The Witnesses' Uprising Reports

My stolen childhood - a story of a teenage Home Army soldier

Defence redoubt 105 Panska Street

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 building of 105 Panska Street was situated opposite the redoubt in 108 Panska Street. They were strategically very important buildings, defending the access to the City Centre. In the first days of August the defence line was along the line of Towarowa Street and buildings 109, 110, 112, 114 and 116 Panska Street. Because of the severe attacks from the air and the ground (from railway grounds of "Siberia") which destroyed the high buildings our troops (in agreement with headquarters) moved the defence line along the line of Wronia Street. They moved it from Panska Street as far as Chlodna Street. The only low buildings like "Hen's Foot" (one-storey-high administrative building) and Borman's factory were located on the line of Towarowa Street and survived until the end. That is (in just a few words) how the situation looked like in this part of the City Centre.
         The building in 105 Panska Street was a very big, 5-storey-high, corner tenement in Art Nouveau style with thick walls. Balconies were mad of sandstone with solid beautiful banisters. The building housed a lot of shops - both from the sides of Wronia and Panska Streets. The flats consisted from two rooms and kitchen up to being as big as five-room ones. Balconies from the side of Panska Street were our vantage points, which were systematically destroyed by>          Germans used grenade-launchers to destroy our positions. It applied to 105 Panska Street. It turned out that (when we still had been on the other side in 108 Panska Street) we could see how strongly and precisely they destroyed our posts on balconies and front annexe from the side of the yard. The balcony of the 1st floor Wronia / corner Panska Street was an extended post; one could watch Panska and Wronia Streets from it. It was the flat of the brother of my brother-in-law - Tadeusz Dudek. A team to watch the whole area was placed in this very expansive flat. Germans attempted to destroy the balcony a lot of times; almost whole sandstone banister was crushed and replace with sacks of sand. The team, despite a few wounded, lasted for a very long time. However, when the whole balcony was shot down, the post was moved to the balcony from the side of Panska Street. Visibility was very restricted here but one could also watch the movements of the enemy and predict their decisions. I was exactly on this post where its NN second lieutenant commander was killed; he carried out the observation of the area.
         I remember him well - the energetic type, with a pistol at his belt, with binoculars at his chest and in jackboots. He was buried in the yard together with other soldiers of the platoon. He was, however, not destined to lay long under ground. As I had mentioned the fire from grenade-launchers destroyed the front balconies posts and the annexe from the side of the yard and it hit the soldiers that were there. The grenades flying above the roof destroyed everything inside the yard. The bodies of the second lieutenant and his soldiers buried in shallow graves were thrown up on the surface of the rubble which reached as high as the 1st floor.
         Platoon commander "Wildcat" Marian Tomaszewski approached the chief, second lieutenant "Blackbird" Kobylinski to allow our platoon to move to much endangered post 105 Panska Street. And so it happened. After 2 weeks of defence in 108 Panska Street redoubt, in mid-September we were moved to endangered section 105.
         The situation here was difficult. We knew it perfectly. We knew that we also could die like our predecessors. We volunteered: myself, "Coin", "Zenek", "Wojciechowski", "Giraffe", "Black" as well as courier and nurse in one "Wiera" Wanda Skudlarska. She lived in this house in the front staircase and in this way she tried to protect the belongings of her parents and neighbours. The nurse called "Little Ray" came along with her. The posts were filled with people both from Panska Street on 2nd floor (where visibility was excellent) as well as Wronia - on last floor in the corner room.
         At the beginning everything went well, it was quiet for a few days. We reported whole activity to headquarters. We felt that someone reported on what was going on in our posts - and a lot was going on indeed. It was from here that patrols were being sent into the grounds of "Siberia" as well as in direction of Hartwig's warehouses in Towarowa Street (because the permanent post at Hartwig's was abolished in September). There was not much to be controlled and the tenement nearby was occupied by Ukrainians.
         This carefully protected building could have been accessed by underground corridors in knocked down cellars to Kazimierz Wielki Square. One could also easily access property 103 and further. Here we stored the bigger amount of ammunition and grenades. We supposed that someone from remaining inhabitants informed Germans on our positions and that they plan to capture both buildings to achieve open access to the City Centre.
         On order of second lieutenant "Blackbird" we removed all civilians and relative peace appeared. However, after 3 days of silence we got attacked by bullets from grenade-launchers which again threw up the remains of buried chief of this post and his soldiers on the surface again. They were buried for the third time and later nothing disturbed their eternal sleep.
         Our posts on balconies from the side of Panska and Wronia Streets were systematically attacked. I lived through one of such attacks myself. I could have got killed but it was meant to happen another way. There were three of us at the post. From the very morning we felt somewhat uneasy. We lacked something constantly. First of all - breakfast hadn't been delivered to us on time. We were hungry then, everybody looked for something to eat in empty, destroyed flats. The most uneasy one was "Black" - our older colleague. He went back and forth, he couldn't find himself a place, as if he had been predicting something.
