Maria Borkowski, who comes to Day Club at Bridgemead, will be 90 on 18th September 2017 and tells her extraordinary story.
Taken from her family at 13 years old
Looking immaculate and with twinkling eyes she tells how at the age of 13 she was taken from her family by the Gestapo from her home in Poland: “If they had not taken me it would have been my parents,” she says. She travelled on a very crowded train with no windows to Gagindrach.
There she had to milk seven cows twice a day, her hands swollen with cold. She had never milked a cow in her life. She was given one dress, petticoat, and wooden shoes and was extremely cold. She was forced to steal eggs as there was so little to eat. Bombs fell frequently but she was too scared to go to the shelter and hid in the hay. She worked with two French prisoners of war in the day and they went back to the Camp at night. She could not communicate with her family at all: “I just lived each day at a time,” she says.
After two and a half years the English and Americans came to rescue her: “We had an Easter Sunday dinner – it was lovely” she smiles. She was transferred to the Polish ATS in Berwick-on-Tweed, where she met her husband: “A lovely man, everyone loved him, they still love him”. Sadly, he died 4 years ago, after 66 years of marriage.
Moving to Bath
After he was demobbed the couple moved to Bath. It was very hard to find somewhere to live; after moving round they finally found one room near the current Marks and Spencer’s building. Originally, they were told they could stay for nine weeks, but ended up living there for nine years, the two of them and their three children in one room. “There was no water and just a gas ring to cook on. I had to fetch the water. I knitted and sewed clothes and when I took the children to the clinic the doctor always said how nice and clean they looked.”
“Then we moved to a cottage in Hedgemead Park where we stayed for 30 years. My husband had to fix up everything, the walls were full of holes – he was a clever man and did it all except the gas and electrics. My fourth child was born with a dislocated hip. It was a hard decision, but she had to wear a splint for 3 years, but it was all worth it, she recovered and she still has the splint now.” Maria is very proud of her four children, nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, with another one expected on 17th December.
Bridgemead Day Club
Then Maria and her husband moved to Brassmill Lane where she now lives. She heard about Bridgemead Day Club through friends and has been coming here since July. “I enjoy the lovely people here”, she says “I love the colouring – making poppies, ladybirds, mushrooms and flowers. I love my food and there is a very nice lunch. We do exercises. I exercise every morning at home for 20 minutes. I sleep well, eat well (but I don’t like fatty meat) and enjoy different people.”
It was very inspiring to have coffee and her favourite cinnamon biscuits with Maria, and hear her extraordinary story.