The Witnesses' Uprising Reports
My stolen childhood - a story of a teenage Home Army soldier
Henryk Stanisław Łagodzki,
born on July 15th, 1927 in Warsaw
Home Army soldier
wartime names: 'Hrabia', 'Orzeł'
Chrobry II Grouping , Battalion 1, Company 2, Platoon 1
Stalag IV b, prisoner of war no. 305785
The conspiracy meeting scheduled for 1st August at 5 p.m. was cancelled. I was waiting together with my colleague Kazik Szeromski, codename "Reszka" in my Warsaw flat on 14. Łucka Street, where the meetings were held. A liaison officer, who arrived at 4.30 p.m., told us that everyone had already been notified about the cancellation of the meeting. However, if someone appeared, he or she should find the nearest AK unit fighting in the neighbourhood. The officer said that the Warsaw Uprising was to break out at 5 p.m. From my balcony, we saw the units marching in close formation along Wronia Street towards Chłodna Street. It was not easy to observe the insurgents as the entire area was under fire from Towarowa Street. My parents were not home. I left a note for them that I would be back soon. Together with Kazik we decided to join a unit, but it was not that simple. From Wronia Street we were directed to Kazimierz Square, and then to 63 Sienna Street, where we have not stayed for a long time either. The units were still at the organisational stage. They had no weapons, and we were desperate to fight the enemy. Here, we would sit just like others, waiting for the equipment which was never to arrive. Around midnight, we joined the patrol which headed towards Grzybowska Street - to Habersbusch's brewery. We ran stealthily along the walls, all the time under heavy fire. We reached the brewery at dawn of 2 August 1944. It was a beehive of activity, full of people, coming in and out. But most of them were sleeping on the tables and benches. The first Nazi prisoners of war were locked in the garages at Grzybowska Street.
I met many colleagues and acquaintances. No one was armed, but all were eager to fight the invader. On 2 August, still unorganised, me, Kazik and Mietek Chonorowicz, codename "Rondel" headed towards Pańska and Sienna Street where we were joined by Tadek Tarczyński codename "Moneta" and Sylwek Zgodziński. There were five of us so after a short discussion and following the advice given by the older ones we decided to help moving parcels with the grenades from 8 Grzybowski Square to Kercelego Square. The task turned out to be very difficult. There was no possibility to get through Twarda Street which was blocked with corpses. The entire Grzybowski Square and Twarda Street were held in check by the Nazis. In the whiz of bullets we jumped from gate to gate close to the walls. People warned us not to go in this direction due to the snipers firing from rooftops. But we did not listen, we wanted to fight and it was the only chance to get weapons. Accompanied by the sound of heavy machine guns we were fortunate enough to reach the nearby All Saints' Church. No one was wounded and we toughened up in the first contact with the invisible enemy. Paying no attention to the bullets whistling around, we felt somehow more confident.
There, in the conspiracy factory, we collected two packs of grenades each, 10 packs in total and with this rather heavy burden carried in both hands were expected to reach Kercelego Square.
We really did not know where the enemy was. But we knew where our friends - all Warsaw citizens were. Women and elder people, everyone helped us, warned against the gunfire, showed direction. They fed us, gave away sandwiches, sweets and cigarettes. We were motivated by such strong patriotic displays among so many simple women. We were going back by another route. Passages between the backyards and houses were already cleared. All were breaking thick cellar walls, being aware that it was the only communication road. Everyone was enthusiastic; everyone wanted to fight the Nazi invader using different methods. The five of us were no longer defenceless, with each one equipped with two grenades. We were already armed, but there was still a long road before us. Wandering around the backyards, frequently stepping down to the cellars we were heading from Twarda Street towards Pańska Street, then along Pańska Street to Wronia Street. There was a bit quieter, and only occasional gun series pierced the air. Wronia Street was calm, and we had only to run through Prosta, Łucka, Grzybowska and Krochmalna side streets as quickly as possible since they were under constant fire from Siberia. However, it was quiet between the street exits, where people were standing, talking and asking us where we headed.
We had to stop for a longer time only at Chłodna Street, where the enemy launched machine gun and cannon attack. Tanks, followed by the infantry, were coming in from Wolska Street. From the left a German unit attacked a barricade, which was situated across Wronia Street.
