Katarzyna (Teriaszwili) Gnatowska

leon_memorial_p9_1I never knew my Mother. She died a month after giving birth. However, I heard a lot about her not only from my Father, but also from her family and friends.

 

According to all accounts she was a very beautiful woman, half Georgian and half Russian of Austrian descent. She was the daughter of Major dpl Konstanty Teriaszwili who was a contractual officer in Pilsudzki’s army and died of wounds defending Warsaw in 1939. He is buried in Pawazki.

 

She was born in Poland and domiciled in Poznan where her father was based. After completing her schooling there she entered the University of Poznan to study philosophy, however, due to the outbreak of war she could not complete her studies.

 

In 1943, together with her mother (my Babcia), and her brother Janek they left Poland for Italy supposedly to go and live with relatives based close to Milan which was occupied by German forces. This was made possible due to my grandmother’s Austrian status – she had kept her nationality which guaranteed her permission from the German authorities to travel. The real purpose in fact was to try and cross enemy lines in Italy and join the Polish Free Forces (Drugi Korpus) advancing through Italy.

 

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This took however a long time and it was not till the middle of 1944 they managed to cross German lines and link up with the Polish Army. My uncle Janek immediately joined them with the rank of sub-lieutenant and my mother also entered the Drugi Korpus working alongside the Red Cross.

 

leon_memorial_p10_3One day my Father, by this time based close to Forli (this was after the famous Battle of Monte Cassino) went to visit one of the transit camps housing Polish refugees in order to obtain news about Poland and the tragic events that occurred there between 1939 and 1944. On entering the transit camp he was directed to the administrative office of the Polish section where my mother was staffed. It was love at first sight. The rest as they say is history.

 

He courted her, proposed to her and they were married at the Cathedral of Modena in late 1944.

 

Most of 1945 they spent in Italy eventually leaving for England in early 1946. I was born in November 1946. My mother died in January 1947.

 

My Father never re-married and she remained the love of his life until his death. He was buried in London and I moved my Mother, who was buried in Wales, to rest together with him. Now they will be together at Powazki in the country which my Father loved so much.

 

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leon_memorial_p11_1In 1994 I was on a business trip to Warsaw and decided to take a tram ride. While in the tram I noticed an elderly woman staring at me in a manner that I found unnerving. I tried to avoid her stare and decided to get off at the next stop. Just before the next stop, she got up, came towards me and asked me if the name Katarzyna Teriaszwili was familiar to me. I stammered out that she was my Mother. The lady in question seeing my shock, apologized and said that she was one of my Mother’s best friends in Poznan, where they went to school together, and that I resembled her. Both of us got off at the next stop went to a café and I learnt a lot about Kasia. She told me that the last time they saw each other was in 1943 and, then because of the war, they lost touch.

 

I told her the rest of the story as outlined above.

 

PS: We agreed to meet the next time I was going to be in Warsaw but unfortunately she passed away before I could honor the engagement.

 

Maciej Gnatowski