The insurgent accounts of witness

My war 1939-1945

Janusz Walkuski
born 3.01.1934 in Ciechanów

A girl with cornflower blue eyes

         To my class IV B there came two new schoolgirls. Sisters: Agnieszka and Irena. (The school number 90 in that time was located in the "College" building at the corner of Zelazna and Leszno). Twins. But they weren't much alike. They both were very pretty, but Irena was an exceptional phenomenon of beauty. A swarthy complexion, shiny hair in long plaits, they contrasted with the cornflower blue eyes, surrounded with long lashes. When she was smiling, she revealed in a discrete way white, little pearls of teeth.
         Soon it appeared that the girls stood out not only as far as beauty was concerned, but learning as well; here they followed a famous "swot" Anka W. Anka W. in that competition couldn't be outdone - she had nothing but "A"s, one could be only her equal.

         Once we went with Grandfather to a carpenter so that he could mend draughty windows before the autumn. When we entered the courtyard where the jointer's shop was (at Mlynarska before Obozowa) I got dumbfounded there was Agnieszka and Irena on the courtyard! A mutual surprise! But it didn't last long. What a coincidence! What a nice coincidence!
         Grandfather went home by himself. I stayed. The carpenter's daughter joined us as well - Zosia was her name. With a cheeky snub freckled little nose! We were merry! It was the curfew that chased me away.
         I visited Grandparents more frequently than usually and almost always I had a reason to dash off on the end of Mlynarska.
         The twins' uncle was a carpenter. During the war a mine crushed his leg and he was walking on a handmade limb. He was as bold as a coot, but he rewarded himself wearing a long beard. Girls' father worked nearby - in the factory at the corner of Mlynarska and Zytnia. Mum was a housewife and was sewing a little. An energetic carpenter's wife ruled on the courtyard (Mrs. Carpenter's - I called her).
         I came so often that they started treating me like a household member.
         We played, read, learnt, went for plays to "Kometa," on swings, merry-go-rounds on "Venice." With parents we went to the little forest on Kolo and to Boernerowo to the big forest. We felt good with one another!
         It would have been nice but for the war that hurt our childhood. It robbed us of the joy of life that deep joy - not the surface one, when we laughed at satirical songs in "Chochlik." (a little revue theatre on "Venice" area at Wolska Street.)
         In a holiday July I went away to friends in Nowy Dwor. They lived in an old, wooden, little house near the river. Out of my small attic window I saw the flooding Narew river, and on the right side in the distance a pine forest lightened up with birch trees, at night a tiny pinscher threatened me, as it jumped under the blanket and didn't allow me to make any move. During a day I had to look out for a big turkey that chose me to be its target of its attacks (probably due to the fact I had eaten its soulmate).
         July was ending. Grandfather had come. Before the evening we, me and Mr. K., we went fishing. We came back with some perch fish, that Mrs. K. fried for the supper. I ate my portion and went sleep. I was happy I would see me friends and I fell asleep with that thought.
         The train that was to take us to Warsaw hadn't departed. We reached the road but there was nothing to be noticed that drove into our direction. We set off on foot. We had been walking for about an hour when a small army unit caught up with us. They were Hungarians. Grandfather came to an agreement with them very quickly (he knew German well) and they took us on a lorry. That way we got to Bielany. We reached the tram terminus and after an hour I was home at Chlodna Street.
         Grandfather went by "sixteen" to Mlynarska Street.
         Soon I was ready to follow Grandfather's steps, but Mum didn't allow me to do so.
         There was something "in the air"! But what? We went with aunt to Zelazna Street. Rysiek had been absent since yesterday. We wanted to go to uncle Pers, but somewhere in the distance shots were heard. From the shooting range of the "Nordwache" bunker a machine gun barrel was protruding, while some soldiers were barricading the entrance with sandbags. We didn't go to uncle then. We ran across Chlodna and got into the gate of our house. There were people standing with guns, with white-and-red bands on the sleeves. THE UPRISING started!

         An escape towards the Old Town.
         Starowka surrender.
         Life of misery.
         Hunger and coldness.
         The first day of freedom in Wieliczka.
         A return to Warsaw.

         A train from Cracow after two-day journey got to Wlochy. Then I was going with Mum along the railway track to the West Station. From here along Bema, Wolska to Mlynarska Street. Nothing but ruins covered with snow... Are there Grandparents, did they survive?
         A house can be seen - burnt! To the house are leading traces trodden in the snow as if they were traces of Robinson's Friday... The gate sprawled, I am running out onto the stairs - Grandfather's flat burnt... Just one door remained intact. I am knocking! Silence...
         - Is there anyone there?! - I am screaming.
         - The door is opening quickly. In the door Grandfather with an axe ready to deliver a blow! I can see Grandmother! They are alive! What a happiness! We are all crying for joy!
         I woke up around the afternoon. Grandmother was lighting fire in a metal "goat" - it was warm and cosy. I ate something and dashed off to the end of Mlynarska. Everything ruined, demolished, burnt on the road...
         Is there Irenka?
         The fence broke down. I went onto the courtyard. The house was burnt. But here where the jointer's shop was there was protruding from the window a smoking pipe. They were home!
         I went onto the small stairs. The door opened, and a carpenter looked out, behind him a wife appeared. God! How terrible they looked like! They recognized me on the spot! The carpenter gestured me to come in. We greeted warmly one another, but there was something strange in it, something that threw fear at me! Out from the carpenter's mouth some husky sounds got out. Carpenter's wife said:
         - He doesn't speak. Germans shot his face through, his tongue is torn off. But somehow we are still alive - she added.
         Knowing what I was going to ask her about she continued:
         - There are no girls... There is nobody... Just we are alone...
         I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to! The carpenter's wife tok me in her arms - we were both crying...

         They shot everybody - she said after a while - they ordered us to put them on a stake and burn them... Jozef didn't want to do it, so one of them approached him and shot him in the face... They were drunk and they were drinking all the time... We poured anything we had on the bodies even wood stain and then we put wood on it. When it was burning, they were dancing... They were busy with the devilish ritual. We hid behind the jointer's shop and started crawling... Just ahead! Just ahead... We were crawling up to Dlugosza Street... We had been hiding all the time- for some months... In the cellars... When our people came...

Trees are growing where there was a courtyard and a garden of my three murdered friends

         She got silent. The carpenter gave me some signs I would go out with him. He took me to the corner of the farmer garden, swept the snow and lifted up a sheet of tar paper. He pointed his finger at a small heap of ash...
         Tears welled up in my eyes...

      Janusz Walkuski
in our times

drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska

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