The Polish Connection 17
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Now that we are describing our friends, I will tell you another story. There is an extremely black Negro whose presence remained a mystery until my valet, Charlie, managed to solve it. He discovered that the man knew Arabic, and got him to explain. He had been arrested on board a ship, and when asked his nationality had replied that he was a faithful son of the Caliph. That was all he knew, for the notion of nationality was unknown to uneducated Mahometans. The Caliph is, of course, the Sultan of Turkey, so he was imprisoned as a Turkish enemy alien. As a matter of fact he is an Egyptian and therefore a British subject.
Charlie explained this to him and got very excited about his case, but not so the Negro! He only shook his head and said he knew what he had got but not what he might get, and Allah has ordained things for the best.
Another of our friends we call Yankee and he behaves very differently from these exotics. Yankee belongs to the rich, according to him, to the fabulously wealthy. I don't know how he came to be here, I believe he has no papers or insufficient ones. He is such a very typical son of the U.S.A. that the mistake seems ludicrous. He does not know a word of German, has never been near that country, and has no sympathy with it whatsoever. In fact he loathes it now that the sinking of the Lusitania has landed him in this predicament. Nor is his opinion of the British very high.
Yankee has a little of the Indian in his face and make up, he is about twenty-five or so, tall, with lanky black hair, and disguises himself as a sort of cowboy, probably in order to demonstrate his Americanism. He wears silk shirts though. Mostly he is in a hell of a temper and extremely blasphemous - which is after all comprehensible - but he has a sense of humour all the same and tells us endless American jokes most of which are utterly silly. He lies all day full length in the sun and tries to sleep; then someone tickles him and he swears gorgeously. We have just found out that he will soon be released and we will be sorry to lose him.
Thank you for all the goodies and the books which you sent in your last parcel. We very much appreciate it.
Regards from Paul
And another from Peter.
Dear Barbara, Rebecca and Beth,
Now for another of our friends for you to meet. Billie is twenty-two, but looks eighteen and looks the most typical English boy one could find anywhere. Which is exactly what he is. He is just a jolly English schoolboy with an irresistible smile who quite sees the fun of the situation. He cannot speak a word of any language but English, and as to Germany he hardly knows it exists. He had never seen a German before he came to Knockaloe, but he made friends with everyone and is adored by most. Billie's parents emigrated to Australia when he was quite a little boy, and they died out there. He had been studying architecture and was passing his summer holiday in Europe. When war broke out he was in Belgium and came to England at once, without a passport, for before the war hardly anyone ever troubled to take out a passport, and even less to take one with him when traveling. Billie landed in Southampton and thought some of the buildings of that port quite interesting. So he started sketching them, and was promptly arrested, for the interesting buildings happened to be part of the fortifications. He had no papers, so the authorities decided he could only be a German. I imagine that even they must have thought him and his sketching too naive for a spy, but a German he will remain until he can prove another nationality, and so there he is amongst his ‘compatriots’.
He hopes to get his papers from Australia very soon, he told me. He has already waited months for them. Meanwhile he intends to remain cheerful and does not despair of organizing football in the camp.
Billie is not only popular on account of his charming smile, but also as a living proof of the utter lack of sense of the British authorities - which everyone feels they had shown in his own case as well - and because his presence consoles people in a way, for what could one expect if even Billie has been locked up.
Love from Peter
And now Paul's second letter of the week.
On the day of my arrival I was urged by my friends to subscribe a petition to be removed to the internment camp at Wakefield. Wakefield is a paradise compared to this, they said, it was one of the two ‘gentlemen's camps’ the Government has created (the other being at Douglas) and much the better of the two. Its inmates have great privileges and relative liberty. I put my name on the list and then I forgot about it. After all I might yet be released - that is how I had come to think of that chance - and, meanwhile, I do not dislike my life here.
The camp is, in its way, a curious and interesting place once one gets used to its obvious drawbacks. I have always been interested in human beings and here there are a great many types I should never have come in contact with under normal conditions. I am beginning to make a good many friends whose conversation and outlook on life are interesting and new to me. I like the scenery and the air, and - last but not least - this place has become familiar to me and I distrust change. I am prepared to pass quite a pleasant summer here, as far as a summer can be pleasant while the war is going on.
