Genowefa (Jean) Wojtkowska Schmitz - Part 1

Genowefa Wojtkowska Schmitz

Genevieve or Jean Schmitz

Aged 19

Years: 10 August 1910 - 6 July 1988

Birth Information
Genowefa Wojtkowska was born to Adam Wojtkowski and his wife Maryanna Wojtkowska. To the Polish feast and saint days were very important, so people were usually named after them. However, if there was a very close and/or cherished relative, they were named after them. As the saint day for Genowefa is January 3rd and her birth date is in August, I would hazard a guess that Genowefa was named after someone close to her mother and/or father.

Note: Research is still being done in this area.

Genowefa's surname or last name Wojtkowska (is female version of Wojtkowski) comes from a habitational name for someone from a place called Wojtkowice in Lomza voivodeship (this would be a small town or village in the US). The overall area was named Malkinia (this would be a bigger area such as a county in the US). Genowefa had told her family about where she came from was by 2 waterways - The Bug and Vistula Rivers. There are other places which this surname came be from, however, according from research this is the area Genowefa and her parents lived.

Country of Origin - Poland
In the second half of the 18th century, Poland was split up into 3 partitions - one section went to Russia, a second to Germany and the third to Austria. These partitions completely wiped Poland from the map as you can see from the map below. It stayed this way for 123 years.
The Polish Partitions from a forum
The partitions did not fall at the same time. 
The First Partition -started on August 5, 1772. This was done because of the threatening growth between Russia, Prussia (aka Germany) and Austria. By this partitioning, they (Germany and Russia) figured Austria would stop wanting to be more like Russia and its influences if they gave them a bit of land and would hopefully prevent any war that was likely. 
Another page reports:
King Stanislaus Augustus put into effect a series of reforms to strengthen Poland's military, political system, economy, and society. These reforms reached their climax with the enactment of the May Constitution in 1791, which established a constitutional monarchy with separation into three branches of government, strengthened the bourgeoisie and abolished many of the privileges of the nobility as well as many of the old laws of serfdom. In addition, to strengthen Poland's international standings, King Stanislaw signed the Polish-Prussian Pact of 1790, ceding further territories to Prussia in exchange for a military alliance.

This was referenced to a page about Poland's 1st partition
The Second Partition - started on January 23, 1793. The reason behind this split was because of Russian and Prussia (German) entering Austria's land after the War in Defense of the Constitution. Due to threats, the Polish parliament agreed to the division. One main reason for this agreement was so the entire Poland land was not taken by Russia, Austria and Prussia (Germany). 
The same page (as above quote) reports:
Outraged with the further humiliation of Poland by her neighbors and the betrayal of the Polish nobility and emboldened by the French Revolution unfolding in France, the Polish masses quickly turned against the occupying forces of Prussia and Russia. Following a series of nationwide riots, on March 24, 1794, Polish patriot Tadeusz Kościuszko took command of the Polish armed forces and declared a nationwide uprising against Poland’s foreign occupiers, marking the beginning of the Kościuszko Uprising.

This was referenced on Rootsweb about Poland's 2nd partition
The Third Partition - started on October 24, 1795. What was left of Poland, rebelled and rose up against the 3 powers in 1794 but was unsuccessful. This fighting was called the  Polish Kościuszko Uprising. Because of the fighting, Russia, Prussia (Germany) and Austria decided to punish Poland once again and annexed all the lands completely into their empires. This is when Poland ceased to exist. 
The same page (as above quote) reports: 
Despite a heated disagreement between Austria and Prussia over the division of land that almost led the negotiations to collapse, it was eventually agreed that Austria would receive the territories of Western Galicia and Southern Masovia, along with approximately 1.2 million people; Prussia received Podlachia, the remainder of Masovia, and Warsaw, with 1 million people; and Russia received the remainder, including the city of Vilnius and 1.2 million people. Since Poland no longer existed as a national entity following the Kosciuszko Rebellion, the conquering powers found no need to force approval from a Polish representative as they had done with the previous partitions. The partition coalition forced King Stanislaw to abdicate and he retired to St. Petersburg as Catherine II's trophy prisoner, where he died in 1798. Austria, Russia, and Prussia sought to permanently erase the existence of Poland, even down to the country's name...
The Polish Partitions from a forum
It was partitioned like this until after World War 1 which is discussed below. Also, be aware that because of this partitioning, people from Poland started to migrate to other countries and one of those being the United States.
In 1807 the Duchy of Warsaw was created by Napoleon. However by 1815 it ended with the Congress of Vienna. The Kingdom of Poland, or Congress Poland, was created next but was thought of as a Russian puppet and did not have any real power behind it unless it was to side with Russia. Then in 1831 there was a Polish insurrection, which ended Congress Poland when Russia  and exacted multiple punitive measures on the Polish population.
This is what Genowef's house and neighbourhood might have looked like back in the early 1900's (Note: this is not my picture but I have lost the link to the website due to computer issues.)
Her life in Poland

