Kuleszewo is a place with which I feel closely related. As a child, I came to my grandmother and grandfather every summer. On long, warm days I got to know every nook and cranny of the village, not realizing the extremely rich history of this place. My interest in the past of Kuleszew and its inhabitants was born during listening to the stories of people who remember well the times of the Second World War, the post-war period, and, thanks to the information provided by their parents, have invaluable knowledge of pre-war times. With this article, I would like to start a series of stories about this extraordinary place.
Pre-war postcard from Kuleszewo: the tavern, school, palace and church.
Kuleszewo is located in Pomerania, near Słupsk. The first mention of this place comes from the end of the 14th century. Until the 15th century, Kuleszewo was part of the huge estate of the Kutzeke family (descendants of the Pomeranian family von Zitzewitz). Then the von Boehn family took over Kuleszewo and ruled this land until 1945. In 1914, Constantin von Boehn gave Kuleszewo to his son, George. He turned out to be an extremely talented manager. Wisely and vigorously managed property prospered perfectly. Kuleszewo experienced the times of his splendor and Georg von Boehn gained the respect and recognition of the owners of the Pomeranian lands. It is worth noting that he wrote articles for the journal for farmers "Zeitung für Landwirtschaft", and the views he presented were hugely supported.
Church in Kuleszewo from the 15th century founded by the von Boehn family.
On July 20, 1944, Georg von Boehn was unexpectedly arrested by the German authorities. It was probably related to the assassination of Adolf Hitler which happened on the same day in Wilczy Szaniec. Von Boehn was detained without official justification, but everyone was aware of his critical attitude to the nazi authorities. He was kept in a prison in Słupsk for three months.
March 1945 turned out to be a dramatic time for the German population inhabiting Kuleszewo, as the Red Army moving to the west was closer and closer to these lands. For this reason, the general ban on the movement of people was abolished and a great escape of local residents from the Soviet army began. The landlords, peasants and people escaping from East Prussia formed a column of refugees. They moved mainly with wagons harnessed by horses and oxen. The runaways were presided over by Georg von Boehn, who tried his best to rule the procession. He often went around the entire column to see if his people were doing well. However, atmospheric conditions were not conducive to the fleeing. Strong black ice slowed the movement significantly, the column stretched. The further march did not make sense - the Russians were too close.
Mr. von Boehn was afraid of the arrival of the Russians. When he realized that meeting them was inevitable, he sent his daughter, Hela, by cart to Germany. A young girl (born in 1921) probably didn't know that she was seeing her parents for the last time. It was never again possible for het to see Kuleszewo as it was before the war.
On March 7, the Red Army reached the area of Kulszewo. The village was then completely empty. Before the Soviet forces entered, the Wehrmacht soldiers blew up the local distillery but the Russians were able to take over large amounts of alcohol anyway. In a short time they destroyed many houses and farm buildings, burning them completely. Shortly thereafter, the inhabitants began to return to their already looted homes in larger groups. Many were murdered, some were sent deep into the Soviet Union. Only a few men managed to come back after many months. The women, however, were first placed in a labor camp and then sent back to their homeland.
Ilse von Boehn, Georg's wife, met with a tragic fate. A drunken Soviet soldier harassed her. According to the accounts given by the residents of Kuleszew, this man was slant-eyed. He shot Mrs. von Boehn when she tried to escape. Georg buried his wife in the park, then hid in the forest. Unfortunately, the exact burial site of Ilse von Boehn is unknown - the park occupies a large area of land, and the grave has not been marked in any way.
Former property owner Kuleszewo finally found a shelter in a forester's lodge. According to the account contained in the letter he wrote, he happened to sneak into the village to look around in his own home and the inhabitants offered him their help. When the Russians learned that von Boehn was imprisoned by the Nazi authorities, they expressed their willingness to cooperate. They offered to the former landowner to deal with the organization of the post-war administration and he agreed. In the letter he wrote that he could eat meals with the Russians in the palace - the former seat of his family. He also drew attention to the huge poverty, burdensome compulsory deliveries and the lack of cows, of whom there were only eight, and there were even one hundred of them before but they died becouse of starvation. Georg von Boehn tried to mitigate the suffering that the local German population felt after the war. The hard situation was very bad, but he found a willingness to live in helping others and in the fight for a better fate. He believed that he would be able to show his homeland to his children. He did not want to give up without losing the lands that his line had occupied for hundreds of years.
At the beginning of 1946, Polish displaced people began arriving to the village. The German landowners now had to work for the Poles. This continued until they were taken to Germany. Former hosts could take with them only what they were wearing.
In May, Georg von Boehn was arrested for allegedly burying "treasures". He was imprisoned until June. After his release, he could not return to Kuleszew and was forced to work in Słupsk. Very weakened, fell ill with diphtheria and died in October. His people, despite the ban on Polish authorities, jointly contributed to the burial of their lord. They buried him during a lunch break at the family cemetery in Kuleszewo. The grave was later dug up, probably by people who hoped that the "heir" was buried with some valuable things.
Remains of the von Boehn family cemetery.
The daughter of the von Boehn, Hella, for many years, once a year, came to her former homeland. From five in the morning, every day, the residents saw her walking through the surrounding meadows and fields. She spoke with the locals, visited some houses. She remembered the times of her youth when she lived in the headquarters of the von Boehn family - a palace located in Kuleszewo. It was a beautiful object with a clock, an older one-story side and a newer two-story wing. A large ballroom was added to the building and the stage was located in it. From the south - an impressive glazed veranda. There was a very wide wooden staircase inside. In the days of early communism in the palace hall were held rural village harvest celebrations. Unfortunately, the dilapidated building was deteriorating - the head of the State Agricultural Farm was living there, and animals were kept in it, including ducks, geese and pigeons. In the seventies, the palace was pulled down and a new house was erected on its foundations.
Non-existent seat of the von Boehn family.
Hella von Boehn, who after the war settled in Hamburg, longed for the place where she spent her childhood. Leaving, each time she took with her the local water in bottles and after death she wanted to be buried right here. She died in January 2015 in Hamburg and her funeral, thanks to her daughter and granddaughter who brought her ashes to Kuleszewo, took place in the summer of the same year. The funeral was attended by residents of the village, some knew the daughter of "heirs" personally and remembered her very well. The locals warmly recall Hela von Boehn, who finally returned home.
Gravestone of Hella von Boehn at the parish cemetery in Kuleszewo. The inscription on the stone:
"WRÓCIŁAM DO DOMU (I GOT BACK HOME)
ICH BIN HEIMGEKEHRT
HELLA VON BOEHN
10.03.1921 KULESZEWO / KULSOW
18.01.2015 HAMBURG "
I would like to thank Irena, Jolanta, Jacek and Darek for help in writing the article. Yoou knowledge was invaluable.
A few additional photos from the village:
Gravestone of Hella von Boehn. On the right (behind the fence) there is a ruined German cemetery.
The entrance to the parish cemetery, which is located behind the village at the edge of the forest.
Destroyed cemetery of von Boehn family. Georg von Boehn was buried here.
Remains of tombstones and foundations on the von Boehn's family cemetery.
Church in Kuleszewo. Built in the 15th century, funded by the von Boehn family.
The road leading through Kuleszewo, February 2018.
Karl-Heinz Pagel, "Der Landkreis Stolp in Pommern." Lubeck 1989 r.