Part 3: Harvest Moon

In summer, the Polish harvester came with their families to bring in the harvest. The grandmother – the babushka – stayed in the barn with the smallest children, where everyone slept, and took care of the dinner.

Everyone was in the fields. In piecework the men mowed the grain, the women tied it into sheaves, and the children set up the sheaves where the grain could dry until threshing.

No home of their own for weeks. Many young men stayed in the village after the harvest and became miners. This was still better than the Romani life at harvest time. They married German or their Polish girls and for decades every third or fourth family was called Kowalsky, Wischnewski or Wischinsky, which didn’t bother anyone. All that counted underground was comradeship. You had to be able to rely on your partner, regardless of whether his name was Wischinsky or Mรผller. No one knew the word integration.

As hard as the work was, as hearty was the celebration. Easter and Christmas were not so important. But Pentecost, there was celebrated the dirty pig festival, originally a pagan custom: the spring drives away the winter. The dirty pigs were the Pentecost boys, who embodied the gray winter. As for the Mardi Gras, they had to come up with something, they were devils, team of oxen or billy goats and rolled in the stream or specially prepared wallows. Spring was embodied by the three runners, dressed from head to toe in tight knee breeches all in white, on their heads flower hats with colorful ribbons up to their hips. The runners’ whips with their short, strong handles and meter-long ropes circled over their heads, and with a short jerk in the opposite direction they produced a sharp crack of the whip. The whip concert of three was practiced secretly all year round, because at Pentecost the whip concert had to work flawlessly.

To become a runner, one had to be a blameless Pentecost boy for many years. When the winter was driven out of the forest, things got rough. Everything that could run was on its feet. When the runners cracked their whips three times at short intervals, it was time for the dirty pigs to head for home. The dirty pigs did not always leave voluntarily. The runners drove them out of the forest with their whips. Woe betides if a dirty pig soiled a runner in white! Expulsion from the Pentecostal Association would have been the punishment, and nobody risked this disgrace.

Two hours later, all the Pentecost boys, and the emphasis was on โ€˜all,โ€™ freshly washed with a red or white peony in their buttonhole, marched through the village to the fairground to brass band music. Summer had beaten winter, and for everyone the dance began on the festively decorated dance floor. For us children there was woodruff or raspberry soda and a roll of drops. The happiness was perfect. ๐“ฃ๐“ธ ๐“‘๐“ฎ ๐“’๐“ธ๐“ท๐“ฝ๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“พ๐“ฎ๐“ญ

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