LONG, LONG TIME AGO…
IN THE YEAR 1923
It all began in the year 1923, when my grandfather – Alfred Wcislak – drifted, during one of his innumerable business trips, into the marvellous surroundings of the Beskid Sadecki highland region. He was a travelling engineer, living and working in the beautiful city of Lwow. Some day, he was quite unexpectedly despatched to a distant Kroscienko area with an urgent duty to supervise a bridge construction site nearby. The neighbourhood of Piwniczna-Zdroj, which he visited, was so impressive for my grandpa, that he immediately made up his mind to buy some land and put up a summer house there. This area was already well-known by its mineral water springs and a unique climate. At the very beginning, the house was about to be solely a summer site for the family and particularly for Alfred’s wife – Stefania, who worked as a teacher in one of Lwow’s high schools (teaching history and geography) and was constantly having health problems with her air passages. Hence, the doctors recommended her frequent visits to “health resorts”. Since this place was quite popular at that time, my grandparents decided to build an all year long house instead of just a summer one. So, that way, in 1923, the “Willa nad Popradem” pension was settled down.
In the years prior to the World War II, this place hosted many special guests arriving here from all over Poland – Lwow, Cracow, and even from distant Warsaw. The noblest person, having stayed in the house, was the Speaker of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) during the Marshal Jozef Pilsudski’s cabinet – sir Kazimierz Switalski. The pension was open for the guests from May till September and the most challenging undertaking when hosting the guests every year, was transportation of the complete bedding and tableware for the house with big chests, full of equipment, shipped from Lwow by train to Piwniczna Hanuszow train station. The same “operation” was repeated each September in a reversed direction, when the whole freightage used to be packed off back to the grandparents’ hometown.
The World War II period was the toughest time for the “Willa”. The house was completely annexed by the occupants. German families, which looked after the food shipments for the army troops, resided here during the entire war period. There were also gestapo officers living here and their duty was about to hinder the refugees to escape from the occupied territories via so called “Hungarian Trail” which was passing by the house just a few miles away. After the war, for a couple of years, my grandparents still carried out the pension during summertime, but the “Willa” was slowly but constantly “crumbling” and, finally, required urgent revitalization.
In the 70s, the Willa was rented to a building company from city of Tarnow as a hotel for so called workers’ vacations fund’s holidaymakers. At the beginning of the renting agreement, the house was slightly renovated and adapted to the use of visitors from Tarnow. However, a great deal of guests every season and intensive utilization of the premises were the main cause of a final termination of the contract, after 10 years of renting. Unfortunately, the pension deteriorated to such an extent that it required again a solid renewal. During the last decade of the 20th century, the exhausted Willa was used occasionally during warmer summer days just by the intimate family members.
In 2007, I finally decided to undertake a major change in the history of this site – to decompose and tear down the entire old house and its surrounding facilities, and build a new one, utilizing the vast amount of the remaining old-house wooden construction material – mostly the big, over 100-years old wood bars! This way, the new “Willa of a centenarian soul” was carefully re-created, right on the place where the first, old guest-house used to stand for more than 80 years.
Let me invite you to “Willa nad Popradem” – the place involved into my family since three generations, the place with traditions, exciting history and all memories being so close to my heart.