There were three barricade defenders equipped with a pistol, kb and one grenade. The five of us turned out to be very useful as we helped to defend the barricade. The Germans who launched a direct attack were forced to withdraw. They had probably not expected any resistance. Kercelego Square was controlled by the insurgents who repelled the enemy. Before crossing Chłodna Street we hid our unused grenades in the toilet in order to collect them on our way back. We were afraid that they would be taken away from us. After the shootout on Chłodna Street stopped, we crossed the street and without any problems reached the command where we gave away the grenades and a letter. We said that we had repulsed the attack on the barricade and lost a few grenades, but we would like to get them back. We were thanked for courageous attitude and bravery and each of us was presented with one grenade. One of the officers asked us whether we wanted to stay or return. On the one hand, we wanted to go back since we left the grenades hidden. On the other hand, seeing well armed insurgents and one or two tanks as well as the armoured vehicle on the Kercelego Square, we wanted to stay. The tanks, manufactured probably in Italy, were captured during an attack by Parasol battalion.
Eventually, we decided to return to our home area, where we were needed as well. A fragment of free Warsaw, streets full of people, windows decorated with white and red flags. And again empty Wronia Street, across now peaceful Chłodna Street and quickly to the toilet where we put the grenades. Hurrah - finally armed! We're not afraid of the enemy, we wanted to fight, to get the weapons. The fact that we helped to repulse the attack gave us was some inner force and the will for fight.
We were hungry, and dusk approached. On Krochmalna Street a woman invited us to her flat. Hot soup and tea had us back on our feet. The woman gave us cigarettes and sweets and we went further. On our way back we were told that there was petrol in barrels in the magazines near Agril (Agril was situated on Grzybowska Street). Mietek, who lived on 18 Łucka Street, led us through some backyards and fences to the magazine back room. We saw full barrels, but we had to find some containers into which we could pour the petrol. Since there was nothing appropriate, we decided to bring bottles and churns from my place. Suddenly there was a heavy explosion, falling bricks and pieces of rubble. We could not understand what happened. We crawled under some barrels waiting for the outcome. When we realized that we could be blown up at any moment we agreed to withdraw and return during the day. Next day we found out that these were the Nazis who blew themselves up in the school on 11 Chłodna Street, the corner of Waliców.
We were fated never to return for petrol. Our plans changed when we met a patrol, which went from Haberbusch in order to discover where the Germans stayed. There were three of them, equipped with a pistol and two petrol bottles, so they eagerly accepted our five armed with the grenades. The entire patrol moved along Grzybowska Street in direction of Ciepła Street. We passed by Hala Mirowska, and then went back along Krochmalna Street to the brewery. We felt tiredness, and after a cup of hot coffee, fell asleep paying no attention to the surrounding buzz.
In the morning, seeing no perspective of the fights (everybody was waiting for something to happen) we agreed to go to the Old Town. We still did not join any unit or division, and we did not want to build barricades. Before leaving, we ate quite substantial breakfast: bread with canned meat washed down with very sweet coffee. Rested and satiated, not stopped by anybody, we set off. All of a sudden, there was a big motion. Everyone ran to the gate from Grzybowska Street. Nazi heavy tanks were driving along the street with our boys holding grenades above their heads. There was exultant cheering and great enthusiasm. After hearing, the Germans were closed in the garage together with other prisoners, captured earlier. Later on, I found out that all of them were killed in bullet explosion.
We left the hospitable brewery during the commotion and went to the Old Town. Wandering around the backyards, leaping over the fences, we reached the other side of Pańska Street, but from a distance we saw the Nazi tanks approaching. We went back and rushed into the building on 43 Żelazna Street, where someone opened the door on the first storey letting us in to observe the situation out of the window. We could see other boys holding petrol bottles, which they threw when the tanks moved closer, all the time shooting at the house facades. Not all bottles reached their target. One tank managed to drive through, the other burst into flames, but did not stop. None of us threw the grenade, we failed to make the grade. No one coordinated our action. We went to the street and watched the tanks unsuccessfully trying to destroy the barricade on Żelazna Street. They also failed and started coming back. And still neither we nor other defenders managed to destroy the tanks, which went back towards Chłodna Street.