As discussed above, she considered herself from Poland or Polish but the lands were considered a part of Russia during this time, so on many documents they simply say Polish (Russian) or Russia (Polish) or many other versions of these words.

Below shows you a map of the area she grew up which was considered Russia (Poland).
Google Map of the area in 2014 - Warsaw is in the lower left and the areas mentioned are in the middle with some of the bigger towns on the right.

Google Map zoomed in map in 2014 of the village and towns around what was once the Wojtkowice area in Russia Poland.

Her parents and herself lived around her mother's family as was custom. They had a huge extended family which they were always together.

The picture below is of the type of house they probably lived in during the time they lived in Poland.

Note: Research is still being done in this area.

When she was about 2 or 3, or about 1912, her father, Adam, left Russia (Poland) with very close friends on his wife and went to the United States leaving his wife and child, Genowefa, behind.

World War 1
Less than 2 years after Genowefa's father left, World War 1 started on 28 July 1914. Genowefa told us, her family, the Nazi's and Russians were always around where they lived because of the fighting and shifting of the boundaries. As The Washington Times map and article on November 27, 1914 states about the fighting.
From The Washington Times on November 27 1914

Specifically, she told us about the Nazi's. They were constantly bombing their town day and night, no matter where you went you saw them - train station, into town or for a walk. Some information (below) I've found to further explain what she was talking about.

From Barrier Minder newspaper on 14 August 1915
From The Mercury newspaper on 17 August 1915

The Queenslander newspaper on 21 August 1915
Soldier at Malkinia Station
Soldiers at Malkinia Station
Nazi's at Malkinia Railway station

German soldiers standing at the Malkinia station - from


This would have been very fearful walking around and seeing soldiers and having air raids and bombs dropping on you from overhead. Genowefa happen to her from at least the start of the war when she was 4 years old. Then there was the raids on homes where they soldiers, on both sides, would take all or most of your food and anything worth of any value. 

As if taking away your food and anything of worth, Poles or Polish people were not able to:
  • Own land unless they met specific requirements and they were very specific - like inheritance.
  • They couldn't speak Polish - they had to speak in other languages like Russian, German, and Latin depending on who occupied the land 
  • They could not pray or gather for religious meetings
  • They could not celebrate their religion (Roman Catholic, Jewish or Catholic) or else they would be prosecuted
  • They had to be careful to who they spoke to or were seen with as Jews were about half the population and both Germans and Russians wanted to "get rid" of them. Sometimes by being with them, you were seen as one of them. 
Then World War 1 ended in 1918 and Genowefa was now 8 years old. One of the results of the war ending was United States President Woodrow Wilson's statement on "Fourteen Points" given on January 8, 1918 and in it he declared World War I was being fought for a moral causes and calling for postwar peace in Europe.

In it, he calls for "an independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant." He was to have a major influence at the Paris Peace Conference, but he came down sick and couldn't attend. However, his points were used in the major outcome which was the Treaty of Versailles where Territorial changes came about in Europe and one of these were for Poland to become its own country once again. 

