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Family Secret - Piaski, Lublin --- Help Needed.


danko101 1 | 5  
9 Dec 2009 /  #1
I was wondering whether anyone maybe able to help me.

I am trying to establish whether someone might know anything regarding Piaski near Lublin and what happened there before WWII.

My grandfather fought in the Polish Armed Forces during WWII, I believe he was in The 1st Polish Armoured Division as he stated to my father during the war he got the freedom of the city of Breda, Holland (Netherlands).

As far as I can work out, my grandfather left his family behind and when to join the Polish Armed Forces in 1938.

I have recently been in contact with a long lost (or newly discovered) cousin of mine, she and her father told me, that sometime before or during the beginning of the war our whole Family in Poland (Piaski, Lublin region) changed their name from Zając to Danko.

I know from my grandfathers marriage certificate to my uncles mother (my father's half brother) that his name was Danko.

According to my second cousin's father, he went to Poland sometime in the past, met up with his family, when asked what he wanted to see when in Poland he asked to see his grandfathers grave, when shown it he discovered that his grandfathers surname was Zając and not Danko, when he questioned this, the family were extremely cautious and coy and believed his father told him about the "Family Secret" but he hadn't mentioned anything.

When he returned home to Belgium from Poland he questioned his father regarding the name change, and his father (my grandfathers brother) "got extremely angry and annoyed" and it was never to be spoken of again.

I am wondering whether anyone might be able to put me in contact with someone from Piaski (Lublin region) who's family might of known a family with the surname Zając or Danko in that region.

I am very curious as what might of happened.

Do you have idea's or theories of what might of happened, is there something that might of happened that is known in Poland but not very documented in the West in English.

My grandfather and his brother are both dead, so if looks as though the only way to be able to find out what happened would be to try and get in contact with the family relations that remained in Poland. This is where I hope this Forum maybe able to help me.

Thanks in advance, I would appreciate any help or comments, Martin.
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,146  
9 Dec 2009 /  #2
Do you have idea's or theories of what might of happened

Well... Zając is a pretty much typical Polish last name, there are tens thousand of people holding It. Danko is rare in Poland, It seems to be Ukrainian... So maybe they were pretending to be Ukrainians but I don't know why they could have done that...
Wroclaw 44 | 5,366  
10 Dec 2009 /  #3
it may be based on a forced change of religion. it's the best i can offer.

possibly the lesser of two evils at a time of war. are u sure it was only the name that changed, and not nationality as well ?
ukpolska  
10 Dec 2009 /  #4
If you contact this English guy as he knows everything and everyone in Lublin and around there. He is also heavily involved in ancestry work in the region:- Trevor Butcher proz.com/profile/139560
OP danko101 1 | 5  
10 Dec 2009 /  #5
Grzegorz_
"So maybe they were pretending to be Ukrainians" There could be something in that, I just found this on wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacres_of_Poles_in_Volhynia

Do you think this could have something to do with it?

The only thing I don't understand, was why my grandfather's brother got angry when questioned about it? Is that something to get defensive about?

My grandfather never mentioned anything about his life during or before the war.

are u sure it was only the name that changed, and not nationality as well ?

No I can't be sure of anything, I'm pretty sure either my grandfather or his brother might of thought to mention it to their respective families though, what do you think?

it may be based on a forced change of religion. it's the best i can offer.

As far as I know, my grandfather was or claimed to be Catholic, is it possible that could have been forced upon people in that region around that time? We're talking in 1930's.

Thanks, Martin.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,366  
10 Dec 2009 /  #6
The only thing I don't understand, was why my grandfather's brother got angry when questioned about it? Is that something to get defensive about?

Shame/guilt can be a big burden to carry.

''As far as I know, my grandfather was or claimed to be Catholic, is it possible that could have been forced upon people in that region around that time? We're talking in 1930's.''

I'll be honest. I'm only offering the first thing that comes to mind.
asik 2 | 220  
10 Dec 2009 /  #7
Do you think this could have something to do with it?

I don't think so!

My guess only:
your family changed their surname to avoid beeing tortured and jailed (somewhere in Siberia) by the Communist Polish Government wholy formed and controlled by the Soviet Russia (until 1989).

They were after anyone fighting in the Polish Army... formed abroad Poland - just to remind you the Soviet Russia attacked Poland in 1939 soon after the Germans.

