Remigration or return? Back to the old homeland as a Ruhr Pole

The families Tomczak, Galewsky, Jankowiak and Kobuczyński in front of the house of the Tomasz/Galewsky family, Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 1929.
The families Tomczak, Galewsky, Jankowiak and Kobuczyński in front of the house of the Tomasz/Galewsky family, Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 1929.

Remigration or return? Back to the old homeland as a Ruhr Pole
 

My name is Patrick Barteit and I was born in 1972 in Oberhausen. I'm a Ruhr Pole. I don't speak Polish. Not yet. The history of my family's emigration to the Ruhr area begins in 1918 in the small village of Orkowo, in the district of Śrem in the Province of Poznan and, after 100 years in Oberhausen, it leads back via Warsaw to Olsztyn in Poland in 2018. This is the story of the Tomczak family. This is my story.

The departure

In 1900, my great-grandfather Józef Tomczak was born as the eldest son of Józef and Stanisława Tomczak in the small village of Orkowo on the Warta. He was a Pole, just like his parents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents generations before him. That fact was indisputable for everyone in the family. At home the family spoke Polish, like everyone else in the small village. Due to the partition of Poland, however, no independent Polish state had existed since 1795. The Province of Poznan was occupied by Prussia, and the German language was compulsory at school and during visits to the authorities. The Polish population were dubbed "Prussian citizens of Polish nationality" by official channels. As a national minority it was by far the largest section of the population in Prussia. Times were hard, money was short and poverty great. By contrast, in the second half of the 19th century, industrialization in Germany led to a large demand for labour. In particular the Ruhr area attracted workers from Germany and abroad. Coal and steel promised a better future. When he was 18 years old Józef Tomczak also decided to leave the family home and local village to make his way to the Ruhr – like hundreds of thousands of Polish compatriots before him.

The arrival

Arriving in the Ruhr area in January 1918, Józef found a job as a miner at Osterfeld colliery, which belonged to the integrated network Guten-Hoffnungs-Hütte (GHH) (Good Hope Mill). At that time, Osterfeld was an independent municipality in Westphalia until it was merged with Sterkrade and (old) Oberhausen on August 1st 1929 to form the new urban district of Oberhausen in the Rhineland. This was part of a major regional reform of the Rhineland-Westphalian industrial area.
Due to the large number of Poles in the Ruhr area there was a distinct and well-networked Polish community with a very well organized infrastructure. Thus, Józef Tomczak could also find support and helpful contacts within the Polish community and was not left on his own after his arrival. Initially young miners from abroad lived in single dormitories provided by the employer, or they paid a small sum of money to board with private individuals.
Like almost all workers from the East, Józef wanted to earn a lot of money as quickly as possible in order to send some of his wages back home to support his family. What remained was saved. Despite the great distance, he kept up contact with his family. There was regular correspondence with his sister Zofia Stanisława and brother Stanisław. The latter even visited his elder brother in Osterfeld.

Mediathek
  • In front of the House of the Tomasz/Galewsky Family, Osterfeld in 1929

    In front of the House of the Tomasz/Galewsky Family, Osterfeld in 1929

    The wedding of Helena Galewsky. The families Tomczak, Galewsky, Jankowiak and Kobuczyński in front of the house of the Tomasz/Galewsky family, Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld in 1929.
  • Henriette Tomczak on the motorcycle of Antoni Jankowiak in Mellinghofer Str. Oberhausen in the 1940s

    Henriette Tomczak on the motorcycle of Antoni Jankowiak

    Henriette Tomczak on the motorcycle of Antoni Jankowiak in Mellinghofer Str. Oberhausen in the 1940s
  • Józef Tomczak with his great-grandson Patrick Barteit, Osterfeld in 1975

    Józef Tomczak with his great-grandson Patrick Barteit, Osterfeld in 1975

    Józef Tomczak with his great-grandson Patrick Barteit in his garden in Osterfelder Str. 147, Osterfeld in 1975
  • Family Photo, Osterfeld in 1930

