The insurgent accounts of witness
My war 1939-1945
- You have just arrived and they start shooting - my Mum commented (playfully) on my return from Nowy Dwor.
From different sides the sounds of shooting were reaching. I wanted to eat something quickly, pop out on the street and see what was going on. Shots were thickening. Nearby a machine gun was heard. Mum was apparently anxious. It must be something serious! I went on the courtyard. The gate was closed. Near the gate some armed men with white and red bands on the sleeves. Two people had German helmets, and the rest had berets with small eagles. They were looking at "Nordwache" and the bunker near the school at the corner of Walicow Street, that was precisely opposite our house. Suddenly a very heavy shooting from the bunker started and from "Nordwache" as well. The fighting started!
It was THE UPRISING!
There were lots of people on the courtyard - lively discussions. Some committee was appointed. Insurgents went out from the gate, they didn't have any chance to go on the street under the shooting of heavy machine guns. Two of them stayed, the rest went to Ogrodowa Street.
We heard the clatter of coming tanks! Two tanks arrived. From Zelazna Street. They stopped in front of the house.
We ran up with boys on the third floor to observe them! Hardly did we look out of the window, when we were raked - those from "Nordwache" had seen us. It was a lesson on how easy one can get a beating when one didn't think.
We gathered downstairs. An argument on the courtyard. Two insurgents (those that had left) wanted to shoot at tanks from a gun and Schmeisser (!). Fortunately, one talked them out of it. Tanks departed without shooting in the direction of Mirowska Hall. Mum called me upstairs. We had to prepare ourselves somehow for the new situation, secure the flat, as nobody knew what would arise out of it. There were heard the stray bullets hammering on the roof. Hardly could we do anything, but all dishes were filled up with water.
The shooting got stronger again. We supposed that insurgents wanted to conquer "Nordwache" but it was protected by the bunker at Walicow Street. Lots of houses from the street side had broken windows and furniture shot through.
There was nothing else to be done but to prepare a cellar accommodation. Our cellar was big (from Chlodna Street) and there was no problem with it. After five years Warsaw got down to the cellars again. We hoped that it would be for a while - Russian cannons were going bang stronger and stronger behind Vistula.
I went down to the cellar with Mum at about night, Mum was to go upstairs to the Nowrocki's, while I lied down on a camp bed. Exhausted with the trip from Nowy Dwor and with the emotions of the last hours I fell asleep very quickly.
I was woken up by a horrendous explosion and shake. It was dark - all lights and candles went out. Nobody knew what had happened. The information arrived fast - Germans blew up the school at Walicow together with the neighbouring house. Mum came - our flat had been demolished. She was lucky she hadn't been cut by the windows. The explosion was so strong that in some flats from Walicow side furniture was chucked out together with the walls.
When the bunker at Walicow stopped working the way for the storm on "Nordwache" opened and it was the very thing that happened.
How it started - we, together with boys, made our way through the courtyards from Ogrodowa side to the house number 20, that was higher than ours, and at the top from Zelazna Street it had small windows. We got on the attic and observed the fighting. There were many people ready to watch so one had to give up his seat to the other - let them observe as well! Finally, I saw a military policeman wanted to throw a grenade from the balcony, but he got shot and hovered on the railing, the grenade slipped out of his grasp and got exploded. Those that came later, were unlucky because when we had walked away the shooting, nobody knew why, stopped.
The building on the right side is standing in place of my house at Chlodna 18.
At the top of the house nr.20 one can see a fragment of its wall. The house nr.20 was higher.
The top floor with a decorated arch was destroyed and wasn't renovated.
On the left side one can see the corner of "Nordwache".
A passage to the neighbouring house was being dug. Debris was taken out onto the courtyard. The caretaker get nervous that they muddied the terracotta that covered the courtyard and he, every now and then, cleaned it so that "the stairs wouldn't be muddied."
At night on the 3rd of August "Nordwache" was conquered! They had to shoot heavily but I didn't hear. When I went out from the cellar in the morning the gate was open. In almost every house there was hanging a white and red flag. It was wet, probably it had been raining all night. A specific smell of a wet rubble that covered the whole street was felt. The debris of the house demolished by explosion was dug out, and it was piled in front of the church. Till the noon I had been working on building two barricades, and later we went with Mum for the unfortunate meeting at Ciepla Street.
The fourth in the morning I went on the corner of Chlodna and Solna Street where a huge barricade was built. Out of sand I was making mocks-up of mines to drive tanks away. "Storch" (a German observation plane) flew above our heads two times. The barricade building had to be interrupted because of the air-raid.
Alarming news was coming from Wola, Mum was really nervous. It was obvious Germans were murdering thousands of people and there were Grandparents that stayed behind... Probably the front along Wolska was moving towards Towarowa. If they approach Wronia Street, we'll get in the range of the direct shooting.
Some part of our neighbours had already left our house. The next were preparing themselves. Mr. Nawrocki said, that he would have gone as well, but he didn't know where.
I knew Mum was thinking where we would go. Our family and friends are living in more endangered places than we. One road is left - to the Old Town. It's on the out of the way region maybe they'll leave it alone. The "meeting" with Germans must be postponed. Besides any day Russians will arrive. Constantly we were listening to the cannons from behind Vistula, but the last ones got silent - for how long?
- Tomorrow, we're going - Mum said - to Podwale Street. To Cudna. - Soon, it'll be over...
We went in the morning. This that would be necessary for us for some days were packed in the school-bag. Fish was fed excessively, they wouldn't get hungry in a few days' time. Neither would we.
At Elektoralna Street, behind Solna, the first air-raid caught us. We found some shelter in a cellar. It lasted long.
We went for a short time, again the air-raid. Again to the cellar. I don't remember how we got to Danilowiczowska Street. We were passing burning houses. Some burning barrels were flying out into the air. Once we were stopped - they were hunting a sniper, ho killed two people, they were laying on the street. All the time, there was a really heavy shooting. We wanted to go to the Old Town at once, but we didn't succeed. We stayed in the Police Station and put up there.
In the morning we tried again to get to Miodowa Street. The barricade closing Miodowa from Senatorska Street was about 150 metres from the Church of the Capuchins. On the church side, opposite Kapitulna Street, across Miodowa there was dug out, not too deep, a ditch with a low embankment from Senatorska side. Through that pit stooping down really low (some were going on all fours) we went to Kapitulna Street and Podwale. We stopped in the house at the corner of Podwale and Nowomiejska Street (the last house on Podwale nr 29).
So quiet here, that without any fears I went out onto the street. There was a kind of festival as I saw at Dluga Street some insurgent parade.
The intention of a quick getting back to Chlodna Street didn't come true. The Old Town we left on the second of September. Behind us there stayed burning debris and graves of thousands people.
in our times
drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska
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