AN INTERVIEW WITH A MEMBER OF THE SPANISH ROYAL FAMILY
On these days the attention of the world has been concentrated on Spain in relation to the abdication of king Juan Carlos, after 40 years of his reign. His son – the prince Philip becomes his successor. In order to get to know Spain better and Polish traces left there, with the count Jose Miguel Zamoyski de Borbon, who belongs to the Spanish Royal Family, Cesary Taracha talks about relations of Poland with Spain and love to homeland.
CEZARY TARACHA: – The Zamoyski family is the one of the most famous aristocratic in history of Poland. Its prominent representative was the great chancellor Jan Zamoyski, the founder of Zamosc city, being on the List of the World Heritage of Humankind UNESCO. In the XIX century, because of persecutions from invaders or for other reasons many Poles had to leave their land and settle in other countries. What were the circumstances in which Your relatives made contacts with Spain?
JOSE MIGUEL ZAMOYSKI DE BORBON: – The Zamoyski family has had blood relationships with the Spanish royal family for many generations, either with the Bourbons or with the Habsburgs. Certainly, the most known one to me is the case of my grandfather Jan Zamoyski who married a Spanish niece of king Alfons XIII, Izabela Alfonsa de Borbon.
– Soon after the wedding, the young couple, Your grandfather and Izabela, went to Stara Lubowla, a town situated on the border of Poland and Slovakia where the Zamoyski family had their properties. What was the life of Your grandfathers like in Slovakia?
– On the basis of many testimonies of the family, documents and souvenirs which my father saved from those times, I know that these were happy times. Ordinary, simple life in the village, connected with agricultural work, far away from capital cities and European courtyards. There was the atmosphere of family love. My grandmother, Izabela Alfonsa, devoted her time to children, administration of properties and her beloved husband. In this place it is worth reminding about the relations of these lands with Poland. The district administration has been a part of the Polish Republic for ages, which was reflected also in the literature, like in the ‘Potop’ by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It was just historic interest and love to souvenirs connected with the Polish history which made my great-grandfather – an earl Andrzej Zamoyski buy Stara Lubownia.
– Also during the Second World War your grandfather proved his patriotism and love to Poland…
– Indeed, my grandfather, Jan Zamoyski de Borbon, suffered from persecutions and imprisonment by the Nazis because of his help given to Polish patriots going through the border and many other people experiencing the occupant. Here it is worth adding that my grandmother and children had to be subjected to the rigors of the domestic arrest during the whole time of the occupation. Not wanting to follow the recommendations of the German authorities, grandparents were subordinated to various therapies, restricting their freedom. My father mentioned that because of the strategic location of Stara Lubowla, the Germans were settling in the castle, destroying the family life and the property of the grandparents.
– Occupying these areas by the Soviet armies was a danger for the life of the Zamoyski family and forced them to return to Spain and leaving their whole property. How did the grandparents get used to the life in new circumstances?
– The departure, and in fact an escape from the Polish-Slovak border was a very difficult episode in life of my grandparents. For nearly a year they were moving with four little kids through various front lines. The fact that they got to Spain as good and sound can be nearly considered as a miracle. The grandfather mentioned that they had left Stara Lubowla, hearing about executions of whole families and being afraid about the fate of their children. The castle was invaded by the Soviet armies and many people related to the Zamoyski family were arrested and shot. Despite these terrible circumstances two sisters of my grandfather, earls, Roza and Teresa Zamoyski, decided to stay which ended with the arrest, repressions and a sad end of their life. In the beginning the grandfather had planned that after bringing the family to Spain, he would return to Stara Lubowla, and new order and the Soviet blockage thwarted his intentions. In such difficult and sad circumstances grandfathers started a new phase of their life.
– After the collapse of the communist system in central-eastern Europe in many countries a process of returning the property seized by the state started. As far as I know, You also undertook attempts to regain what was Your property. Information on it is in the recently published book ‘Slachticke rody na hrade L’ubovna’ (2012). What are the results of the talks conducted in this issue with the Soviet authorities?
