The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Greetings! From Kollatz...

The ancestral manse is at lower right. Well, not quite. This image, and almost all the others exhibited here, were borrowed from a website I stumbled onto years ago, way pre-Blue Raccoon, and I still can't believe that such an artifact as reproduced here exists: a post card from Kollatz. Probably in a shoebox on the upper shelf of somebody's closet.

The site is an ancestry research guide for those of us whose country hasn't received an entry in the gazetteer for more than a century. Our land of origin is found on old maps purchased at random from a New Orleans antiques shop. The Kollatz family came from a small village in Pommern, or Pomerania. This state linked Prussia to Germany until after the discussion of 1939-1945. At that time, Poland reclaimed the lands that had been, as we might say hereabouts, "stolen from the Poles fair and square" and switched Germanic names back to Polish. Kollatz is Kolacz these days, and located in the southeastern quadrant of a county called Swidwin.

The closest town of consequence to Kolacz is Polczyn-Zdrój, the former Bad Polzin--I believe in Wilhelmine days, a resort village--and today a place of 11,573 persons.

There is, say the Interwebs, a resort there even today, replete with therapeutic muds and salts. These images come from the resort's site. My goodness, I could use an extended stay there now. Looks luxe and lush. I think I could get some serious writing done there and visit the ancestral lands. Whether the "Switzerland of Poland" appellation seems to extend to wee Kolacz. And it is there in color on a map. If you follow the main red highway east of Polczyn-Zdrój you can spot Kolacz sitting by itself near the lake that has its name. There's a "Kolaczek" that is Neu Kollatz, or, New Kollatz, just east.
There are the biking, hiking and horse trails all around, and you can see them, here.

I'm doubtful that any of my long distant cousins remain in Kolacz. As the Third Reich collapsed and the victors took their vengeance on the vanquished, about 17 million ethnic East European Germans were rousted from their homes of generations and some 2 million were killed. This was a nasty endnote to the catastrophe of Word War II, and not much talked about, except in A Terrible Revenge by Dr. Alfred-Maurice de Zayas.

Instant karma was visited upon Kollatz when the Russian army and the liberated Poles came roaring through. The ethnic residents of the town that hadn't run off were abused or killed. Even the old cemetery was plowed up.

The early 20th century card at the top of this post shows, clockwise, the school, lake, baronial palace, and the church. My guess is, there wasn't much else in Kollatz picturesque enough to warrant a place on a post card.

The squire's house seems rather austere compared to some I've seen though I suppose for minor Teutonic royalty--and in comparison to how the peasants were living--it must've seemed rather palatial--the biggest house in town. The lords of this manor were called Manteuffel, though the workers and farmers who lived under their rule didn't think much of them at the time and used--out of earshot--a German pun to insult the Manteuffels, saying they were more like the devil (Teufel) than men.

I was disappointed to read this. The single von Manteuffel I knew of was a bantam German tank commander of the Second World War, Hasso von Manteuffel. I first encountered his name as a kid reading about the Battle of the Bulge and with those repeated consonants between the Junker "von" it just looked interesting in type and cool to say. He also had the thankless task of trying to defend Berlin against most of the Red Army, and I encountered him again in Cornelius Ryan's book, The Last Battle, where he came across as a sympathetic character. And he wore his military hat at the customary rakish angle. He was also an Olympic Modern Pentathlon champion, like Patton. But unlike Patton, Manteuffel lived on, and he built a productive life in West Germany.

The second image below gives the spelling that in my life I've had to spend correcting -- "K, not C, o-l-l-a-t-z." But there that variant is in black-and-white. From clockwise, the "herrschaftliches wohinhaus," or literally, "the manorial dwelling," the church and school. The lake didn't make it to this one.

Remaining today--at least as of 1999 when these images were taken, according to the Pomerania site I, um, cited above, this is the church, left and the school, right.

In 2004 I had the great good fortune to, with Amie, visit Berlin due to my involvement in the experimental international theater event called The Mutation Project. Prior to our arrival there I communicated via e-mail with Heidemarie Kollatz whom I located during a search for those with my name. She and her husband, a computer software designer, lived in the Wedding neighborhood in a courtyard community with a beautiful garden that the neighbors maintained in a cooperative manner.

There's even a Kollatz Street in Berlin, named for a long ago clergyman. Amie and I took the subway and walked there one sunny afternoon. The curved thoroughfare isn't probably a mile long and lined by large not unattractive apartment buildings.

It began by a parklike cemetery and ended alongside a commuter rail line and expressway. During this trip I saw the first SmartCars, which at the time were designed by the makers of Swatch.

I met Frau Kollatz on a damp Berlin day but enjoyed a wonderful conversation with her, part geneaological, part historical, a little political in terms of then-current events. She is an educational policy consultant. I didn't meet her husband on this trip, as he at the time was riding across Sierra Leone and Mauretania on a bicycle. For fun.

At left is the spiral stair that led up from the gardens to the balconies of these apartments, and I was reminded how the shape also corresponds to that of DNA.

I had brought some pictures of my family and she was kind to bring out albums from her own, and we could see in these faces, from across the years and continents that we bore some relation--though how exactly was not readily determined. Long story short, Frau Kollatz wasn't sure of all her grandfather's siblings--and perhaps one or more of them chose to light out for the U.S. Below is my clumsy attempt with a 35mm SLR to record a page from Frau Kollatz's family album.

My story was the first time that Heidemarie had heard of any Kollatz migration to the United States. She didn't know, either, about the town of Kollatz or Kolacz. Her father's family originated in East Prussia and following the First World War moved to Pommern, to Stargard (Szczecinski), a town next to Szcezecin along the Oder River.

The story I'd heard from my now long deceased Grandfather Kollatz was that our people were...draft dodgers. That is, they were avoiding Prussian compulsory military service. Lacking any kind of letters or photographs from that long ago, I cannot say. But, thankfully, for me, my people were prescient enough to avoid both world wars by coming to this nation and proceeding to fight among themselves.

But I'm getting ahead in the telling.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 3:39 AM, Blogger Jerzy Gluziński said...

Thank You for Your KOLLATZ STORY
... my eventual connection with Kollatz is "just a little secret to me" - during the time of second war, My (17-years old) Mother has been worked in Kollatz as "polish girl in german type of condition, from town Kosten " ...
I suppose was working in Kollatz in Family Home of German Soldier stationed in Kosten - They Had Felt in Love with Each Other, what was forbiden . May be She was pregnancy - in result, She was directed to His Home in Kollatz and He was directed to East Front.
She stayed in Kollatz till the creul moment of "visit of russian soldiers" ... He didn't returne ...
That is my "fantasy version" based on several short words I heard when I was young
May be during Your Familiy trip and Your Family talk with Frau Kollatz ... there were some "common points" ...
Once again, Thank You !


Post a Comment

<< Home