Almost every Warsaw family is, either emotionally or through family history, tied with the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. In most cases, several decades ago these people put up fierce resistance with weapons in their hands against the German occupant, or underwent the ordeal of the dying city as its civilian residents. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz - a Warsaw dweller's impressions
Let us invite you to delve into one of such recollections.
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz - a Warsaw dweller's impressions
It was in 2005, before the parliamentary election. I was to meet, for the first time in my life, General Zbigniew Ścibor-Rylski, the President of the Association of Warsaw Insurgents. When I came to the seat of the Association, located on Długa Street, the General made a huge surprise for me - he introduced me to Ryszard Szaliński, aka "Wicher" ("Gale"), and Mirosław Chwiałkowski, aka "Strzała" ("Arrow") - friends of my father from the Home Army, whom the General found and brought to this meeting. I was truly touched. But, that was just General "Motyl" ("Butterfly")...
Wojciech Gronkiewicz - around 1944
My father fought in the Uprising for a short time. On August 1, he took part in an assault on the Horse Racecourse Służewiec. He later recalled that it was a miracle that anybody had survived this attack - they were caught in searchlights and under artillery fire. For a long time he was convinced that nobody had survived this potato field they had fled to... However, after the war he met a few survivors - one of them was Andrzej Bartel (my friend's mother's husband).
After taking shelter in the forest, my father did not return to Warsaw, as he suffered from terrible abscesses on his neck and 40° C fever. Eventually, he reached Koluszki, where his father was also staying. There, he joined the Polish resistance movement. He cooperated with Kazimierz Borucz, one of the "cursed soldiers". After revealing himself to the Communist authorities, my father came back to Warsaw. My father's sister married Józef Borucz, Kazimierz's foster brother, and settled in Łódź. Kazimierz was killed by the Public Security (UB) officers. It was a terrible civil war.
Certificate of revealing oneself as member of the underground movement
A certificate documenting the fact of revealing oneself as an underground resistance member was an obstacle, but holding it back was even worse. Having graduated, my father undertook a job as part of work order. It was no sooner than in 1960 that he was allowed to begin his legal apprenticeship, but in Węgrów.
In 1969 my father took me - then just a teenager - to see Kuroń's and Modzelewski's court trial. When the martial law was introduced, my father served in the court during demonstrations to provide legal assistance to every arrested person - mainly students (this was documented in the collection entitled: "A test of strength. Sources of the history of Warsaw University following December 13, 1981").
That was my father: a student of the underground Stefan Batory Gymnasium, a Warsaw insurgent, a soldier of the anti-Communist underground movement, an advocate for protesting students and activists of the Confederation of Independent Poland. He was a center-man. With utmost confidence you could say that his line of thinking was not right-wind: he loathed anti-Semites. At the same time he was an anti-Communist in every inch - because the Communists wanted our country to be a part of the Soviet Union and because they believed in Stalin. He was always liberal in his mindset: in 1990 he voted for Tadeusz Mazowiecki, while I supported Lech Wałęsa.
I succeeded in making one of his political dreams come true: I invited him to have dinner with Jan Nowak-Jeziorański. He was so happy.
When it comes to the Warsaw Uprising, I am his "political product". To the very end of his days my father believed that no other decision could have been made at that time, that the Uprising saved us from being incorporated into the USSR, just as it happened to the Baltic states. He was also of the opinion that the Uprising discouraged the Russians from further military interventions in Poland, as it happened in Hungary or Czechoslovakia. Those were his core arguments.
He taught me to respect the Uprising. I remember that since I was a child August 1 was the day when we used to visit Powązki Cemetery. Wherever I was in Warsaw, at 17.00 PM I would pause in the street - at that time there were not many of us and the sirens did not howl. For years, to commemorate my father I have been taking part in the ceremony at the Monument to Fighting Mokotów - 1944 at Dreszer Square on August 1.
Whether you like it or not, the Warsaw Uprising will remain part of the city's DNA and the heart of tormented Warsaw beats in the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
He was born on December 13, 1926 in Warsaw. His father, Wacław, worked in the National Police until 1939 (he was, among others, the chief of police in Koluszki), his mother, Michalina (née Jurczak), owned a dry cleaner. In 1939 Wojciech accomplished Bronisława Gerlach-Stopczyk private elementary co-educational school at 64 Hoża Street and was admitted to Stefan Batory Gymnasium. During the occupation he attended underground courses and in 1944 he completed year 1 of high school.
In autumn 1943 he made contact with the Home Army thanks to his friend from the underground gymnasium, Ryszard Kosidowski, aka "Paproć" ("Fern"). On November 1, 1943, he swore an oath to the Home Army. He was allocated to a unit commanded by Cadet Corporal "Stach" in the "Karpaty" battalion of the "Baszta" ("Tower") regiment, probably in the first platoon of the K-1 company (the commander of this platoon in the "Karpaty" battalion died on 1 August, as he recalled in his biography). He received the nickname "Ryś" ("Lynx").
On August 1, 1944, he joined the Uprising together with his friend "Paproć". They both reported to the unit of "Ryś", even though "Paproć" was a soldier of the 7th infantry regiment "Garłuch" in Okęcie. Together they took part in an assault on the Horse Racecourse Służewiec, which turned into a disaster: during the attack both the unit commander "Stach" and the platoon commander lost their lives. Only three soldiers out of the whole unit survived the bloodshed: "Ryś, "Waluś", and "Paproć".