– Indeed my grandparents – earl Jan Zamoyski and earl Izabela were trying to regain their property in Poland and in Slovakia. Unfortunately, in vain. They did not manage to regain even tools of personal usage, which after the departure of grandparents remained in the castle in Stara Lubowla. Also attempts of contacting the earls Roza and Teresa were in vain. Everything was a hard experience for them, and my grandfather lost health and was in deep depression, which he was not able to overcome for his whole life. In later times similar efforts were taken by my father. On various occasions and on various roads he was trying to regain at least a part of his property in Poland and in Slovakia. Unfortunately, similarly as grandfather, he faced a wall of hatred to any negotiations. It was a very sad experience for my family. The great contribution of my grandparents in the economic and social development of these areas was quickly forgotten. These were people who devoted their life to their land and led a very simple life and devoted themselves to work. Everything they had, invested in the development of agriculture and a touristic promotion of the resort Wyzne Ruzbachy, which was also the property of the Zamoyski family. Thanks to their effort, those areas experienced a prosperity period in the pre-war period, and the resort became one of the most famous centres of thermal waters in this part of Europe. This lack of recognition of my grandparents’ efforts, who worked on this land with love and devotion, seems particularly unfair for me. Political circumstances and the course of events seemed particularly cruel towards my grandparents, dooming them to persecutions, necessity of leaving their family places, to financial devastation and bitterness of their last years of life. My grandfather was a patriot, my grandmother gave her homeland her soul and strengths and father and his siblings were brought up on this land. They did nothing bad to anybody.
– You belong to the Spanish Royal Family. Can you tell us how the royal court functions in the beginning of the XXI century? What person is king Juan Carlos I who has just announced his abdication?
– My father was a cousin of His Majesty King of Spain. Whereas the king’s mum, Her Majesty, the Countess of Barcelona, was my grandmother’s sister. For the whole life they were in close contact, similarly as my parents with their Majesties the earldom of Barcelona. As for my uncle, king Juan Carlos I, he is an excellent man – polite, generous and devoted to state matters. He devoted his life to serve Spain. And what about the Spanish court? It functions in a completely different today than centuries ago, without unnecessary ceremonial or protocol. When my uncle took over the throne, he decided to simplify all possible forms, adjusting himself to the requirements of times contemporary to him and the state service. However, on the other hand, we must remember that royal homes represent tradition, the past and the contemporary times of their countries. They are an essential element of identity of particular countries, which – like Spain – have their rich history.
– How do You perceive the current situation of Spain, which is experiencing the period of crisis? What are possible solutions?
– Indeed, the current situation of the country experienced by a serious crisis of economy is complicated and painful for all the Spanish. However, we hope that thanks to good work and wise management of public matters by suitable administrative institutions, we will be able to overcome these problems in a relatively short time.
– And how do you perceive contemporary Poland? Do you feel related to it?
– Poland is an excellent country and Poles are brave people, distinguished by their dignity. This is the nation which throughout centuries has always been able to behave properly in every situation, even in the most difficult moments. And, like my father count Jozef Zamoyski and grandfather, I feel honoured to have the Polish blood. Both my father and me learnt to speak Polish. This custom was introduced by my grandfather in the times when they lived in Stara Lubowla. He brought Polish teachers into the castle, who were supposed to teach his Polish children to speak Polish, and about history and culture of Poland. A beautiful testimony of those times is given in published memories by Mrs. Wilhelmina Wajda-Jankowska, who in the 30s of the XX century was bringing a torch of the Polish education to the children of the Spanish countess. And contemporary Poland? It seems to me that she could adjust herself to the requirements of today’s times and her main richness are people.
– Your citizenship is Spanish but you have close contacts with your family and friends in Poland…
– Yes. Especially in the recent years I have managed to rebuild family relations, contacts with relatives, which were very limited before for political reasons. For this reason I am very glad about visits both in Poland and in Slovakia, during which I can meet people dear to me, make new friendships. I would like to emphasize that I have a great respect to Poland and Slovakia and their inhabitants.
– In the year 2007 You visited the Tatra mountains with your friends. How do you reminisce that time?
– My memories of the journeys there are positive and moving for me. I particularly reminisce the first journey to Stara Lubola and Wyznych Ruzbachow which I made with my parents after the political system changes in Central-Eastern Europe. Seeing the places of his childhood, my father was so emotionally moved that he could hardly move. He sat on a wall in front of the entrance to the castle and engrossed himself in reminiscences. Local people recognized him, although they mistook him for my grandfather because of his much similarity in appearance. They came up to him and, being emotionally touched, talked. Looking at it, I realized the fact how many things made my father related with the land. However, it was a difficult experience for him, too, because he was to face up his childhood. Since then I have had many occasions for other visits on the Polish-Slovakian border. My nice memories is a journey to the Tatra mountains in the year 2007, when, being in the company of my friends: Mrs. Jadwiga Krol-Wilczek, Mr. Wojciech Wilczek, and You, Mr. Professor, I was getting to know the most beautiful parts of Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains. My every meeting with the land so dear to my grandparents and parents is also a source of unusual experiences for me. Just here, in the mountains, in the castle in Stara Lubowla, I find signs of the presence of my ancestors.