First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
My Mokotow 1944
Wojciech Militz born in 1926
Mokotow looked different than today. It had two main axes: Niepodleglosci Avenue and Pulawska Street. At that time Niepodleglosci Avenue was outlined but not built-up, and even if it was, the buildings were located in the beginning - from Rakowiecka Street, whereas the avenue itself faded away in the field. Pulawska Street was the oldest axis. The numbering of houses starts here in the opposite direction than in other streets in Warsaw, i.e. from Unii Lubelskiej Square. Belwederska Street, which turns into Sobieskiego Avenue, could also be recognized as an axis. In the south Czerniakowska Street, turning into Sadyba, was not that important; however, it had a major significance for the insurgents.
As for the building development, apart from Pulawska street and Niepodleglosci avenue in the rest of the district there were mostly low-rise buildings. In the 1930s quite a lot of modern villas were built in Mokotow. Until 1941 the ruins at Pulawska street had survived and they had been partly inhabited by the Jewish. Small companies and craftsman's workshops were situated here. The old Vistula embankment, which was of the utmost importance during the fighting, ran from the north to the south. The southern border of Mokotow turned into farmland which meant that during the Uprising people of Mokotow didn't suffer from starvation; however in the second part of the Uprising the situation was not easy. Risking one's neck, it was possible to pick up some tomatoes, potatoes etc. for the army and civilians.
The insurgent Mokotow was much larger than the area within its administrative boundaries. Taking into account all battles and sallies it can be said with a rough approximation that the insurgent Mokotow encompassed the grounds of today's Ursynow and Wilanow. During the period of the underground activity and preparations for the Uprising, this whole area was District no. 5 which was further divided into separate areas.
In terms of preparations for fighting and the underground activity, the area was of great significance; however in practice during the insurgent battles in Mokotow, the areas had no considerable significance and they were largely dominated by the troops of the Home Army who were assigned to and fighting in those areas. The troops had their specific names and tasks.
The only exception was the so-called area no.6. which from Rakowiecka Street up to the Horse Races Course in the south, and Niepodleglosci Avenue up to Vistula embankment or up to Pulawska Street (in the east) [was] assigned to 'Baszta'.
'Baszta' as a regiment was assigned to do specific tasks in the area of concentration places, and had specific goals to achieve. As for the remaining areas we can say that 'Zygmunt's' concentration dominated in the area no.4 in the north, i.e. at the Unii Lubelskiej Square from the Mokotowskie Field. Next there was the area no.3 - a tiny one squeezed between Unii Lubelskiej Square and Szucha Avenue which was a German quarter. Furhter on, the area no.1 reached up to Szwolezerow [street] in the south. The area no.2 was the precinct of Sielce. The area no.5 to the east from Pulawska [Street] encompassed today's Sadyba. That was a rough division of District no.5 into areas.
A characteristic thing for District no. 5 was the fact that German posts were densely located there. Especially the grounds from the west to the east along Rakowiecka Street and through Unii Lubelskiej Square, Lazienki [Royal Baths] and Szwolezerow [street] up to the Vistula River were occupied by quite powerful German units. Different German and SS troops, an anti-aircraft, pretty strongly garrisoned prison in Rakowiecka Street, SGH [Warsaw School of Economics], SGGW [Warsaw University of Life Sciences - SGGW] were concentrated on this line. In general, the school buildings in Mokotow were a great support for various German posts.
Going deep into Mokotow the first bastion of this type was the handicraft school on the corner of Narbutta and Kazimierzowska Street. In the majority of cases those objects had their own code names, e.g. this school had the code name of 'Basa'. At 14 Narbutta Street there was another public school occupied by the Germans. The whole northern region was strongly garrisoned and strengthened, whereas in the south only selected objects, e.g. the Fort of Mokotow in Raclawicka Street, were strongly garrisoned and strengthened.
In the neighbourhood of the fort on one side of the street there were a lot of buildings which had been built by the Warsaw notables. During the occupation the buildings were taken by high-rank German officers who, at the same time, had a huge unit to protect. It was practically impossible to capture The Fort of Mokotow, which was confirmed by the total defeat of O-1 company on the first day of the Uprising.
