First Letter

In the first letter (pdf), addressed to Mrs. Malinowski, Helena expresses heartfelt gratitude and describes the intoxicating joy she experienced upon receiving news about her family. We learn that throughout the war, Helena had only once received news from family. It was from her daughter-in-law, Wanda, and her grandson, Leszek, after they had fled Poland in April 1940 and found refuge in Curitiba, Brazil.

The letter indicates that Mrs. Malinowski may have provided updates not only about the family in Brazil but also about Helena’s daughter, Krystyna, and son-in-law, Alexander, who were at the time in Edinburgh. Helena mentions that she had heard rumors about her son’s (Bohdan) journey to Russia on an anti-torpedo boat (a destroyer) and acknowledges  her grandson’s (Leszek) eagerness to join the war effort. She voices the concern that her grandson may have endured both moral and physical challenges since leaving Poland, but advises him not to blame his parents, as they made efforts to ensure his safety, education and future.

She proceeds to enumerate the devastation wrought upon the family properties during the war. Her own house in Kanonia 14, located in the heart of Warsaw, was reduced to rubble. The house in Sadyba, where she had resided until the Warsaw Uprising, was burnt to the ground, along with all the furniture and the family’s belongings. She suggests that although her son in law’s (Alexander Hauke-Nowak) apartment in Warsaw met the same fate, the house in Boernerowo seems to have survived.

She discloses that she is currently staying with acquaintances at Mrs Zofia Wieniaska’s, whose husband, a sergeant, was killed near Służewiec in 1939. She mentions that after a challenging journey into the unknown, and since October 1944,  she has been benefiting from the warm welcome and hospitality of people who are equally struggling in Zalesie. There, she purchased a spinning wheel, learned to spin, and secured a permanent job. However, she points out that her earnings are insufficient for sustenance, barely covering expenses for bread, sugar, and occasionally butter. Her most urgent need is clothing, particularly shoes and stockings.

Towards the end of the letter, she acknowledges that all of this seems quite trivial, especially given the good news she’s received from her loved ones. She concludes that, after all that everyone has endured, material losses don’t inflict as much pain. She emphatically advises her children and grandchildren against returning to Poland.