Start . Back

Chronicals of Lake Narocz by Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz

This long out of print autobiographical work by this Polish author is reproduced here in full. I have transcribed the work and present it here for all to read. Copyright remains the property of the owners whoever and wherever they are. If anyone who is reading this has any historical facts, documents, maps or photographs about Narocz I would be very grateful if you would contact me, Alan at Landschaft I hope readers enjoy, as I have, the tales from this forgotten corner of the world.

Chapter XX: An Unexpected Ending


Narocz, Nieslucz, Miadziol, Kupa, Kowno, Postawy, Wilno, Mlynek, Uzla


This final chapter is set in September 1939, on the authors final visit to Lake Narocz. The invasion of Poland commenced 1 September 1939 after provocation faked by Germany. The author then cuts back in time to August, when tension was building in the hostel, everyone listening to the radio. The news of war came eventually, not ia radio, but by secret telephone or telegram to Government officials staying at the lodge, a few guests remained, and then the post to Miadziol stopped. Lisiewicz and his wife remained. And then a telegram arrives for him [presumably his service call up] delivered by Sutocki, the retainer from the Narocz Hostel.

The narrative is resumed in Paris where the author meets Sutoki who brings news of Lisiewicz's son. Sutocki was caught by Russians, with "Mongolian faces, and stern expressions", but managed to slip away and escape. Russia entered the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded Poland from

Sutocki then joins the "second division, in the south of France"

Then he author is in the highlands of Scotland and reflects mournfully on Narocz looking over the Lochs. This chapter is probably written after the war, and Scottish publication, and this Scottish setting indicate this is probably where Lisiewicz settled - and from my correspondence with Lisiewicz's daughter, three years after the war he was re-united with his family.

Further reading

Wikipedia - invasion of Poland

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Chapter XX: The Text

IT was in September, 1939- An unusual drought had reigned over the whole of Poland for the last two months. Even on the Narocz all this time there had been not one drop of rain. The lake began to fall violently and more and more strips of sand dried in the sun to scattered dust. The grass turned yellow for want of moisture, as did the forest. The trees sought in vain under the moss for the usual water. Even the roots which reached most deeply to the cold veins of water beneath the earth did not find it.

The fish of the lake escaped into the deepest parts and there lay in sleepy crowds, dazed by the stale water, deprived of oxygen. The birds along the shore, not finding enough food, flew away, as did those of the forest, which remained deserted, panting in the baking heat.

The hostel in the first part of August was full as could be. Life, on the surface at least, went its usual holiday way: sailing trips, fishing expeditions, shooting, tennis, and netball matches. The young people brought the gramophone on to the end of the jetty every evening, and danced where the platform broadened out. But the very sight of the moon raising its heavy and excessively large disc, and sailing across the skies in extraordinary purple, took all savour from the amusements. Everyone felt the weight crushing the lungs, the uneasiness about the heart. The excitement grew greater every day; women were ready to cry, and men to fall out, on any pretext.

At 7 in the morning and 9 in the evening everybody gathered round the wireless in the great dining-hall. They listened to the rather hoarse, sometimes fading voice, and the sentences in the dry, boring style common to news broadcasts in unusual tenseness. Indeed, with bated breath, only begin-ning to breathe normally again when, after the end of the news bulletin, dance music rang out again.

"Anyway, not yet! Not yet!" such was more or less the thought of each of the listeners.

III [misprint retained in transcription] news came, but not that way, and only to some people. Every few minutes one or another of the guests at the hostel (usually a Government official) received a secret telephone message, or wire, and disappeared. Then others began to go, younger people, apparently mobilized for the army. At length away went the women and children, worried about their homes. They felt the danger by intuition, like animals, and like animals went away to hide in the four walls of their own lairs. Could they have supposed that two weeks later safety would be, for everyone, wherever they might be, only the legend of a lost age ?

In the hostel at last remained only those who were completely undecided, or those who were completely decided to stay on here and wait "till it was all over."

