When the Prussians Came to Poland - L. DeGozdawa

This first person account of a American woman trapped in occupied Poland during the early years of the First World War gives a moving and chilling account of the atrocities perpetrated by the Prussian army. The arrogance of the Germans toward "inferior" races was tempered by the fact that the author claimed American citizenship, yet her sympathies were always with the oppressed Poles and Russians who were considered an inferior breed and brutally mistreated.

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To My Sons
When they have reached manhood


I have written our story because so many people have asked me to. Also, in the hope of helping Poland. She is worthy of help, martyred, devastated, trodden under the Prussian boot as she is!

The wife of a gallant Pole now serving humanity with the Russian Army as inspector-in-chief of the Sanitary Engineers, and the mother of two sons, to say nothing of a dear little daughter, I have the cause of Poland at heart! Much pressure has been brought to bear upon me, that I should advocate the sending of food into Poland. I cannot, in the light of my own experiences do so. Under the existing circumstances I know it would not be the Poles who would eat the bread sent them!

After the war is over, those still alive, the fittest who survive, will need quick and generous help from America—seeds to plant their fields, implements to use in cultivating them. Before the war my husband worked so hard to help the peasants; to educate them, to teach them how to get the most out of their bits of land. How often I have driven with him away off to some tiny village, where the people would be gathered in the school, to hear how to plant their fields, their good kind faces weather-beaten, and showing the difficulty of their struggle with nature!

In Suwalki there was a Polish club, an agricultural society, with a fine building, where agricultural machines might be rented, or people helped in buying. Noble and peasant could borrow money to improve their land. How painful it was to see those machines dragged off to East Prussia, knowing the effort it had cost to get them!

Poland was in a wonderful state of evolution just before the war broke out. Surely it is only hindered, not stopped!

As a New York girl, I am afraid I knew very little about agriculture, but from the frequent journeys with my husband, and hearing his lectures as a Professor of the old Polish University in Cracow, I learned a little, and to love the peasants, as he did. It was a different life I stepped into after my marriage. I had left America like so many girls, to study and sing in Europe, but, after three years, work and play, married a Polish nobleman, and have never regretted it, for until the war separated us, not only by miles, but armies, I was happy as few women are. However, we have suffered—there must be an end! I have not looked Death in the eyes so often without learning to be patient, and wait.

Laura de Gozdawa Turczynowicz.
New York, 1916.

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