Although disappointed with the failure, we decided to reach the Old Town. Once again, in leaps we ran along Żelazna Street under machine fire and further through Sienna at the height of Twarda Street. The latter wasn't under fire, and we got used to the bullets sporadically whistling past our ears. At the junction of Twarda, Złota and Żelazna there was a crushed tram. We leapt over the tracks and moved into the excavation stretching along Złota Street, where we could finally slow down. Walking one by one we reached 73 Złota Street. Some women treated us with hot coffee, bread and canned meat. They asked where we were going and whether we were organized. There was not much we could tell. We explained that we were ordered to get to the Old Town to determine the situation. The women gave us some instructions, cigarettes and sweets, and wished us luck. The street became empty. Only from time to time someone sneaked by the walls. Full of belief that we were able to make the grade, we picked our way.
Passing by the house entrance on 14 Złota Street we were approached by a middle-aged man who informed us that there were grenades in the backyard from the side of Marszałkowska Street. Without a single thought we let him guide us. It's quiet. No shots could be heard, people seemed to be at ease. We entered the stairwell and stepped down into the cellar. Wandering around the corridors, we went through a fresh hole in the wall leading to an annex to Singer's house, just opposite the entrance. Blinded by daylight we stopped at the staircase, in front of wide open door, through which we could see around 10 grenades lying in the backyard corner. Our informer told us that he would walk away for a while. We did not expect such an easy haul and fail to sniff any trap. In spite of colleagues' warnings, me and "Reszka" decided to pick up the grenades, which were bundled with cord. Looking for a scissor to cut the bonds and distribute grenades among the colleagues, we suddenly heard a burst from a light machine gun. Rubble fell on our heads. Another burst. Waiting no longer, we rushed back into the staircase. The burst hit the entrance door and window, but failed to reach us. We realized that it came from the gate and the first storey of the front stairwell. Women who emerged from the cellar informed us that we were attacked by the Germans. The grenades belonged to the insurgents who were killed while fruitlessly attacking the Nazis from the backyard. A few young men were shot down, the rest felt back taking them along. They had no more ammunition and grenades. As we found out later, the insurgents attacked two tanks driving from Saski Garden towards Sikorski Avenue with petrol bottles and grenades. The tank brigade survived and got out of the burning vehicle near Złota Street, where it hid in the staircase. The Nazis also suffered losses and were falling short of ammunition. Some of them were severely wounded. We were terrified by such a sudden attack, but had to decide what to do next. Knowing that the organized group failed, we were afraid of the fate of our five without an experienced commander. However, not giving up, well armed with additional 10 grenades, we decided to launch attack. Our young age and bravado were stronger than the common sense. We didn't know the number of the Nazis or their weaponry. "Moneta" and "Reszka" remained opposite the entrance gate, while the three of us: "Orzeł", Sylwek and "Rondel" got to the second staircase, where we were told that we could go through the flat of Singer's director on the second storey and reach the staircase where the Nazis were hiding.
Our predecessors did not take this possibility into account and attacked from the backyard, what had to bring losses and become a failure. The staircase where we stayed was rather close to the entrance gate and aside, so the Germans could hardly see anything. We decided to attack from two directions. Maintaining eye contact with Reszka and Moneta, we threw grenades at the enemy who responded in the same manner. There's a terrible thud as though the house was being demolished, plaster and rumble falling down. We had to hide ourselves, there was no chance to proceed. Amidst single shots followed by the bursts, we moved onto the first storey, which was safer and offered us better view. I started throwing grenades through the window vent, hoping to reach the place where the Nazis stayed. However, the second trial ended with my hand being wounded with small scraps. Two grenades clashed together in the air causing such a huge explosion that I did not manage to withdraw my hand from the vent. My hand was covered with blood. Fortunately, it was in one piece, but I needed a dressing. Sylwek and "Rondel" kept on attacking - but without a success. The Nazis were well armed. However, one of them had to be wounded as we could hear moaning. I went downstairs to the cellar where the women washed my hand, removed tens of minute scraps, disinfected and dressed my wound in such a way as to enable me moving my fingers. Everything was done in a standing position, by candlelight, and perhaps this is why I still have a small scrap in the middle finger of my right hand. I would like to thank the nice ladies, now I can feel a hero. Everyone praises my brave attitude and the will to fight.
