The death of "Andrzej Morro"

          On the morning of September 15, 1944, on Solec Street in Powisle Czerniakowskie Andrzej Romocki a.k.a. "Morro" (or "Andrzej Morro") met his end, killed with a single German bullet. Lieutenant "Morro" was trying to make contact with the soldiers from the 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division of the Polish First Army of Gen. Zygmunt Berling, who had arrived from the other side of the Vistula River. He went out to meet them carrying a white and red flag. At least so says the official version of the death of the Warsaw Uprising hero. Still, some people claim otherwise.

* * *

          Andrzej Romocki was born on April 16, 1923 in Diektarzew in the province of Lodz into a gentry family. His father Pawel was a retired major officer of the Polish Army, knight member of the Order of Virtuti Militari, earlier a soldier belonging to the Polish I Corps commanded by Gen. Dowbor-Musnicki. Apart from that, in the years 1926-1928 he was also a sejm deputy of the Second Polish Republic and general director of the Polish Mining and Metallurgical Industry. In 1933 the Romockis (Pawel and Jadwiga) and their children (Andrzej and Jan - born in 1925) moved to Warsaw and settled on Mochnackiego Street.
          Already during the occupation in 1940 Andrzej finished his underground education at the Gymnasium of the Society for Mazowiecki Land. Also Andrzej's activity in boy scouts movement is worth emphasizing - he was a scout instructor and later a scoutmaster. In the same year in June Pawel Romocki died in a tragic accident (he was knocked down by a car driven by a drunk German).
          Also in 1940 Andrzej began his underground activity, first by joining the Polish Youth Association "Future" (PET) and then in the Grey Ranks. He was the commanding officer of the "Sad 400" squad, the "Sad" platoon and then the Second Company "Rudy" in the Home Army "Zoska" battalion. He participated among others in the following underground military actions: an attack on the German watchtower near Sieczychy (August 20, 1943) and the "Wilanow" action (September 26, 1943). On May 25, 1944 he was promoted to the rank of platoon officer cadet.

Andrzej Romocki "Morro"

          It should be explained how the pseudonym of Morro was coined. "Morro" (or "Andrzej Morro") stemmed from the transposition of the first two syllables of his name. That same pseudonym was once used by Andrzej's father - Pawel.In spite of this, the soldiers of the "Rudy" company called their commander an almost romantic name - "Amorek". On account of his signatures put under his orders he was called in short "A. Morro".
          When the Warsaw Uprising broke out, "Andrzej Morro" went to fight against Germans in charge of the Second Company "Rudy" numbering 156 soldiers, girls excluding. The company was a part of the "Zoska" battalion (with Lt. "Jerzy" Ryszard Bialous as battalion commanding officer) and covered the battle trail: Wola - Starowka - Czerniakow. What should be especially remembered was the partisan action of breaking through from Starowka to Srodmiescie (August 30/31), when the "Zoska" battalion was the only unit to force its way through to Srodmiescie, fighting on the surface and not in the canals. At the beginning of September the Home Army group "Radoslaw" (commanded by Lt. Col. "Radoslaw" Jan Mazurkiewicz), including the "Zoska" battalion, fought its way from Srodmiescie to Gorny Czerniakow.

* * *

          From the very beginning of the second decade of September, Germans intensified their attacks on Powisle Czerniakowskie in an attempt to cut off the connections between Srodmiescie Poludnie controlled by the insurgents and Czerniakow (through Ksiazeca Street) and by invading the bank of the Vistula River. This intensification was the result of the movements on the Eastern Front - on September 10 the Soviet forces (which included the Polish First Infantry Division of Gen. Z. Berling) started the operation of liberating the right-bank part of Warsaw - Praga.
          On this day Stalin gave his permission for American planes to land on the Soviet territory and to help Warsaw. On September 12, the First Army of the Polish Forces received an order to regroup from the fronton in Magnuszew to Warsaw. On September 13, Stalin telephoned to order the army to advance. Rokossowski (the Soviet commander of the First Belarus Front) was given orders to help the insurgents in any possible way. From that time on the Soviet planes started to protect Warsaw in the air and to air-drop military supplies for the insurgents.
          On September 13, Germans took over strategic points near Ksiazeca Street, in this way breaking a narrow connection between Czerniakow and Srodmiescie. On the same day Germans started to retreat from Praga, pushed back by the Red Army, blowing up all the bridges as they retreated. As Jozef Margules claims, Germans destroyed the bridges in a strict sequence of the attack on Praga. In accordance with a controversial decision of Mshl. Rokossowski, the Soviet and Polish forces advanced not in a direction perpendicular to the Vistula River (which would be more advantageous in J. Margules's opinion), but along the river, in this way effectively "cordoning themselves off" from the uprising - which was in compliance with Jozef Stalin's demands.
          On the early morning of September 15, Praga was completely liberated from Germans. In connection with this situation the insurgents undertook first attempts to contact the liberated right bank of the Vistula. Also the forces stationed on the other bank of the river, from Praga, made first reconnaissance attempts to get across the Vistula to the Warsaw side.
          On the night of September 13/14 one of the reconnaissance groups from the Soviet 143 Infantry Division crossed over to the other side to Czerniakow and on September 14 around 2 o'clock its scouts contacted Lt. Col. "Radoslaw". "Radoslaw" described the situation and gave the scouts a letter addressed to "Commander of the Russian Forces in Praga", asking to direct the artillery bombardment at specific targets and to deliver weapon and ammunition supplies. The reconnaissance group accompanied by two liaison officers from "Radoslaw" got back to the Praga side before dawn.