In Woronicza Street there was St. Hedwig's School which made our life a misery and which was of great importance for the fights in Mokotow. Another school in Rozana Street wasn't that important. There were German posts in modern buildings of Wedel in Pulawska Street and Madalinskiego [street]. In Dworkowa Street there was a military police station - military policemen who had been recruited from the nations conquered in the west of Europe were stationed there. In Willowa Street there was a post of German police and well-armed German units were stationed in places like the monastery in Sluzew and all the southern forts.
Mokotow had one of the most important tasks in the Uprising - it was a kind of a cover for the whole Uprising from the south. For example, 'Baszta' regiment had an initial state of 2 200 soldiers and mobilized 1965 ones. The regiment in total consisted of three battalions: already mentioned 'Baltyk', 'Karpaty' and 'Olza". Each battalion had three companies, only in 'Karpaty' there was a fourth signal company, the so-called K-4. I was in B-3 company of 'Baltyk' battalion.
Actually, on the first day of the Uprising the insurgents did not manage to capture any of the objects mentioned above. Even 'Baszta', which was armed and mobilized to a relatively best extent, didn't capture the defined goals on the first day. Other troops such as Battalion of Light Cavalrymen, battalion of the 7th regiment of lancers 'Jelen', 'Granat' artillery group, a battalion of Mounted Artillery, after failed attacks, not mobilized, they joined 'Baszta' at full strength.
Sadyba, in fact, didn't take up a combat. They didn't have enough forces. Whereas one of the 'Baszta' battalions - 'Karpaty', whose task was to capture the Horse Races grounds, captured it partly but they were unable to maintain their positions. They had to withdraw and as a result two companies of that battalion went through today's Ursynow and Kabaty up to the Chojnowskie forests.
After the failure on the first day, the commander of 'Baszta' battalion Lt Col Stanislaw Kaminski 'Daniel' had a considerable problem. He was being pressed by his subordinates, battalions' commanders as well as other officers to leave Mokotow in the ensuing situation. It's worth mentioning that a similar situation took place in Zoliborz - during the first two days they moved towards Kampinos and then they came back. In Mokotow 'Daniel' resisted the demands to go into Kabackie and Chojnowskie forests, arm themselves and come back. It was possible since airdrops took place in those forest. Such action was in a way justified; however Lt Col 'Daniel' thought that the most important thing is to defend the Uprising from the south and ordered circular defence. We should remember his decision - if the decision had been different, the Uprising, which lasted 63 days, would have finished much earlier. Mokotow which was defended for 57 days created additional possibilities for the whole Uprising. It's a great service of Mokotow, which must be remembered.
On the second day of the Uprising we could try to capture some larger grounds and spread the Uprising in Mokotow. The real trouble in this area was the school in Woronicza Street. It seemed to have been situated in the middle of liberated grounds and it didn't give an opportunity to organize our civil services as well as the Underground State organizations and the whole civil structure which had just started to revive and reinforce.
On the second day of the Uprising we managed to gather enough forces to capture the school in Woronicza [street]. Me and my company also took part in capturing the school. The operation was directly commanded by 'Daniel' himself. A company of cyclists was stationed in the school - there were a few hundred of them. The Germans were so scared that they made the most of a favourable moment and escaped.
The capture of the school in Woronicza [street] enabled us create something which we later called the Republic of Mokotow. We had free grounds from Niepodleglosci Avenue up to Sadyba. The situation of 'Karpaty' battalion became clear. Admittedly, 'Karapaty' with two companies went to Kabackie forests but the grounds patrolled by 'Baszta' almost spread up to Wilanowska Avenue and the Southern Railway Station. The Southern Railway Station does not exist physically any more but it exists in historical awareness of the people of Warsaw. In the south we were quite far. We were also able to contact some other units.
At that moment in Mokotow certain events took place - the events one should know about. In general the Uprising is said to have been an insurrection, obviously prepared, resulting from the willingness to take revenge, to regain the independence and free Poland. Certainly these emotions played an important role, but sometimes I meet with an opinion that the Uprising was commanded in an ineffectual way and it did not have any precise plans.
