The insurgent relations of witnesses
The war memories of Eugeniusz Tyrajski - a soldier from "Baszta" -(= a tower)
After the liberation of the camp, every national group - and there were several of them - organised itself in its own way. Major Bienkowski, one of the commanders of the No. 303 ("Kosciuszko") Polish Fighter Squadron, which was downed above Germany, became the commander of the Polish group, including all the war prisoners beginning from 1939. He acted as the commander for 2-3 weeks, and then he was taken to London. During the first weeks after the liberation, we were not allowed to leave the camp without a special pass. The Americans were afraid that the Polish prisoners of war would like to revenge themselves on the local Germans.
My Teresa, who was also verified as a insurgent, got the uniform and a job as a secretary of Major Bienkowski. She was the only woman-prisoner of war who lived outside of the camp, by a local German woman. Because of this, I had no problem with receiving, from the commander of the Polish part of the camp, a constant pass that allowed me to move between the Stalag VII A and the city of Moosburg.
The pass from the Polish commander
About a month after the liberation, we were taken to the camp for ex-prisoners of war in Bamberg. Polish prisoners of war from the entire Reich were gathered there. There were about 10,000 of them. The camp was organised in the barracks of the German panzer division, which was near the city, in a beautiful forest.
Teresa, who returned to her own surname and her maiden state, on 31 May left for Murnau, from where she was to be sent to the camp for women of the Home Army. Our camp, Stalag VII, was closed down. I received a message from Teresa, saying that she would be sent to Burg in Hesse, about 120 km north from Frankfurt am Main.
In Bamberg, I met my classmate from before the war, Jacek Tomaszewski. His father, Col. Tomaszewski, was the commander of the entire camp. With the help of Jacek, me and our ex-delegate "Wicher" got passes allowing us to come to Burg. I was looking for Teresa, and "Wicher" - for his wife Lidka, who - as an insurgent soldier - was to be liberated in one of the prison camps for women.
We were travelling by some incidental trains, and for some time at the top of a cistern. Heading to Frankfurt, in a certain place we passed through a provisionally rebuilt wooden bridge. The train was driving at 10 km/h and the entire bridge was swinging from side to side under its weight. We made it to Frankfurt. There, I tried to learn from the railwayman how to get to Burg. It turned out that it was not that simple. Near Frankfurt there were several Burgs. The stationmaster found out, that the Burg, in which I was interested, was 120 km north from Frankfurt, near the locality of Herborn. We went there by train.
We got out in Herborn about noon, and waited for the train to Burg, which was to come in 3 hours. Suddenly, we saw three uniformed girls walking down the road. I deduced that they must be going to Burg, which was nearby. I accosted them. As a matter of fact, it turned out that Burg was close by, just round the nearby hill. We went with "Wicher" on foot. The surroundings were very pretty, similar to our Swiętokrzyskie Mountains (Holy Cross Mountains). The camp was about kilometre away.
We went to the orderly room. I asked about Teresa, who - according to her letter - was to come here together with the Captain "Julia" from Murnau. The girls in the orderly room did not know anything - neither about Teresa, nor Capt. "Julia." Because of the fact that it was already supper time, they gave us both a piece of paper and directed us to a roomy casino. The canteen was enormous. We sat at the closest free table and ate supper. In the meantime, the hall became empty. Suddenly I saw that several tables away, there sat …Teresa. She noticed me at the same moment, too. We hurled ourselves into each other's arms.
As it turned out later, Teresa had come here quite recently, there was a shift in the orderly room and the girls simply didn't know about it. "Wicher" didn't find his wife and he went in search of her to Oberlangen, in the British zone. My command of foreign languages turned out to be very useful as I became the quartermaster by the camp for Home Army women in Burg. A lot of friends were coming there in search of their mothers, wives and girlfriends. I had to help them to find accommodation. The moods of the ex-prisoners of war were diverse. Discussions about the future life were conducted. Scant news were coming from home, most of them bad. The prevailing opinion was that we should not come back home, to the Russians.
The cavalry captain Rosnowski from the Uprising got to his wife in Burg. He decided to find something to do for the men who were living nearby the camp for women. Several barracks stood outside the camp area, near the railway line. Polish Instructional Workshops were established there. Ex-prisoners of war worked there as tailors or shoemakers, depending on their abilities. About 100 people were employed and accommodated there. Thanks to connections with the Americans, we managed to get supplies and raw materials for the production. We even succeeded in selling a part of the merchandise.
Thanks to my office I got acquainted with many Americans, also the new-coming prisoners had to report to me. From them I learnt the details about the Uprising in other quarters of Warsaw. I learnt, among other things, about the death of Jurek Sobczak, my friend from the Gray Ranks, who died on Zoliborz.
