Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski (1921 - 1944)
Jozef Szczepanski "Ziutek" (1922 - 1944)
"And one of us - he is the me,
who fell in love. My world blossomed out
like a mighty cloud, like fire in a dream
and like a tree I am upright.
Another of us - he is the me,
who gave birth to a tremulus hatred. The glitter
you see is my knife. No tear will there be
to fall from my eyes as torpid as water." *
"Sitting with girls in the golden sunshine, on the mowed grass, fair-haired, suntanned, in their shorts and white shirts they were like butterflies and perhaps birds, that are going to stretch their wings and fly in a moment. Even I, grown up, mistrustful, vigilantly listening to the rumbles of a dread growing around, did not sense that they were destined to fly short and high as Icarus." - wrote Hanna Morktowicz-Olczakowska in the summer of 1939 - the last carefree holidays of the Columbus generation** - just before The World War II broke out. The flight of Icarus, marvellous but extremely short - this expression perfectly describes the life of Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski***.
Baczynski was born in Warsaw on January 22, 1921. The only son of the writer and critic Stanislaw Baczynski, insurgent in the third Silesian Uprising and Stefania Zielenczyk, a teacher and children's writer. He graduated from the elite Stefan Batory Secondary School in Warsaw in summer 1939.
He was endowed with extraordinary art skills and planned to study at the Warsaw Academy of Arts to become illustrator and graphic artist, he also thought of undertaking the studies in France. The outbreak of World War II, and the family tragedy - his father's death in July 1939 - shattered these plans for ever.
His literary talent emerged early stimulated by the artistic atmosphere of home. He wrote many poems already before the war with the earliest dating back to 1936. They formed the first "poetry book" - green notebook with the inscription: "These poems shall never be printed". The publishers never complied with these instructions. These first lyrics constitute the prelude to Baczynski's poetry that bloomed in the years of war.
During the Nazi occupation Baczynski created unique and extraordinary poetry ranking him alongside Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska and granting him a remarkable place in the history of Polish literature. Difficult and scary reality of Nazi occupation made young people become mature earlier. Poetry became the way for expressing emotions not known to people who live in times of peace.
Baczynski (pen name - Jan Bugaj) is named the greatest one of many tremendous wartime poets. He was often compared to Juliusz Slowacki **** and called "the late grandson" of Romantics.
As many of his friends Baczynski was an active boy scout and a member of the sports club. During the War he studied Polish literature at the underground university. He was also affiliated with the socialist group "Plomienie" ('Flames') and "Droga" publishing house.
While studying at the underground university he met Barbara Drapczynska, his first love and future wife. According to the critics Polish poetry owes her extraordinary love poems created by Baczynski. They were married in 1942 in the Church at Solec Street in Czerniakow (Cherniakov).
Baczynski joined the Scout Storm Groups (a part of Grey Ranks - underground Polish Scouting and Guiding Association) in 1943, he was a cadet in the underground Grey Ranks' officer cadet school "Agrykola". Until July 1944 Baczynski was the soldier of "Zoska" (Zoshka) Home Army battalion. He was participating in sabotage missions of derailing trains. Baczynski was moved to Parasol (Umbrella) battalion just before the Warsaw Uprising in July 1944.
During the Nazi occupation Baczynski took an active part in Warsaw underground literary life. He wrote a lot and published few volumes of verse. Each of his poems was dated, he even put an exact hour under the verses, as if he felt how fast his time was passing. His poetry is assumed to be The Second Avangarda also called the Catastrophism. At the same time his poetry is in fairy-tale current. He took a very visible turn to the Romanthics Poetry. Many of his poems are military and patriotic. The patriotism however does not include slogans but rather sad and painful reflections.
On August 1, 1944 Baczynski left his flat at Holowki Street and directed to the clandestine meeting at the Teatralny Square. There he was caught by the outbreak of the Uprising. He never came back home, never saw his wife again. He was killed in action on the 4th day of the Uprising, shot by the sniper when he stood in the window of the Blank Palace. His wife, Barbara still not aware of her husband's death was seriously wounded by shrapnel while running through the street on August 31 and died the next day. They are buried together at the Powazki Military Cemetery in between the quarters of "Zoska" (Zoshka) and "Parasol" (Umbrella) battalions.
As Kazimierz Wyka puts It, the death of the only 23-year-old Poet, yet untimely and tragic, did not interrupt his literary output. Baczynski became mature so surprisingly quickly that his works are fully expressed and finished. This is the poetry of high flight despite the fact that this flight lasted for such a short time.
But we, the readers, will be always surrounded by this persistent longing for all these poems that he wasn't able to write...
- excerpt of the poem of K.K. Baczynski: "The Gaze ", Warsaw, 18.10.1943 translation Bill Johnston
- Columbus generation representatives of the young Polish intelligentsia at the time of the Nazi occupation
- Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski Christopher K.B., 'Bugay', 'Christophe'
- Juliusz Slowacki (1809-1849) Poet, playwright, founder of the philosophy of Genesis. Together with Adam Mickiewicz and Zygmunt Krasinski, Slowacki is recognised as one of "the three Romantic bards." Polish Romanticism reached its apogee in his literary output, with its various themes and genres.