I would like to deny it. Of course the losses were huge. We estimated that about 1700 insurgents died in Mokotow - only in Mokotow. A lot of civilians also died - they were killed by the Germans in an organized way, especially by the Germans from Dworkowa Street which were mentioned above. Those Germans from Dworkowa systematically destroyed whole streets, e.g. Olesinska Street , where I used to live. Luckily, my family survived but we lost everything. In that place the inhabitants of the whole street were gathered in cellars and torn to pieces with grenades by the Germans. Only individuals survived, and a few hundred people who lived in only one street died.
I would also like to mention one more thing - it is really good to know about it. A district should have a commander and a whole staff. In fact, it was so and was not. Formally the District staff with Col Aleksander Hrynkiewicz 'Przegonia' were seated in the building of Institute of Hygiene at 22 Chocimska Street. Col Aleksander Hrynkiewicz 'Przegonia' did not participate in the fights from 2nd to 4th of August; after that he moved with the whole staff to Chojnowskie forests and Piaseczno and he did not return to the Uprising.
Yet the Uprising in Mokotow was efficiently commanded. The fact was that Lt Col 'Daniel' the commander of 'Baszta', having the greatest force in Mokotow and the greatest freedom of action, became the real commander of the whole district and served as such until Col 'Monter' (Antoni Chrusciel) appointed Lt Col Karol Rokicki 'Karol' to be the next District commander. A lot of plans had been accomplished. There were various effective sallies, extensions, and it is hard to talk about it in details; still a formed area controlled by the insurgents was created.
In the meantime the following facts took place. On the 14th of August 'Bor', the Commander of the Home Army, ordered the Home Army troops to help Warsaw. This message reached, among others, the Chojnowskie forests. In the meantime the Home Army troops which had retreated from Ochota arrived there. As it is widely known Ochota surrendered to the Germans the earliest and the closest area to retreat was Chojnowskie forests. Among others, Col Mieczyslaw Sokolowski 'Grzymala' arrived there. Due to the order issued by 'Bor', there was an idea to call for 'Baszta' companies from Chojnowskie forests and for the army from the Area 5 of 'Obroza' (within the circuit of Warsaw District there were 8 areas organized into District 7 - 'Obroza'). Preparations for return started in the forests. The most convenient way was to go along the Vistula embankment through Kabaty, Wilanow to Sadyba. That took place at night from 18th to 19th of August.
A piece of important information must be provided here. At that time 'Monter', the Commander of the Uprising, issued an order and it is not exactly clear whether it was a direct order to Lt Col 'Daniel' or whether it was brought by Lt Col Karol Rokicki - the commander of the whole Mokotow district who was appointed in the second half of August. They began to create appropriate forces in order to fight their way along Czerniakowska Street from the south to the north in order to join Mokotow with Srodmiescie [the city centre]. 'Kryska' group, who were fighting in the area of Czerniakow, were ordered to attack from Srodmiescie. As a result of a shared operation, Mokotow was to be joined with Srodmiescie.
In order to be able to set out with organized forces to the north, Sadyba had to act as a kind of effective cover for this plan from the south. At night from 18th to 19th of August Col Mieczyslaw Sokolowski 'Grzymala', as a commander of two combined battalions from Chojnowskie forests, led a part of that army to Sadyba. There were some failures, Lt Col Sokolowski died near Wilanow, a part of the soldiers came back to the forests and they returned a few days later. The main force of about 600 soldiers, including some 'Baszta' units from 'Karpaty' battalion, went to Sadyba and they were strong enough to defend Sadyba.
At that moment we could think of joining Srodmiescie. From the 26th of August there were two mobilized battalions under the command of Lt Col Leon Falinski 'Gryf' near Chelmska Street in the neighbourhood of Czerniakowska. We should mention right now that the command in Mokotow up to the level of a company consisted of professional army officers, and in general it was a very positive aspect. Some of the officers were in command during the First World War and the Bolshevik War (e.g. 'Daniel' himself), whereas the younger ones were brought up in a proper spirit of the interwar Poland - according to the experts' views, in a well-organized army. There were also officers with the commando training who had been trained in the West - cichociemni [soldiers trained in the West and parachuted over Nazi-occupied Poland to join the resistance forces].
