Jaśmina Dopierała’s Memories

 

My parents Janina and Stanisław lived in Doddington camp and I was born in Nantwich in 1955.  One of my first early memories was toddling along a path in Doddington Camp.  My mother Janina together with auntie Władysława Świstek were walking behind me, as I was overwhelmed with the most glorious vivid colours of pansies growing alongside the path. As a toddler, the paths seemed to go on forever and were a source of adventure as, according to my mother, I ingeniously contrived and managed to escape the family garden to explore, much to my mother’s despair. One memory that was less exciting was my first visit to the nursery where I puzzled over why I would need to take a nap, when the sun was shining outside and adventure was beckoning.

 

Jaśmina Dopierała.

Jaśmina’s christening, held by Godmother Mrs Halina Wolan, also in picture: Mr Tadeusz Wolan, Stanisław and Janina Dopierała, the Smolka family, Mr & Mrs Maksymowicz and Jan Omylinski.

 

 

One special event at the camp when I was a little older, caused all the adults to dress up in their Sunday best while mum carefully dressed me in my Polish costume, but I cannot remember the reason for the event. My older brother Gienek was fortunate to have a wonderful playground in the nearby woods, to my annoyance as I was too young to go along.

 

 Halina Robaszek, Michał Maksymowicz, Stanisław Dopierała, Jaśmina Dopierała, Jan Omylinski.

Jaśmina in her Polish dress and Gienek in his scout outfit.

 
 
 

Work was found in the nearby town of Stoke, where my mother together with some of the ladies from the camp travelled to work in the pottery industry (see left).

 

Every week a man called Mr. Banat came to the camp with his van loaded up with wonderful continental foods. When we moved out of the camp, Mr. Banat still sold his wares around our new council area known as Totty’s Hall.  

 

Mum, dad, my older brother Gienek and I moved to a three bedroomed flat when I was around four years old. I remember wondering what was going to happen when we left the safety of the camp to enter the outside world and I was to start school for the first time.

 

My parents reassured me that it was all going to be a wonderful new adventure, also the familiar routine visits by Mr. Banat with the weekly grocery goods was helpful in settling into our new lives. Having other Polish families around us on the estate also helped.

 

The camp was a happy home for me and my family, a place that I was sad to leave behind. It was definitely a strong base to build my life on with a firm sense of family and belonging. The community outside of the camp was also an important foundation to build new lives and which in turn helped us to find a place within English culture.

 
 
 

 

 

What better way to integrate than through a successful football team: White Eagle, which my brother was part of!

 

Ray Dean

Albert Dean

Mario Sokol

Bill Olszewski

Gienek Dopierala

Archie Palin

Bolek Robascek

Mietek Baran Andrew Glinski Steve Borowski

Les Olszewski

Henry Talarek

“The lads” meeting place ‘Queens Park’.

Part of a newspaper clipping from a local paper  1970

Part of an essay written by Jaśmina's daughter, Lisa Bennett, whilst in junior school, interviewing Grandmother Janina Dopierała.

My Grandmother Janina Dopierala

The war

Gran stayed at home for a few more months, until the Germans, who had been in the area for quite a long time, threw them out of the farm. The whole family was split up and had to move to different homes. Her dad had to move to another town because he no-longer was allowed or able to work in the brewery.

Janina was sent to an elderly couple in another town. She had to work the land, which was very hard work. The conditions were better though, because this time she was allowed a bed of her own. The couple were also quite nice.

 

One night, when Gran was 15 years old, Germans surrounded the farm and broke into the house. Germans held Janina at gunpoint and ordered her to get up and get dressed. They shouted at her in German and she didn’t understand, but she had to do her best to do what they wanted otherwise goodness knows what would have happened to her. In the dead of night Janina was marched with other young people to another town, where they were all thrown into separate cellars. Gran was so terrified that she cried a lot. I don’t know what I would have done in her position. Her ordeal must bear a resemblance to that of the hostages.

 

Later the whole group was moved to another town, marching along the rough tracks to yet another town where they were put into prison. The band were moved to Austria, where they were ‘deposited’ at different stations. At the station where Gran got off the train, she stood with two other children in a line in front of some Austrian farmers who picked the ones that they wanted.

Gran was picked by an elderly man and taken to work on his farm. He was fairly strict and he only spoke German so Janina and the farmer didn’t understand each other at all.  Gran’s link was a Ukrainian woman who was also working at the farm, the Polish and the Ukrainian languages are similar even though there are some differences, she also spoke German so she translated what the farmer said as best she could. But with the work there was no time for being friends, even though Gran liked her, because she was nice during this time.  The food that she lived on was food from the land; cheese, bread, bacon and milk.  The work that Gran did was mainly working the land, but she also cleaned the animals and milked the cows.

After the war

After living there for a year, the war finished, and she was told to report to an American camp for post-prisoner citizens. She didn’t stay there very long. The camp was moved to another town, and then they were transported to Italy in lorries. At first, I imagined that the ‘camps’ were tents or wooden huts, but Gran told me that they were brick buildings. People began to make friends, as most of them weren’t going home, and it was pretty clear that they would be living in camps for quite a while.

One day, Gran went to a friend’s building and a man was there, a friend or cousin or something, but Gran took one look at him and said to herself, “that’s the man I want!”

Janina and her friends stayed in the camp in Italy for a year and they didn’t lose out on any fun. One night, Gran and her friend went into the town and were out so late that when they got back it was after hours and the American soldiers wouldn’t let them back in! They were frightened that they would have to find somewhere else to sleep but they were allowed back in eventually.

Living in England

After a year in Italy, they went to England. They were put into a camp near Hull and later Liverpool. That young man’s name was Stanislaw Dopierała, and he and Gran were put into the same camp. Stan’s sister and mother were put into the Hull camp also, but two of his other sisters were sent to Scotland, Gladys and Stefa. Later on, Gladys moved back south into the area.

From there they were moved to a camp in Nantwich, called ‘Doddington Camp’, and it was while they were staying there that in 1947, in St. Anne’s Church in Nantwich, that they were married. Later that year Eugeniusz was born.

Stanisław, Janina & Eugeniusz Dopierała with the camp in the background.

Eugeniusz Dopierała with the camp barracks in the background.

Eight years later, another baby joined the family, a girl named Jaśmina. The priest wouldn’t allow the name as a Christian name, and so she had to be baptised ‘Anna’.  In 1959 the family of four were finally assigned a council flat on Wheelman Rd., near Totty’s Hall. 

My father Stanisław Dopierała, other men unknown

My mother Janina Dopierała aged 18 with the tower in the background

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in Gloucestershire

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