Eye-witness accounts of the Insurgence
born 27.04.1928 in Warsaw
soldier of the Home Army aka. "Tiger"
group "Horn" battalion "Boncza, 102 company
I started underground activity in 1942, thanks to our tutor, who, as I later found out, was a guardian of a scout troop in a state school number 165 to which I attended. We took part in Minor Sabotage realized by "Zawiszacy", the youngest group of "Szare Szeregi". Since May 1944, we got an assignment of making lists of military vehicles that were coming to the east and those returning from that direction. We wrote down their nationality plates of particular military units painted on the engine covers; these data were passed to certain intelligence units, which helped to determine translocation of the German army. For us, the nearest such a place was Nowy Zjazd Street.
At the end of July, for a few days we had a duty at "Ratold's" (Janusz Zadarnowski), on Bugaj Street, in the so-called "Red House", it is where we stayed when "W-hour" came. In the afternoon I was ordered to get to the Town Hall, where our Tribal "Andrzej Babinicz" (Andrzej Zajdler) was supposed to be. After unsuccessful expedition I returned to Bugaj Street after dark. I couldn't reach Janusz and I got stuck at "Professors' House", which was one of the bastions of the Old Town during the fights.
In the morning we decided to join one of the units. Thus, when coming to the Old Square in the Old Town at number 10 or 14, we were accepted by the commander of 102 company, sergeant major "Mieroslawski" (Zdzislaw Mayzner), and the company chief, sergeant "Lopek" (Stanislaw Kwiatkowski), who led us to the second platoon of officer cadet "Zakrzewski" (Zdzislaw Biernacki). This is how I became the liaison officer of sergeant "Cichy" (Mieczyslaw Cichalewski). The first quarters of the platoon was on Piwna Street, in garages of Lopacki funeral home.
On 1 August, 102 company coming down Nowy Zjazd Street towards the bridge, was supposed to support 103 company, which tried to gain the bridgehead of Kierbedzia Bridge. A seemingly easy task, but at that time it was impossible and even deadly in consequence. 103 company was found right before W-hour, and it was massacred by an anti-aircraft gun dug in near the Vistula River. 42 soldiers out of 47 together with their leader stayed at the approaches. After years I tried to find out how the cooperation looked like in Praga. The troops reached only St. Florian's Church, and gaining the bridgehead of Poniatowski and Srednicowy Bridge had similar result, only with fewer casualties.
Before 102 company appeared at the starting base on the Castle Square, it was pinned down by a heavy fire from the bridge, and several boys with one machine gun and a few grenades, having open space of Wiadukt Pancera in front of them, were luckily withdrew by the chief of the company, as they would surely share the fate of those from 103 company.
Similarly, 101 company on our left, that was supposed to attack the anti-aircraft artillery dug in on Podzamcze, was under fire from machine guns and small cannons and had to give up ambitious plans, as their weapons were rather few in number.
For two days there were no direct fights in our section, enabling us to organise quarters, secure quickly- made barricades, bring more people and supply our weaponry. On 4 July a trip to Stawki Street was organised, in which my friends and I took part. We lugged uniforms almost for the whole company, there were panzergrenadier uniforms and army camouflage as well. I wonder today how it was possible that 14-15 years old boys, rather small in posture, did not have any problems with fitting the uniforms. We felt like soldiers at last. Running to the Old Square, I met my cousin Maciek Lewandowski, who lived on Piwna Street. When he found out that we were at "Boncza", he got him reassigned from Polish People Army and joined our battalion.
During the following days, the circle around the Old Town was getting smaller, the artillery fire was heavier, with mortars, so-called "cows" or "wardrobes" and ground-attack aircraft of JU 87 "Stuka". Constant attacks wreaked havoc, fires and destruction.
It made us work more actively. Liaison officers were badly needed, to get information, supply ammunition, deliver really effective and necessary Molotov cocktails, or bringing support to dangerous sectors. They often disappeared unexpectedly, but there were always a few around. I saw the death of "Tadzio" (NN), I don't' know if his parents knew how he died. On the sixth day, I guess, "Wilk" (Stanislaw Rumianek - my brother), while crossing Piwna Street, was shot in lungs, close to the heart. After dressing the wound, he was taken to a small hospital in the Old Square 31, which was bombed the following day, and my brother had to run barefoot, dressed only in a shirt to Freta Street to St. Jacek Church.