As far as Falinski is concerned, he was rather a kind of 'administrative' colonel from the quartermaster's department, and since he was a high rank officer, he had been given that task. The commanders of both battalions: major 'Majster' of 'Karpaty' battalion and major 'Garda' - cichociemny, they both passed the exam.
At night from the 26th to 27th of August those two battalions, moving parallel, reached the German barracks in Podchorazych Street. The building of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth hospital was captured. Some of the platoons went on the east side of Czerniakowska [street] up to the pump house but the but they were too outnumbered by the German forces. The 'Kryska' group did not make any movement - there was no back-up from that side. However, German tanks appeared and they effectively started to drive out the insurgents, who were relatively well-armed as for the conditions of the Uprising. Still there was no heavy weapon at all. They maintained the possibility of forcing the way through and then we had to retreat.
Two more events, which were quite important, took place. On the last day of August the Germans bombed two hospitals which had been clearly marked. One of the hospitals was situated in Chelmska Street. That hospital was commonly called 'prijut' as it was originally a centre or a shelter for orphans, and then, in the first days of the Uprising, the building was taken over by Ujazdowski hospital; the latter had been moved from Srodmiescie. The Germans, somehow, let the hospital staff and patients pass. Among the hospital patients there were a lot of the seriously injured, also during the battle of joining with Srodmiescie. The patients had been moved to the hospital in Chelmska in order to save their lives and they died burning alive or jumping out of windows. The next day the other hospital, i.e. the Sisters of St Elizabeth hospital was bombed. That was the central hospital point in Mokotow.
The Sisters of St Elizabeth hospital in Mokotow has its own separate history. During the occupation it was German hospital with German staff. The main members of medical and assistance staff had been withdrawn right before the Uprising broke out. The insurgents reached the hospital on the second day as they were retreating from 'Basy' and they found a closed gate. After negotiations the door was opened and the hospital started its work. We had a wonderful nursing service there, our doctors, our excellent friends-nurses. All that caused that the hospital worked perfectly. As I have already mentioned. Both of the hospitals were clearly marked so the pilots of Stukas were fully aware of the fact what they were bombing.
That was the beginning of September. At that time people were leading a 'normal' life in the streets of Mokotow. The battles were fought in a coordinated way in the outskirts. In the centre of the district various forms of the Polish Underground State were established: administration, a supplies department, digging out the trapped since there was continuous bombing not only from the air, but also from a kind of German mine throwers (the so-called 'szafy' or 'krowy'). They were publishing papers, among others 'Baszta" bulletin, songs were written: Markowski and Jezierski wrote 'The March of Mokotow' [Marsz Mokotowa], 'A little Girl of the Home Army' [Mala dziewczynka z AK], let alone 'Malgorzatka'. Such situation lasted in the Republic of Mokotow from the capture of the school in Woronicza until September.
September was the month when the Germans pressed for fighting their way from the south in order to clear the way along the Vistula. In the meantime about 200 hundred people came from over the Vistula as two platoons of Grochow, which was a serious reinforcement. The army forces in Sadyba were regrouped. The 'Oaza' battalion under the command of Capt. Wyszogrodzki 'Janusz' (living in Australia, currently at the rank of colonel) was created. The Germans began to storm Sadyba and, in fact, during 2 or 3 days they liquidated this part of the city. The troops of insurgents from the southern Sadyba moved back during the fight up to the Vistula embankment, i.e. up to the church of St. Michael and Dolna Street.
The Uprising command regrouped those forces. The troops from the south and east which were moving back to the west to Lower Mokotow were regrouped into a newly created regiment 'Waligora' which got a good commander in the person of Col. Adam Remigiusz Grocholski 'Waligora'. He was a commander of 'Wachlarz' - sabotage troops taking actions in the east. In Mokotow he commanded the subject troops from his quarters in Pulawska Street. In the first days of his command, Col. Grochlski got wounded and, as a result, the command was taken over by the above-mentioned Capt. Wyszogrodzki 'Janusz'.
The beginning of September meant the defence of Vistula embankment and Niepodleglosci Avenue. They were mainly defended by the companies of 'Olza' battalion. Our companies of 'Baltyk' battalion, i.e. B1, B2, B3 also had regular supporting points and took part in various battles. The eastern streets were defended by Light Cavalrymen and soldiers of 'Granat' - small troops but the ones of merit. It all lasted like this, the right defence line on the embankment was formed up to Idzikowskiego Street and Ikara Street - at that time there were only single villas.