I went upstairs and joined my friends. We had to be very careful since the Nazis launched a massive attack. We abandoned our position and, keeping contact with "Moneta" and "Reszka", moved onto the second floor where we could attack from above. We had no guns and had to save grenades.
We started banging on the kitchen door of Singer director's house, but no one opened. However, we could smell the aroma of roasted meat, so someone had to be inside. Suddenly we heard the trudging steps and the director's housemaid appeared in the door. The smell of meat was irritated our nostrils, so we headed to the kitchen followed by the angry housemaid trying to block our way. Asked for whom she was cooking, the woman was unable to answer. We checked the house, but found not a living soul and returned to the kitchen demanding explanations under threat of using the grenade. She said that the director was off, but the Nazis banged on the flat door, and the delicious meal was just for them. Now we knew their number and our next moves. Sylwek went to the other colleagues in order to discuss the plan of action. We agreed that we would attack the staircase from above - it should be a success. Communication with "Moneta" and "Reszka" was easier now since we stood opposite each other with the Germans below.
First, the replete meal, which was intended for the enemy, served with some cognac from the extremely well stocked drinks cabinet. Convinced of imminent victory, we proceeded to action. The housemaid was our informer. She said that the Nazis have been exhausted and hungry for the last three days. One of them was heavily wounded, the other two less severely, and the fourth soldier was probably hit by us. There were also five of them - we had equal powers and an advantage of full stomachs.
Sylwek remained in the staircase and me and Rondel crept to the front door. We listened - nothing. We opened the door very slowly. It's the last, second storey of the pretty staircase with decorated railing. Through the open window, we could see "Reszka" waiving at us from below. We try to assess our situation and determine the best action plan. We left the door open in order to have the way back. "Rondel", who spoke German a little, said that we would help them in a while. In response, the soldiers demanded food and support as well as dressings for the wounded. We realized that the enemies stood on the ground floor, just beside the entrance gate, and that they were extremely exhausted. Looking down between the handrails we could even see their faces. They kept on calling us, but we remained silent and started creeping downstairs on tiptoes. Unfortunately, the stairs were wooden and creaked causing the Germans to fire at us between the handrail. If we did not jump abide, they would crush our heads with the bullets. I pulled the pins and started lobbing grenades. Explosion followed explosion. Tadek and Kazik attacked from the backyard. A grenade exploded on the first floor, the Germans could not reach us. Attacked from two directions, they couldn't see the backyard since our grenades cut off the access to the window and the light machine gun. "Moneta" and "Reszka" were already by the wall beside the entrance gate. Now we were unable to communicate with each other. But in a moment of silence we heard moans. We threw more grenades down the stairs. One of them did not explode, and we feared to move. It lay underneath, separated only by the floor. I moved closer to the handrail in order to lob the last grenade and all of a sudden a I heard a single shot and the rebound hit me in my left leg. I felt hotness, but no pain, only blood was bursting from the open wound. I tied one handkerchief under my knee, and the other, given to me by "Rondel", around the wound to stop bleeding. My instinct for self-defence commanded me to run upstairs, but I resisted. We could hear screams and the sound of shattered glass. Orzeł and Rondel threw grenades simultaneously. Plaster fell down on our heads, we were deafened by the noise, but we rushed downstairs. Eleven steps and we found the light machine gun and the grenade which did not explode.
Another eleven steps. As if through the fog I saw a Nazi lying across the stair head, a gun on his chest. He's dead. I caught the gun. Than I noticed another Kraut on the small bench, his gun put aside, head hung. I unbuckled the chinstrap and removed his helmet. He was still alive, I put the helmet back on and wanted to hit him with the barrel, because he seemed to be still defending, but he suddenly fell down on his dead colleague. Now there were all of us. I saw Moneta draw the pistol out of the holster. "Reszka" held TT and the gun. He pulled the soldier's boots off, they were almost new. Sylwek came with the gun. He handed the second one to "Rondel", who was already equipped with the light machine gun without ammunition.
