The insurgent accounts of witness
My war 1939-1945
They weren't humans
They weren't humans...- Tomek ended his story. - They weren't humans...- he repeated.
I knew that story. With all its details. I knew what he said and I knew how he would end it although I didn't listen to him much attentively. The Old Town triggers in me my own ghastly memories!
I am - just like Tom - haunted by the epidemic of memories. My epidemic it's an explosion of the tank at Kilinskiego Street: people torn apart, bodies scraped off with a shovel, a bloody mass mixed up with debris...
I told him about it as well. Many times... memories tearing my mind...
Now I was looking at new houses of the Old Town, at the Marketplace risen from the ruins, at walking people, bustling teenagers, at some sparrows fighting cheekily for a little pooh left by the cab hack...
- "They weren't humans..." reverberated in my ears.
Tomek lived at Dzialdowska in a house that stood out due to the modern architecture. Father, before the war, had worked in the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs. Mum taught Latin (and probably even German) in the secondary school at Mlynarska Street. The house was managed by energetic Miss Zuzia (up to the half of 1942) while Helenka, a younger little sister (three years younger) - a pretty little blonde - tried to disturb her work.
During occupation their life became more and more difficult - Tomek's father couldn't find himself in the ensuing reality. Visiting them very often in their house I saw that valuables disappeared, and they even resigned from some furniture. A servant's room, where stayed that much regretted Zuzia, was rented to a tram driver. (A pile of books in his room revealed that it was a necessity that had made a tram driver out of him).
The last occupation summer, before I went to Nowy Dwor on holidays, we had been going with Tomek on "white clays", at Kolo, to swim in a dreadfully cold water. Then we had been basking on the sandy dunes, that stretched from the tram terminus up to Ursynow. We had played football with boys, willingly the whole gang of us had been going to the Boernerow Forest.
Having got back from Nowy Dwor I didn't have much time - like many friends - to see Tomek before the Uprising break up.
Getting back to Warsaw - Warsaw free from Germans, only the next day taking quick steps on the rubble covered with snow I was looking for the traces of my family and friends. Tomek's house was a little hill of debris - along the whole Dzialdowska Street I met only one woman that was gazing at the smoked rubble.
In the half of March I was preparing for going out to aunt in Ciechanow. Grandfather was collecting indispensable materials and started renovating our burnt flat - Mr. Biernacki, a friend in the same line of work, helped me and for the time of renovation he was to occupy my sleeping place. It was decided then I'd go to aunt Marysia whom I hadn't seen since 1943 (my godmother). I had been already packed and I was to go the next day with friends, who had come to Warsaw in search of family, to Ciechanow. It was after dinner - I was chopping wood on the courtyard when somebody stood behind me! I turned around and I saw Tomek!
Our greeting was warm but silent. I understood something bad had happened to him. I was afraid of asking. I was waiting. After quite a long silence he sat on the trunk just as if an invisible burden had been crushing him. He said: - Mum's dead... Helenka's dead... Dad's dead...
Tomek stayed up for the night in our house as he lived in Piastow at father's relatives' and he wouldn't have managed to get there before the night.
He told us that horrible story that later on he repeated to me for many years...
I'll relate it using my own words as I cannot do it the way Tomek did it.
Tomek's mother on the third day of the Uprising got hit with a falling beam- the spine got injured and she couldn't walk. She was lying at home. The insurgents were losing their positions- the Nazis getting from the west conquered street by street, they occupied Plocka and Dzialdowska. Not all residents decided to leave their houses, while lots of them couldn't do it - like Tomek's family.
The news about Germans' behaviour towards residents was coming. Mum was begging father to leave her and save children and himself as she wouldn't defend herself from the death either this way or another! Father didn't want to do it, he couldn't leave her by herself. In the morning they started driving people out. Nearby the fight was still on - an incessant rattle of machine guns, booming of cannons! Near the house one could hear screams, shots, moans, Germans' screaming!
They went inside - they had already been on the landing. They screamed Russian! He got filled with hope. He pushed Tomek behind an old wardrobe, covering the door to the above mentioned servant's room - he couldn't though take Helenka away. Father screamed something Russian and opened the door. They entered the flat - father was speaking their language to them all the time. They must have pushed him as Tomek heard father fell down. They were pillaging the house, as in one moment they opened the wardrobe door and all that was inside they threw on the floor. There appeared cracks in the dried-out back of the wardrobe - and he could see everything. Probably they weren't pleased with the pillaging as they approached father screaming and threatening him with a gun. Father answered them, but they didn't want to listen - a shot was fired! Father sank to his knees and fell down facing the floor. Helenka started terribly screaming! The second shot was fired! Helenka calmed down for eternity...
Looting soldiers pulled off mum's cover and were raping her, rushing one another. There was no sound that could come out of my mum's mouth - probably she was unconscious. When the rape finished one of them took out a huge pistol from a wooden holster put a gun to mum's head and pulled the trigger - the gun didn't fire. The second one put a bayonet on the breast and pushed it with both hands deep inside...
When Tomek was talking about it he quivered... He tried to restrain himself from crying - in vain.
Grandmother took him in her arms.
- Have a good weep dear little Tomek... Have a good weep... - she said.
in our times
drawn up by: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translation: Małgorzata Szyszkowska
Copyright © 2011 SPPW1944. All rights reserved.