* * *

          At night, on September 14/15, the "Zoska"'s company commanded by Lt. "Morro" under heavy fire managed to garrison the Vistula bank and to overtake a half-sunk tourist ship "Bajka", located near the wharf. At dawn, the insurgents spotted 3 boats approaching the river bank from Saska Kepa. It was a reconnaissance squad of the 1st Infantry Division numbering 15 soldiers.
          The landing forces reached the left bank of the river already under German fire. Out of 15 soldiers only 11 got through to Czerniaków, including 3 wounded people. 4 soldiers lost their lives. According to another version of the story only 3 or 5 soldiers reached the insurgents. In an attempt to make contact with the landing squad, the insurgents from "Zoska" started beckoning at and calling the incoming soldiers, shouting in the Russian language and waving a white-and-red banner over their heads, as they thought they were dealing with Russian soldiers.
          Around 8 o'clock on the morning of September 15, 1944, Lt. "Morro" came out to greet the incoming support. Tadeusz Suminski "Leszczyc", a soldier from "Zoska" recalls (T. Suminski "Leszczyc" Czternasty wrzesnia, Pamietniki zolnierzy baonu Zoska [The fourteenth of September, The diaries of the soldiers from the "Zośka" battalion], Warsaw 1986, p. 464): "We are standing behind a small house against the wall facing the Vistula river. Morro comes out alone, completely uncovered and out in the open, approaching the seemingly deserted German trenches. For a moment he stops, facing the bridge. It is getting light. A single shot from a rifle can be heard. Morro falls down on the ground. - Oh my God! - and after a brief moment: - Help... Spioch tears himself away from the wall and begins to crawl in Morro's direction. He is almost halfway from him. The second bullet hits the ground right before Spioch's head. He is crawling back to us. It is very silent. Suddenly, Zosia turns up. Without thinking she runs to Amorek, we are trying to stop her. She tears herself loose. She kneels down beside him. She is completely uncovered and turns Andrzej over. - I can't find the wound!... They are not shooting at her. Why? She is still searching for the wound, without success. In any case, it is unnecessary: Morro is dead."
          Apparently, everything is clear: the official standpoint of the Association of the Former Soldiers of the "Zoska" Battalion is that Scoutmaster Captain Andrzej Morro died shot with a German bullet. For his valor in the Warsaw Uprising, Andrzej Romocki was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, twice the Cross of Valor and the Home Army Cross. Posthumously, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

grave of Andrzej "Morro" on Powazki Military Cemetery

* * *

          The first seed of doubt was planted in me by Gen. Stanisław Komornicki a.k.a. "Nalecz". During our meeting and walk we took around Czerniakow in the fall of 2003, I heard for the first time that not all was clear in relation to the death of Andrzej Romocki from "Zoska". "Nalecz" told me that it was very probable that "Morro" had been killed with a bullet shot by the Poles arriving from behind the Vistula river.
          Well, I thought, such a single relation does not beg the question. Soon I forgot about the whole case.The real shocking breakthrough came one and a half year later when I met the group of insurgents from the "Parasol" battalion. The meeting gathered: Maria Stypulkowska - Chojecka "Kama", Wacława Godzisz - Jurczakowska "Wacka", Eleonora Lewandowska - Sochon "Nora", Janina Borowska - Szczesna "Jeanette", Witold Slawski "Dilma", Jerzy Sikarski "Stach". They all made me realize that with certainty "Andrzej Morro" was killed accidentally by a soldier from the 1st Infantry Division landing in the boat in Czerniakow and that such incidents were quite common. As an example, they gave an account of the accidental death of a "Parasol" soldier - Jan Wroblewski a.k.a. "Zabawa", who was shot dead by the soldiers from his own squad on September 18.
          The "Parasols" said that for propaganda reasons it was inadvisable to report or even speak in public about the incident with Lt. "Morro". After 1989, however, things have changed.
          Today we can read an excerpt from the memories of Warrant Officer Janusz Kowalski commanding the reconnaissance group of the 1st Infantry Division, who crossed the Vistula and on the morning of September 15 arrived at Czerniakow (M. Szuniewicz Andrzej Romocki "Morro" 1923-1944, access on June 15, 2009): "When we jumped out of the boat to take cover behind the river bank, there was no one on the river. Yet, the machine guns were still lashing the surface of the river. We later learned that both boats that had accompanied us were hit first and went to the bottom.
          The dawn was breaking, you could see the silhouettes of soldiers wearing German uniforms flickering among the houses. Somebody was crawling towards us under heavy fire. The observer who was on duty at that time was holding him at gunpoint. The crawling person rolled down from the bank to the beach, just a few dozen meters from us. He was wearing a German helmet and camouflage dress, but with a red and white band on his arm!"

