Damfield Lane Camp, Maghull, Lancashire.

 

Józef Mikietyn who lived in Damfield Lane Camp as a little boy recorded his mother's story.

 

From Poland through Austria and Italy to Damfield Lane Camp, Maghull, Lancashire.

 

Genowefa Mikietyn was born on the 20th October 1920 and was the youngest of six children, three boys and three girls. The family name was Rakowski and they were of peasant and farming stock.  Life was hard and all the children, when not at school, would help out around the smallholding. Home was a small thatched cottage with a wooden shack for the few animals that they had. The boys were quite a bit older then the girls so took the brunt of the workload along with the father.  As the years went by there was an improvement in their lifestyle but still not that comfortable.  Nothing could prepare them for what was to come in 1939.

       

 Genowefa's brother with family on the  Rakowski smallholding in  Kamienica Górna east of Tarnów

 
With the German invasion of Poland things went from bad to worse. One day a German truck came to the area to conscript young people to work on farms in Austria. The two youngest sisters, Genowefa (19) and Maria (23), were thrown onto the truck and driven away little knowing that they would never see their mother and father again.
 
 The drive was long and arduous with rough roads and little food. After three days travel the girls arrived at a large farm on the outskirts of Klaggenfurt, Austria, and it was there and at various other farms where they would labour until the end of the war. Work was hard but nothing that they were not used to and they had a few hours off occasionally. There was just enough food to get by but woe betide anyone who was caught stealing. In those turbulent times justice was very, very harsh.
 
Many people worked on the farms including prisoners of war and quite a lot of French soldiers who were sent from camps to help out. They were hard and difficult times but, as history showed, others were much worse off than those working on farms.
 
 
Some were even able to form relationships. People lived for today because one never knew what the next day would bring.  As the years went by, news came that German armies were being driven back on all fronts.  Within weeks all the people in the labour camps were free to go and do as they pleased, most of the farmers and people in authority had disappeared and those that didn’t were brutally beaten and worse.
 
There were decisions to be made by the girls. At first they were going back home but news quickly spread that the Russians were taking over everywhere right up to the West German border.
 
 

Aliens Registration Certificate 

This was bad news because Poles feared Russians as much as they feared Germans. They finally decided to join other Poles liberated from prisoner of war, forced labour and concentration camps and headed south to Italy where they would come under the protection of Gen. Anders’ Polish 2nd Corps. Genowefa and Maria ended up at Trani DP Camp run by the 2nd Corps.
 
It was here that Genowefa gave birth to (me) Józef and 6 months later Maria gave birth to Ludwik. From Trani the displaced Poles were being sent all over the world and Maria and Genowefa and the two young boys were put on the RMS Andes travelling from Naples to Southampton under their maiden names of Rakowska, arriving in Southampton England on 30th September 1946.
 
From there they moved up country probably following friends to various DP camps and finally arriving at the Damfield Lane Camp, Maghull, Lancashire. There Maria and Genowefa settled down to a more normal routine and formed fresh relationships. Benefits were very limited so Genowefa found work on a farm, it was hard work and long days.
Soon both women married, Genowefa married Mikołaj Mikietyn and Maria married Edward Jankowski.
 

LIFE IN THE CAMP

 
Picking potatoes around Maghull, Genowefa Mikietyn is in the white top. Polish cooks at Maghull Camp
 
People from the camp  worked where ever they could find a job, some as cooks in the camp's communal kitchen, others, mainly women, on local farms.
 

Mikolay Mikietyn with son Józef

Maria Jankowska with son Ludwik

Ludwik Jankowski

Ludwik Jankowski

 

CHILDREN FROM THE CAMP

 

Left to right Józef Mikietyn, girl unknown, Ludwik Jankowski

Parents with children in Maghull Camp; Maria Jankowska and son Ludwik bottom right.

 

Teachers and children at school Maghull

Can you name any of the children?

 

The camp saw some very distinguished guests

 

General Anders at Maghull

 

Corpus Christi Procession

 
As the years went by people were leaving the camp and buying or renting their own homes. In 1951/2  Maria and her family moved to Wallasey and Genowefa moved first to Stalybridge, Lancashire and then to Ashton-under-Lyne where there was a large Polish community. Two years later Maria and her family also moved to Ashton-under-Lyne and it was there that the two families finally settled.
 

A christening in the Maghull Camp around 1952?

Maria Jankowska and son bottom left, others unknown.

 
Genowefa went on to have two more children John and Henry and Maria had a daughter named Teresa. Both families remained close and had many friends. Maria`s husband Edward Jankowski was, for many years, active in the Polish community. As the children grew older Genowefa and Maria would do various jobs to supplement their income and life would go on at a pace with the usual ups and downs. Sadly Edward died in December 1968 and the following December Mikołaj died leaving a huge void in the sisters’ lives. The sisters, always close, became ever more reliant on each other and neither of them would marry again. Their children went on to marry and have families of their own. On the 7th of May 1987 Maria died leaving behind Ludwik and Teresa.  Genowefa, who was the last and youngest of the original Rakowski family, lived until her 93rd year spending the last two years of her life in a care home, dying peacefully on 3rd. December 2013.
 
A hard but interesting life for Maria and Genowefa, as it was for many Poles coming from war torn Europe in 1945.  All the children; Józef, Ludwik, Teresa, John and Henry will always remember what they went through and will be forever in their debt.
 

Page 1  Damfield Lane Maghull

Page 2 Curent Józef Mikietyn

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