During our stay in Burg me and Teresa became very close to each other. Talking about our future and the decision of staying in the West, we decided to get married. Our fictional "German marriage" was to turn into a real relationship. The preparations started. My friends built the makeshift altar. Initially, Teresa was to get married wearing her uniform, but the day before the wedding the girls somehow obtained a length of white cloth and sewed a beautiful suit during the night. I went by car to the Polish camp for civilians in Wetzlar, which was 20 km away, and brought a Polish priest from there.
On 12 August 1945 in the beautiful mountainous scenery of Hesse, by the makeshift altar with the white eagle above it, the Polish priest officiated at the wedding of Teresa Kuklińska, pseud. "Basia", the woman liaison officer/nurse of the "Oaza" Home Army battalion, and Eugeniusz Tyrajski, pseud. "Sek," the soldier of the K-2 company of the Home Army "Baszta" regiment.
On 13 August 2005 in the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army in Warsaw, a solemn Holy Mass took place on the occasion of the Diamond Wedding, that is, the 60th anniversary of the married life of the Tyrajskis.
The Diamond Wedding
In the meantime, "Wicher" returned to Burg, having found his wife Lidka in Oberlangen. In the autumn of 1945 the Americans arrested one of the Poles for trading cigarettes, which they considered illegal. The Germans were ready to sacrifice everything for cigarettes. We got information from our friend, that he was in Bad Nauheim, where the third staff headquarters of the American Army, general Patton, were situated. We decided to go there and try to intervene and have him released. We went there with a friend, who drove the car and with Lidka, the sister of the detained man.
After our arrival in the city, we were directed to the local security officer, having the rank of lieutenant. The conversation began. The American started to talk to me in English, and then he changed to German. I continued the negotiations in this language. This made the officer suspicious. As it turned out, the American was of German descent. In 1930s. his family went to the USA.
Suddenly the officer told me: "You use the American uniforms unlawfully." I replied: "Wait, wait. I have the identity card of a ex-prisoner of war. I have a badge on my uniform that says "Poland." It is obvious that I am not an American." The American, however, decided to detain us until the explanation is given. When we were taken away, I said to Lidka: "Go quickly to Burg and report what is happening here." It was not that easy, since Lidka reached Nauheim by the car driven by one of us.
We were taken to prison, of course a German one. The warden was also German, in civilian clothes. This is the paradox of history. We were arrested by Americans, put up in a German prison in the conquered Germany, and we were guarded by a German. Then, it was even more interesting. We were aware that it would take some time before Lidka would reach Burg. On the next day, we ran out of cigarettes. I called the German warden who lived on the location and asked him to buy us cigarettes.
The German said that it was out of the question. I started a quarrel, knowing that it worked with Germans. The warden said at last: " A representative of a well-known aristocratic family does his time here. I don't know if he's an American or what. They told me to guard him and so I do. He has the cigarettes." I said to the warden: "Go to him, tell him that two Poles are here and they have nothing to smoke."
An hour later the German brought us 2 packets of cigarettes, I told him: "I have to thank this man for it somehow." The warden said that it was impossible. Nothing is impossible. I suggested the following solution: "Bring us to your place downstairs and bring him there as well. We won't escape, anyway." And the German agreed to it. We waited a few minutes in his flat and he brought our fellow prisoner. A very dignified gentleman at the age of about forty introduced himself to us. It turned out that he is a Polish prince (I won't give his name). We asked how he got here.
It turned out that he was driving from Frankfurt am Main, where the main headquarters of the Allied Army were, with documents allowing him to pass to France. In Bad Nauheim he was stopped by some "American cowboy," who - seeing the title Prinz in his documents - considered it very suspicious and canned the prince as a shady character - just in case. The aristocrat ended up in prison and the documents were sent to Frankfurt am Main to be checked. He was canned a day before us. We left after 3 days, and he still did his time. Later on, I learnt that the prince went to America.
On the third day since our arrest, a non-commissioned officer from the American headquarters in Bad Nauheim came to us and asked if we had the registration of the car in which we came here. I replied that of course we had. He said that we were suspected of stealing that car. I showed him the documents. He wanted to take them with him. I replied that I wouldn't give them to him for sure, and that he could only take a look at them. He drove away and came back in a hour, taking us with himself.
We ended up with the same security officer, who detained us. He told me: "I am very sorry. There has been a misunderstanding. If only you want to ask me for something, I would be glad to arrange it." When you hear something like that, it can only get your goat. I said: "Yes, I would like to ask for something. I would like to ask you to write that I spent 3 days in prison, detained by you on no ground. I have to justify myself to my authorities."