Even though The Great War had ended, there was still fighting between Poland and its neighbours. Poland was finally granted an "independent republic" status in the treaty, but because of its location - between Germany and Russia - but there were many border wars to establish where the exact borders would be. However, Poland was back on the map, but the exact borders kept changing.

Probable or Known Reasons why Migrated to the United States
The border fighting and the terrific human and material losses during this time of the 1918 to 1920, contributed to their migration to the United States. The bigger motivator of the migration would have been her father, as he had settled in the United States by this time.
A Singleton Argus newspaper clipping on 12 August 1920

Then in 1919, the Polish–Soviet War or as we call it in our family, The Bolshevik War, started. The cause is not known, but what is known is the Soviet's wanted the land Poland now had as the rulers had the impression they had to have it in order to be with Germany to rule with power. In doing this, the land Genowefa and her mother were constantly terrified of the fighting.

An expert from the Concordia Sentinel newspaper in Louisiana reports about the (Malkin) Malkinia fighting. 

According to the page on the 81 Rifle Regiment Grodno, "On the night of August 3 or 4th, the regiment [81 Rifle Regiment Grodno] crossed by ferry to the southern bank of the Bug and 2 brigades combined and marched to Malkinia.  There again cross the north bank of the river, to take part in the maneuver Lt. Col. Rybicki exit the rear of the Soviet forces in the area of Monterey."

And according to a page on this history from Michael B. Richman, it states "The Bolsheviks retreated from Ostrow on August 15, 1920, a day that people called 'The Miracle of the Departure." On Friday, August 17th, the Poles took control of Malkinia, one of the nearest railroad stations to Ostrow. The Polish soldiers grabbed seven Jews, including old men, and without any reason or even a field-trail, shot them dead. This action created fear and grief in the Jewish population across the entire region.

On Sunday, August, 19th, the Bolsheviks returned and controlled Ostrow for another three weeks. When they left, a young man who had cooperated with the Bolsheviks was arrested, charged with openly criticizing the Polish government, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was publicly hanged the same day on Malkinia Road. "
Malkinia August 20 1920 Regiments 29 infantry brigades cross by Bug in pursuit of the Bolsheviks. Picture by Adam Grudzinski
This picture is of one regiment which fought around Malkinia  This is the 81 Pułk Strzelców Grodzieńskich Regiment
As you can see, both sides were going out and killing people for nothing. Soon after this, in August 1920, Geowefa and her mother left Malkinia (Malkin) and headed to Danzig, which was about 181 1/2 miles (or 290 1/2 milometers) from Malkinia.  I believe Geowafa and her mother would have passed many regiment soldiers on their way out of Malkinia (like the soliders above).
A older Polish passport from

When they arrived at Danzig, they planned on leaving the continent. On 20 August 1920, being the last people out before they closed the borders, Genowefa and her mother boarded the vessel New Rochelle on their way to the United States.

Genowefa's passenger record from Ellis Island

Picture of the vessel New Rochelle
Arriving immigrants behold the Statue of Liberty from Family Search

Genowefa always talked to her family about how they were on the ship's deck as they floated by the Statue of Liberty and how beautiful she was. Genowefa now considered herself safe and didn't have to worry about bombings and being attacked any longer.  She even told her granddaughter, Jo Ann, she finally felt safe and at home.

Arriving immigrants in 1902 at Ellis Island from Family Search

By the time they arrived at Ellis Island, Genowefa was suffering from severe malnutrition and could barely walk, but still considered herself lucky and happy.

The arrival manifest for Genowefa at Ellis Island in September 1920.
 On 19 September 1920, Genowefa and her mother walked out of Ellis Island and right into her father's awaiting arms who was waiting for them.

What Genowefa and her mother didn't know was as they left Poland on their life flight, the 19th Amendment on 18 August 1920 was ratified by Congress. This amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Imagine walking from a country where you couldn't own anything or speak your own language only to walk into a country and be allowed a say in its running once you become a citizen.
The 19th Amendment signed in August 1920

Even better - Genowefa walked into her new home where there was peace for the first time since she was born.

Please stay tuned for part 2 - Genowefa's life in the United States.