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)

Barbara Gancarczyk-Piotrowska,
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"

The attempt at breakdown and escape through the sewers

         30 August.
         The 30 of August is a day of rest for us.
         We spend it in the paper mill of the Ministry. From the morning, one can notice increased movement and a state of excitement. One by one, dispatch carriers come with reports, and go away with new orders. Instant readiness have been announced, with the ban on leaving the area of the Ministry (our headquarters) without permission.
         It all looks like a preparation for some large, general action.
         It is a wonderful, sunny August afternoon. A small group of boys, including "Kazik" (Kazimierz Kakol), "Stach," Lieu. "Andrzej," "Bak" (Zdzislaw Bacciarelli), "Wojtek Rawicz" (Wojciech Rzymowski), are sitting on the porch of the paper mill, cleaning machine guns, rifles and pistols. One can hear the rattle of weaponry being dismantled and assembled again. The faces, even though they are pinched and grimy, are cheerful. Me and Janka are among them; the atmosphere of their gallows humour and carelessness passes on to us. Kazik, well known for his jokes, takes the lead in making the neighbours laugh. The general mood of merriment introduced by him allows us to forget, if only for a moment, about the things that were and that will be.
         "Janka" is sewing a forage cap for "Los" (Henryk Modzelewski). Poor thing, her fingers are all pricked. I am sewing a white-and-red ribbon to a cap for "Stach," the trouser button for the little "Moskit" (Zdzislaw Borysiuk) and then I make a dressing for "Jozek" (NN) who has grazed his leg.
         The hours pass by, the boys are constantly asking us to do them some small favours.
         The evening is coming. It is time to set about preparing supper. We eat the disgusting soup, which we get three times a day, only out of necessity. "Zbik" (Henryk Fabisiak) together with "Piat" (Tadeusz Fabisiak) looted two pieces of canned pork. The girls' task is to try to get some bread, which we have not got in our rations for a few days. I do not know how come that "Janka" and "Szczuply" (Wojciech Szmelter) managed to get a loaf of bread by deceit. It is too little for 20 people, however. So, the two of us decide to try our luck for the second time. The food storage is located in the Ministry building on the ground floor. There are several people here. Farther on, there is Lieu. "Afr" (Henryk Wyganowski), "Modrzew," "Lech" (Pawel Lenski) and others.
         By the door on the right on the large table, there is a pile of fragrant, fresh loaves of wholemeal bread. While "Janka" talks down the company, by asking long and wordily about "Marta" (Zofia Jozwiak-Swiercz), I take a large loaf from the table and hide it under my camouflage jacket. As soon as we close the door, we burst out laughing, glad, that the theft was so successful. In the meantime, the boys procured half a litre of vodka and some red wine by Mrs. Pulkownikowa. We are in for a bigger party. In the darkest corner of the paper mill, illuminated only by one meagre candle, I and "Janka" prepare the sandwiches. The boys stand in a queue, each of them takes his ration in his hand, drinks the measured-out glass of vodka with care, and goes away. To satisfy the general demands, the two of us with "Janka" also down a glass.
         Minutes pass on chatting, bantering and final preparation to some new action, not known to us. We instinctively sense the mood of tension, the moment of the approaching strife which, perhaps, will decide our fate. "Zosia" and "Irena" (Irena Deresz) are on duty in the chemist's, they distribute the dressings, medicine, tourniquets. The girls check their sanitary bags.
         One moment, "Irena" takes me and "Janka" aside and tells us in whisper:
         "This night there is action. Together with other units, our boys go. Perhaps you will go with them, too, as a sanitary patrol. Do you feel fit to do it? There is no order yet, but you must have the entire equipment on you and in order, just in case. One condition - mum's the word."
         We take "Irena's" words as an honour.
         Lieu. "Prokop" (Roman Kaczorowski) appoints the meeting place of the boys in the paper mill and at the same time gives the order to the nurses to prepare the wounded for the possible marching out. The girls disperse. Only the two of us, I and "Janka" remain with the boys.
         During the meeting, instant readiness is announced, as well as the ban on leaving the area of the paper mill. The boys, with their weapons and rucksacks, are ready to march every moment. Some of them try to nap on the mattress, half-sitting. There are also some who are still sipping the wine. Others ask us for something: a bandage has slipped, another asks for opium - he has stomach aches, and that one needs to have a personal dressing kit in his bag.
         It is terribly dark, one tiny candle illuminates the grim interior. Standing aside, I can watch all of them, I want to remember all these faces, barely visible in the darkness. How many of them will not return to us after this night? I promise to "Dabek" (Stanislaw Galazka) that I will be next to him during the action - he has the foreboding, repeats like a man obsessed that this is his last evening.
         The resonant voice of Lieu. "Andrzej" brings us to our feet. The boys arrange themselves in two ranks. Once more "Count!" - calling the roll and checking the available weaponry: 1lgm, 2 "Blyskawica" submachine guns, some machine guns, and the rest is only grenades and "Filipinka" hand grenades - and then, a question to "Janka" and me, who stand at the very end, "Do you go by orders of "Prokop?"
         A moment of silence.
         "In that case, I cannot take you with me."
         The boys leave the paper mill quickly, leaving us here with sorrow in our hearts.
         We try and find someone from the command, and we come across Lieu. "Prymus" whom we ask for permission to go with the unit. He claims that he does not command us, and only "Prokop" can make a decision concerning us. Unfortunately, "Prokop" disappeared somewhere, as if out of spite. We run to the courtyard, many people moon about in the thick darkness, but these are not our boys.
