Monday, March 15, 2010

Karolina Furman's Childhood

Birth and Childhood of Karolina Furman

Karolina was born on March 12, 1864 in house #21 in the village of Podborze in southern Poland.
Podborze, Poland
Her father was Jan Furman, a farmer, age 38 at the time of her birth. Jan had married Karolina's mother, Marianna Lesniowski, on February 11, 1862 and Karolina was their first child together. However, Jan also had 5 children from his first marriage. His first wife, Franciszka Dudek, probably died shortly before his marriage to Marianna (death records are not available for that period). At the time of his marriage to Marianna his children from his first marriage would have been ages 12, 9, 6, 4, and 2.5. He would have needed someone to care for the children so he could go out to the fields to work so in all likelihood he didn't wait long after the death of his first wife to remarry.

Karolina was her mother's first child. Marianna was 22 years old when she married Jan and 24 when she gave birth to Karolina. Can you imagine taking on the raising of 6 children at such a young age? I can't help but wonder how much or little attention Karolina would have gotten from her young mother and 5 step siblings. It must have been an extremely stressful situation... especially considering they would have probably been living in a 1 or 2 room thatched-roof hut with no electricity or running water. And things would soon get even more stressful...

Jan Furman, Karolina's father, died of inflammation of the lungs just 10 months after her birth. So Karolina never knew her father, and this left her mother in quite a difficult situation. Marianna didn't have the option of going out to work and leaving the children in daycare. Back in those days it was unheard of for a woman to work outside the home, not that there would have been any jobs available to her in the little village where she lived.

Marianna Lesniowski Furman remarried on October 3, 1865 when Karolina was about 18 months old. Her new husband, Jozef Kolisz, was about 10 years her senior but he had no children. So Karolina had a new daddy and it wasn't long before she had more new step siblings too.

When Karolina was 3 her step sister Agnieszka was born. Another sister, Appolonia, was born when she was 8 but she only lived for 4 months. And Karolina's mother gave birth for the last time when she was 13 but that child died the same day she was born. Her step father died in 1878 (when she was 14) and her mother never remarried.

There is one other thing of note regarding Karolina's birth and her place in the world. Karolina was born just 10 days after serfdom was officially abolished in Poland. She was the first child in her family, and for many generations before her, who was born free. I'm not sure how and how often political information was disseminated in the little villages of Poland in the 1800s. Were her parents even aware serfdom had ended when she was born? Was there a newspaper printed and distributed from a nearby town? I have no idea. Would Karolina's parents have been able to read it if one were? Doubtful. One of the many disadvantages of being of the peasant class was that formal education was generally not available and in some areas prohibited.
Serfdom is the socio-economic status of unfree peasantsunder feudalism, and specifically relates to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe. Serfdom was the enforced labour of serfs on the fields of landowners, in return for protection and the right to work on their leased fields. [Wikipedia]
(Continued) Karolina Furman's Family Life

3 comments:

  1. You have done such a good job telling the story of Karolina's early years. I'm reminded of the novel "Poland" by James Michener which I have on my book shelf and read a long time ago. You have put a personal reality on his fictional account of Poland.

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  2. Thank you so much Judith! Wow, to be thought of along with Michener's novel... that's over the top. I have "Poland" on my bookshelf too and one of these days I'm going to read it cover to cover. I've started it at least 3 times but never got through it. And I don't know why. It's not that it isn't interesting reading. I guess I'm just too easily distracted, LOL!

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  3. What a childhood! Hard for her, hard for her mother. I like that you included information about the time in which she lived along with events in her life. I'm headed now to read the next part of her life story.

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