The period of September 13th and 14th, when Powisle and Main Czerniakow were falling and bridges over the Vistula were blown up, was a critical moment of defence. On September 18th a large fleet of over a hundred of Flying Fortresses came in over Warsaw. I must admit it made a huge impression. A cloud of huge bombers escorted by fighter planes moved in the air over Warsaw. About 1500 containers falling down in parachutes looked as if Sosabowski's air assault division arrived to help Warsaw in fight. That is what, at least simple soldiers, thought; officers knew what the actual state of matters was. Unfortunately, most of the containers fell down on the grounds occupied by the enemies. It is quite narrow from the embankment up to Niepodleglosci Avenue and it was impossible to aim precisely at an altitude of 10 000 metres and adverse conditions, i.e. wind and heavy German anti-craft artillery.
On September 24th an intended, planned and carefully prepared by Germans storm of Mokotow took place. In fact from 24th up to 27th was a period of the last days of Mokotow. We managed to defend the grounds around Krolikarnia [palace] on September 24th. The school in Woronicza [street] again had its own place in history - seven times it was taken over by Germans and then back by the insurgents, and all the time it was an important point of resistance. Unfortunately, on September 26th German tank units finally managed to fight their way from the west into Niepodleglosci Avenue in the area of Malczewskiego and Naruszewicza [street]. It meant that the school in Woronicza was in danger of being cut off. Finally, the last crew from the school retreated leaving behind a lot of killed in action.
Mokotow began to shrink. The next line was Odynca and Ursynowska street. Then Kazimierzowska [street] instead of Niepodleglosci Avenue; later on Baluckiego [street]. Everything started to be so dangerous that a plan of retreating to Srodmiescie was accepted. Around 1 600 people went down to the sewers. I'm not going to say anything more about the sewers - it's a separate story. Separate publications have been dedicated to the sewers. It must be mentioned here that, unfortunately, not everybody got to Srodmiescie through the sewers and went up in the neighbourhood of Wilcza [street] and Ujazdowskie Ave. A part of them got killed.
September 26th and 27th marked a critical period. On one hand, in the morning of September 26th our peace envoys went to Germans in order to establish the terms of surrender, ceasing of fights, and obtaining honourable conditions. It ended in success. Negotiations were carried out by lieutenant Ladenberger, the then commander of my battalion of 'Baltyk'. Lieutenant Stanislaw Porecki 'Negus', the last commander of our company (after lieutenant Witold Zlotnicki who was wounded on September 24th), also took part in those negotiations. It was absolutely certain that that we were going to get veterans' rights. Ceasing of fights took place on September 27th in the morning; however the military policemen, whom I mentioned earlier, could take out a lot of insurgents from the sewers in Dworkowa [street] and kill them. It was one of the last tragedies of Mokotow. A great number of insurgents - prisoners of war who had been taken out from the sewers below and over Dworkowa [street], were killed in spite of the fact that the act of capitulation had already been signed.119 of our mates were killed then (the final number is not known). Only from my B-3 company we recognized by name and surname 19 people. The execution was stopped by a German officer who explained that was the end and gave the order to stop the massacre. It was an atrocious slaughter, people were giving up, there was no provocation from us. One boy who lived in the neighbourhood tried to escape - he was captured and, after being checked, he was shot just for show. The military policemen killed defenceless prisoners of war who were lying on the ground.
A large group of insurgents-prisoners from Dworkowa went to the Race Course where a meeting point was situated. Those ones from the last square between Baluckiego and Szustra [street] who survived went for captivity in order, handing over weapons - those worse ones because quite a lot of weapons had earlier been destroyed so as not to fall into Germans' hands. From there, through Dulag that is Pruszkow, the soldiers were captured. Civilians, who in different stages were moved out from Mokotow, were taken to different places. The younger were taken to labour in Germany, the older - to the General Governorate, mainly to the south towards Malopolska [also known as Lesser Poland which is the southern part of Poland]. That was the end of the Uprising in Mokotow.
