The poverty prevailing in the imperial and royal Galicia is even proverbial. Everyone does what they can to survive. In the midst of this screeching poverty and hunger, there are women ready to "take care of" the problem of the ladies with the belly. With murderous effectiveness.
One issue of the New Zealand newspaper Wanganui Herald reported in May 1903 that a mass murderer had been caught in Warsaw, a city in Russia. The scale of the crime was shocking. A certain Madame Guzovska was to kill more than five hundred infants, who were unwanted children. Each time she collected an amount from her mother for her service, depending on her social position. She "got rid" of the children as quickly as possible.
The newspaper also announced that the Russians called such criminals "factory girls of angels." This particular press release seems to be exaggerated. It is difficult to trace the aforementioned Guzowska in historical literature - maybe she had not 500, but 50 or 100 children on her conscience. Seemingly an awful lot. The truth is, however, that there were dozens of murderers with similar "achievements" in Poland.
Another, similar case appeared in the pages of the Canadian "The Toronto Daily Mail". This time it was about "three baby factory girls" responsible for the deaths of at least 27 babies. Their bodies were buried just a dozen centimeters below the surface of the earth, in cigar boxes. For this "wholesale infanticide" - as the newspaper called it - it happened in Przemyśl, Galicia. And it was in Galicia that similar crimes were probably the most common. As you can see, the problem was seen even on the other side of the globe.
An unfortunate coincidence?
According to Norman Davies in his book "The Heart of Europe", in 1902 in Galicia more than 400,000 farms were so small that they could provide food for the average family for only three months a year. In such a reality, there was no room for unwanted children. Meanwhile, the population was slowly, because slowly, but steadily growing - by an average of almost 1% per year.
Polish newspapers reported more and more cases of "factory owners".
Contemporary Polish psychiatrists, authors of the article "Infanticide or homicide? The case study of the five-time murder of one's own children "accurately describes the conditions conducive to the crime.
They explicitly state that infanticide in various cultures was sometimes treated as a way of controlling the state of the population . Gruesome but true. They also list the rationale behind parents condemning their children to death.
The killing of children due to unfavorable circumstances for their survival was significantly more frequent when they were: twins, girls, children born too soon after the previous one, sick or sick children. deformed, illegitimate , single mothers, especially the poor.
All these circumstances could have brought death to children born in 19th-century Galicia. When a poor girl, a resident of the Austrian partition, became pregnant illegitimately, she drew aversion and contempt from the people around her.
It was inextricably linked with the pressure to get rid of the "problem." The bastard in the family was disgracing her. Hence, in most cases, the girl was forced to either abort the fetus or to give her newborn child to the so-called "angel manufacturer". These "factory owners", unlike "grandmothers" who performed abortions quickly and efficiently, were doing something much worse.
Take advantage of the tragedy
Infant mortality in 19th century Galicia was high. The parents, also not eating enough themselves, had nothing to fill the rumbling bellies of their children, who were emaciated from hunger. Due to poverty and backwardness, medical assistance in case of illness was also unavailable.
Many inhabitants of Galicia, instead of constant hunger and poverty, chose to flee overseas. The photo shows a Polish family working on a farm near Baltimore.
These ordinary family circumstances overwhelmingly fed to the criminals. Based on the fact that young children often died, so no one asked any questions, these women began to make money by sending unwanted babies into that world.
They took for a small fee - allegedly for upbringing - foundlings, orphans and illegitimate children, and then killed them in various ways. Mostly just starving them to death. The completely helpless baby died for a long time.
Everyone knew the truth about this disgusting deal. And mothers entrusting them with children, and neighbors, and the local community (girls "in trouble" knew where to go). Only the authorities did not seem to notice the problem.
For a new mother of an unwanted child, groomed by her family and terrified of her future life, psychiatrists find some mitigating circumstances.
The jurisprudence shows that women who kill their newborn children are often less mentally fit, upbringing neglected and involved in extremely difficult family and social situations.
The article was inspired by Norman Davies' book "The Heart of Europe" (Znak Horyzont 2014).
The fairly large-scale scandal of "angel manufacturers" broke out in Chernivtsi (now in Ukraine) in 1887.
The local city doctor has noticed an exponential increase in infant mortality. He could not pass this fever on the agenda. He began scrupulously examining the death certificates. He finally understood:it was not an epidemic, but a mass infanticide.
The medic reported thirty-four women, and that was just a drop in the ocean. All of Galicia was swarming with similar incidents.
Descriptions of how they dealt with the children entrusted to them by the "angel manufacturers" can be terrifying. Martin Pollack, author of America's Emperor. The Great Escape from Galicia ”gives some very drastic examples.
In May 1890, a trial was brought against a certain Parance Maksymischin, a forty-year-old boy from the village of Wielkopole. She was accused of murdering children, convicted and executed. Here's how her case is described by Pollack:
According to the findings of the office, she has been fabricating angels for many years, thus earning her living. Some mothers did not have enough money to pay her properly for the service, and Paranka, not wanting to wait for the left baby to starve completely, shortened the process. And so she stuffed a handful of pine pins wrapped in a rag down the throat of a thirteen-month-old child named Lei Münz to suffocate her. Then she threw the little body into a nearby river.
A starved infant from the First World War rescued from the hands of American "angel manufacturers".
Another murderer helped her charges to say goodbye to the world practically in front of her neighbors. The doctor who signed subsequent death certificates was not particularly interested in the causes. Someone finally reported her anonymously:
Marjam Blum from Lviv, according to her neighbors, regularly exposes her naked children to the coldest frost until they turn completely blue which actually always causes sudden death.
We can repeat similar stories endlessly. "Gazeta Lwowska" reported alarmingly often about the discovery of "angel manufacturers". One of the most striking examples, from September 1903, was Julia Sałdakowa, an inhabitant of Lviv. It was a woman:
professionally engaged in accepting infants for upbringing, who die after 2 weeks of stay. In the last three months, three children died from Saldakova, and a fourth died yesterday. Saldakowa was to starve these children and make them drink a decoction of poppy-seeds.
Over the years, the problem has not disappeared at all. At most, the proportions have changed. In the conditions of the great economic crisis and the chronic poverty in which the poor lived in the Second Polish Republic, there were fewer and fewer women ready to pay the "factory owners". Whether they like it or not, they took matters into their own hands.