A winding way to the gates of paradise

,,In the frightful world the mother stood

a servant’s kierchef on head”

(Józef Wittlin, ,,Stabat Mater’’, translated by Joy Davidman)

She was twenty – year – old, when she married twice older hero of Polish – Bolshevik war. She became a widow eighteen years later, but earlier she had also lost her youngest son. Two of her children passed away during the Warsaw Uprising; in consequence she existed alone until her death in 1975. This is a short description of Jadwiga Romocka (neé Niklewicz) life.

Born in Kamianets – Podilskyi (now in Ukraine) in 1890’s (a finding of her birth certificate is impossible – I have tried do it). Became an orphan by both her parents in early childhood, she came to Warsaw for living with her maternal aunt and going to private school for girls created by Cecylia Zylberg – Plater. The wedding of Jadwiga Niklewicz and major Paweł Romocki had taken place in Saint Alexander parish chuch in Warsaw in 1922. Andrzej – the first son of the couple – was born one year later. In her diary, Jadwiga Romocka described a start of living of their family:

‘’Paweł had came back from the war and had nothing…’’

Andrzej received a name of Andrzej Wasiutyński, Paweł Romocki’s beloved nephew. Wasiutyński had lost his life in 1920 during the Polish – Bolshevik war. As an older brother, Andrzej chose a name for Jan (Romocki’s second son).  When the family debated about name, two – year – old Andrzej asked:

– Is Aś sleeping?

Finally, the second of Romocki brothers became Jan (Jaś – this is a hypocorism of name ,,Jan’’). During the Second World War he will be known as ,,Bonawentura’’. Andrzej will give his father’s pseudonym – ,,Morro’’. Jadwiga’s third son – Tomasz – was born in 1931, but died as a child.

In 1930’s Paweł Romocki worked for Polish government – firstly, as a minister of the railroads. The financial situation of the family was really good – Andrzej and Jan were pupils of exclusive school and also scouts. The family spent summer holidays abroad – for example in Les Sables d’Olonne – or nearby Sieradz in manor of Romockis (which was Polish noble family). Paweł Romocki passed away in 1940 – he has been hit by the car driven by a drunken German soldier. Andrzej and Jan were seventeen and fifteen years old. Four years later both of them started to fight in the Warsaw Uprising in the ranks of ‘Zośka’ battalion – the Home Army battalion created by scouts. Both of them were commandants of soldier’s groups – Andrzej was a commandant of the second company of ‘Zośka’ battalion, Jan was a commandant of one of the platoons in this company. Jan became well – known as a poet – he is an author of ,,The Grey Ranks Prayer’’ (pol. ,,Modlitwa Szarych Szeregów’’), Andrzej is the youngest captain of Home Army. They died during the Warsaw Uprising – Jan in August, Andrzej in September.

Jadwiga received a news about lost of her sons, when she lived in her brother’s home (situated in Milanówek – this is a town close to Warsaw; circa 30 kilometres from Warsaw) after collapse of the Warsaw Uprising. The person, who informed her about this tragedy – was her younger sister. The mother started to find her sons’ corpses and – finally – found them, so the Romocki brothers has been buried on Powązki Military Cemetery under characteristic birch crosses. She was one of creators of an association, which created whole quarter of ‘Zośka’ battalion on Powązki (and which take care of this quarter until now). Jadwiga Romocka worked as a volunteer in Polish Red Cross and lived very modestly – in a bedsit, situated in Mokotów district in Warsaw. Died in 1975, she has been buried on Powązki Catholic Cemetery in Warsaw – in the same grave as her husband and youngest son.

‘’The Warsaw Niobe’’ – this is the title of documentary film (from 1999) about Jadwiga Romocka’s life. The title is absolutely accurate, I think. As mythological Niobe, Miss Romocka lost whole family. We can describe her life by using words written by Magdalena Czapińska and sung by Edyta Geppert:

”Why you gave me the faith in the miracle
But then you’ve took all this away?
I do not complain to my fate
Although I know how it will be tomorrow morning
So much I wanted to say to you
Instead of … bedtime prayer.”

Her way to the gates of paradise was the same, as Magdalena Czapińska wrote in the lyrics of quoted song (‘’But why to the gates of paradise / you’re leading me such winding way?’’). It was really very winding. And full of tears. But she found the power for living in taking care of her sons’ memory. Miss Romocka noted her memories in the diary, which is a testimony of mother’s love.