         It was a bright September morning. I had been watching the area from the balcony for almost an hour. Half of my body was on the balcony, half in the flat. I carefully watched the increased movements on German side where, using a cannon, they were aiming at our post, trying to eliminate it. I saw bullets flying past and under the balcony. Machine gun clattered continuously. I felt they knew our position and tried to eliminate it at all costs.
         "Black" spent almost whole night at the balcony serving the observation duty. Me and "Coin" wanted to step in his place but he didn't agree. We thought that "Black" was tired and should rest because in the evening he had volunteered to patrol the grounds of "Siberia" where Germans placed themselves and shot at our posts. He came back very tired and didn't agree to be replaced. As late as at 8 am we managed to persuade him to step down from duty. After him it was me who watched the area and then "Coin" did that.
         It did happen however that breakfast (which we normally got at 8 am) had not been delivered due to severe shooting at our posts along the whole defence line of Wronia Street - from Kazimierz Wielki Square to Grzybowska Street. "Black" and "Coin" waited for a meal for about an hour. At 10 am "Black" went searching for something to eat, it didn't last long. He came back with some dry biscuits. Still he kept interest in what was going on outside. Every few minutes he walked up to the balcony, trying to look out and see what was happening. "Coin" was also uneasy . Their nervousness affected me as well. I was on duty however. I kept informing "Coin" and "Black" on the situation. The bullets kept landing closer and closer. The machine gun started shooting at our balcony - time after time pieces of sandstone fell of the banister or the balcony board. I was not deterred by that. I was additionally protected by sacks of sand.
         The cannon must have moved because after some break the bullets started to land increasingly close, destroying the elevations of the building. The balcony, however, was still untouched. It was still obvious that Germans wanted to eliminate our vantage point. When I stretched further with my binoculars, I observed that Germans had indeed changed the position of the cannon and bullets landed increasingly close. When I saw the blitz of the bullet in the distance I was immediately retracting to the room loudly commenting what was happening on the side of the enemy. It was happening like that every few minutes. Colleagues were very worried with arisen situation. Additionally we still hadn't eaten anything, we didn't receive our breakfast. Apparently volunteering girls were not able get through due to severe shooting. I became afraid to look out from the room to the balcony as the bullets from heavy machine gun and the cannon practically demolished the solid structure of the balcony. Bullets land above and beneath. "Black" is getting increasingly uneasy. At all costs he wants to look out and see what is going on. I don't let him and keep informing on the situation. Suddenly I retrace my steps to the room shouting that it is now definitely going to hit the balcony. Out of a sudden something horrible happened. After my warning "Black" shouted: "You are lying" and looked outside. Bullet hit the banister and the shrapnel deadly hurt "Black" in his head. Immediately after the explosion together with "Coin" we caught him by his legs and very slowly pulled him down from the balcony on which he was half-stretched to the middle of the floor. Bullets hit the balcony one after another so no one can be near it. We were being hurt by pieces of sandstone. "Coin" held "Black" by his legs and I went from the side of the balcony to protect friend's head which could additionally be heard with pieces of brick, sandstone or glass. We are dragging the wounded colleague to the hallway. At the time from the corner of my eye I see how the balcony hit with the next bullet collapses down below.
         Breathing of the wounded is laboured, we're trying to give him first aid. We are looking for blood; we can not see any signs at all neither on his head nor on the whole body. We don't know what to do further . After a while (through another colleague) we informed the nurses who were in the other part of the tenement and were tending to a colleague from second post in Wronia Street side. In the meantime breakfast was delivered - meal so impatiently waited for by "Black". At the same time the nurses reached us; girls who sacrificed themselves under the shower of bullets.
         Suddenly something horrible happened. "Black" sort of heaved himself and some yellow substance spilled out from his mouth (somebody claimed it must have been his brain). After that he lay still as if he was dead. In the mean time I returned to the post. After destruction of the balcony, the cannon stopped shooting; only machine gun aimed at its remain preventing observation. "Coin" was with the wounded all the time and helped to transport him to hospital in 31 Sliska Street. "Black" was under special medical care all the time. Unfortunately until 6 pm he had not regained consciousness and died in the hospital. At the same time his funeral was organised in which I participated. With great honour and salve he was buried in provisional cemetery in 47/49/51 Sienna Street. There was an empty square remaining after planks store.
         This is how a great man, a friend left for eternal guard. He was exceptionally brave, heroic even. It was me who was supposed to get killed, I had been on duty. For a long time I had the feeling that it had been all my fault, that he had died because of me. If I had not been informing what was going on he would not have looked out, would not have died. Together with "Coin" we were living through the loss of a friend who was for his heroism had been mentioned in front of the platoon on several occasions.