Jozef Szczepanski "Ziutek" was a poet, Home Army soldier and Warsaw insurgent fighting in ranks of "Parasol" (Umbrella) battalion. Jet is mostly known as the author of two very popular insurgents' songs "Pałacyk Michla" ('Michl's Palace') and "Chlopcy silni jak stal" ('Boys as strong as steel'), and a poem "We await you…". Apart from the insurgents' press and some post war publications, his works have not been officially published but were spread by the word of mouth resulting in few versions of the poem or song being known and quoted what relates mostly to the works written during the Warsaw Uprising adopted by insurgents' units to their own needs. Only in 1997 the complete works of "Ziutek" were published by Mr Janusz Krezel and distributed within the ranks of Polish Scouting and Guiding Association. The poems in the Polish version of this biography are presented basing on this publication.
Józef Szczepanski was born on November 30, 1922 in Warsaw (as per Birth Act in Leczyca), the first son of Jozef (officer, later judge, legal adviser and counsel) and Matylda Ottomanska. He was raised in Grudziadz, Warsaw and Jablonna near Warsaw. In 1935 he became a student of Wladyslaw IV secondary school in Warsaw.
After the outbreak of Word War II in September 1939, "Ziutek" evacuated with his parents to Wolyn. Then he stayed in Krakow, Debica, Przeworsk and Rzeszow remaining still in the south and east of the country. His poems from that time were not preserved, except from one, inscribed in his aunt's commonplace book on June 11, 1941.
On April 11, 1944 Gestapo agents barged into the apartment at 12 Dluga (Long) Street, where "Ziutek" was renting a room. There are some conjectures that they arrived to arrest "Ziutek" identified by his friend captured earlier by the Gestapo. Not only "Ziutek" was in the apartment but also two other underground activists: Michał Issajewicz "Mis" and Justyn Ignatowicz "Figa". "Mis" opened the door and was immediately hit with a pistol butt, but he still managed to alarm his friends, who barricaded themselves in the room and started shooting at Gestapo agents. "Figa" was killed in the shooting, but "Ziutek" managed to jump from the window on the top of the truck and run away towards the nearby Old Town. This event ended up very tragically, "Figa" was killed, the entire family of the landlord was arrested and executed and "Mis" was sent to the concentration camp in Stutthof.
During the Warsaw Uprising "Ziutek" was the commander of the squad (in the rank of corporal cadet) of "Parasol" (Umbrella) Home Army battalion. Together with his battalion he was in combat all the way through Wola (Vola) and the Old Town. On August 5, 1944 inspired by the heavy struggle in defense of Wolska (Volska) Street he wrote a text of the song "Parasol" ('Parasol') known today as "Palacyk Michla" ('Michl's Palace'). This song soon became a battle song and the anthem of "Parasol" ('Umbrella') battalion. During the Uprising the text of this song was passed by the word of mouth, what resulted in many versions of it existing now. This song was often sung on barricades and in the backyards by Mieczyslaw Fogg (Polish singer also very popular after the War) and therefore was quickly popularized among the insurgents.
When "Parasol" (Umbrella) battalion was in combat at the Old Town in August 1944 "Ziutek" wrote the text of another very popular song "Chlopcy silni jak stal" ('Boys as strong as steel'). Then came his poems inspired by the tragic events of the Uprising:
"Biały Domek" ('Little White House'), "W parasolu jest już taka mania…" ('Umbrella developed a superiority complex…'), "A jak będzie już po wojnie" ('When the War will be over'), "Ma Warszawa gdzie¶ pod ziemi±" ('Somewhere in the underground'), "Już nie wroci Twoj chlopiec - dziewczyno…" ('Girl- Your boy one will not come back'), "To byl ostatni Twoj szturm, Rafale!..." ('It was your last storm, Rafal!..').
On September 1, 1944 "Ziutek" took the command of the part of "Parasol" ('Umbrella') battalion guarding the entire North Group that was evacuated to Srodmiescie District (The Center) through the sewers. On the same day he was seriously wounded on Barokowa Street. He was carried all the way through severs to Srodmiescie District by his comrades and placed in the insurgent hospital at Czackiego Street. After the hospital was bombarded, he was moved to 75 Marszalkowska (Marschal) Street, where he died from wounds on 10th September. He was buried in the backyard insurgent cemetery and only after the War his body was exhumed by his parents and moved the Powazki Military Cemetery, whre he rests between his friends from the "Parasol" ('Umbrella') battalion.
The poem "We await you" is probably the last one written by "Ziutek". It is also known as "The Scarlet Plaque". It seems to be a very prophetic poem, written at the time of the immense tragedy of the Polish Nation and expresses the moods surrounding the author. At the same time when Ziutek's friends were dying in the struggle against the Nazis, the Red Army passively observed it from the other riverbank. Stalin did not want and did not give any aid to the fighting city committing one of the heaviest crimes against Polish Nation. After the World War II, when the soviets gained influence over Poland "We await you" was not among the published insurgent literature, but it was very popular in the Underground preserved in deeply hidden handwritten copies. The copy of this poem found by the Domestic Security agents during the house search would place the owner in prison for a considerable time. Even Ziutek's mother who was given the originally handwritten fpoem at the funeral, has hidden it in the bottle and buried it in the ground. The prophecy of the poem came true after 45 years when Poland gained back independence. Almost 60 years since the death of "Ziutek" not only Poles had the chance to read it, when it was translated into English by Professor Norman Davies and published in his book "Rising'44 - The battle for Warsaw" (link).
The translation of "The Scarlet Plaque" is published thanks to the courtesy of Professor Norman Davies.
Jozef Szczepanski "Ziutek" (1922 - 1944)
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