I didn’t live in Poland in 1918, when the main character of my book ‘Catherine’s Dream’ would be a young woman in a country once ruled by Kings, until foreign nations like Russia, Prussia, and Austria took over its borders. When I started the research for this book, I learned Poland had been partitioned three times by these countries! First in 1772, then in 1792, and finally in 1795 on October 24th.
Poland fought back the first two times but on the third time Poland was once again removed from the political map of Europe. In fact, there wouldn’t be a Poland for 123 years until the end of The Great War in 1918 (better known as WWI). The third time these countries made efforts to de-Polarize the Polish people, especially Russia and Germany (Prussia). These countries forbid Poles to use their native tongue and restricted their education.
A Country Divided
Imagine you are a young Polish woman who was born in 1903, in this partitioned country once ruled by Kings. Your ancestors before you tried to fight back against Russian oppression but failed. Germany to the west had pressured Poles to learn their language and government ways, but you were born south of the Vistula River, just outside of Krakow, in Podgorzé, where Austria-Hungary wasn’t as forceful. Still, this area suffered a great deal of poverty as this part of the partitioned Poland was mostly agriculture and mountains.
This young woman named Catherine grew up on an apple orchard once run by the church for the Kings because peasants weren’t allowed to own property. But due to the partitions the laws changed, and her parents were able to own the land. The orchard would be her dowry. Her parents would find her a suitable husband and together they would be expected to run the farm and have children.
Apples or Art?
Now, owning an apple orchard is not easy, there is weather, disease to the trees, some years are good and other years the orchard struggles. As you become of age in addition to doing farm chores, cooking, making rugs on the loom, etc. you are expected to work at your uncle’s accounting business. It is the most boring job ever, entering numbers, adding, subtracting, but deep inside you have a dream, a dream of sketching and creating art…
Click here to read the first chapter of Catherine’s Dream.
This is your lot in life, a life of drudgery… it’s either clean pig stalls or enter numbers in a ledger until your back hurts.