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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.

Author's Forward


Lake Narocz; Uzlo; 1939; Crakow; Poland; Wilnow; Kolomyja; Bialystok; Lwow; Ural; Siberia; Naroczanka; Lithuanian borderland; Russia; Dygasinski


The Chronicals of Lake Narocz is really a collection of essays and semi-fictionalised historical sketches. The author's holidays spent at the Hostel on the lake form the narrative weave of the book. The author's forward below explains how publication was interrupted by the start of WWII, and tells the remarkable tale of how his wife carried the manuscript as she fled the war, eventually being confined by the Soviets in Siberia.

Lake Narocz, following numerous border changes over history is now in modern Belarus renamed Lake Narach. From Lieswicz's time to this day is a popular resort location.

One of the most ansorbing parts of this book concerns the Great War / First World War a great offensive took place there in March-April 1916 that was militarily a Russian failure, but was part of the effort by the Allies to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun. So arguably, the Russians achieved a strategic success by preventing the Central Powers from diverting troops to the life and death struggle at Verdun, where the French eventually prevailed. Wikipaedia - Map of Eastern Front

Author's Forward: The Text

THE "CHRONICLES OF LAKE NAROCZ" had undergone many vicissitudes of fortune before they reached Scotland and found themselves in the hands of the editor. The matters described there had been collected by me near the Lake Narocz, in the Uzlo tourist hut, where I was in the habit of spending a few months yearly for five successive years. When the book at last was completed some time before the outbreak of the present war, in 1939, it was left at the editors to be published at their convenience. The last galleys of the set manuscript reached me as late as the beginning of August, 1939- Some-thing prompted me to ask for two extra copies of the rough proofs instead of the usual one.

At four o'clock in the morning, on 20th August, 1939, I was summoned straight from the shores of the Lake Narocz to report for duty in the 2nd Polish Air Force regiment. I at once packed some luggage, not forgetting to take with me the corrected proofs of the book, together with the sketches and photographs, to give them to the publishers in Cracow. The second copy I gave to my wife, instructing her to guard it well.

My dear wife fulfilled my wish in every respect. The fates of the war forced her to wander all over that part of Poland, from Wilno, southwards, to Kolomyja, from there north-wards to Bialystok, thence southwards again to Lwow. There she was arrested, thus sharing the fate of all the educated classes; she was allowed fifteen minutes in which to prepare for the long and dreadful journey to Ural and still further to Siberia. Although she did not manage to take many neces-sities, she did not forget the manuscript.

She guarded the manuscript with her dear life. She slept and ate beside it. She kept it near her heart in case there would be an unexpected search, for no Polish books were allowed in the camp. I do not even know all her adventures and those of the manuscript. I can only guess many of the details, others I heard from third parties. Some pages and two complete chapters are. missing. Not only that, but the bad condition of the brittle, low quality paper, as is usual with proofs, tells its own tale.

I have decided just to leave the book as it was, without correcting or completing the missing chapters. I do not intend to reconstruct tales of the white hare and his adven-ture with Zloty Mykita ("Golden Brush"), a fox from above the river Naroczanka. I doubt if I could rewrite now in true spirit the beauty of a spring which both my wife and I saw and felt deeply by the shores of this lake on the Lithuanian borderland. On that occasion we heard the trumpets of the winds as they blew across the wild tree tops; giving the effect of some mighty orchestra accompanied by the salvos of the breaking ice Hoes on the lake surface, as they piled one on the top of another. How could 1. recollect once more in my imagination, now so weary, or in my war-worn mind, the atmosphere of the awakening earth, as .it tried to break the unbearable ice bonds? How could I resuscitate the scents of the damp undergrowth of the forest or the echoing cries of the wild birds through the dark curtain of night?

This dedication of spring I made then to my wife. To-day the whole book, clumsily written, as I now feel, I offer her humbly, in grateful admiration. She came through the hard tests more victorious than I.

But enough of this. Personal matters, in the face of to-day's happenings, have no meaning, do not count, are unimportant. Each one of us will be called upon to give an account from his or her deeds, elsewhere and at some other time.

When, one well-remembered day in London, I was handed a parcel from Russia, I at once realized what it was, but I hesitated a long time before opening it. I was afraid that all my wife's trouble was in vain, that all that was written in these chronicles was no longer of interest to anyone.

However, I opened it and, thinking of all those of us who are here in Great Britain, in the eye of the whirlwind, began to try to get the book published. The eye of the whirlwind is the name given by sailors to that strange place in the centre of that cosmic whirlpool where there is absolute peace and fair weather, while the winds rave all around. That peace is always only a short pause between one storm and the next.

At the moment there reigns over us that deceptive peace. Before the "eye" passes us by, we should make the most of the possibility of a short breathing space and prepare ourselves for a new struggle, even harder than. the former. Before we can look around, we shall be swallowed in the roar of break-ing worlds, the fiery splashes of astral foam from the sea of' blood and fire.

But while there is still time, perhaps these unconnected matters of the Lithuanian forests and lakes will permit some one of us to realize what he is fighting for and why he fights. He may realize that the aim of this war is not vengeance for the home taken from him, for the prosperity, for the soiled joy of life. The aim of the Struggle is not personal gain. We are fighting for the right to a clean, unspoiled morning or evening prayer together with the animals, earth, clouds, and water - for many generations. Therefore we, to whom has fallen the task of returning the history of the world to its proper order, returning peace, may not shrink from drink-ing the bitter draught to the dregs. We may not even ask, as Christ asked; "Father, take away this cup." We may only ask for a greater share of pain and anxiety, that we may liberate from them forever our children and our lovely country.

Perhaps it will be a good thing, I thought, if someone can tear himself away from the sad realities and take his thoughts to the colourful waters, where the shapes of the fish show in the lazy peace of mid-day. Let him take his thoughts to the woods, where live the wolf, sharp lynx, deer with the sorrow-ful eyes, large-eyed hare, where there dance in the dawn light the fiery squirrels, and the birds, summer and winter, hold their secret ceremonies of twittering life.

I should like the reader in this way to realize the ephemeral nature of all phenomena in comparison with the eternity of the earth, the unimportance of individual beings in face of the continuity of the species. He should understand the meaning of the struggle for existence, a struggle which pays no regard to to-day; he should understand the right of natural selection and the law of the necessity of conscious personal sacrifice. All these matters of the earth, water and air show what was so well understood by Kipling or Dygasinski: that there is no room for the good, only for the best. He who wishes to live must make every effort, take advantage of every opportunity. The. nature of things is not to forgive any carelessness, any mistake, any contradiction of oneself. It destroys and roots out that which is not diligent enough; kills that which is not prudent enough; condemns to destruction that which is not sufficiently alert, or not wise enough - that is, the weak; curses with forgetfulness the wilful and selfish.