         We return to the deserted paper mill. In the passageway I come across "Irena"; she hardly recognises me in the darkness and suggests we went to the wounded "Falinski" to get our documents. One of friends of "Stefan" took them by mistake. Tadeusz "Wolny" (Tadeusz Olejarski) is to lead me there, because he is about to set out in this direction with a report and he knows the way. I am given the furlough and told the password. Through the gate, we enter Dluga Street, heading towards Krasinski Square. From time to time a patrol passes us, or a liaison officer running with an order. In general, it is rather empty. Finally, we reach the halting point of our friends which is located in one of the gates on Dluga Street.
         The boys are tired, they sit by the wall, some of them lying on the bare ground. Lieut. "Andrzej" is noticed at once, he is the only one on the alert, standing among the boys. He is clearly delighted with my visit, just like "Kazik" who shows it with his resonant voice, shouting:
         "Baska, I swear, so you're coming with us!"
         I have to disappoint them that I only came to fetch the documents of "Falinski" but I promise to come back as soon as possible with "Janka." It would not be difficult since I know their halting place.
         On my way back two liaison officers pass me. One halts and looks closely at me, it is hard to recognise the faces in the darkness.
         "Basia, is that you?"
         I recognise "Bak's" voice.
         "Are you coming from us?"
         "And you go back?"
         "See you later."
         How could I know that it was my last conversation with him? He died several hours later.
         I reach the Ministry, having made the decision to return to the unit. I find Janka and tell her all about it. At this moment, they announce that the remaining people, including the wounded, have to assemble immediately. After calling the roll, they direct us to Kili雟kiego Street. Not until then we learn about everything. The situation in the Old Town is hard, unable to be controlled. The Germans attacked from all directions: from Zoliborz, Wola, Castle Square and Vistula. We will try to reach Srodmiescie. The combat forces are to protect the passage through the Biela雟ka and Senatorska Street, the Bankowy Square to Krolewska Street to enable us to evacuate the wounded, a part of the civilians and the remainder of the insurgents from the Old Town.
         It is night. Kilinskiego and Dluga Streets are crowded. It is difficult to squeeze through. "Wigry" come together. The nurses lead the slightly injured friends, holding their hands. These who cannot walk on their own are carried on stretchers by "civilians" who in this way have a chance to get to Srodmiescie together with the insurgents. I notice among the wounded: "Wojnicz" (Jerzy Krieger), "Pal" (Adam Borys) - the commander of "Parasol", "Roch", "Nietyksza". One of our nurses is by the side of each. I notice "Klecha" in the crowd. He signals to me desperately. I join his stretcher, carried by several people, members of the same family. Tadzio is glad that one of the "Wigry" girls is by his side. He does not trust "civilians", claiming that in case of any panic they would leave him on the street.
         We form a queue. They order to keep absolute silence. It is not that easy, when people get lost in the darkness and call to each other, and under our feet crunch the metal sheet from the roofs and other metal things. We move forward very slowly. We cross the shell holes with difficulty, go around shells left by bombs. The legs are twisting. The street is covered by mass of debris and stones. Every few steps, when the procession stops, the stretcher with Tadzio is put down, only to be lifted up again. Everytime I remove the bricks and stones, so that they would not hurt his wounded leg. The wound is not very dangerous, but fresh and painful.
         In my abysmally deep pockets I have an enormous store of gingerbread, chocolate and sweets. When the warehouse was closed, we got some of these delicacies, about which existence we had had no idea. Tadzio is not hungry, somehow. Generally, he is calm and very happy that one of his own people is by his side.
         With difficulty, we squeeze through a narrow passage between a barricade and a building. Time passes and we stick almost in the same place. We cover the space of several metres in an hour. The Germans often illuminate the street with their missiles. They soar suddenly upwards, drawing an enormous semicircle on the sky. It is as bright as during a day then. For a few moments, the crowd freezes, clings to the walls, kneels on the ground and becomes motionless.
         The night is generally peaceful. Artillery, or Nebelwerfers, or grenade launchers are not heard, only the sounds of machine gun series come from afar. Are the Germans not aware what is going on? We reach Krasinski Square. We have to overcome a difficult obstacle. It is the barricade. We have to carry the stretchers with the wounded over it. It takes a lot of effort. Crossing the square is dangerous; it is not covered from the side of Bonifraterska Street, from where heavy shelling comes. It is here where the first bullet follows us with a swish. I fall to the ground, to stand up after the explosion and continue to run. A new swish. This time it hit quite close.
         A panic starts. The stretcher with Tadzio falls to my feet, thrown to the ground; these who carried him fled to the walls. I kneel down and cover the wounded leg, taking care so that the boy is not trampled.. The missiles still illuminate us. In their light, I see terrified faces. We wait again. In the meantime, the dawn comes. In an hour, or an hour and a half, at the longest, the enemy air raids begin, as usual. It makes one's flesh creep at the thought what can happen then - a real massacre.
         We are disoriented, but at the same time almost sure that today's action was not successful. Soon our predictions come true. They order us to retreat. I do not know how comes that "Janka" is in front of me. We catch the stretcher with Tadzio and transport him to the ministry, to return for the rest of our friends later. During the retreat, the "civilians" do not help us anymore. The girls are left entirely to their own resources. Among them, I see "Justyna," "Krystyna," "Zoska," "Ola" (Aleksandra Taube-Jankowska), "Iskra"(Wanda Haft-Szatynska-Maciejewska-Wozniak).