On Wednesday 9 September, I got the assignment to bring the rest of the platoon, wchich stayed on Elektoralna Street in the Central Office of Measures. Walking around Senatorska Street and Theatre Square, down Tlomackie Street to Miodowa Street, we got to Piwna and that's how officer cadet "Bolek" (Boleslaw Filipiak) together with his people, strengthened our barricade on Piwna Street.
The tenth day of the uprising. Initial tranquility was disrupted by the whirring of airplanes coming. At that moment I was in a one-storey house with a privy that I wanted to use. Roaring of a diving plane over my head meant that we were the target. Before I decided to jump to a three-storey tenement house, I noticed the plane over the building on the opposite side of the yard. Involuntarily I closed the door, there was an explosion and I was thrown into a corridor together with this door. Another roaring brought me on my feet, I run out into the yard and through the settling dust I saw the building in front of me still intact.
I run into the staircase and going down to the basement accompanied by the diving plane, I heard the cracking of the stairs that the bomb damaged. There were a few people in a small passage leading to the basement, standing next to small cells. The chief of the company "Lopek" leaned out from one of them, and pushed me inside. Then, there was an explosion. It was dark, the dust in my throat made me panic for a while, but soon I got myself under control. Outside, our colleagues dug up the basement windows secured the day before, setting us free. A lot of people died under the stairs, many were injured. In the other wing of the building, sergeant "Cichy" was buried, as the blast threw him under a big, heavy table, saving his life, but the wounds were so severe that he couldn't go back to the unit, so officer cadet "Bolek" became the leader of the 1st platoon.
On that day, machine gun operators, located on the barricade on 13 Piwna Street, moved to Waski Dunaj Street. In the windows on the first floor in the flat belonging to the merchant Mr Baginski, "Jacek" (Tadeusz Wilczynski), together with "Brzoza" (Jan Landowski), "Komar" (Zbigniew Widbek), "Wig" (Jerzy Ziebicki), "Piorun" (Mieczyslaw Rostkowski), "Andrzej" (Andrzej Skowski), and two liaison officers "Wieska" (Halina Zajaczkowska) and "Janka" (NN), installed their MG-34 and MG-42, thus widening shooting range towards the Castle Square.
In the morning of 13 August, as they did every day, Germans started attacking Podwale and Piwna Street, after artillery fire from Praga. A few tanks drove into the Castle Square and began battering the barricades. Encouraged by lack of our reaction they approached our posts, and at that moment bottles were thrown, setting fire to a tankette on a barricade on Podwale, and soon after that the same happened to a tank, showered with Molotov cocktails by boys from 102 company.
Germans seemed to accept the loss and gave up further attack. Because it was rather calm in our sector, I asked the chief of the platoon, sergeant "Zakrzewski" if I could visit wounded sergeant "Cichy" lying in the hospital on Podwale. When I related to him that we were in a good condition and told him about other things in the company, I decided to visit "Bekon" Mirek Tokarzewski, and other friends from our underground scout group, who were fighting at "Gustaw's" on Kilinskiego Street. I couldn't find Mirek, but I was stopped by Zbyszek or Zdzisiek, I can't remember his name, who was on duty at "Gustaw's".
When we were sharing impressions about our participation in the fight, "Bekon" run to us, and told us how they captured a tank on the corner of Podwale and Kilinskiego, that was now brought to the quarters. I wanted to go with him, but Zbyszek asked me to wait for him, as he would soon end his duty. Luckily, I listened to him. Zbyszek's substitute never arrived, he never saw him, just like I didn't see "Bekon".
An enormous explosion shook the building. I run into he gate, hearing screams, I had to force my way through fire bottles that were already burning, and as they were breaking, the fire would become bigger. What I saw in the street shocked me a lot. I don't know why I turned left and kept running to Dluga Street. The street was covered with parts of human bodies. I will never forget the sight of building walls covered with blood, and I can still remember the smell of a burning body. This day was the most tragic for all units, because there were many of them on Kilinskiego Street, a few hospitals as well, and there was also a funeral, not to mention many curious people, who accompanied the tank when they found out about the capture.
On Monday 14 August, in the morning two tanks were smashing up the barricade on Piwna Street that had already been in bad condition, together with nearby houses. Sergeant cadet "Zakrzewski" scared them away with an off-target shot. They are replaced by Goliath tracked mine. Only one brave jump of "Stefanek" with an axe. Stefan Sikorski cut the cable of the detonator, thus making the machine harmless. The captured Goliath was used for grenades production.