          This is how Tadeusz Sosinski from the 3rd Infantry Division remembers the river crossing to Czerniaków on the night of September 16 and 17 (T. Sosinski Przez zycie pod wiatr [Upwind through life], Warsaw 2000, p. 77, 78): "We were facing the debris and skeletons of burned-down houses.We were waiting for the break of dawn. Nobody troubled himself to make contact and notify about our landing.We felt lost in the unfamiliar city (...) We didn't know where the insurgents were located.
          At dawn we noticed a three-person patrol in German helmets and camouflage uniforms approaching us from the right side. We opened fire at them and they took cover in the rubble. The reconnaissance team found a body of a soldier wearing a German protective jacket. Only a white and red band on his right arm confirmed that he was an insurgent. His accidental death brought about dispiritedness in our ranks."

          After their arrival in Warsaw, the soldiers from the Berling's Army, called by the Varsovians and insurgents "The Berlings", would say to the insurgents: "- you are dressed like the Krauts... Be careful or one of our boys can shoot you by accident".
          In this stage of speculation I am of the opinion that a hypothesis according to which Lt. Andrzej Romocki "Morro" most probably died by misadventure from a bullet shot by a Polish soldier from the other side of the Vistula River can be made. Different reports mention empty German trenches and the fact that the German forces retreated as far as to the bridge - in other words, Germans were nowhere in the vicinity of the place of the misfortune.
          Andrzej Romocki was wearing a German uniform (camouflage dress), he had a German camouflage coveron his Polish pre-war helmet model 31, and his white and red band could have been barely visible...
          I rather rule out the possibility that Lt. "Morro" came out to the landing soldiers carrying a red and white flag. Spotting a man with a German uniform on, the soldiers that had come from behind the Vistula probably aimed at his heart and killed the enemy soldier with a singleaccurate shot. How could they know that it was the hero of the Warsaw Uprising, Lt. "Morro", coming to greet them?
          Such was the death of Lt. "Morro". The hero of the "Zoska" battalion and of the whole "Radoslaw" group, the hero of the incredible breakthrough from the besieged Old Town to Srodmiescie - died from a shot right at his heart on September 15 near Solec Street.
          Any doubts are dispelled by Anna Wyganowska-Eriksson in her book published in 2010 (second edition) and entitled: "The panzer platoon of the Zoska battalion" (A. Wyganowska-Eriksson, Pluton pancerny batalionu Zoska, Gdańsk 2010, p. 321): "In the post-war literature there exist many misunderstandings in the description of the death of Andrzej "Morro". Those who were present there remember that there was a general belief that Andrzej was killed by a shot from a PPSha submachine gun - he wore a German uniform from Stawki Street. There's many a slip twixt cup and lip. He was one of the first soldiers noticed by the Berlingers after their landing on our river bank. A fatal misunderstanding led to the death of the Warsaw Uprising hero."
          All seems to be clear in this stage of speculation. On the other hand, however, it cannot be excluded in 100% that e.g. a German sniper from Poniatowski Bridge was involved in the whole incident. Moreover, the following excerpt from the memories of Tadeusz Suminski "Leszczyc" from "Zoska" still haunts me (T. Sumiński "Leszczyc" The fourteenth of September, The diaries..., p. 464): "There are five Berlingers and two Germans taken captive in the house."
          Maybe those Germans gave a shot?

compiled by: Szymon Nowak
author of the book "Ostatni szturm. Ze Starowki do Srodmiescia 1944",
[The last assault. From Starowka to Srodmiescie 1944]
Finna Publishing House

edited by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translation: Beata Murzyn

          The whole article can be found in the magazine "Military of the 20th c." (issue 5(50)/2012)

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