The insurgent accounts of witness

My war 1939-1945

Janusz Walkuski
born 3.01.1934 in Ciechanów

The first day of freedom

         That awaited day happened in Wieliczka.
         The last wandering place...

         It was known that Russians would finally come and we'd be able to get back to Warsaw. We thought about it all the time. It was our aim. We couldn't imagine what Warsaw would look like - the return was important! Even on foot! At all costs!

         We lived in an old wooden house at Miodowa. The street was on top - something like Gubalowka. Behind the house, several dozen metres up there was a brook and a water intake. On the left - looking in the direction of the town - a deep ravine slashed the mountain. Opposite - seen from the windows Wieliczka panorama.
         Two elderly ladies were owners of the house. Very old ladies. One baked cakes, the second sold them on the market. They hit on an idea that I, a sharp-witted, ten-year-old boy, able to count, speaking German a little, would sell cakes there while they would bake them two times as many! And so it happened - I became a seller!

A house at Miodowa in Wieliczka.
An arrow shows our house window (photo.Lukasz Korzeniowski).

         Through Wieliczka columns of cars were passing there were lots of soldiers as well. It was obvious that Germans - simply - are bolting! They were my main recipients as well. Though I lifted prices up constantly the business went well! My profits had increased as I squared accounts with the ladies talking about their price and not mine. I practised the exchange trade as well. I collected some warm caps, scarves, gloves, two pairs of shoes (how much valuable!) a considerable amount of saccharine (it was used instead of missing sugar), a battery torch that worked for me for many years later on.
         When I am mentioning that activity of mine today I am thinking they could take away those cakes from me as they had been stealing anything they had needed during the occupation years. Was the vision of an inevitable surrender and punishment a restraint?

         The business finished as suddenly flour had run out.
         Soon Germans had run out as well.

         I was sitting by the window looking at a chain of bolting cars. In the distance the cannons boomed. Like in Warsaw... Before the Uprising... And maybe Russians still won't come?
         A friend!
         Planes were flying one by one, at my windows level. They dropped bombs on the cars running away.
         Immense explosions!
         A fascinating picture - they are whipping the Krauts!
         Before the evening we ran with boys to see the bombarded road. Poorly had they taken aim! Not even a single bomb was dropped on the road (!) though there were enormous craters on the left street side! Two houses shelled!
         And I thought they had whipped Germans!

         The next day I was woken up by the whirr of plane engines. There were several dozen planes flying really high above - fighters. Behind them wafts of white smoke...
         A beautiful view!
         "I hope they won't squeezed off at us," I thought with fear.
         They flew away further...

         The boom of cannons was getting closer...

         It was cool, fuel was running out... Mum took German shoes, saccharine and went down to the town. She brought potatoes, onion, while a farmer delivered to us wood and some coal.

         Cannons were heard closer and closer.

         An evening fell. It boomed nearby so the house shook! We ran to the neighbouring brick house and got located in the crowded cellar.
         We were sitting all night long listening to the raking cannonade of the explosions and shots. At dawn it was almost quiet...
         Slowly and carefully we're going out. Snow got crunching under the feet, sun rose. A day started - THE FIRST DAY OF FREEDOM!

         How will it be now?
         One could only ask - there was no answer...
         We went to the town to see the Russians, as probably they wouldn't come on top to take us. There were lots of people, but nobody saw Russians...
         They had gone further, or maybe exhausted they were sleeping?
         We were going home. Near the cinema there was a German body lying (without shoes), on a small square a cannon was standing next to it open boxes with ammunition. Everywhere small groups of people - quiet conversations, restless eyes... Probably something had been done to them...
         We got to Miodowa. Elderly ladies showered Mum with questions, but she could say very little to them. Elderly ladies were disappointed...
         I lit the fire in the range. It got warm quickly, while a hot onion soup sated the hunger on the spot.

         The decision was made: we're going to Warsaw!

         Suddenly the corridor door banged and Russian got in, looking around the flat.
         - Vodka, vodka - he was jabbering (and something else).
         He opened the cupboard and grabbed the bottle!
         - It's vinegar! - Mum wanted to take it away from him but he didn't allow her to snatch the "haul" from him.
         We didn't manage to cool down after the unexpected visit when again he got in to the house and threw himself with a scream on Mum, pushing her with the Russian automatic pistol barrel. I started screaming as well - for fear of Mum being killed! Elderly ladies hastened to Mum's relief.
         - You, Ivan, you scoundrel, you Bolshevik - was screaming one of them pulling him by the hand, the second grabbed a pan and probably she would have hit him if our Ivan hadn't run away!
         Later on there was a nice laughter!
         The door was precisely closed and bolted!

         For the next few days we were getting necessary things - especially food for the journey!
         When we had victuals for a week we said goodbye to Wieliczka and we set off to Cracow.

Wieliczka panorama (photo. Lukasz Korzeniowski)

         We got there in the evening. Going along St. Mark Street we were "arrested." (Stop! Who's it?)
         I can see it's our people! And maybe not - as some other small eagles they've got... They locked us up in the cellar of the hotel "Roza" (= a rose). There were some other people from Warsaw. After many questions and searches (something got lost by the way) they let us free next day in the afternoon.
         During next two days we got a pass for the journey to Warsaw. We were going by a soldier transport in an open carriage just before the locomotive. The journey was fixed up for us by our friends - who paid for it using the best currency - moonshine!
         The journey was a nightmare! It was cold, cold and once again cold! Even newspapers that coats were stuffed with didn't help! But then it was the only way we could get back to our Warsaw!

Janusz Wałkuski

      Janusz Walkuski
in our times

drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska

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