Polish Food: Memories in
Deportation and Exile
Monica Janowski
School of Oriental and African
Studies, University of London
‘We are sort of displaced people And I was brought here, but to me
Poland it is my country… To us that country’s precious....
Osadniki of the 1920s -
peasant settlers building
Poland in the eastern
borderlands
Group of military settlers
Church on a...
‘Leaving Home’ - painting
by Alicja Edwards. Used to
illustrate her book ‘And
God Was our Witness’.
Deportations of
Poles ...
Food as portal to memories: Kaz and his mum
share holy bread and stories
QuickTime™ and a
H.264 decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Poles on kolkhoz in Kazakhstan, 1941
Destinations East: Siberia, Kazakhstan
and beyond the Urals
Aniela Polnik, born
1937.
Jadzia Osostowicz, born
1925.
Danuta Gradosielska,
born 1925.
Regina Dyszynska, born
1932.
Irena...
‘I remember Christmas
and Christmas tree and
my mother frying fish.
And that’s all I
remember.’ (laughs)
(Regina D.)
‘On w...
Growing your own:
peasant pioneers’ food
‘.. it was fresh and
healthy, because was
everything fresh and made at
home, no a...
QuickTime™ and a
H.264 decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
March 2013: Visit to Horniman
Danuta Gradosielska,
Aniela Polnik and Bolek
Polnik
QuickTime™ and a
H.264 decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Home in Poland: parental
roles and order
‘..(in the kitchen) my
mother was definitely
the mastermind… (Jadzia
O.)
‘…my fat...
Women,
food and
family
The obiad meal: ritual
of family togetherness
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and...
Chleb (bread): central
to all meals
Dairy foods and health
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are nee...
Sweet food and hospitality
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are...
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture...
Polish national foods?
Byelorussian
pierogi
Ukrainian potato pancakes
Nevertheless strongly
associated with a Polish home
...
‘Hunger’ - painting by
Alicja Edwards, used to
illustrate her book
‘And God Was our
Witness’
‘I dreamt about bread every n...
‘Those ones from town, they maybe were clever, but they
just didn’t know anything, anything… they had such a hard
time’ (M...
Danusia G. with friends
in the camp at
Monastyriok, Siberia,
‘It was not a normal life at
all. .. there was no structure
t...
‘..the only thing that we had to eat was some
bread, but only some, because it was rationed, and
it was a very clayey, hea...
QuickTime™ and a
H.264 decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
entral ritual: wigilia (Christmas
Wigilia meal at Nowosiolowo,
Krasnojarski Kraj, USSR, 1943
‘..wigilia in Siberia …were w...
Escape from the Soviet
Union
General Władysław
Anders
Future soldiers crossing the Caspian Sea from Krasnovotsk to Pahl
Overwhelmed with food
‘It was heaven…’ (Michalina P.)
‘Oh, so much food, is it possible, can there
be so much food in the ...
Where our ladies went
next
• Danuta Gradosielska: joined 216th
Transport Division of Polish Army
• Irena Miluska: Polish C...
Polish children in
orphanage/boarding
school in Persia after
1943
‘.. I remember that we had hams, we had proper
lunches –...
Meal to celebrate end of
driving course for Danuta
G. and other girls of the
316th Polish Transport
Division, 13 March 194...
Irena, Aniela and
Michalina: Polish camps in
Africa
Aniela P’s friends in
Polish costume at Lusaka
Camp, N. Rhodesia
Tenge...
Transforming alien
foods into something
familiar
QuickTime™ and a
decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
‘(In Palest...
After the war: Yalta and
displaced persons camps in
the UK
Kelvedon
Camp.
Essex
A return to self-
sufficiency?
Vegetable garden in Kelvedon
camp, 1950s Back garden turned over
largely to vegetable
growi...
I learnt gradually and I cooked a lot, a
lot, yes, I took it very seriously then, my
duties as a cook, as a Polish mother....
Maintaining the Polish
extended family: meals in the
UK
Extended family meal, 1950s Corpus Christi meal, 1950s
Wigilia mea...
What does it mean to be truly
Polish?
When I first went to
Poland, I was so happy
when people I spoke to
didn’t realize th...
Food as icons of
‘Polishness’
‘The icon is a reminiscence of a celestial
archetype…. a window onto a deeper,
transcendent ...
Some final thoughts: women, food,
belonging and the moulding of new
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Food, Drink and Feasting Talk: Polish Food

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A talk from Dr Monica Janowski, given on Tuesday 11 June at the Horniman Museum.
