The insurgent accounts of witness
My war 1939-1945
A bumpy road of education
In the year 1941 I reached an official age adequate for starting school education.
I was warding off the idea of going to school because I didn't want to go to (as it was scornfully said) "pierdak" (= it is a name associated with farting, or a place where one can fart; used in a negative way to stress students' negative attitude towards it). I was supported by my Grandmother who said:"and what is he going to do in "pierdak" as he can read, write and he can also count. He'll be bored to death!"
Writing and reading were mastered up by me quite early. All days long I had been studying a telephone book. I had been copying the advert cartoons. I had been boring everyone with questions - what's the letter, what's the number? The road to independence was long and bumpy. The time had come that I started mouthing off! Nobody could persuade me that one should write "a tram" and not "a tam (I read "a" as it had been "o"). I also wrote "ccoa" and not "cocoa" what was unacceptable for "the olders."
I was mouthing off even later. In the third form there was an essay on animals and a question: what is it that goats give to us? I wrote that a goat gave meat, wool and, here I dug my heels, cold milk! Mrs. Mikolajczyk had some little objections to wool, but this that interested her was "the cold milk." Finally I blurted out:
- Grandfather said that a goat gave cold milk as it had its tail turned up!
- Well, if Granddad said it then the milk has to be surely cold - the teacher agreed...
My Mother in 1941
My mother showing no resistance got persuaded by Grandmother and we went for a conversation to the headmaster. The headmaster agreed with my mom, but said I had to pass "an exam."
The examiner was my later form teacher Mrs. Mikolajczyk. I was really embarrassed as I didn't know what it was about but the spectre of "pierdak" bolstered up my courage.
I was to read a tale about Jasiu's small ram. I started reading: Ja-siu's-ram-had-a-red-small-ri-bbon-and-a-gol-den-small-beell-it waved-ha-ppi-ly-the-small-tail-when-Ja-sio-gave-to-it-a-de-li-cious-hay...
- Thank you Januszek, thank you very much- said the teacher - Now write what's your name and surname and what is the name of the street you live at.
It wasn't so bad.
- Please tell me - the teacher continued - if you have ten chestnuts in the bigger pocket and ten chestnuts in the smaller one in which pocket you'll have more chestnuts?
- Equally! - I mumbled suspecting some trick. There was no trick and this way I became the pupil of the second form.
After holidays, having gathered all indispensable accessories the Public School Nr. 90 opened it gates for me.
The building of the school Nr.90 at Karolkowa Street.
Three windows on the ground floor on the right side of the entrance belonged to my class.
The building of School Nr.90 at Karolkowa Street (between Leszno and Wolska) was a short way for me. I was going there willingly and I liked school a lot. (The building survived the war-time - now there is a school for disabled young people).
In winter we were ordered to get out of here. Germans occupied school. It was the beginning of our wandering life.
A part of classes, including mine, was moved at Miedziana 8 Street. The crowd in school was awful. Lessons started at different hours, and were arranged day by ay - and it was a long way to school.
Mum in fear of me being lost, sewed a name and address cardboard into my small pocket.
In this school we didn't even wait until the holidays. We were moved to another place.
In the convent building at the corner of Zelazna and Zytnia Street there were just a few classes. The school was constantly divided up and I couldn't tell where the rest was. I was very content with that change. It simplified and shortened a route to school. We reached the holidays tolerably quietly.
During holidays I was in Warsaw, going out with Mum (and by myself) on various outings. I liked going to the forest Boernerowo most (tramway 22B) and on the white-clayed soil and to the forest at Kolo.
Mum and me in the garden at Mlynarska 34 Street
At the end of holidays there was a heavy air-raid. Loud explosions woke me up! - Russians are dropping bombs- mum said. We were standing in the window gazing at the scenery of a night-time air-raid. Light rockets were falling down from the parachutes. It was as light as it had been a day! One could hear the whirring of airplanes, bomb explosions, and "zenith" planes shots. Grandfather "was working" on the roof and later he told us where the fire was.
In the morning friends called with a question about our situation as their walls got cracked. The other day we went on Grochow (in the regions of Szembeka Square) to see whether we could help them.
The roof was ruined, cracks in the walls, a hanging balcony - windows broken everywhere. A nearby house absolutely demolished - three people killed...
In a few days' time everything repeated. In the first anniversary of war. The scenery similar. The air-raid stronger than the first one. Wola suffered really a lot.
