6. Sorrowful end
The vicinity of the Kazun Fort was a strategic area. Located on the left bank of the Vistula River, this military bastion defends the Southern flank of the Modlin Fortress. Before 1939, this immense citadel protected the last bridge before Warszawa and the Narew-Vistula confluence. During WWI, the area was the theatre of violent combats. During the German invasion of September 1939, in addition to the fierce combats of the Bzura Battle, all the neighbourhood was affected by the collateral damages of the bombing of the bridge. The Mennonite settlements along the river were particularly exposed.
Sadly in the early days of the German invasion in September 1939, the Mennonites were considered Germans foreigners and Polish soldiers killed 8 of them. Some 20 members of the community died during the war operations. Families living in Kazun and Sady were the most affected. The men aged 17 to 60 were briefly imprisoned near Brest-Litovsk. Then, considered as Volksdeutsche by the German occupant, they were liberated. After the recapture of Poland by the Russian army, the Mennonite Community was dispossessed and forcefully expelled. Several families were briefly interned in a camp located in Leoncin before being deported to Germany. From there, most of them fled to the United States.
In the chaos and hardship of the post-war period, people were struggling everyday to survive. Most of the farms in the neighborhood had been badly damaged by war desastation, German destructions and Russian plundering. The possessions left behind by the Mennonite families were immediately appropriated by the local population. The agrarian equipment and tools were taken first because they had great value. Then construction materials were collected and retrieved. Doors and window frames were the most sought after. Many discarded pieces of furniture from Mennonite houses were used as firewood during the terrible cold of Winter 1946-47.
During the Spring 1947, the flooding of the Vistula River was terrifying. The dykes built one century ago in the mid 1840's were swept away. Frozen water invaded all the riparian hamlets and covered the fields and the woods, as far as Grochale, Głusk or Leoncin. Most of the remaining Mennonite houses, buildings and mills were destroyed. It was then murmured that the destruction of the levees was a punishment for the expulsion and the spoliation of their builders.
Mennonite families have worked until the last day of their presence on the land they had reclaimed 170 years before. When they were forced out of their farms, the last crops had been harvested. Houses were clean and tidy. Preserves were stored on pantry shelves. Linen were folded in cupboards. The Mennonites of the Kazun-Secymin area have left behind them a unique heritage that should be better preserved. Many old wooden houses that survived the 1947 flooding have been torn down. Gravestones in cemeteries are left abandoned. We are sharing our memory to pay tribute to these friendly and hardworking people.
Photo credits: jacek23151.pinger.pl - Ratzlaff Family.
Mennonites Deutsch Kazun
Mennonici Kazuń Niemiecki
Holendrzy - Olędrzy
This series is a reminiscence of the Mennonite Community in the Kazun-Secymin area with no historical pretentions. Mennonite People were Polish subjects and Polish citizens as any other members of the Polish population. However, for a better understanding, we use the words “Catholics”, “Poles” or “Polish farmers” to designate the native local population.
The emigration to America was an option for many Mennonite families who could not extend their properties. The chest pictured above is in the collection of the Ratzlaff Family. Born in Kazun in 1867, Cornelius Plenert and his family settled in Hillsboro, Kansas.
"De Tiet steiht nicht stell"
Time doesn't stand still
"De Tiet lascht aules uut"
Time blots everything out