Given as part of the Collections People Stories project.
www.horniman.ac.uk/about/collections-people-stories

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Food, Drink and Feasting Talk: Polish Food

  1. 1. Polish Food: Memories in Deportation and Exile Monica Janowski School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  2. 2. ‘We are sort of displaced people And I was brought here, but to me Poland it is my country… To us that country’s precious. But we can’t be there, we can’t live there’. (Aniela Polnik, 26 January 2009) (Painting: Memories 3, by Alicja Edwards)
  3. 3. Osadniki of the 1920s - peasant settlers building Poland in the eastern borderlands Group of military settlers Church on an osada (settlement) ‘Our place, 84 of them from the same cavalry regiment … got land at Wolyn near Rowno, and was beautiful soil…Poland was 123 years under Russia, and they took from the landowners, rich ones, they took it from them.’ (Danuta
  4. 4. ‘Leaving Home’ - painting by Alicja Edwards. Used to illustrate her book ‘And God Was our Witness’. Deportations of Poles from Eastern Poland 1939 and 1940
  5. 5. Food as portal to memories: Kaz and his mum share holy bread and stories
  6. 6. QuickTime™ and a H.264 decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  7. 7. Poles on kolkhoz in Kazakhstan, 1941 Destinations East: Siberia, Kazakhstan and beyond the Urals
  8. 8. Aniela Polnik, born 1937. Jadzia Osostowicz, born 1925. Danuta Gradosielska, born 1925. Regina Dyszynska, born 1932. Irena Miluska, born 1938. Michalina Pluciennik, born 1922. ‘Sybiranki’ share food diaries and stories in the 2000s
  9. 9. ‘I remember Christmas and Christmas tree and my mother frying fish. And that’s all I remember.’ (laughs) (Regina D.) ‘On weekends when we came from church we had dinner and then something quick in the evening, like pancakes, or placki kartoflane. (Danuta G.) ‘I remember that the food was lovely, very tasty, very nice, and I remember exactly the dishes that we had, it was always meat and always soup. (Jadzia O.) ‘…my mum always made bread.. (Michalina P.) Memories of food from home Painting: Memories 1 by Alicja Edwards
  10. 10. Growing your own: peasant pioneers’ food ‘.. it was fresh and healthy, because was everything fresh and made at home, no artificial things added, you know. It was very good. I think that’s maybe what helped me to survive Siberia…’ (Danuta G.)
  11. 11. QuickTime™ and a H.264 decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  12. 12. March 2013: Visit to Horniman Danuta Gradosielska, Aniela Polnik and Bolek Polnik
  13. 13. QuickTime™ and a H.264 decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  14. 14. Home in Poland: parental roles and order ‘..(in the kitchen) my mother was definitely the mastermind… (Jadzia O.) ‘…my father worked in a rafineria… When there was a little bit (of work in the fields) we helped mama, but when there was more she paid people…she fed them well’ (Michalina P.) ‘My father was forester.. in a big estate’. (Regina D.)
  15. 15. Women, food and family
  16. 16. The obiad meal: ritual of family togetherness QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Rosól z makaronem (broth with noodles) Mięso z kartoflami i z salatką albo z jarzynami (Meat with potatoes and salad or vegetables)
  17. 17. Chleb (bread): central to all meals
  18. 18. Dairy foods and health QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and adecompressor are needed to see this picture. Biały ser (fresh white cheese) Zupa mleczna (‘milk soup’ with grains or noodles) Mleko (milk) Smietana (cream)
  19. 19. Sweet food and hospitality QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Makowiec (poppy seed cake) Chrusty (fried dough twists) Babka (yeast cake) Pączki (doughnuts)
  20. 20. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Bigos (cabbage and meat stew) Pierogi (dumplings ) Placki ziemniaczne (potato pancakes) Kiełbasa (sausage ) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Everyday peasant dishes… later to become iconically ‘Polish’
  21. 21. Polish national foods? Byelorussian pierogi Ukrainian potato pancakes Nevertheless strongly associated with a Polish home and with Polskość….
  22. 22. ‘Hunger’ - painting by Alicja Edwards, used to illustrate her book ‘And God Was our Witness’ ‘I dreamt about bread every night. …we would go several kms away to pick raspberries, …So we had the raspberries. (sighs) We would then pick some nettles, and cook them. But there was hardly anything else, Monica, hardly anything else (Jadzia O.) ‘(My brother Adam) … killed the dog. So … they put him in the corner… and every time a soldier or a policeman or an NKVD walked past, they would kick him… and the third day he just collapsed and died. He was 16.’ (Aniela P.) Deportation and starvation
  23. 23. ‘Those ones from town, they maybe were clever, but they just didn’t know anything, anything… they had such a hard time’ (Michalina P.) Tuligany, Siberia: Michalina P’’s father, a peasant osadnik, with a university professor and his sons Peasants and townspeople ‘We were lucky… we were able to bring a lot with us - sacks of flour, we killed some chickens, we had things to trade…others weren’t so lucky. (Danuta G.)
  24. 24. Danusia G. with friends in the camp at Monastyriok, Siberia, ‘It was not a normal life at all. .. there was no structure to meals. It was more like animals’ type of feeding. You were hungry, you ate what you found.’ (Regina D.). Food and family structure in the Soviet Union ‘I would buy a portion of this barley, and they put a teaspoon of oil, they made a little hole and put some oil in the middle. So I would save this oil for Sundays..’ (Jadzia O.) ‘…mother was absolutely crazy how to feed the children so they don’t die.’ (Regina D.)
