While vacationing with his family in Poland, 14-year-old Patryk Lessman stumbled upon something unexpected. Buried in the bank of Lake Jeziorak, Patryk came across milk cartons, of all things!
Carefully opening the containers, he quickly noticed no milk was inside. Rather, a piece of history hidden and lost for decades.
Patryk Lessman Was On Vacation With His Parents
In 2017, 14-year-old Patryk Lessman was enjoying vacationing with his family in Poland. Little did he know that he was about to come across something extraordinary buried in the bank of a lake they were walking along, Lake Jeziorak, the longest lake in the country.
What he found would be turned over to authorities to examine for over a year.
Two Milk Cans Came Into View
While walking along the lake, Patryk spotted two milk cans nearby, something that was definitely out of place in the wilderness he and his family were walking through. Curiosity got the better of the young boy, and he decided to open the containers.
The thing is, he didn’t expect what he found inside.
Inside Were A Lot Of Artifacts
The two milk cans didn’t contain milk or even algae from the lake. Instead, it contained pieces of history that were long forgotten. Inside the milk cans, Patryk discovered artifacts.
From which point in time the artifacts belonged would take some time to figure out. For now, he and his parents decided to call the Polish authorities.
The Authorities Got Involved
When the Polish authorities arrived, there was only so much they could do with the two milk cans. They weren’t historians, after all. So, when they brought the cans and their contents back to the station, they called in some archeologists to investigate.
It would lead to a year-long survey of all of the cans’ contents.
Everything Was From World War II
A year might sound like a long time for someone to go through the contents of a milk can. But there were hundreds of artifacts to catalog.
Some of the items included a diary from World War II, family jewelry, a very old toothbrush, a pocket watch, and, most impressively, a Wehrmacht officer uniform.
They Belonged To A Former Estate Owner
It took the experts some time to figure out who everything belonged to and how it wound up in two milk cans on the bank of a lake.
After a year, they finally came to the conclusion that the contents belonged to Count Hans Joachim von Finckenstein, a former estate owner in the area.
The Items Were Over 70 Years Old
Count Hans Joachim von Finckenstein was a Prussian aristocrat who lived in the local manor house on Lake Jeziorak until 1945. The items Patryk found were over 70 years old and from World War II!
Not only that, the young boy was soon going to learn why the Count decided to bury his family’s belongings.
It All Had To Do With The Red Army
While archeologists aren’t sure why Count Finckenstein buried his family heirlooms all those years ago, they do have a working theory. It all had to do with The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, or the Red Army.
This was the army and air pilots of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as well as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after 1922.
The Family Sent Their Daughters Away
So, the working theory was that before the Red Army came to their estate in Poland, Finckenstein and his wife sent their two daughters away to live with family in Pomerania, the area that divided Poland with Germany on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea.
Clearly, they knew something bad was about to happen.
The Countess Immigrated to Germany in 1945
It wasn’t long before Soviet soldiers arrested Count Finckenstein. It was 1945. He passed away soon after, and the Countess was left to work alongside other women for the Russians for several months.
Finally, she was able to leave the estate. When that happened, the Countess made her way to Germany and was reunited with her daughters.
The Valuables Were Hidden By The Countess
Archeologists believe it was actually the Countess who hid the family heirlooms in the two milk cans all the way back in the 1940s.
In a statement written by researcher Michal Młotek, he said, “You can guess that these were things that could be used again after being retrieved, most of them had a sentimental value, so in a sense, they were a family treasure, although we call it a deposit.”
A Lot Of Correspondence Was Uncovered
During an interview with a Polish news site, researcher Michał Młotek discussed some of the letters as well as the diary. He said, “It is very rich correspondence and diaries conducted by Hans Joachim von Finckenstein in the years 1914-1919.”
“It’s a material with a huge historical load. We also drew our interest in two other documents because they were written in Cyrillic, dated January 26 and February 3, 1945.”
Even Letters From Soviet Soldiers Were Found
Amazingly, one of the letters found in the milk can was written by a Soviet officer, telling anyone who came to the house that the residents were to be spared. The letter read, “comrades and soldiers, please do not harm the inhabitants of this house. They welcomed us.”
And another spoke of taking livestock with the salutation “by order of the front commander.”
Postcards, Letters, Notes, And More
While some of the findings were listed above, some of the other items that potentially held sentimental value, or just value in general include banknotes, silver spoons, a family album, letters, postcards, and an assortment of notes.
It seemed to the archeologists that the Countess believed she would be coming back to retrieve her belongings and never did.
They Were A Very Influential Family
As it turns out, the von Finckenstein family was a very influential family at the time. According to Science in Poland, the von Finckenstein’s “belonged to the most influential aristocratic families in Prussia.”
“Their ancestors probably came to these lands from the Duchy of Carinthia at the beginning of the 14th century, along with other knights who provided military support to the Teutonic Order.”
There Was A Reason The Red Army Set Up Camp There
For centuries, members of the von Finckenstein family held important functions for military personnel. It is most likely what led the Red Army to their door. Their influence and over 34,000 acres of land was the perfect place to set up camp.
Additionally, the family’s cattle and other livestock were at their disposal.
The Last-Living Heir Was Brought In To Tell Her Tale
Eventually, the researchers reached out to Count von Finckenstein`s daughter, Waldtraut von Finckensein, who, at the time, was 81 years old.
She recounted her story, telling them that she and her sister were indeed sent away from the manor, never seeing their father again and being reunited with their mother sometime later.
The Artifacts Made They Way Back Home
A vast majority of the artifacts were handed over to Waldtraut, the last living heir of the von Finckenstein family. She was very grateful to have the letters, family jewelry, and photo album back in her possession.
But it was beyond her realm of knowledge who owned the soldier uniform!
Some Things Were Left To The State Treasury
The uniform might remain a mystery, even though East Prussia was a German province during the Second World War. When it came to the banknotes and coins, they became the property of Poland’s state treasury.
Thankfully, the treasury department decided to share the tiny parts of history with others, displaying them in a museum.
Researchers Went Back For More
The archeologist team wasn’t done yet. After realizing what Patryk had found were long-lost World War II relics, they went back to the lake to do some more digging and metal detector work.
They wound up finding a battle-ax dating back to the Middle Ages as well as other relics from a medieval fortified settlement. Sadly, nothing else from the Count’s life was unearthed.