We looked for the bullets and found only two full clips. The floor was covered with empty cartridge cases and there were some grenades by the wall. My leg was hot and soaked with blood. We put a temporary dressing on the wound. We had to hurry up because someone called the platoon quartered in the vicinity. They wanted us to give the guns away, but we refused. The lieutenant screamed at us. Eventually, they took only the light machine gun, grenades and other accessories. We had not even one grenade, all were used in fight. If the Nazis were stronger, they would defeat us. There came the inhabitants and people hiding in the cellars. Their congratulations saved us from disarming. Everyone was waiting for the trophy weapons - it wasn't a small thing: five Mauser guns, pistol and the Parabellum, helmet and soldier's boots.
There arrived the medical orderly and took dead and wounded Germans away. They wanted to dress my wounds but I disagreed although both my hand and my leg hurt badly. The lieutenant, brandishing his pistol, tried to find out about our division, but failed. People from the tenement house prevented him asking where he was when we fought the Nazis. Some women disinfected my gunshot wound and the right hand hit with the small scraps and put two fresh bandages. We washed ourselves and were invited on the second storey to the flat of Singer's director with a full larder. Several house inhabitants were present and we all enthusiastically celebrated our first victory over the enemy. On the table there was fresh meat and bread, which we would soon miss so much.
The evening approached. We resigned from getting to the Old Town and decided to return to the City Centre. We were tired and additionally, I, as the only one out of our five, was wounded twice. We thanked for hospitality and received thanks for the elimination of the Nazi stronghold and restoration of normal, as far as it was possible during the Uprising, life.
We go back through the same cellars to 14 Złota Street, where we receive one more gun without ammunition from one of the inhabitants. Mauser had broken barrel and the man repaired it. He said that he returned to gun to its right owners since it was gained by us and left unnoticed by no one.
I would like to mention that leaving the party we were equipped with good cognacs, which we exchanged for ammunition. I sent "Reszka" and "Rondel" who acquitted themselves very well. I have to stress that we had trophy cartridge belts. We loaded our guns, it wasn't too much, but sufficed for some time. We fired a salute for our victory and to the planes flying above our heads. Reaction is quick. Unexpectedly there appears the military police (three persons), who wants to disarm us and bring to the police station. Firing was very childish, but the case was serious and could end very tragically for us. No explanations helped. The policemen simply wanted to seize our trophy weapons. We lied to be a part of Haberbusch patrol and warned them not to approach, because we would start shooting. We were ready for everything. Seeing our robust attitude, they resigned, but still threatened us with arrest, tempted by our guns and pistols. That's how they deprived other people of their weapons. Having a bead on them, we made them go away towards Marszałkowska Street, and we quickly went through Sosnowa Street to Śliska Street, taking turn towards Wielka Street in order to mislead potential pursuit. We stopped for a while on 10 Śliska Street, because we were invited for hot black coffee by four ladies, and since it was late, they put us up for the night. Decision was made on my account - my wounds hurt and bled. I had to go to the hospital as soon as possible. One of the women very skilfully changed dressings and disinfected the wounds. The other three ladies, one without a hand, prepared meal and beds. All-day impressions and tiredness overcame me and I immediately fell asleep. My colleagues spent the night very cheerfully and waking them up wasn't an easy task. Only the sound of missiles falling somewhere nearby woke them up from deep slumber.
We packed ourselves, my leg hurt. We went to the provisional hospital organized in the former Jewish synagogue on 62 Śliska Street. Reszka, who accompanied me, did not anticipated that he would soon become the hospital's patient due to heavy abdominal gunshot wound. But now I was to undergo surgery without the anaesthetization. It wasn't too complex. Following medical examination and determination of the place where the bullet had stuck, a doctor commenced my surgery. The bullet was located in my left calf. Standing on one leg, I put the second one on the chair held from one side by my colleague and from other side by nurse Basia. After some surface anaesthetization cut was made with a scalpel. Pain was terrible. In deeper parts refrigeration was ineffective, so I fainted out of pain. Later I was told that I did not scream at all. The worst feeling was when the doctor knocked with a little spoon into the bullet in order to remove it and had to make another cut. The bullet was removed and given to me as a keepsake. After dressing and bandaging the wound I was placed on the table in order to remove the small scraps from my right hand. I did not want to stay in the hospital, because I did not want to block place for other patients. I found that I was able to walk so nothing prevented me from joining division fighting organized in our district.
