Agnieszka Romaszewska: at ‘Belsat’ we defuse mines


Agnieszka Romaszewska. Photo Denis Dziuba

We are looking at family photographs with Agnieszka Romaszewska and talking about the history of love, adventures with special services and the new historical and therapeutic program “Intermarium”.

We are in the apartment of your parents, who created an underground radio station during the time of socialist Poland and helped those who were persecuted by the authorities. When in the early 1980s they came to arrest their parents, they were not at home, and they detained you. You spent 5 months in captivity.

This happened when we lived in another apartment. I remember we once noticed a cable was being stretched from our large room to the building on the other side of the street. Only after many years we learned that it was a cable for wiretapping. It had microphones connected to it, hidden in ventilation.

In the house opposite, we have often seen a man who was watching us all the time. I remember that my husband and I were moving from our parents and packing our bags all night. And all night in the window opposite there was a light. Poor people: they constantly had to watch us, not a moment of peace! It was the mid-1980s.

Agnieszka Romaszewska showing her photos in the cell phone. Photo Denis Dziuba

It turned out that since 1977 we really had the so-called “PP” system installed, that is, listening to the premises. This was confirmed to us by the Institute of National Memory (which deals with lustration – ed.), it obtained documents of the socialist special services. Of course, everyone in our house understood that this could happen. Therefore, when parents talked about serious topics, the names, addresses and other important things were written on a sheet of paper, so as not to say them aloud.

Were all the conversations actually recorded?

Yes, but if there was nothing interesting there, they were destroyed. In the reports they wrote something like: “The subject is preparing for the exit. The Wroclaw department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs received the information. ” Therefore, when I go to Belarus, I am well aware that it is terribly inconvenient to record everything. All the special services have always preferred informers.


First day at school. Photo from the archive of the Romaszewski family

You also got married in the field. The future husband, who had been imprisoned for opposition activities, was released only for three days. Do you still have a picture from the wedding?

Only one. We got married in one of the Warsaw registry offices under the supervision of a large number of employees of the special services. They hoped that my parents (who for a long time managed to hide from arrest – ed.) would come. I think that this was one of the reasons why I was released from arrest myself. There were no parents at the wedding. Only close relatives came.

However, we did not want to have many guests, since Jarek was released only for 3 days. I do not even remember what we ate at the dinner party. We quickly escaped from there. And our friend made a photo. I was wearing an ordinary summer dress, my husband was in a shirt. The Security Service also had another video from our marriage — we were constantly being filmed by some strange man. But we never saw this movie.

Grandmother Zofia and grandfather Josef Romaszewski on the eve of the WWII. Photo from the archive of the Romaszewki family.

How far back do you know your roots?

I know the most about my relatives from the maternal grandfather’s side. The Prauss family probably arrived in Poland from the Czech Republic. The first person, who appears in the documents of the end of 18th — beginning of 19th century was Leopold Praus. He used to manage estates in Ojców near Cracow.

There is an interesting story about his son, who took part in the anti-Russian uprising of 1830-1831 and was wounded. While staying in the house of Sokolowski, the chief of the local prison, he managed to fall in love with his 16-year-old daughter Kasilda. The father did not give permission for marriage, and they eloped. According to the papers, they had two children before the marriage, which they could only conclude after Sokolowski’s death. Kasilda was the name of my great-grandfather grandmother.

From left to right: great-grandfather Franciszek Ksawery Prauss, writer Andrzej Strug with his wife Honorata in the mountains. Photo from Romaszewski family archive.

There are no aristocrats among my ancestors. Mostly, there were intelligentsia. That first ancestor was the head of the estate. His son – a rebel – was an engineer. He built, by the way, the Brest tract. My great-grandfather’s father worked as an engineer on the railway in Russia. One of my great-grandfather’s sisters was born in Homiel (I learned about this recently), and the second one –in St. Petersburg. Given his job, the family traveled a lot. My great-grandfather was a teacher and a natural scientist.

It means you have no “eastern” roots. Then where does your interest in Belarus come from?

The family on my father’s side, most likely, originated there. The name Romaszewski can often be found in Vilno and Hrodna region. My great-grandfather died very early. My grandfather was still a small boy at the time. And this family memory, which was retold from generation to generation, was interrupted. Therefore, we do not know exactly where the Romaszewski family came from. And my relatives never realized that they could have some ties to the east.

Great-grandfather commanded a regiment in Bransk. The family put him in the cadet corps, because it could help save the estate, which was to be seized after the uprising in 1863. Only at 45 he was able to return to his homeland, where he immediately got married. Photo by Denis Dziuba

Belarus appeared in my life incidentally. It all started in 2005 with the conflict over the Union of Poles. I then worked on the Polish television. And there was no one to go to Belarus, only I had accreditation.

Belarusians and Poles have a lot of things to argue about. The “Intermarium” program which began to air on “Belsat” has scientists from Belarus and neighboring countries raising the most painful topics of our common history. Wouldn’t it be easier to forget about these mutual grievances and calmly build relations between nations?

Some topics cannot be swept under the carpet. They can be discussed on the basis of mutual resentment, remembering who does not love whom, who and what remembers about it, who said what about whom and why. And it can also be done based on knowledge. I believe that our role here is the role of a sapper, who, as you known, defuses mines. After all, the one who steps on the mine, will have their leg ton off at the very least.

On May 9, a series devoted to the partisan movement in Belarus during the Second World War will be aired. The Poles fought against the Germans in the anti-Soviet Army (the Home Army ), Belarusians did it mostly on the side of the USSR. And Poles could not forgive it …

We are looking at history through the prism of modernity. It seems to us that 60 or 160 years ago people thought the same way we do today. Speaking about the Home Army, it is known that the Polish point of view here differs a lot from the Belarusian one. And both sides have the right to their opinion.

I was taught this approach by Pani Czeslawa, who is no longer with us. I would like to dedicate this program to her. She helped me when I came to Hrodna (in 2005, during the conflict over the Union of Poles – ed.). She was a very brave person. When it was necessary to collect signatures for Paznyak, she did it. Even when she could no longer walk, she climbed on her knees on the upper floors to reach people.

‘Intermarium’ host Pavel Mazheika. Photo

Once Pavel Mazheika, who now hosts the “Intermarium”, asked her: “Pani Czeslawa, in which partisan movement was your brother?”. And it turned out that he fought in the Home Army. And she was a real Belarusian patriot. Her whole house was covered with white-red-white flags …

Interviewed by Inga Astrautsova,

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