UNDERGROUND FIGHTERS AND ME AMONG THEM
WHEN DREAMS BECOME TRUE
by Monika Ałasa
August 1 was approaching... For me it has always been a special day. The anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising 1944. As you all probably know, one of my interests is WW II but especially the Warsaw Uprising. I'd been waiting for so long to go to Warsaw on that special day... but at last it came! Several weeks earlier, I started my preparations for this event. I knew that this year celebrations would be more amazing than ever - the 60th anniversary: how could it be otherwise? So, I found the detailed plan of these events on the Internet, I bought maps of Warsaw and... I started to look for someone who would join me on these days... To my great sadness, I didn't find anyone... Nobody among my family, friends and colleagues who would join me out of a genuine interest, out of an admiration for the people who fought and died, nobody who would cry together with me... It was tragic! I was asking myself, "Why there is nobody? Why do young people nowadays not remember those who lived 60 years ago? Why do they prefer going to Woodstock to take part in dangerous concerts, to take drugs and drink alcohol? Why do we live in such a society?" Sometimes I really think I was born 80 years too late.
While in such a mood, I forgot for a while that there is someone who will go with me everywhere: my Father. Together with him, on Saturday, 31st July, I was ready to go. I was a driver and I've been wondering how it was possible to get to Otwock, to stay at my aunt's in only 1,5 hours. Maybe our Nubira changed into a bird and we just flew over the roads? Speaking seriously, I'm sure that it was my enthusiasm that brought us to our destination in such a time! After staying in Otwock for a few hours, we travelled to Warsaw. On that day, we were to participate in the Holy Mass in the Cathedral of the Polish Army (Katedra Polowa Wojska Polskiego) and then to see the Appeal of the Casualties. Before these events, going to the church, we were passing the well-known, and very moving, monument of a little Warsaw soldier, a child with too big a helmet.
I really enjoyed that evening. The most important, however, was to come...
Before I went to bed, I shared my experiences with my aunt and uncle. I knew well that the next day would be very hard and tiring so I packed my insulin pens and food so as not to forget about anything. I wasn't afraid: I knew that the whole idea will be leading me!
On the beautiful sunny Sunday, 1st August, my Father and I drove into Warsaw about 10 a.m. There was the whole detailed plan ahead of us. Let me tell you about the most important moments. I will start with my feeling of joy when I saw a typical Warsaw street in the Old Town. On that day it was not typical! On the pavement you could notice big white captions WE REMEMBER THE UPRISING (Powstanie Pamiętamy) and advertisement posts looked like the one in the picture on the next page.
Having joined the celebrations at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we went to a number of bookshops. I wanted to buy some books about the Uprising so much! And I was lucky! What I found was (among the others) "Opowieści powstańcze" by J.S. Stawiński, "Dni Walczącej Stolicy" by W. Bartoszewski and, what I find to be the most precious one, "Rudy, Alek, Zośka" by B. Wachowicz. Rudy, Alek and Zośka are war names of my Heroes: Jan Bytnar, Aleksy Dawidowski and Tadeusz Zawadzki. Right now, I'm 22. They, at this age, were fighting and coming close to the end of their lives...
Coming back to the next points of my plan, we drove to the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, which was opened the previous day. In about month's time it will be ready. I'm looking forward to being there... In a park near the Museum two very long queues were standing. I stood at the end of the first, my father at the end of the second. What for? The aim was to buy a book "Powstanie'44" by Norman Davies, who was there, signing the books. Unfortunately, it was impossible to reach him as there were thousands of people. I talked to Mr Davies and took a photo with him when he was at KUL two years ago, so I couldn't regret not talking to him now.
It was 3.30 p.m. At 5 o'clock, a.k.a. GODZINA "W" ("W" HOUR), we were to be at Powązki Cemetery, which serves as the culmination moment every year. On 1st August 1944, at 5 o'clock the Warsaw Uprising started. Every year, thousands of people gather at the Cemetery by the monument Gloria Victis. Before reaching this place, we had to buy some food; I had to get an injection, have "supper"... Nothing was too much trouble for me on that day! Moments spent on Powązki were very touching. At 5 o'clock sharp sirens wailed across the whole town, then we were asked for a minute's silence to commemorate the dead. This is me just before 5 o'clock,
At 7 p.m. we were at the other cemetery, i.e. on Wola, which is the district in which the greatest number of Polish soldiers and civilians were shot, burnt or raped... Here, Mr Gerhard Schroeder, Mr Colin Powell, Polish ministers and the Polish President, gathered. There was the Appeal of the Casualties but all the speeches were ahead of us. The last of the planned events on Sunday was a concert of war songs. I was waiting for it for so long! Well, as it turned out, it was a concert of speeches. In various languages. Nevertheless, I was happy to hear and understand foreign languages. The day finished with our coming back to Otwock, after midnight. Let me tell you, I was so glad! I didn't feel tired.
When somebody asks me an ordinary question, "How was it in Warsaw?", I do not try to use any beautiful metaphors. I answer in the same ordinary way, "Amazing! Joy, emotion, I'm wearing the cap of my University." In this statement there is the enormity of my emotions, my tears, my being. Just that. I cannot speak about that differently than in the above-mentioned words. When you imagine my eyes and my face during such a story, you will know what the essence of the Warsaw Uprising is for me. I will try to pass it on. If at least one person among readers believes in my message and starts to delve into the subject of the Warsaw Uprising, I will consider that a success.
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