A few personal reflections
I was born on the 29th of July, 1926 in Mokotow. I went to the Uprising when I was 18 years old. I joined the Home Army in 1942. At that time I was a student of Secondary School of Mechanical Engineering no. 3 in the former building of Mickiewicza Junior and Senior Secondary School in Konopczynskiego street in Sewerynow.
For young people life in the resistance was based on meetings and studying. We had limited access to weapons but still we managed to get some knowledge and skills on real exhibits. We learnt the drill and a lot of regulation elements of training using a broomstick instead of a rifle, etc. Everything took place in private flats. As far as upbringing is concerned, we can say the following: during the Interwar Period [1919-1939] there were a few factors, mainly historical, i.e. 123 years of bondage, the creation of the independent country. That was a defined model of upbringing based on family and school. Public schools, let alone the Warsaw Gymnasiums [secondary schools], had enormous standing and respect. Apart from this, there were obviously Polish Scouting Association and Church. They were all perfectly and harmoniously composed and we can talk about them as a kind of educational phenomenon.
Motivations of my generation were huge. We were raised on the books by Sienkiewicz, Zeromski, and on all those things which were the most precious at that times. There was not such thought dispersion as it was during the PRL period, and otherwise nowadays.
We didn't even ponder whether to join the Home Army or not. It was a moral obligation, duty and pride. Not being interested would have almost meant dishonour. Of course there were some difficult moments to understand, for instance in my class 75% of the students were involved in the resistance movement, and not earlier than during or after the Uprising did we find out who was where. Such deep conspiracy it was.
The Conspiracy was controlled and organized by interesting people. For example a man who was our leader for two years in conspiracy and at the beginning of the Uprising was a fascinating person. It was an unusual character, later he became a Dominican friar. He got seriously injured near the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth Hospital and according to the trend of that time he vowed to join the order if he would survive. And in fact he joined the order. His name was Andrzej Kasznica 'Ostoja'. He had a career as a Dominican friar, he was chosen twice to be the provincial superior (during the period from 1966-1969). That was a great thing, he was educated, he completed studies in law at the university of Poznan. In the Uprising he had already had this something which made his fellows remember him very well.
During the Uprising we began to understand what exactly 'Baszta' was. Before, it had not been so obvious. It turned out that we had become members of a quite elite unit. 'Baszta' had had its own history and roots since 1939. It is associated with a few interesting people, such as the chief founder Ludwik Berger of Zoliborz. 'Baszta' had its roots in Zoliborz, ZHP [Polish Scouting and Guiding Association] teams of that time and Poniatowskiego Grammar School.
As I have mentioned earlier, I am a Mokotowiak by birth ['Mokotowiak' is a person born and living in Mokotow], but my roads to the Home Army were various. My friend told me, for instance: 'You have to be in Zoliborz in Wilson Square at that particular time, here's your password, you will make two short knocks on the door and 3 long ones, they will let you in there', and that's the way it started.
My road during the Uprising was the same as the road of B3 company. For all that time until the airdrops of 18th September, me and two of my friends were light automatic rifle [the so-called rkm] operators. During the last few years I paid the last tribute to them in our section in Powazki [cemetery]. My road in the Uprising is rich in various events and some of them are worth mentioning.
Sometime in the beginning of August, I guess the 4th of August, we were making a raid towards the Southern Railway Station. During the penetration we saw several dozens of bodies of victims killed by the Germans. It looked as if they had been shot with a machine gun. We were furious because of what we had seen. Right in front of us we noticed a car with the Germans which was driving carelessly out of Wilanowskie Avenues. We fired at the car. Right behind that car there appeared other two vans full of soldiers with heavy machine guns. The Germans started to attack our 8-person foot patrol. We tried to defend ourselves a little and then we tried to retreat from the Southern Railway Station.
Obviously the area around consisted of some market gardens surrounded by a kind of pre-war netting. That netting was put up as a result of the ministry's order to make fences transparent but it was impossible to climb up as it was all rocking. One soldier from our patrol was brave enough to climb up the netting in order to bring a pair of scissors to cut the wire so that the rest of us could pass through and carry the weapon. He got injured, as a matter of fact I got injured too, but he managed to bring the scissors and cut the netting. That was the first time when I was carried out of the battlefield. That event ended even more tragically for my friend still from primary school. When I got back from a first-aid post, it turned out that he had been accidentally shot in the quarters by our common friend. Unfortunately, such sad accidents also took place. After the Uprising I had a chance to meet his mother and his sister, but I do not want to mention it at this point.