One moment of peace, and another eight tanks entered the Castle Square. From a proper distance they kept firing until dark. Day after day the attacks continued, together with battering the whole Old Town district. The first attack was at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. The planes poured gasoline over Piwna and Swietojanska Street. Second attack is at 5 p.m. and the last one at 8 p.m. We still hold St.Martin's Church. Not until the 22nd day of strenuous defense, the company moved back about 110 meters, giving us damaged houses at 3 and 5 on Piwna.
On 27 August there was regrouping. The unit "Wigry" left our section, and 102 company handed over the barricade on Piwna to soldiers from the scout battalion "Gustaw", in order to support 101 company on Kanonia Street. While going to Kanonia, we were bombarded by the Germans storming from the Castle courtyard. Soon after we arrived, we joined 101 company, and fought together over St. John's Cathedral.
I ran over debris on Swietojanska Street, next to number 17, my house that I left to join the uprising. There came a sad reflection over remains of shattered houses, among which I grew up, the street I lived in was torn up and covered in debris. It's where we used to ride scooters and play tipcat.
Damaged frontage of the cathedral covered the street of my memories, the barricade on which my childhood friends died, and stairs to the gate on which our caretaker used to sit, kind-hearted Mr. Joseph, who asked everybody entering the building "to who"?
That day, on Kanonia Street, in the gate leading to the courtyard of the castle, a "Tiger" appeared firing towards our posts. Platoon commander "Hiszpan" (Henryk Zalewski), came out to meet them. Going through the ruins of the nearby houses, he got to the gate and threw one of the bottles he was holding. Flames licked the armour, series from a machine gun hurt his arm, but before he feel down, he tossed another flame bottle, setting the tank on fire, and making it retreat. "Hiszpan" was dragged from the approaches with difficulty. He had a broken elbow, and he was honoured with the Cross of Valour for his action.
After changing our post, we quickly organised a quarters at 2 Jezuicka Street, which was our point defense, and at the same time it was the closest post towards the Cathedral (today, there's Dawna Street, next to Jezuicka, leading to Vistula River). In order to check the area, we entered the building at 18 Kanonia Street, where we could see the river and Kierbedzia Bridge. "Brzoza" came up with an idea of blowing up the bridge with explosives that had been put at the piers. It was said that somebody had forbidden to do that, but we decided to do it on our own, the risk was nothing, compared to the situation we had already been into. We possessed a HMG "Schwarzloze" with some defects, but it didn't work, so our plan went for nothing. But what if we did it? I discovered that boys from 101 company had similar idea, but I don't know why they didn't succeed either.
On 30 August, we withdrew to our initial posts, which was part of the action of getting to the city centre, keeping only a few posts at the previous defense line. We came back to our prior location after unsuccessful action of getting to the centre. The fights of previous days probably exhausted Germans, who enjoyed the silence and didn't notice that we were away. We returned to our old positions, spending another day on defense. Celna Street, on the corner of the Old Town Square. On the first day of September at 7 a.m., we drove the attack back from Kanonia until 4 p.m., and when we stopped the last attack at 9 p.m., we went back to Krasinski Square.
After inexplicable scramble with military police of "Barry", that tried to take away our weapons, we entered the sewers, loaded with some military equipment and little personal belongings. We started a strenuous march, trudging in stinky mud. It was a piece of cake for us, but "Brzoza" going in front of me, a huge man of 190m in height, with a machine gun on his back, was in a very uncomfortable position. After a few hours, we got the news from those ahead that we reached our destination. We went up the stairs into a beautiful morning, on the corner of Nowy Swiat (New World) and Warecka Street, where we really felt like in the NEW WORLD.
We were given quarters at Casino Cinema, and we are lucky that there was water. We could finally clean up, especially our legs. After a long walk in sewers mud, it's a tough job. Finding some place on a balcony, we quickly cleaned up our uniforms, but our stomachs went rumbling. We carried out reconnaissance. We found out that on Szpitalna Street, next to Chmielna, we can eat dinner. Exhaustion, tasty soup, I don't know if it was a tomatoe soup or a broth, comfortable seats at the table, all of this caused that we fell asleep. For three hours, everybody tiptoed around us, even though we were used to rumble. Anyway, we overslept an invitation to Palladium cinema to see uprising chronicle. Eventually, we didn't lose much, as the show was canceled, because of lack of power or some other reason.