Leaving the hospital we met the commander Lech Grzybowski who told us to report to him since he needed such armed brave comrades. We reported the same day and received special membership cards. Our first duty was sentry and protection of property in recaptured Hale Mirowskie. We were promised that would be allowed to take home part of food and alcohol for our families. We found a trolley and transported the goods to Tadeusz "Moneta" Tarczyński's flat on 49 Pańska Street to divide them for each family. Then me and "Rondel" (Mietek Chonorowicz) took our portions home. We were close neighbours: I lived on 14 Łucka Street, he on 18 Łucka. My parents, whom I found safe and sound, were delighted and happy that I was thinking about them. They moved from the fourth-storey flat to the cellar, which was the usual place of accommodation at that time.
We had to get back to our division. Unfortunately, "Rondel" did turn up. As it turned out later, he was forced to stay at home due to some household duties. I returned to 49 Pańska Street as agreed, but found only "Moneta". "Reszka" was called by "Lech Grzybowski", and we, that is "Orzeł", "Moneta" and Sylwek were directed, through the liaison officer sent by "Lech" to second lieutenant "Kos" (Kobyliński) in Borman's factory. Only two of us turned up: "Orzeł" and "Moneta", because Sylwek's parents did not let him go. No wonder - he was their only child. In this way our group lost two brave insurgents.
Borman's factory, where we were sent, was situated between Towarowa, Sienna and Wronia, and separated from Srebrna Street by the Garbochem building. The entire area on the other side of Towarowa Street, occupied by the Nazis, was called Siberia. Siberia was full of railway artillery guns "Ziu".
Near Borman's factory, on the other side of Sienna Street, the corner of Towarowa, there was a one-storey building called by us "Kurza Stopka" (Hen's Foot), which became a legendary name. It was a great observation point. Along Towarowa Street, closer to Pańska, there were Hartwig's storehouses, where our outposts were located. Kurza Stopka was connected with Borman's factory through a shallow pit surrounded with the embankment of earth, which we covered deeply bent in order to avoid being shot from the Siberia and through a hole in the wall entered Borman's factory.
Initially, I was an observer in Kurza Stopka. It was a protruding outpost, dangerous and sometimes attacked. In the course of such attack launched by SS forces, rifleman "Czarny" was badly wounded. Everything happened before our eyes. "Czarny" misdirected, the grenade hit the upper part of the frame and exploded hurting him severely. "Czarny", when he recovered and was about to return to his division, died buried in the rubble caused by the explosion on 50 Śliska Street, where he lived and where our quartermaster's, canteen and billets were located. By then it was rather quiet and secure street.
Leaving the outpost in Borman's factory in the morning we found our quarters in the rubble. We immediately set about to rescue the injured and buried in the cellars. The entire wooden ceiling hanged over the people buried on the front stairwell. One of them, wounded quartermaster's employee was half crushed with the hanging ceiling. Pulling the injured out was very difficult. Beside him was another injured insurgent with crushed chest who begged us to put him out of his misery. Slowly and carefully our rescue team removed beams and boards in order to pull him out. We were unable to listen to his moaning and begging. We constructed a makeshift scaffold in order to stop the pressure from the above and started removing the injured centimetre after centimetre. Nurses have already waited with the stretchers. Then, we pulled out the second insurgent - everything went OK. He had his legs broken in several places. When we were coming down, a part of the temporary scaffold collapsed and crushed me. My colleagues, who were unhurt, set about to rescue me. I regained consciousness after several hours at a small hospital on 62 Śliska Street. I sustained permanent head injuries.
Henryk Stanisław Łagodzki
translated by Joanna Olędzka
Henryk Stanisław Łagodzki,
born on July 15th, 1927 in Warsaw
Home Army soldier
wartime names: 'Hrabia', 'Orzeł'
Chrobry II Grouping , Battalion 1, Company 2, Platoon 1
Stalag IV b, prisoner of war no. 305785
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