         Next to the building of 105 Panska Street there was a small modest wooden house in 103 Panska Street. Falling apart because of its age (over 100 years old) it remained untouched for the whole rising. Ironically it was missed by destroying and incendiary bullets that destroyed nearby solid houses. Such are the ironies of war.
         On 1st September, on beautiful sunny day we heard singing. It was more like a roar of a drunk, staggering civilian who was walking in the middle of Panska Street and was singing. He had actually left the wooden house and was heading towards Miedziana Street. Panska Street as I had mentioned earlier was under non-stop shelling of the cannon and machine guns. The civilian proceeded not minding the bullets swishing around and exploding. He didn't pay attention to our warnings, in intervals of singing he swore mightily and said bullets did not reach him. We watched him all the time, we couldn't drag him out of the street due to fierce shelling. He didn't even get scratched he arrived safely staggering on uneven surface to Miedziana Street and disappeared from our sight. We said that a drunkard always is lucky and that's how it was. We learned later that when he sobered up, he got serious fright over his bravery.
         Continuous attacks on our redoubt didn't cease. Bullets exploded in the least expected places. We moved our vantage point to the last 5th floor in the corner room. It also had a balcony, partially damaged; it had been used as vantage point at the beginning. Now we returned to it, additionally placing watchmen in this room from the sides of Wronia and Panska Streets.
         We were not to stay long at this post. The enemy either had their informants or carefully watched our posts as soon all the hell broke out loose. Germans used non-stop shelling from grenade-launchers incendiary bullets. In many new places fires broke out, which noticed early could have been extinguished on our own.
         On second floor of front staircase there was the flat of our messenger "Wiera" Wanda Skudlarska. In this flat we spent our free time when not on duty. Now during the strong attack of the enemy there was no free time for resting, fires broke out everywhere. We had put out fire in the staircase twice already - fire that broke out in the least expected place and endangered the flat of our friend. Until now everything went fine as someone of us used to be at the right place - but this time the matter was serious. Fire broke out in several flats and at the same time the wooden stairs caught fire, too. Some of us put out fire in flats (and we had no water but sand and big cloths to extinguish it). When the stairs caught fire we were helpless. Flames engulfed our way to escape. We closed the door and started to save the belongings of Wanda "Wiera". We threw out the more valuable items through the window into the yard that was covered with rubble up to 1st floor - which eased the whole action. In the end we threw out the mattresses and bed linen on which we then jumped when flames engulfed the entrance door and the rooms. It was the last moment to do so.
         Our group fought with fires and served observation duty. We did not get relief, meals were delivered irregularly. We were over-tired and hungry. Above that the flat where we could peacefully rest after duty, burnt down. We saw despair of "Wiera" when she saw the burnt-down flat, achievement of her parents' life. She didn't pay attention to things we saved, she had no place to move them so after some time they burnt down too. The area of activity became significantly restricted. Our task became more complicated, added with fatigue and hunger.
         Half of the building from the side of Panska Street burnt down, we managed to save the rest - which was a difficult task for a small group located on the first line of the front. Now at all costs we tried to put down the fires as they start in various places caused by incendiary bullets.
         We are returning to our vantage points from the side of Wronia Street. Here Germans have a complicated task as the cannon can not reach the front of the building in Wronia. The tank can not shoot at us as Germans had created a street-wide barricade made of concrete pavement blocks. The shelling is conducted only by machine guns and panzer fists - used in attacks on our posts.
         Unfortunately the fire from grenade-launchers does not stop. The bullets land everywhere. One has to be the most careful in the yard - here grenades explode and expose bodies of the killed insurgents, buried earlier in the yard. The guys fighting with me are: "Giraffe" (NN - he had lived in Kazimierz Wielki Square/ corner of Wronia Street on first floor under even number) , "Wojciechowski" (Henryk Wojciechowski), "Zenek" (Zenek Wojciechowski) , "Coin" (Tadeusz Tarczynski), "Wiera" (Wanda Skudlarska) and nurses.
         We protected windows from the side of Wronia Street with sacks of sand. When we don't have enough we supplement them with old rags and carefully mask. We do it at dusk, we plan everything earlier.
         It turns out that from mid-September (when I came to 105 Panska Street with the whole platoon) Germans set a deal with the Rising authorities that civilians will march from Kazimierz Wielki Square through Wronia Street up to Panska and then Towarowa Streets. The ceasefire ruled for this period. On numerous occasions during duty I stood on the corner of Panska and Wronia Streets with a gun in my hands - and let the civilians pass (that included a lot of acquaintances and friends) who could no longer fight or were forbade to do so by their parents with whom they were leaving Warsaw. Germans usually stood opposite me on the other side of the road and like us in Polish side they kept order and let the civilians pass, at the same time handing them some leaflets.

Henryk Stanisław Łagodzki
translated by Zofia Kozłowska-Sobczyk

      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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