  25. 25. ‘..the only thing that we had to eat was some bread, but only some, because it was rationed, and it was a very clayey, heavy bread.’ (Jadzia O.) Bread in the Soviet Union
  26. 26. QuickTime™ and a H.264 decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  27. 27. entral ritual: wigilia (Christmas Wigilia meal at Nowosiolowo, Krasnojarski Kraj, USSR, 1943 ‘..wigilia in Siberia …were without alcohol, but they meant exactly the same or even much much more than now’ (Michalina D.) ‘..my grandmother sent us from Poland Christmas parcel… It wasn’t big parcel, but it was a great help for us. And opłatek was there.’ (Danuta G.)
  28. 28. Escape from the Soviet Union General Władysław Anders Future soldiers crossing the Caspian Sea from Krasnovotsk to Pahl
  29. 29. Overwhelmed with food ‘It was heaven…’ (Michalina P.) ‘Oh, so much food, is it possible, can there be so much food in the world?… It was actually quite dangerous, because people, they had starved and so many of them could not eat any solid food’ (Jadzia O.) Michalina P. at Pahlevi Distribution of bread to Poles arriving at army collection point in Krasnovotsk
  30. 30. Where our ladies went next • Danuta Gradosielska: joined 216th Transport Division of Polish Army • Irena Miluska: Polish Camp, Masindi, Uganda • Aniela Polnik: Polish camp, Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) • Michalina Pluciennik: Polish camp, Tengeru, Tanganyika (Tanzania) • Regina Dyszynska: ‘Orphanage’ boarding school, Palestine • Jadzia Osostowicz: with parents in Palestine; parents working at Polish schools
  31. 31. Polish children in orphanage/boarding school in Persia after 1943 ‘.. I remember that we had hams, we had proper lunches – kotlety, that’s Polish, pierogi, and things like that, Polish food…that was proper boarding school, beautifully kept. Proper food we had.’ (Regina D.) Regina in the orphanage: children as hope for a Polish future
  32. 32. Meal to celebrate end of driving course for Danuta G. and other girls of the 316th Polish Transport Division, 13 March 1943 ‘Mostly we had rice with sheep meat cooked together…That’s what they had, they didn’t have potatoes’ (Danuta G.) Danuta: into the Army
  33. 33. Irena, Aniela and Michalina: Polish camps in Africa Aniela P’s friends in Polish costume at Lusaka Camp, N. Rhodesia Tengeru Camp, Tanganyika: Michalina P.’s class in the gardens Irena M. and her school class at Masindi camp, Uganda ‘Except potatoes, we ate everything what you can eat…But you had every day fresh meat, except Sunday.’ (Michalina P) ‘I remember lots of fruit, we had’ (Irena M.) ‘Sunday and Saturday my auntie would try and cook something, you know, something different, in our hut.’ (Aniela P.)
  34. 34. Transforming alien foods into something familiar QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. ‘(In Palestine) we used to stuff aubergine.. that’s not Polish at all…I do exactly the same now…and I use exactly the same mixture as for goląbki (cabbage stuffied with rice and meat)’. (Regina D.) (In Russia) we lived in a hut with another big family, of boys . . . .And they remember picking the green sort of salad—it’s called in Polish lebioda —it’s like salady thing, green. And they chopped, without eggs, nothing. But they made it into kotlety (mince meat patties) and fried it and ate it like that.
  35. 35. After the war: Yalta and displaced persons camps in the UK Kelvedon Camp. Essex
  36. 36. A return to self- sufficiency? Vegetable garden in Kelvedon camp, 1950s Back garden turned over largely to vegetable growing, 1969
  37. 37. I learnt gradually and I cooked a lot, a lot, yes, I took it very seriously then, my duties as a cook, as a Polish mother. I cooked Polish food, but I was always very happy when I was given some English food. …I didn’t really learn properly. (Jadzia O.) I didn’t have mother or father to teach me to cook… I had to learn from book…. That’s why I don’t feel confident, you see, because I learnt from books. (Regina D.) Setting up a Polish home in the UK
  38. 38. Maintaining the Polish extended family: meals in the UK Extended family meal, 1950s Corpus Christi meal, 1950s Wigilia meal, 2007 Opłatek meal with parish choir directed by Aniela P.,
  39. 39. What does it mean to be truly Polish? When I first went to Poland, I was so happy when people I spoke to didn’t realize that I came from England… they thought I was properly Polish… (Irena M., deported age 1) People are envious of me, because both my children married Polish people. I’m not so sure about marrying Pole from Poland now, like my son, because we are different… Polishness of us is completely different from Polishness of Poles in Poland. (Regina D.) ‘My first memory is from Siberia. Certain things, vague.. Food… I remember being hungry, and I remember being cold, very cold.’ (Aniela P., deported age 2)
  40. 40. Food as icons of ‘Polishness’ ‘The icon is a reminiscence of a celestial archetype…. a window onto a deeper, transcendent world.’ (Paul Florensky, Polishness heaped up on a plate: sausage, bigos, pierogi and stuffed cabbage
  41. 41. Some final thoughts: women, food, belonging and the moulding of new

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