"Where can it be safer than here?" argued a rich Wilno merchant. "No one will get as far as this."

I immediately thought of the skulls rolling in the sands of Nieslucz, but I didn't say a word. Anyway the merchant went away next morning, in secrecy.

Till-one day-no bus came, and no papers were delivered. We could get hold of no one by telephone, for the exchange said all lines were busy on Government calls. The post never arrived at Miadziol. On top of all this the wireless batteries had run out, and the new ones were to have been brought by the bus. Two lads, wanting to find out what had happened, set off in a sailing boat for the other side, to the hostel at Kupa, which was near the station, and therefore nearer the rest of the world. There was no wind, so for a long time their sail shone white in the middle of the empty lake. At last it vanished, to re-appear. I never saw those boys again.

The misty sun shone dimly over the hostel, and slowly rolled on its northern arc, to sink at length behind Kupa. That was about the longest day in my life. Though we were cut off from the world, each of us knew that there, beyond the forests and hills, "it" was being decided.

The moon, bloody as usual, dragging the glare ol fire atter it over the sky and the "face of the waters, came out in the early evening and submerged the clearing, trees and bed of the lake in an uneasy mist hiding all shapes. The misty dust in the heavens fell lower, deepening the impression that the world had fallen into a void from which there was no escape.

My wife and I talked till late at night. When, tired out, we at last fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, I was suddenly wakened by the light of an electric torch and someone's footsteps in the room. Over me stood Sutocki, in his underwear, wrapped in a blanket. He handed me a telegram.

[ there is a gap in the manuscript here]

One had to get out at the Place Pigalle and grope along the Boulevard Rochechouart in the direction of Magenta, to find in the crazy black-out the seventh street on the left. It was very difficult for one who was not acquainted with Paris. The street climbed steeply. There, where in the light of a feeble lantern shone a small sign with a painted tankard of beer on a background uncertain in shape and colour, was the famous "Au Bon Bock."

There -I met Sutocki. He lived not far away in the region of the Place Clichy, near the barracks at Bessieres. On the other hand I, though I lived near the Avenue de l'Opera in Rue St. Anne, often visited the Bon Bock for the sake of its menu prix fixe 12 fr. (vin compris).

Sutocki brought me news of my son, whom he had met in some unexplained way in Kowno, also news of the Narocz, for he had left the hostel only after the invasion.

"They caught me near Postawy," he told me, "when I was escaping by car to Wilno."

'"Get out!' shouted a soldier, blocking the road with his bayonet. I stopped the car. Other soldiers came running. There were a lot of them about a house. Strangely enough, they behaved with odd quietness. They didn't loot, didn't try to take anything away, only in the first instant I realized that one couldn't speak to them as if they were real people.

"They began to whisper in a crowd, obviously debating what to do with me. Meanwhile four of them guarded me. They had rifles with fixed bayonets, Mongolian faces, and stern expressions, and wouldn't allow me to move an inch.

"At last one of those from the debating group began to shout towards the house :

" Ivan! Ivan! Come here, there's some work -for you.'

"From the house came a sturdy peasant lad with his cap over one ear and began to go slowly over to my car. I remember he had no special marKs of rank on his sleeve, nor anything else by which I could tell who he might be.

"Anyway, at sight of him my heart beat faster, but I was not afraid, only began to repeat quickly, 'Under Thy protection.' When I had finished, I was ready for anything that might happen.

"Ivan inspected me carefully, then went over to the group, and more whispering began. At length I heard his coarse voices 'Everything must be according to regulation.' He said something else, and soon those guarding me moved away.

"They ordered, me to go to Wilno and report to some Commissar. I don't remember his name. Well, so I'm here."

Sutocki soon went off to the second division, in the south of France. I don't know if he succeeded in getting to Switzerland. I asked everyone who might know, but no one could tell me.