    Family Photo, Osterfeld in 1930

    The Galewsky, Vinc, Tomczak, Jankowiak, Kobuczyński and Biały families in the house of the Tomczak/Galewsky family in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld 1930
  • The wedding of Henriette Tomczak and Heinz Mlinski in 1945

    The wedding of Henriette Tomczak and Heinz Mlinski in 1945

    The wedding photo of Henriette Tomczak and Heinz Mlinski in the house of the Mlinski family in Kapitän-Lehmann-Str. 13, Bottrop (31.12.1945). Left to right: Martha Mlinski, Daniel Paweł Mlinski, Henri...
  • Henriette Tomczak in the 1930s

    Henriette Tomczak in the 1930s

    Henriette Tomczak in the 1930s
  • Maria Galewska in the 1920s

    Maria Galewska in the 1920s

    Maria Galewska in the 1920s
  • The House of the Tomczak/Galewsky Family in the 1920s

    The House of the Tomczak/Galewsky Family in the 1920s

    The Galewsky, Kobuczyński, Jankowiak, Vinc and Tomczak families in the house of the Tomczak/Galewsky family in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld 1920s.
  • Jan Józef Tomczak (son of Józef Tomczak) in 1926

    Jan Józef Tomczak (son of Józef Tomczak) in 1926

    Jan Józef Tomczak (son of Józef Tomczak) in 1926
  • The wedding of Helena Galewsky: the families Tomczak, Galewsky, Jankowiak and Kobuczyński in front of the house of the Tomasz/Galewsky family, Ziegelstr. 63b. Osterfeld 1929.

    The wedding party in the yard of the Tomczak/Galewsky family. Osterfeld 1929

    The wedding of Helena Galewsky: the families Tomczak, Galewsky, Jankowiak and Kobuczyński in front of the house of the Tomasz/Galewsky family, Ziegelstr. 63b. Osterfeld 1929.
  • Stanisław Tomczak (brother of Józef Tomczak). 1925

    Stanisław Tomczak (brother of Józef Tomczak) in 1925

    Stanisław Tomczak (brother of Józef Tomczak). 1925
  • Józef Tomczak in his living room at Osterfelder Str. 147, Osterfeld. 1940s

    Józef Tomczak in his living room in the 1940s

    Józef Tomczak in his living room at Osterfelder Str. 147, Osterfeld. 1940s
  • Henriette Tomczak (daughter of Józef Tomczak), Osterfeld. 1930s

    Henriette Tomczak (daughter of Józef Tomczak) in the 1930s

    Henriette Tomczak (daughter of Józef Tomczak), Osterfeld. 1930s
  • The back yard in the Stemmersberg settlement in Ziegelstraße, Osterfeld. 2018

    The back yard in the Stemmersberg settlement in Ziegelstraße, Osterfeld in 2018

    The back yard in the Stemmersberg settlement in Ziegelstraße, Osterfeld. 2018
  • Patrick Barteit standing in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky family house in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 2018

    Patrick Barteit standing in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky home in Osterfeld in 2018

    Patrick Barteit standing in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky family house in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 2018
  • Patrick Barteit in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky family house in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 2018

    Patrick Barteit standing in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky home in Osterfeld in 2018

    Patrick Barteit in front of the Tomczak/Galewsky family house in Ziegelstr. 63b, Osterfeld. 2018
  • Patrick Barteit in front of the former Osterfeld colliery in 2018

    Patrick Barteit in front of the former Osterfeld colliery in 2018

    Patrick Barteit in front of the entrance gate of the former Osterfeld colliery, Osterfeld in 2018.
  • On the site of the former Osterfeld colliery in 2018

    On the site of the former Osterfeld colliery in 2018

    Patrick Barteit on the site of the former Osterfeld colliery, Osterfeld 2018
  • The birth certificate of Józef Tomczak

    The birth certificate of Józef Tomczak

    The birth certificate of Józef Tomczak