But I have urged Peter to also subscribe to be moved to Wakefield, because as we now know each other so well, we would find it very unpleasant to be separated. So perhaps you could add your plea to him, regarding making an effort to find a better place of confinement for the future months, or perhaps even years.
I of course regularly write back to Peter and Paul as well as John, but I was rather pleased that Peter had asked me to tell him about my hometown of Independence. I seldom get a chance to talk or even think about it anymore.
I am happy to tell you more about my hometown of Independence, Wisconsin. It is only a small place with just over 1500 inhabitants, but was founded in the mid 19th Century together with Arcadia and Trempealeau, and has always had a large Polish emigrant population which is of course why my father went there when he emigrated in 1868. It is situated on the junction of Elk Creek and the Trempealeau River, a tributary to the Mississippi River. The town lies on a plain which is surrounded by lush wooded hills and valleys. The City Hall was built in 1902 and also the Opera House just before I left. The clock tower on the top of the City Hall is said to be the most visible and outstanding government building in Trempealeau County.
I very much miss the beautiful architecture of our Saint Peter and Paul's Catholic Church built in 1895 so different from our tiny Catholic Church here which is hidden behind the rectory. I played the organ there from the age of thirteen.
Trempealeau, which means ‘Mountain Soaking in Water’ was the name given by the Native Americans and the French explorers to the beautiful Trempealeau Mountain in the bay at Perrot Park. When the village was founded in 1851, it was called Reed's Landing, but soon renamed after the mountain. The opening of river traffic in 1857 brought expansion to the village with new people coming to the area (including my family of course). The railroad was completed so we had an easy passage up to Minneapolis/St. Paul or down to Chicago by 1871, but Trempealeau which up to this time had been a shipping port did not keep its importance. Our area has not the devastation of glacial waste that defines so much of this part of the country, so we are left with rugged and spectacularly beautiful terrain with farmsteads and homes in the rolling hills and valleys. And we even have eagles soaring through the sky.
My father, Hyacinth Kulig, and my mother Susannah lived in Sielkowitz, Poland, and were in their 20s when they emigrated. When my mother and her family moved to the area, they lived in a sod house. In 1874, my father purchased 143 acres, so we have a relatively large farm. I have two brothers, one a lawyer and one a doctor, and a sister who is married and has three children.
Love from Barbara
Also another letter from John to share.
Dearest Barbara, Rebecca and Beth,
I have a new extra job to do with the kitchen. I have temporarily taken over the catering for the Officers’ mess. If you have any ideas for food suitable for midday temperatures of 100º in the shade you might send them on as I haven’t much clue. Can you suggest for instance what I can do with the 80 kilos of date (about 180 lbs) I get once a week? It is a sort of extra issue, as once about three years ago some civil servant bought several million tons of dates from Jordon, and they are unloading them on the army. Odd things crop up occasionally which put me out a bit. For instance I have to feed about 350 people at least. They have three meals a day at 6.45, 1 pm and 5 pm. There are also the other meals at 8 am 11.30 am and 2 pm and 4 pm. And late tea and supper all through the night for people coming off shift work or dispatch riders in coming in. Then you can see the program, it is pretty crowded. I am entitled to about 10 cooks for that lot e.g. two all night, six a day, and two with a day off at any one time. At present I have four of whom one is ill. They are all working about 72 hours a week minimum. I had to phone all over the island today trying to borrow a couple of cooks for a week as reinforcements are arriving then, but it was no good. If anyone else goes sick I shall have to do the cooking myself.
Love from John
I included this item from the High Peak Reporter in my next letters. It sounds as if George Baker is not being treated worse than my own special prisoners are.
PRISONER OF WAR
George Baker of High Lane, a POW in Germany, in a letter received at High Lane this week, says that they have a Brass Band in the prison camp at Gissen, which plays on Sunday afternoons. He says he received the parcel sent in March and it was in splendid condition. They were having lovely weather.
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they might have had brass
they might have had brass bands, but I doubt they would have had much food. You can't eat a trombone. A miscelany of international arrangements and classes. Camps for the better off, officer class. Yeh, well, enough said.
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I was interested in what made
I was interested in what made them decide to imprison some of these men. A foreigner drawing pictures must be German !
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