Eventually her father’s house and land was taken over by German soldiers, where they were staying and destroying everything in sight.
Janina, Dominic and their 6 children were living in one bedroom apartment, Dominic trying to fight against the Germans with the underground army. He was captured twice and tortured horrendously. First as a warning, or so my grandmother believed, her little brother Bolek ran after the car shouting ‘please give back my dad’. When Dominic was released he was unrecognisable, beaten black and blue with broken legs, arms and ribs. The second time he was captured because someone snitch him up for hiding guns for the Polish resistance, so badly beaten he had no skin on his back, his wounds so deep you could see the bone. He couldn’t move for months, but he recovered and his fighting spirit never faded. While Dominic was recovering Janina received news of her father’s and stepmother’s death, both executed by Nazis.
With situation in Warsaw critical they decided to pack up what was left of their belongings and relocate somewhere safer, they headed north. Just as the war ended they settled in a little village Zagorze, belonging to the island Wolin and there they started rebuilding their lives and war destroyed Poland.
5 years later during a bitter winter, Dominic was coming back from work along the Szczecinski Lagoon part of the river Dziwna, when he saw a man drowning, he jumped in to save the man and although he managed to save him, he got trapped under ice and drowned, he was only 49.
My great –grandfather survived the death of his child, the war, two captures by the Nazis, fighting with the underground army, and wrath of an angry father. He was an amazing father and loving husband, always helping anyone who was in need and that is just the way he died, helping someone. He was the man whose spirit could never be broken. My great-grandfather is my hero.
My great-grandmother remained devoted to him, never remarried, never even kissed another man until the day she died at the age of 91. She has given up everything, her wealth, privilege, father and family for the man she loved. In return he gave her his undivided love, 6 beautiful children and treasured memories. She was an amazingly determined and strong woman.
Unfortunately I do not have a picture of my great-grandparents, but here’s a picture of my grandma Jozefa and granddad Stanislaw on their wedding day. They got married 3 years after my Great-granddad passed away.