When we went out from the cellar above the tramway depot there could be seen flames, clouds of black smoke were raising. Michal' s mill at Wolska Street was burning and so were the granaries. (Firemen were extinguishing them for many days). Lots of people died.
It was the way the new school year started. Two friends of mine from the neighbouring class were killed by a bomb at Krochmalna Street. We were depressed...
People started running away from the city. We also left Warsaw many times, as probably there were some signals, or signs (nobody knew it exactly) that there would be an air-raid. We were going together with a crowd of people to the nearby villages so as to get some sleep in the barn.
After Christmas the school was moved again. We moved to the building of "Collegium" at the corner of Zelazna and Leszno Street.
After the partial liquidation of the ghetto we got back to our flat at Chlodna Street (Nr.19). It was completely devastated and it badly needed renovation. The school was near and I liked very much the most active places in Warsaw. There was always something happening- sometimes too much!
School life could be considered to be fairly normal, but for the frequent visits of military policemen from the nearby St. Sophia Hospital. They looked into our books, exercise books, they threw everything out from our schoolbags.
We took precautions and did our own thing. All public and church festivals were celebrated as if the closest German had been in Berlin.
Easter time passed in a dejecting atmosphere. There had been fights for some days already in the ghetto. The part of Warsaw was burnt and demolished, while people were murdered. (They are dealing with the Jewish, so they'll deal with us as well - it was said).
Windows of our class overlooked the ghetto. We heard shooting all the time, we saw air-raids. It was difficult to think about learning.
Military policemen came. They threatened they would shoot anyone that would look out of the window. Windows were covered with paper. We were afraid of coming close to them since the stray bullets had broken a nearby window.
As if that weren't enough Russians made themselves felt by a ridiculous city-bombarding, increasing the amount of destruction and victims.
At the corner of Zelazna and Chlodna Street (opposite Nordwache) the bomb killed a carpenter who slept in the workshop. Two days ago he gave to me wooden slats and strips of plywood out of which using a jigsaw I cut out elements of fortification for the army of my leaden soldiers. We went with boys to observe the market place burning at Kazimierzowski Square. There was a whiff felt in the whole Warsaw.
The tortoise that granddad had given to me, named "Prat" died.
I stopped attending German lessons, but Mum taught me at home.
Granddad's comment: start learning Russian as they won't budge for anybody.
During holiday I went away nowhere. Because of my uncertain situation, Mother didn't want me to wander off from the house. A lot of time I spent near Vistula - I liked water. I often visited the Bogdziewicz family who lived above the casino in the "Swiss Valley" (occupied by the German) where I buried myself in Kamil's book and album collections.
The beginning of the new school year wasn't very fortunate for me. We played "a tiny trick" on one German - running away I got under the car and broke the arm (but he didn't catch me). The arm knitted badly and it was broken for the second time in Carol and Mary Hospital in Leszno.
In that time when I was "injured" there were two teachers arrested in the school. One of them tried to escape and was shot during that attempt at Zelazna near Ogrodowa.
More and more frequently dangerous events took place, and many times Mother didn't allow me to go out so that I wasn't cruising for bruising. I had my own secrets as well - I learnt extra money by delivering "moonshine", that I had in my schoolbag, to dives.
Germans were more and more interested in our school and there was a serious threat that they would throw us out. We stayed there till June, and then they ordered us to move away. Nobody knew what would happen to our school. Actually, nobody really cared about it. We were waiting for the final chasing out of Germans. I was in Nowy Dwor almost for the whole July, and when I came back the Uprising started.
Germans, as fast as we wished, weren't chased away. Our "allies" gave them time for murdering citizens and for a total destruction of Warsaw.
School Nr. 90 was re-activated in 1945, but this time in the building at the corner of Dworska (Kasprzaka) and Karolkowa Street.
There were just a few teachers that came back to our school (I don't remember the names):
- Mr. Godlewski - the school headmaster
- Mrs. Benisz - the nature teacher
- Mrs. Mikolajczyk- my former teacher
- Mr. Jasieniowski - the music and drawing teacher
After the war I met just one of my friends from my class - Kazik Rachocki.
Many times I turn my thoughts to my friends, male and female, for whom the gates of Heaven were opened! School embraced mainly Wola children - thousands of them were murdered by the Hitlerites during the Warsaw Uprising.
in our times
drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska
Copyright © 2011 SPPW1944. All rights reserved.