Ptak umarłych [The Bird of Death], published in 2004, is the title of the first volume of Edward Dębicki’s autobiography. The part devoted to the pre-war period describes the everyday life of a tabor, a group of Romani people who travel and set up camp together (Dębicki belonged to the same group as the poet Bronisława Wajs, known as Papusza): their customs, cuisine and medicine as well as their relationship to the settled population. At the same time, Dębicki portrays the cultural diversity of the Volhynia region of Poland, where his Romani group travelled.
The wartime accounts are of documentary value. The first-person narrator describes the flight from the German troops, the rumours about the captivity of Roma in ghettos and the subsequent executions in the forests, the massacres by Ukrainian partisans of the Polish and the Romani population and the struggles of the Polish and Ukrainian partisans. The selected chapter illustrates the complicated relations between the various nationalities in Volhynia: Dębicki’s family members, who fled from the Germans, escaped death at the hands of the Ukrainians only because of their claim to be of Ukrainian Romani – not Polish Romani – descent.
Source of text sample
Dębicki, Edward. 2004. Ptak umarłych. Warsaw: Bellona, pp. 97–100.