         31 August
         After our return we are hazy, unsure what our situation is, maybe the Germans will attack soon. We do not know what happened to our boys. There is no one from the command there, neither "Trzaska," nor "Prokop" nor "Andrzej."
         "Saski" (Eugeniusz Bazyl) brings us the first specific information. He runs to our quarters totally sweaty and panting. His hand is wounded. The breakdown was not successful. There are dead and wounded, some of them unbandaged. The nurses are needed immediately. We set out in a large group: the doctor, "Irena," "Hala"(Halina Paschalska-Najder),"Zoska," "Sewa" (Seweryna Siemi雟ka-Wieszczak), "Janka" and me. We are lugging the stretchers and first aid kits. "Saski" is leading. He knows a way to a friend who was left in the ruins without any help.
         Dluga Street is heavily shelled and this is why a parallel passage has been made, connecting Kilinskiego Street to Miodowa Street. The way is convoluted: it leads thought courtyards, among the annexes of houses and numerous holes in the wall. Sometimes to cross a building one has to climb up a plank, resting on the windowsill of the flat on the ground floor, from where one could reach the next courtyard. We walk around the partially damaged houses through underground cellar passages. We overcome the level difference without access to stairs, by using tables and chairs, set as a pyramid. Queues form next to narrow passages. We cross Miodowa Street, running bent under the barricade. The passage joining Hipoteczna Street is blocked by people. The insurgent units gather on the courtyards. It is easy to get lost in the crowd. Confusion and chaos dominate.

The gate of the passage on Hipoteczna Street (photograph by Maria-Tadeusz Gancarczyk 1946)