During the day off that we had in a whole month, we decided to visit our classmate Jurek Antepowicz, who lived in a hospital on Kopernika Street. We were served delicious pancakes. Quickly, we exchanged our impressions, hugged and said goodbye. Jurek had a duty on the roof of the hospital, and we went back to our quarters to have a well-deserved rest. Saying goodbye we didn't expect that we would see again in two years time.
We spent the first night at the Savoy Hotel. But we were not meant to live comfortably. Since 4 September we strengthened Powisle group, and we had our quarters in Conservatoire. Direct confrontation with the enemy quickly brought us down and the fights continued. The enemy was coming closer, but we managed to drive them back, we even forced Germans to withdraw to Karowa Street. Germans were giving a concert, and there was more force in our section, what made us retreat.
September 6 was the hardest day. A lot of fire from the early morning. Planes bombarded our quarters in Conservatoire, where we suffered loss in people and equipment. "Zawrat" unit (Henryk Walkowski) lost almost entire weaponry. Our battalion leader, rittmeister "Boncza" (Edward Sobeski), died on Nowy Swiat. After his death, decimated battalion was regrouped, like most of other decimated units, into a company under the leadership of lieutenant "Szczerba" (Zbigniew Blichewicz). Everything was gong so quickly that I forgot to proudly say that after moving to the city centre, I got a rifle and became a real soldier.
After reorganizing the battalion, our company was divided into three storm groups, which followed the retreating units fighting on Powisle. Our pretty well equipped unit stopped the enemy effectively, but the fate of Powisle was already sealed.
On Friday 8 September, we took part in action against Germans trying to force their way to Hortensja Street (now Gorskiego), and we suffered another loss on Chmielna - we witnessed the death of our company leader "Lopek" (Stanislaw Kwiatkowski). Germans were pushing from odd numbers on Chmielna 7-9, and we were moving with even numbers towards Nowy Swiat. In the gate number 3 I saw a German. Even though surprised, I abruptly took a shot in his direction. I didn't know what happened, as the German disappeared and I never saw him again. At the same time "Lopek" jumped to the other side of the street, as it was silent for a moment and he wanted to use it to get to the next gate. Before he reached it, he was shot, fell to his knees and stayed like that.
Due to the risk of a serious German attack on Bracka Street, numbers 18 and 20, on Saturday 9 September, we manned the sector, holding them back. On that day, "Bimber" (Rysiek Kwiatkowski) took me to the attic of the building from which we were firing at Germans. Through the hole in the roof we saw Germans strolling carelessly on a large yard. Not thinking too much, we treated them to a hand grenade "Bimber" - Filipinka, and two metal slugs from me, and not waiting for the effect we ran downstairs. Nobody knew why Germans suddenly started firing at our roof.
The task of defending Bracka was accomplished, but we were not sure if we should be happy, as the victory was occupied with many lives. "Jurek" (Zbyszek Poradowski) died on Tuesday, from the early morning he was uneasy and said that he had a toothache. Since we sat at the windows, somebody told him to go to the hall behind the wall on the opposite side of the room. He listened readily and sat at the wall. It seems as if he was waiting for death, the shell exploded exactly where he was sitting. We all felt a little guilty that nobody had suggested something else.
On that day, the leader of machine gun sector, "Jacek", died as well. The following day "Renia" (NN) died, while crossing Warecka Street to our new post in the Central Post Office on Napoleon's Square. Finally, "Piorun" (Mietek Rostkowski) was badly wounded. Those were really tough days, because these people were our close friends. It was harder and harder each time someone died. Spending together five weeks, fighting arm in arm sealed our bonds.
We moved to a new quarters on Zgoda Street. Our platoon got quite good quarters on the first floor, where probably used to be some magazines, as we had decent pallets made from the shelves at the walls. In order to prevent the enemies of entering the building, we organized a guard service, that included two convalescents "Mysz" (Jacek Grubinski) and "Brystol" (NN). They had an old French rifle Lebel, that could not be used due to little ammunition supplies, but it made an impression when the guard was holding it.
