Ewa (Eva) Barbacka, my Mother’s Lost Friend from WWII

In September 1939 my mother wrote,
Eva Barbacka was a typical Slavic type—a very pale complexion, a round sweet face, large grayish blue eyes and a head of reddish brown waving hair. To tell the truth I had always been a little afraid of her. At that time I did not know that the Slavic race had an exceptional gift for foreign languages. It seemed to me that Eva spoke French amazingly well. At Institut Droissard she spoke better than any other foreign girl and in her Secretarial School it was known that she made brilliant success of her examinations.

The first year we were there we hardly spoke to each other. She had loads of Polish and Belgian friends and I was too wrapped up in my studies to pay attention to anyone.
September [1938] was nearly at an end. Each day had monotonously followed the next all thru the vacation months. There had been a bit of war scare but aside from that nothing had interrupted my routine preparation for entering the Conservatory.

One night as I lay in bed thinking over endless thoughts the door bell rang way down stairs. Mlle del Chevalrie was an exceedingly cautious old lady of eighty-four. She was very pious and devoted to Mlle Gerard, the Directrice of our pensionat. Naturally it is a Belgian precaution against burglars and air drafts to inquire thru the keyhole before opening the door.

From my open window the answer came clearly resounding thru the silent rue de Florence. Eva Barbacka had returned from Poland. It is an extremely tiring journey. She had not even woken up the next morning when Mlle Pre’vot, a typical little Belgian teacher took her a tray.

Eva said there had been hardly any noise of war near her home in the Carpathian Mountains. According to her the govt. had taken all the precautions of avoiding a panic, even mobilizing the soldiers at night. It seemed to me she always looked down on the Belgians and never told anything of her private life.

In the evenings she would come up to my room or I would stop at hers. She always did most of the talking, telling of all the sufferings of her people. Poland has always been under the tyranny of Austria or Germany or Russia. She adored the Emperor Napoleon but said he had always deceived the Polish soldiers, making promises of their liberty which he had never been able to fulfill. She had an enormous will and flair for political argument.
1939-07-22 Barb, Ann, Eva. St Mark's Basillica, Venice
1939-07-22 my mother, Ann, and Eva in front of St Mark’s Basillica, Venice

The Polish spelling is Ewa; my mother knew her as Eva. The young women attended Institut Droissard the Royal Brussels Conservatory from 1937-1939 and studied under Master Emile Bosquet. The summer of 1939, Eva, my mother, and another student toured Europe, their destination, Eva’s home near Chelmiec, Poland. On August 26, 1939, Eva’s father put my mother on a train and told her she must flee because Germany and Russia had signed a nonaggression pact and German troops were massing on the borders of Poland.
My mother mentioned Eva a few times over the next sixty years but I think she must have believed that Eva had perished during WWII. This past week I learned that she married in 1942 and had three children. I am attempting to contact her youngest son, Tomasz N.
Eva died in 2003. What a tragedy that my mother and Eva were never able to reconnect.

Next week I plan to post a proposal letter written by a young Polish soldier, asking my grandparents permission to marry my mother. I could use help translating it.

1 Comment

  1. Gale Anderson says:

    I have read what’s available so far and anxiously want to read more. It was nice to visit with you this summer. later…


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