         One leaves through the gate on the Hipoteczna Street. The units retreat from Dani這wiczowska Street this way. They let no one go in the opposite direction. Our arguments that we go to help the wounded are not enough of a reason to breach the orders, according to the sentry guarding the passage. However, we take advantage of a moment of confusion and this time the three of us, "Janka," me and "Saski" slip through the gate, leaving the rest of the group behind. We go against the tide of the incessantly retreating units. For a moment, looking at the German uniforms they are wearing, I am under the impression that they are the enemy captives.
         Gray, tormented faces, legs dragging at the snail's pace, they all prove how difficult the night breakdown was, and that it failed. We look out for our people. At last, we notice Lieut. "Prokop" and Lieut. "Andrzej" in the crowd, as the first ones. Just like everyone, they are disoriented. They confirm only, that our wounded are left on Dani這wiczowska Street and they should be taken from there.
         We reach the bank, where, as "Saski" says, a dressing station is. It is here where they probably carried the wounded: "Staszek," "Kanski," "Moskito," "Kaula" (Kazimierz Matuszewski) and others.
         We go though the crowded cellars. In the darkness, we trip on chairs, stools, strewn up bundles. The stretchers which we carry hinder our progress. We go blindly, holding our hands not to get lost. Through a hole in the wall we get to the staircase, and from there to a tiny courtyard. At last, a bit of light and fresh air. The dressing station is allegedly on the first floor, where one has to climb through very narrow ladder. In my mind's eye I see us returning this way with the wounded friend and regret that we do not have a strong rope with us. Janka has the same doubts, as she mutters:
         "What the heck! How are we going to carry them down here?"
         Again, dark corridors, attics, corners, tiny stairs. We have no idea where we are, possibly we are going around in circles. It is only the accidentally met nurse who tells us where the boys from "Wigry" battalion can be. The rooms are almost completely dark. We wander around the wounded, who lie on mattresses or stretchers. We look at the faces in the light of matches. In vain we call the "Wigry" boys. At last, we hear the voice of "Stasiuk" from afar.
         "Come here."
         Stach lies on the floor, on the mattress. His both legs are bandaged up to thighs. He knows that we came to take him to our little "Wigry" hospital. He does not hide his joy for this reason, but at the same time announces, that in the ruins on Bielanska Street badly injured "Kanski" was left, and it is he who needs our help.
         "If Edek is still alive... if the Germans have not taken him, you must... take him from there... "Saski" you know the way, you will lead. Look, I am already bandaged, I can wait for you,... but Edek..."
         "Stasiuk" is just like that. Even now he cares most of all for his friend, even though he is well aware that he himself might be captured by the Germans at any moment - they are so close, on the other side of the street.
         We retreat once again, promising that as soon as we transport Edek we will come here once again. "Stasiuk" does not doubt about it at all. He says goodbye to us with a smile. We go to Dani這wiczowska Street. "Saski" is leading. Around us, there is only rubble. All houses are demolished, or burnt down. It is hard to find the traces of the old street. Hang it, what has happened here? The dead silence is broken by single shots coming from Teatralny Square, sometimes a grenade explosion or a machine gun series. Bombs or artillery missiles do not reach here, it is too close to German positions.
         On Dani這wiczowska Street, in the ruins of the prison, we come across an insurgent outpost. Two boys, crouching behind the nearest wall, signal to us to come quietly and carefully. Several others protect the outpost from the side of Teatralny Square, another three boys guard the passage from Bielanska Street.

The prison ruins on Dani這wiczowska Street (photograph by Maria-Tadeusz Gancarczyk 1946)

         We communicate with them by signs. They claim that somewhere nearby must be a wounded person, since one can hear moans of pain. They do not know, however, where exactly he is. We decide to go forward.
         The prison ruins are connected to the corner of the closest house by a low barricade, made hastily from bricks and rubble. We crawl under it, dragging the stretcher. Through a hole in a wall we jump to a rather shallow cellar. The house is burnt down. The underground windows, not covered by anything, let relatively much light inside; we are not going blindly. After crossing several cellars, we get to a small courtyard, covered on one side by a wall, and on two others by ruins of burnt down tenement houses. Boys, whom we pass, warn us that they retreat in five, ten minutes. We do not have much time. We search the nearby ruins. We are threatened by the shelling mainly from the side of Bielanska Street. To a large extend, we are protected from it by the burnt down walls, assuming of course that we are going bent down. Possibly the crouching Germans are very close; we try to behave as quietly as possible. In a muffled voice I call several times:
         "Edek... Edziu, where are you? .. please, speak something..."
I hear a quiet moan. On the pile of rubble and some metal, I notice a lying figure. Yes, it is Edek. Without the cap, in a bloodied, torn camouflage jacket. It grieves my heart to see him. He is deadly pale, weak, and speaks with difficulty. In his voice, apart from gratitude, there is a note of reproach:
         "So you came, after all... I thought that no one would take me from here... I have been waiting for so long..."
         A moment later "Janka" and "Saski" come to fetch me. We kneel down. While I look carefully at the bloodied head, Janka cuts the camouflage jacket. The whole body is filled with tiny splinters, but we do not find any deeper wounds. We make the first makeshift bandage. Edek complains about his leg. We try in vain to take off the shoe.