Another memory. Some defence in the neighbourhood of Idzikowskiego [street], the so-called 162 Pulawska, a famous post during the Uprising. We had been brought there by the second commander of our company. It was a very interesting person, a teacher at some school in Warsaw, 2nd Lt. Marian Wichrzycki 'Szwarc'. He showed us how a small group of people (there were a dozen or so of us), can defend against a strong offensive of the Germans. The house which was approached by the Germans had a typical door instead an entrance gate. We were on the floors. 'Szwarc' showed us how, from a few hand grenades, to make a bunch coated with plastic and various nails. Then he showed us that if we throw it from a second floor, the Germans would vanish off the face of the earth. And in fact they did; however we went deaf for a couple of days.
Wichrzycki knew French. As a result, sometime in the beginning of the Uprising, a Frenchman who could only speak French joined our group and a company. We didn't know him. The only person who knew him was our teacher. The Frenchman's name was, I'm not sure, Jean Gaspaux and he was either extremely brave or batty. He could, for example, stand in the hole knocked out to the Southern Railway Station on the second floor of our outpost and challenge a German officer who was a several dozen steps away to a duel of pistols. The whole line ceased fire and those two shot at each other several times. None of them shot the other because, as it is widely known, it is extremely hard to hit with a hand pistol. It is possible from a short distance, but from a several dozen steps you have to be very skilful. So I guess the Frenchman was a kind of nutty.
After that the Frenchman vanished without trace. He appeared again near Nazaretanki [the order of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth] (T. Kubalski wrote about him in a book 'In the Ranks of Baszta'). The Frenchman was on the other, eastern, side of Czerniakowska [street]. We saw him as he got up suddenly in front of German tanks remoted by 20 steps, he took out a small umbrella and crossed Czerniakowska to the western side dancing and singing la-la-la without even being slightly wounded. As we can see, apart from tragic events, there were also funny incidents.
As I have already mentioned, around September 18th we were occupying the Vistula embankment in Gizyckiego Park. Right next to it - Gymnasium of Gizyckiego, a nice park and Krolikarnia [a historical palace]. At that time a drop of great number of containers from Flying Fortresses took place. One of containers was dropped right under our nose next to light automatic rifle post. At that time we were young and silly but it seemed to us that we couldn't just miss it. We arranged that out light automatic rifle would cover me. Germans were at Sobieskiego Avenue and raked the embankment heavily. Yet, I managed to run down the embankment, I was safe and sound. Then I noticed that the container became the focus of local people's attention who ran a vegetable farm there. They were mainly interested in a parachute, and in fact the fabric it was made of, i.e. white silk. By means of a small hand pistol I managed to 'encourage' them to give back military property to me. They agreed to do so after I had given them the parachute intended for 'blouses for girls'.
For those 'blouses' I got a container with, as it turned out, a beautiful BREN light automatic rifle with all the equipment. They looked far from happy and I got delighted because our fire force would be significantly increased. The only problem was to lug it up the embankment. Right next to me there was a boy younger than me standing. He took a part of the equipment and we zigzagged up the embankment. Having removed lubricant, cup grease and packaging we saw a beautiful light automatic rifle, golden ammunition. At last we could fire the first salvo. What delight it was!
Another personal incident with the new light automatic rifle. It was on September 24th in the area of Ikara [street], now the neighbourhood where General Jaruzelski lives. Right in front of us there was a potato field. German storm began. It was preceded by shellfire and air ride. Our light automatic rifle post was on the first floor. Our officer - a deputy of the company commander - was there. My gunner's mate was right behind me. We had to rake attacking infantry. I emptied one magazine and half emptied another one. Then, apparently, one of enemies noticed our post in that window hole. A tank missile hit the windowsill just in front of me. It turned out that the radiator didn't withstand and everything shattered into pieces. It so happened that it's the safest to be in the centre of explosion. The deputy commander standing next to me was killed and my gunner's mate lost his nose and a part of his face. I was slightly wounded by a few shrapnels.