After accomplishing the task of stopping the enemy's attack, and establishing the posts in our area, "Boncza" battalion had to protect the posts in the ruins of the Central Post Office, where to the end of the uprising, we blocked the access to the city centre from Mazowiecka, Czackiego and Nowy Swiat Streets. Solid reinforcement of walls and ceilings was a good protection against frequent air attacks and artillery fire. From time to time we were shot at from a railway gun. One day when I was off duty, I laid down in a basement for a nap, only to be awakened by the smell of burning rags. It turned out that a little thing weighing hundreds of kilos fell down through one of the holes, but luckily it didn't explode.
At the Central Post Office I was partnering sergeant "Lorenia" -Wladyslaw Jablonski. Our post was located on Napoleon's Square. This old, experienced partisan helped me to hunt a German, whom I noticed one day when observing the approaches on Swietokrzyska Street, as he was retreating from the observation post. Apparently, he was there every day. The following day I was waiting for him, thanks to Wladzio's directions I succeeded, and there was one jerry less.
Contrary to what might have seemed, it was neither calm nor safe at our post. A few of my colleagues were badly wounded. I also have a shrapnel in my hand, after a fire from grenade launcher. The greatest problem was with the shifts. After bad experiences on the first day, when a rebound from a Dreyse located on a balcony down the street hit "Maciek" in the chest, as he was trying to cross Warecka. A cigarette case in his pocket protected him from a serious injury. From that moment the shifts were taken after dark.
During one of German attacks, sergeant "Zakrzewski" sent me for grenade supplies. When I came back, it was already dark. I got to the water tank situated in front of the main entrance of the former post office, when a flare was let off and it lit the whole area.
Involuntarily, I fell to the concrete pool when a sudden reflection got me. I smashed a drawer full of grenades. These were metal slugs in canvas sacks, that were activated by rubbing the fuse before throwing them. Terrified, I was lying motionless for half an hour. When I reached the gate of the post office, I was wet and pale as a ghost, I managed this time as well.
Girls used to bring us dinner to the post office. On 22 September, "Joanna", Tadzio Wilczynski's sister, who had died ten days before on Bracka, was killed by the same jerry who had wounded Maciek a few days before. "Danka" (Donata Szczucka), who was crossing the street with her, managed to survive.
When I write about meals, I really can't recall where and what we ate. I can only remember three such situations. The first one is macabre (maybe this is the reason), when a liaison officer "Henius" died on Piwna, he vomited grits. The second time is when we moved to the city centre, and I'm not sure if it was tomato soup. But I can remember comfortable chairs at the table, clean plates, and sense of blissful normality, that we almost forgot. And the last memory. "Bolek" came up with an idea to bring meat meal to our boys and others. It was accepted, and I also took part in this enterprise. I can't even remember, who led us to an address on Zelazna Street, where he convinced some people he knew, that their huge Great Dane would be very useful in our liaison service. The girls swore that they wouldn't eat it. The main cook was "Brzoza" (Jan Landowski), and as it later turned out, he was not only a great LMG operator, but also someone who knew the secrets of good cuisine. On that day, it was beautiful, warm weather, all doors were open, and from the kitchen on the top floor everyone could smell the roast meat, and the rest who opposed, changed their minds after seeing others eating heartily. Everyone remembered this wonderful feast.
As for food, I can recall one more thing. Lately, sputtering of a plane was often heard at twilight. One day we heard this characteristic whirring just above us, suddenly it stopped, and the plane started to glide to the ground. Then, the engine roared and the plane ascended abruptly, and a sack fell down in front of the gate to the post office. We found delicious whole meal rusks in there.
On 2 October the uprising, sadly, came to an end, and the leader of the platoon decided that the four of us would not go to captivity. We exchanged our due pay in dollars to Polish banknotes with our friends.
The company went to imprisonment, and we, that is "Mysz" Jacek Grubinski", "Ratold" Janusz Zadarnowski, "Wilk" Stanislaw Rumianek, and "Tygrys" Andrzej Rumianek with a large amount of money, but very few belongings, me wearing a new school coat that was given out to me in a shop on Chmielna, marched to Pruszkow. After some adventures, we managed to trick Germans in Pruszkow and joined the transport to General Government. We finished the escapade after a few days ride in a cattle van in Moscice near Krakow.
elaborated by Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translated by Magdalena Magiera
born 27.04.1928 in Warsaw
soldier of the Home Army
group "Horn" battalion "Boncza, 102 company
Copyright © 2011 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.