Insurgent accounts of the witnesses
War Reminiscences of the nurse of the Scouts' battalion of the Home Army "Wigry" Barbara Gancarczyk-Piotrowska pseud. "Pajak" (=Spider)
I was born on 18 March 1923 in Warsaw. 2.5 years later my younger sister Elzbieta was born. My father, Czeslaw Piotrowski, was an office worker. My mother, Cecylia Piotrowska nee Wojcik, looked after the home and the upbringing of children.
Czeslaw Piotrowski during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 (he sits by the cannon wheel)
My father had various jobs before the war, but he spent the last years working as a bank clerk in the Agrarian Bank. We were a family of moderate means. We did not live in a particularly luxurious conditions, and at that time one did not usually have a car. We lived in the family house built by my grandfather Antoni Piotrowski, who was a notary.
It was a 6-flat house, for five children and the grandparents. It was located on the Elsterska street no. 8 on Saska Kepa. We moved there in 1928. Unfortunately, my grandfather had died before that. He had not lived to see this house. We lived there until September of 1939.
Before the war, Saska Kepa had not yet been built-up. There had been no Francuska Street. From Elsterska Street to the Wal Miedzeszynski, there was a vast fruit orchard. Nearby, people still sowed crop plants.
I have fond recollections of my childhood, which was very happy and joyful. I had a lot of freedom. Nearby there was the Paderewski Park, where you used to go for a walk. Around the house there was plenty of greenery, a lot of children and teenagers. My first cousins lived together with us in our house. There was a lot of friends in the neighbourhood.
The Piotrowskis family in 1928
First, I went to the kindergarten, where I had fitness and dancing exercises and other classes. Later, for some of the first years I was home-schooled during the secret classes. It was a group of 5-6 children. My first cousin and the "Trojtlerki" twins were my fellow pupils. One of the twins, Lila Treutler, was famous. She got married during the uprising, and her wedding was filmed. It was perhaps the only wedding during the uprising which was recorded on film.
It went on like that to the 3rd grade. The secret classes took part in different houses. The classes were conducted by a professional teacher. Later I was admitted to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth primary school, to which my teacher had connections. I continued my education in gimnazjum (=middle school) from which I graduated in 1939, receiving mała matura (=GCSE). In June 1939 I passed the entrance exams to the Maria Konopnicka grammar school's Mathematics and Physics-oriented class.
At home and at school alike, a lot of attention was paid not only to education, but also to upbringing. We were brought up in the spirit of patriotism. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth was a public school. You had to pay a lot for it. Girls from very affluent families attended this school. Also, the girls from families of moderate means and from quite poor families coming from the Czerniaków working-class city quarter, who could learn for free, were the pupils of this school. Some of the girls from poor families could use the boarding-house for free. What counted was not the standing of the family or money, but moral and spiritual values. Honesty, diligence, friendship were what really counted. These virtues were inculcated into us. No distinctions were made between richer and poorer girls. It was not a general rule in all schools.
This way of upbringing at home and at school shaped my character in the future. Before the war, I had not been in the Scouts. However, I sometimes helped poor students with their lessons within the frames of social activities. I was talented for Mathematics and Physics. I gave free private lessons to my friends who had problems with learning.
We used to spend the holidays with my sister in the summer resort near Warsaw. The place was called Emow, on the Otwock line, between Jozefow and Wiazowna. A nice little village, several cottages. At the beginning of holidays, my mum made a deal with a local farmer, who came for us to Saska Kępa with his wagon. Then, we travelled to the country with all our stuff. I have a very fond recollection of these journeys.
prepared by Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translated by Katarzyna Wiktoria Klag
born on the 18th of October 1923 in Warsaw
the nurse of the Home Army
pseud. "Pajak" (=spider)
the 2nd platoon of the assault company
Scouts' battalion of the Home Army "Wigry"
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