It should be stressed that during the Uprising I was not aware how it was unfolding. At that time I was a chief rifleman. We draw current knowledge from materials by Leslaw Bartelski who wrote 17 books about Mokotow. It is authentic knowledge. He collected various questionnaires, snatches of information, asked questions within the circle [of insurgents]. This knowledge was completed by his own experience - he was an officer in Baszta headquarters. Bartelski wrote the first book 'Mokotow 1944'. The following ones were written by us and edited by Tadeusz Ajewski. At the moment the 8th volume is going to come out. The first one was the most important.
The third person who wrote about the Uprising was Tadeusz Kubalski. He wrote several books and 'W szeregach Baszty' ['In the Ranks of Baszta'] is the fundamental one. It is also a source of good information. Sadyba was drawn up by Leszek Kaminski. Unfortunately, he died. He tried to be very authentic. He collected the materials from his friends and it resulted in a very reliable title.
It is also worth writing about the attitude of the Uprising commander Col Antoni Chrusciel 'Monter' towards Mokotow. First of all, we had an obsequious attitude towards 'Monter' because the main headquarters of the Home Army were supposed to be located in Mokotow. Baszta as a headquarters battalion was turned into a regiment in 1944 after at least 200 soldiers of POS [Special Uprising Troops] 'Jerzyki' joined in. Second covering concentration was 'Radoslaw' Concentration. The Main Headquarters in Mokotow was supposed to have those two perfectly trained, at that time, troops. A few days before the Uprising broke out they had taken a decision about moving the Main Headquarters to Wola to Kemler factory since main battles were thought to take place right there. Of course those two troops were to follow the Headquarters. Only intervention by Col Antoni Chrusciel 'Monter' resulted in General Tadeusz 'Bor' Komorowski's decision to leave 'Baszta' in Mokotow. It was a decision of great importance as 'Baszta' had buildings in that area recognized. What's more, they had a great possibility of mobilization and weapon allotment from their own arsenals. That's an advantage.
Later on, Turing the Uprising some things began to get complicated. First of all, for over a week 'Monter' did not receive any news from Mokotow - there was no communication. Only some time later they managed mutually to get in touch through sewers. Due to that fact 'Monter' was a bit upset. Secondly, he was not satisfied with the commander of the whole district - Lt Col Hrynkiewicz, who went to Kabaty. Finally, we must understand higher rank commanders. They established a certain hierarchy, and out of the blue one of the commanders of a regiment consisting of smaller units became a commander of the whole district - that was really something.
We must remember that at the end of Uprising Mokotow was classified as a three-regiment division - the Maciej Rataj 10th Home Army infantry division. There are inscriptions of this kind on some monuments, e.g. in Park Deresza. Lt Col 'Daniel' was so rebellious that, being aware of strategic decisions taken by 'Bor', he took his own decisions, passing 'Monter' over.
Col Rokicki, who was not very energetic either, was nominated to be the commander of the 5th district. He stayed in forests too long, which in fact prolonged Daniel's actual command over Mokotow, especially that, as we know, Rokicki met Hrynkiewicz 'Przegon', ordered him to retreat and [Hrynkiewicz] refused. And finally on September 25th 'Daniel' got wounded in Woronicza [street] and gave the command to his deputy major Kazimierz Szternal 'Zryw'; then they both went down to sewers. Col Rokicki received Monter's order to return to Mokotow when it was impossible and there was nothing to return to.
There were a few turbulences of that kind. Mainly, I suppose, dictated by ambition and resulting from the fact that a lower rank officer was able to be in command of the whole Mokotow. One thing is certain. In literature and awareness of those ones who are interested in it, the role of Col Stanislaw Kaminski 'Daniel' is underestimated and undervalued. Both our historians and we think that he was an extraordinary person, an officer who, despite the lack of communication, was able to take right decisions and maintain Mokotow for 57 days. 'Baszta' was the only troop which was able to mobilize from the very beginning. The beginning belonged to 'Baszta'. Later on, other troops became active, coordinating their actions with 'Baszta'.
translation: Dorota Rapacz
Home Army soldier, a rifleman
'Baltyk' battalion, 'Baszta' regiment
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