At night, "Paproć" headed towards Służewiec and joined the B-1 company of the "Baszta" regiment, where he fought until the end of the Uprising; he was taken prisoner on September 27 and was murdered by the Germans at Dworkowa Street. The other soldiers spent a night at some house in Służewiec and the following day they joined a unit commanded by Lieutenant "Nowina" ("News"), with whom they retreated to the Kabacki Forest. After two days they moved to the Chojnów Forest. On their way they engaged a Ukrainian troop in the village of Orężna (today part of Piaseczno). The insurgents left the skirmish unscathed, but the Ukrainians, having lost two soldiers, burned the village in revenge.
In the Chojnów forest, "Ryś" went down with a high fever and abscesses. He was released from his unit and spent a few days in his friends' house in the village of Baszkówka. He then headed Koluszki, where he made contact with his friend from before the war - Kazimierz Borucz, also a Home Army soldier, aka "Dragon". "Dragon" introduced him to commander Lieutenant Michał Mirski, aka "Zagłada" ("Annihilation"). On August 25, 1944, Wojciech Gronkiewicz once more took the Home Army oath and received the nickname "Sten".
In the first half of September, "Sten" and "Dragon" were referred to a partisan unit of Lieutenant Romuald Ziółkowski, aka "Sam", operating within the County of "Węzeł" ("Knot") (Brzeziny - Koluszki) of the Home Army Circuit "Barka" ("Barge") (Łódź) - later the 1st Cadre Detachment of the 29th Kaniów Riflemen Infantry Regiment. On August 21, "Sam's" unit fell under the command of Staff Sergeant Cadet Marian Niciński "Wirek". Here, "Sten" met his friend, Ryszard Szaliński, aka "Wicher". He took part in an action under the codename "Droppings", where he guarded the dropping zone at the village of Strzelna near Rogów (the drop failed to take place). During this mission "Sten" met another companion, Mirosław Chwałkowski "Strzała".
After a few days spent in his unit, "Sten" relapsed into abscess disease. Lieutenant "Zagłada" suggested that "Sten" and "Dragon" move to a detached unit of Kedyw that was under "Dragon's" command. "Dragon" then became an immediate superior of "Sten". They participated in carrying out a punishment of reprimand combined with a warning on a railroad worker in Koluszki who had been blackmailing his subordinates by threatening to deport them to forced labor in Germany. Another sentence (flogging) passed on a female resident of Koluszki failed to take place because of the absence of the condemned person. "Sten" and "Dragon" also took part in the action of extorting payment contributions from a tenant of Długie estate near Koluszki.
Following the invasion of the Red Army, "Sten" suspended his underground activities. In April 1945 he settled in Łódź on Bandurskiego Street together with "Dragon" and another companion he met in the partisan unit, Włodzimierz Dziewiszek, aka "Tex". "Dragon" and "Tex" were involved in the Home Army Resistance Movement - "Sten" joined them. Together with Henryk Kocięba, aka "Dąb" ("Oak"), and two soldiers from Radom he formed a patrol guarding meetings of the Home Army Resistance Movement command. The patrol was commanded by Major Adam Trybus, aka "Gaj" ("Grove") (earlier the commander of the Home Army Circuit Łódź Kedyw).
On the night of 11/12 February 1946, "Dragon" was engaged in the action of blowing up "The Gratitude to the Red Army" Monument in Łódź. Arrested and tortured in December 1950, he died in prison in February the following year.
In summer 1945, Major "Gaj" and "Tex" decided to reveal themselves to the Communist authorities, but "Sten" remained in hiding. In June 1946, thanks to the help of "Dragon", he established contact with the Freedom and Independence Association, but the cooperation was limited to a few meetings at which he received a new nickname "Robert".
Wojciech Gronkiewicz, Wrocław, July 2, 1946
He revealed himself as late as in February 1947, when a new law on amnesty came into life.
In September 1947 he passed his high school final exam before the Qualification and Verification Committee in Łódź and returned to Warsaw with his parents. In 1953 he graduated from the Faculty of Law of Warsaw University. After the graduation, he worked at the Board of the National Council of the Capital City of Warsaw (1953-1954), District National Council (1955-1956), and Voivodeship National Council (1957-1960). In 1960 he passed a qualification exam for legal apprenticeship, which he completed in 1963. Over 1964-1992 he worked as an attorney in Law Office no. 7 in Warsaw. In 1992 he set up his own law firm. In 1995 he joined the World Union of the Home Army Veteran as its member.
He passed away on April 16, 2001. He rests in Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.
This biographical note was prepared based on documents from the family archives of Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. Personal details were completed based on information from the web portals: www.1944.pl/powstancze-biogramy/ and www.historiakoluszek.pl. Photographs and the document come from the family archives of Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. This text was published in the Newsletter of the Association of Warsaw Insurgents "Warsaw Insurgent" no. 2/2019.
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz is a professor of law. In 1992-2001 she held the position of President of the National Bank of Poland, while in 2006-2018 she served as Mayor of the Capital City of Warsaw. Over 2007-2018, together with the Association of Warsaw Insurgents, she was the main organizer of central anniversary celebrations of Warsaw Uprising 1944.
translated by: Beata Murzyn
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