The insurgent accounts of witness

My war 1939-1945

Janusz Walkuski
born 3.01.1934 in Ciechanów

A double portion of rice

         Bombs hit our house (at Mlynarska 34) two times, making holes in the wall (up to now there has been preserved a dent in the courtyard asphalt made by the falling marble).Airplanes all day long were wandering around the sky: bombarding and shooting.
         Mom decided to go with me to friends. At Chopin Street. To the "Swiss Valley" - maybe there the air-raid is less intense? A foresighted Grandmother there gave us a small pouch of dried bread (that had been collected for a rainy day) and a thick preserve from beetroots, that were picked out from the nearby factory of candies "Alfa."
         We went out just after the air-raid, running along the demolished streets. That "trip" left in my memory short broken images like "freeze-frames" in an interrupted film.
         On Leszno, at Mlynarska Street factory was on fire. A crack of fire. A lot of smoke- eyes were crying themselves. We reached "Kercelak." Airplanes arrived. Two-engined. They were flying low. In a hurry, along the gutted market - to uncle Persy (at Chlodna 53 Street).
         The rumble started. Close and distant:

         BOOM!                                                                  BOOM!

         When it died down we went out. Aunt didn't want to let us go, but we went. Again in a hurry... A smoke on the street. A burnt lorry without tyres. People with bundles, with parcels, with suitcases, without anything... Near the walls. Fast! This way and that. Debris under the feet, broken planks, large pieces of metal sheeting, papers, broken glass...
         We passed a church. Father! A fire-brigade. Out of the smoke loomed Mirowska Hall. We are running among the stalls. On the right a woman stallholder's body. Be quick! Saski Garden. We want to go straight- we are forbidden to do it. A bomb is lying! To the right. A high building! The bomb swish, second swish, the third swish- it hit somewhere! We are dashing off! Again they don't allow us to let in. Alarm! To the cellar. They flashed by. We further ahead. Through the courtyard. Some square street, a skyscraper (how huge!). A square again... To the right! I have no strength! We slowed down. Somewhere I hurt the foot. Scottish thread sock got soaked with blood.
         It's near - mom is saying and is dragging me along by the hand.
         It wasn't near. When we reached the place, the darkness had been falling...

         I opened my eyes. "Where am I?" I was lying on a mattress covered with a blanket. A large room with a huge, thick table (a billiard one?) in the middle. Mattresses near the walls. There is nobody... A small pouch with bread was lying by my head. I took out one slice. "Where is Mom?"
         The clack of hobbled shoes roused me. Army! I was looking through the crack in the slightly opened door. Some people were walking with bicycles. Some of them had on the back large reels with a wire rolled up on them. Rifles, helmets, long poles with hooks and then some other military things. They were going onto the patio, walking through the square to small stairs, using small stairs they were going up and then disappeared turning into a street...
         Mother came with Mrs. Bogdziewicz and the taking off of my sock glued to the foot with a clotted blood started(I was screaming in a moderate way). The wound having been dressed I got a breakfast - pasta with pork scratchings (their taste has stayed with me till the very day).
         "Swiss Valley"- it's one of the most picturesque places - the social history of Warsaw. A large square, considerably below the street level, encircled with a metal fencing, suspended on stone pillars. Around huge chestnut trees, a little bit on the side - a band shell. The square, from the side of Ujazdowskie Avenues was closed with a high building whose casino annex was protruding (I didn't know what the casino was, but it was the way they said it). On its roof there was a terrace. Mr. Bogdziewicz worked there as an electrician, while in winter he was active as a skating-instructor.
         I liked it very much. I had somewhere to go and something to watch. It was a strange oasis of peace: one could see flying planes, hear explosions of bombs and bullets, but these that fell were probably the stray ones. Germans decided on that part of town to be their district. I was visiting a train of wagons covered by widely spreading trees. I fed horses hay (there wasn't too much of it) and dried bread picked out from the pouch. I observed that horses liked sugar not less than I did - I shared with them this that I had received.

A southern fragment of "Swiss Valley".
Under those chestnut trees trains of horse military wagons were standing.

         I wasn't hungry. I was given extra food by a military cook. Soldiers gave to me coffee cubes with sugar, perforated dried bread that was co stony that my teeth could hardly deal with them.
         There was a constant motion in the casino: one army was going in, another one was going out, residents stayed there, some strangers like me there were as well. All of them were "old" I had no friend, but I was friends with horses...
         I listened to various discussions, though I didn't understand too much. About fighting. About attacks. About defence. "They during a day with tanks against us, we at night with bayonets against them!" Here something got burnt, there they bombarded something. Here the "shrapnels" were breaking, there the shot-putters were shooting. "Just a while when the French and the English will chase them away!" It was said that one died, that the other one died.
         Everything was whirling around me - I couldn't comprehend many things, arrange them in my childish head. The days were spinning around as on a merry-go-round, I didn't know whether there was a lot of them, or just a few. Around there was nothing, but war. During the daytime. At night. It kept going. I missed Grandparents. I missed my courtyard, my boys with whom I was fighting and with whom I was friends...

         Once there was a tempest! The booming of cannons was accompanied by thunderbolts. It was raining and then suddenly: hailstones! White balls were pouring out from the drainpipe. I lifted handfuls of them and threw ahead of me, watching they disappeared turning into water drops... I forgot about dinner. I realized it when I saw soldiers scraping up the leftovers out from the mess tins.
         I ran to my makeshift, I grabbed the small bowl that I got from Mrs. Bogdziewicz and I ran at a trot to the kitchen. Somebody in front of me pushed the spring door- I ran into them in such an unfortunate way that I was hit on the nose! The blood trickled down from the nose and I burst into tears! One soldier put a piece of cotton wool into my nose and said I should stop blubbering because Germans might hear!
         A cook, laughing, addressed me:
         - Come here Januszek, you'll get a double portion of rice!

Janusz Wałkuski

      Janusz Wałkuski
in our times

drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska

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