Imagine that the Colonel wrote such a testimonial for me. The car was, of course, given back to us and we could return to our camp. After our return, I went to the local, befriended security officer having the rank of captain. As it turned out, in the meantime Lidka informed him of our problem when she returned to the camp. The Captain telephoned the lieutenant, gave him a dressing-down which sped up our release.
I showed our testimonial, given by the representative of the allied service, to the Captain. And he told me: "Listen, if you had a friend in the high command of the army and if you showed him this document, then the Colonel would, first of all, be immediately degraded, and - secondly - he would also be immediately sent back to the States. The boy had the right to detain you, if he had any suspicions, but he wasn't allowed to give you such a document."
There were many such contacts with Americans then. In the town of Herborn, about 1.5 km away from our camp, there was the cell of the intelligence service CIC (Combined Intelligence Committee), established before the end of the war as the united American-British intelligence service. Its representatives, working in Germany, had to find and detain the fascist activists, going into the hiding after the war. But not only...
One day, two American CIC officers known to me from earlier contact, arrived at our camp, wanting to know what was going on in our camp. With them, a Soviet officer came, probably from the NKVD. The Russian addressed me in Russian, claiming that in our camp we hid Soviet citizens who should return to their country after the war. I pretended that I didn't know what he meant.
From the earlier contacts with Soviet ex-prisoners of war, I knew what happened to these who came back to their homeland. A Soviet general's son who was released from German captivity, and had no intention of returning to the Soviet Union had said that the Russians who were in Germany, and thus saw the West with their own eyes, did not come back to their families, but were taken away for at least 5 years to camps in Siberia for some kind of rehabilitation from which they may never come back home. When I expressed my doubts that this didn't concern him, as a general's son, he only laughed at my naivety.
In fact, in our camp we had given shelter to two Soviet Union citizens: a Russian man and a Georgian woman, whom we married to a Pole. Nota bene, it was a love match, not a mercenary marriage. Of course, I had no intention of informing the NKVD officer about it.
It turned out that one of the American officers spoke Russian and he translated what the Russian was saying into English for me: he demanded that we denounce the Russians who were in our camp. I understood all too well what the NKVD officer was saying, but I tried to explain to the American officer that it was some kind of misunderstanding, that there were no Russians here. I didn't want to denounce the people who knew perfectly well what awaits them and didn't want to return to their country. I believed that they were free people and could make decisions about their fate on their own. The discussion dragged out. The Russian claimed that there were Soviet citizens there, and I denied that.
The prolonged discussion was interrupted by my wife Terenia's small dog, a smooth fox terrier, named "Wicherek" in honour of our friend. The little doggie, which had always been very obedient and never attacked anyone, not even strangers, this time behaved in a totally different way. Probably, having sensed who it was with the canine smell, the doggie caught the Russian officer's trousers and began to pull at them with determination. A small commotion ensued and the enraged Russian, to my heartfelt content, retreated outside the camp's fence.
During the following meeting with the American officers who visited us from time to time, I expressed my astonishment at the fact that they, despite being so democratic, didn't want to honour the wishes of these Russians who - not accidentally - didn't want to return to their country. The Americans explained themselves, saying that these were the orders of their authorities. For my part, I obviously didn't tell them that in our camp there are Russians who are hiding from their authorities.
My command of foreign languages came in handy all the time. After I survived the winter 1945/46 as well as some kind of reorganisation among the ex-prisoners of war, I was offered a job as a translator in the command of the Polish guard companies in Fritzlar near Kassel. The command was Polish but on an normal course it cooperated with the American command, and hence the need for a translator. My wife, who spoke German and English a bit, worked as a typist, all the time in the uniform. This is how we made it to the summer of 1946.
In the meantime, my wife got in touch with her family back in Poland. The family, particularly her sister, began to persuade her to return to Poland. In principle, I didn't stay in touch with my family. I didn't know what was happening to my mother, father and a younger sister. The flat in Warsaw was destroyed. One moment, I remembered the address of my uncle who lived in Wlocławek. It was the only family address outside of Warsaw which I remembered, Wlocławek 26 Barska Street. I wrote a letter to the uncle: "Dear Uncle, if you know anything about my family, here is my address." It was amazing, but as it later turned out, it was to Wlocławek where my mother went with my sister, since there was nothing she could do back in the devastated Warsaw.
My wife's sister gave us the news that they acquired a flat in Warsaw on the Belwederska Street. A room was waiting for me there. In these circumstances we decided to come back home. It was July of 1946.
translated by Katarzyna Wiktoria Klag
born on the 8th of October 1926
Home Army soldier
pseud. "Genek," "Sek"(= a snag)
K-2 company, "Karpaty" battalion
"Baszta" AK regiment
Copyright © 2012 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.