Sometimes when the moon rises over the Highland mountains, when the forest murmurs and the waters shine angrily on Loch Lomond, Loch Ness or Loch Leven, I think of the Narocz. I suppose the lake still shines silver, -and the fish leap. But the waters are empty. Silent.

In the depths of the wood, near Mlynek, at midnight, from the waves rises the burnt home of the miller. The wheel turns, the windows glow with a green light. From behind those windows comes a weeping like a low howl. Half-human- half-wolf like-weeping for lost happiness. The moon rustles silver over the waves, the trees answer in hollow tones from the shore, from the Foremost ranks of that black wall, crenellated at its top. And thus it remains till the distant sound is heard of hounds in full cry. The echoes ring through the forest, and the tangled melody breaks on the shore of the lake.

But now the miller's home vanishes, the hunt breaks suddenly off. Evidently the dogs are scared by the splash of the great bubbles which began to break on the surface of the water looking in the moonlight like little silver fountains splashing over the waves.

After a moment one dog bays, then another, then the whole pack begins to sing, but ever more quietly, as if farther away, weaker and weaker, till the sound fades and dies. Above the forest the red edge of the dawn begins to show.

I believe, as all the trees in the Uzla forest believe, all the wild animals of the woods, all the birds large and small, birds of prey and the twittering little ones; as the frogs, snakes, and lizards believe, as the little weevil believes, digging with difficulty its twisting passages under the bark of the firs and pines, as every flower believes, and every piece of moss and every grain of sand on the edge of the antheaps, that the day of freedom will come.

It will be like every other day rising with the ruddy dawn, pinning the star of the sun, signal for the morning chatter, on the tip of the tallest pine tree in the forest. The trees will not change their shapes, nor the animals, people will not become more beautiful, the air will not be more fragrant than usual, nor the water less capricious, in the frost less icy nor the heat less tiring. Neither by sight nor by sound will anyone or anything feel the difference.

Only suddenly, betwixt one moment and the next, all worries will seem unimportant. Even the stones will feel ease and joy.

Then the miller, lying numbly on the lake bottom, will wake in live amazement. He, banned from the light of the sun, will see the light. He will see above him the greenish tiles of the surface, and the festoons of the waves upon them, will see the gold and silver fish swimming in the streaks of sunlight. Still not understanding what has happened, he will rise and begin to walk over the bed of the lake. The ooze will not suck down his feet, nor the slippery arms of the drowned trees clutch and hold him. The quivering green and silver will spread itself as a path leading straight to the shore. Where the sun glows most strongly, where the sharp flakes of light dance on the water, there he will put up his head from under the waves.

Blinking, dazzled, not yet believing he will look at the richness of the living wood, sunk in the hot light. He will touch the sand with his foot and feel its damp caress. That will revive him. A while he will stand on the shore, then, tired, will go to rest in the shade of the trees. He will lie down on the moss and sleep the sleep of a good man whose journey is done. Slowly from the depths of the woods will come panting hounds, tired from their many centuries of hunting, and they too will lie down to sleep, satisfied, quiet and happy.

Thus they will wait for the first night of the free world. When the sunset falls, in fiery splendour, the moon will wake the sleepers,' but not to new trials, tears, sorrow or the ill-omened hunt. The sign of ghosts will then lose its gift of curses. Now its great strength will set out to the star which shows the road to the Milky Way, which leads straight to the gates of Paradise.

Meanwhile on earth the prisons will open, the places of torture and pain, the undiscovered lairs of the refugees, the clefts of the mountains will open, the underground hiding places of the hunted and the secret caves. People will rise from them, and begin to climb the mountains and hills, loudly praising the justice of the Lord. The clear echo resounding from the rocks will join with the murmur of prayer in perfect harmony, mingled with the sounds of the forests, the murmur of waterfalls and the never-ceasing melody of the sea rocked by the wind.

Thus will be the first night of freedom.

But how many crucifixions must there be, how many grievous trials must man undergo, to hasten that day, and render himself worthy of victory?