Your grandfather was, as you mentioned in the 1st Polish Armoured Division formed in the West Europe.
Here is the history about the Polish Military Forces in the West , which were formed to fight Nazis and their allies.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Armed_Forces_in_the_West

Here is the story about your grandfather's Army:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Armoured_Division_%28Poland%29

There is a good movie (Polish) about one Polish officer returning after the war to Poland (from England) and how he was treated. The movie title is "Kuchnia Polska" (1993)

imdb.com/title/tt0343292
If your grandfather didn't protect himself (by changing the surname) I'm sure his life would become unbearable.

They were after anyone fighting in the Polish Army... formed abroad Poland - just to remind you the Soviet Russia attacked Poland in 1939 soon after the Germans.

Want to add, that they were after any remaining relatives of these soldiers as well. If exposed as a relative they were treated as these soldiers - as a traitors to communism.

After the interrogation and torture they were usually sending the people to the Siberia region or other part of USSR-Russia for a long term inprisonment with hard labour.

That's why your relatives were so scared and didn't want to talk about it, especially to children.
OP danko101 1 | 5  
10 Dec 2009 /  #8
your family changed their surname to avoid beeing tortured and jailed (somewhere in Siberia) by the Communist Polish Government wholy formed and controlled by the Soviet Russia (until 1989).

That probably is the most sensible answer, I never realised about the Russians [That would probably explain why my grandfather disliked Russia and The Russians, apparently he had quite a dislike of the Russians, according to my dad]

How easy would it of been to change the whole family's name? Would running a Post Office perhaps come in aid with something like this?

Also it would probably explain why my grandfather was the only one to join the forces, it did make me wonder why him not being the eldest male would join and not his older brother? Perhaps he was the strong and opinionated one?

Thanks for all the replies, I am now going to go away, do some research on this, and think about it a quite awhile, Thanks again, Martin.
caprice49 4 | 224  
10 Dec 2009 /  #9
the Russians

It wasn't the Russians. Lublin was a Nazi stronghold.
Secrets are sometimes best kept that way. If the family doesn't want to divulge, it suggests some painful reason.
OP danko101 1 | 5  
10 Dec 2009 /  #10
Communist Polish Government

I can't seem to find anything mentioning Communism before, or prior to WWII in Poland, do you have any links regarding this matter?

Lublin was a Nazi stronghold

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, the Family's name changed before the war or the invasion and my grandfather left Poland in 1938.
caprice49 4 | 224  
10 Dec 2009 /  #11
the Family's name changed before the war

Do you know when the surname changed? If it's known searching on the net may give some more historical background giving perhaps further clues.
OP danko101 1 | 5  
10 Dec 2009 /  #12
No I don't know the exact date. I assuming it would have been between 1938-1939/1940 time period, I truly wish I knew more about the family, but I don't and I can't speak or read Polish.
caprice49 4 | 224  
10 Dec 2009 /  #13
more about the family

I've just you an email through this site.

If you google Steve's Genealogy Blog there is a Dańko from Piaski - you never know he might throw some light.
ukpolska  
10 Dec 2009 /  #14
I truly wish I knew more about the family, but I don't and I can't speak or read Polish.

As I said if you contact this guy he is most probably the leading authority in the area on this subject.
Trevor Butcher proz.com/profile/139560
OP danko101 1 | 5  
10 Dec 2009 /  #15
If you google Steve's Genealogy Blog there is a Dańko from Piaski - you never know he might throw some light.

Funny enough, I'm in touch with Stephen Danko, thanks for the suggestion though.

As I said if you contact this guy he is most probably the leading authority in the area on this subject.

Thanks for that information, I sent this guy an email last night, right after you posted (I should have responded, sorry!), I haven't heard anything from him yet, I'll keep my fingers crossed though.

Do you know of a direct email address? I still haven't heard anything from this guy, the only way I was able to communicate with him was via a web form. Thanks in advance, Martin.
jonni 16 | 2,476  
15 Dec 2009 /  #16
Lublin was a Nazi stronghold.

Certainly a lot of terrible things happened in that area during the war (and just before and after). One possibility is that they were originally called Danko but were using the name Zając for a short time. From the 1920s onwards many families adopted surnames that sounded more Polish. There were, as a poster mentioned, sometimes changes in people's religion too.

If the 'secret' is more prosaic, like someone in the family committing a crime, there probably won't be any way to find out - court records didn't always survive the war.

The local history society in Lublin would be a useful resource.

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