Here we found Edek (photograph by Maria-Tadeusz Gancarczyk 1946)

         The boys nearby urge us to hurry up. They are not able to hold the outpost any longer, and they are leaving.
         We put Edek on the stretcher and retreat. A difficult passage through the cellars is in store for us. Through a hole in the ceiling, I lower Edek, half-conscious, into the arms of "Janka" who stands on a heap of rubble and almost loses her balance. One gets from the cellars through a small hole, situated over 1.5 metres above. I clamber as the first one, and, crawling, I lie on my stomach under the barricade which is touching the entrance. After me, the stretcher with Edek comes, carried on the other side by "Janka" with a friend. I pull it towards me with all my strength. It takes such a lot of time. At last, when we are all outside, the hardest part begins.
         One has to drag the wounded along a low barricade, about 10 metres long. The space above it, from the side of Teatralny Square, is completely open. Every careless move can bring the enemy fire upon us. "Janka" and "Saski" crawling backwards, on the count of three drag the stretcher, and at the same moment I push it forward from the other side. The fresh rubble of broken bricks hurts our hands and knees. Edek is almost unconscious, not aware of the situation, at least he does not feel any pain. All of us are nervous. We call each other names in whisper:
         "Janka, you idiot, don't drag so violently... you're crushing my hands!"
         "Baska, damn it, don't stand up, they'll shoot you!... That's just what we need."

Dani這wiczowska Street - the barricade and cellar window, through which we freed Edek Kuminek (photograph by Maria-Tadeusz Gancarczyk 1946)

         Only a few metres of uncovered space was left. Right on cue, we all jump suddenly and with one jump hide ourselves behind a wall. In the last moment, my feet catches on some obstacle and I fall to the ground. A crackle and the bursting plaster above our heads means that there was a machine gun series nearby.
         We have a short rest. We sit behind the wall, next to boys defending the last insurgent outpost. They were watching how we dragged the stretcher with Edek under the barricade. They ask which unit are we from. We answer: "From 'Wigry'"...
         "The boys from 'Wigry' are lucky to have such nurses."
         As an answer, I wave my hand, saying:
         "You're kidding!"
         We do not have time for a longer rest. Me and Janka are left entirely to our own resources. "Saski", who has a hand in a sling, can only guide us.
         Again the same convoluted way through the ruins, cellars and other breakneck passages - this time more difficult, as we are going with the wounded.
         The air raids slow down our return. We hide in the gates then, or in staircases. Our hearts stop as we hear the deafening sound of diving planes, swish of the bombs falling nearby and explosions. Edek is lying on his back. From time to time, he opens his eyes and closes them again with fear. I bend over him, to protect his head and face from a possible burying. In the former City Cinema, in the round, columned hall, without the ceiling, we stop for a longer rest. We are completely exhausted.
         We ask many passers-by for help. Every one weasels out by saying he is on duty, or by hurrying somewhere. At last Janka, swearing and cursing, brings by force, almost dragging him by his collar, some struggling old guy who had the misfortune of cooking noodles on a fireplace made of some bricks. She threatens him with a gun, and orders him to carry the stretcher. He drags after us with difficulty. He disappears after the first stopover.
         The end of our arduous journey is the quarters in the Ministry building on Dluga Street. We hand Edek over to the competent care of our doctors, "Bela" (Izabela Nied德iecka - Namys這wska) and "Irena" while we go back to Dani這wiwczowska Street to get "Stasiuk."
         This time we are assigned four Jews from the soup kitchen to help us. "Adam" "Lubicz" with an injured hand, but armed with a gun, is their escort so that they would not run away. In spite of this, two of them take flight at the very beginning.
         We reach the gate opening to Hipoteczna Street. We are forced to leave our Jews under the "care" of "Adam." They are heartbroken. The almost incessant bombing and heavy shelling have entirely thrown them off balance, and they rather let themselves be killed here than go further.
         Only the two of us jump through the street. We know the way and find "Stasiuk" relatively quickly. His legs are badly wounded. He put him on the stretcher. We pass the darkened rooms and go outside the building. We are surrounded by heaps of rubble.
         The only way through this debris leads through a steel joist over the damaged cellar. The joist is about 20 cm wide. We take "Stasiuk" down from the stretcher and put him on a "chair" made of our hands joined together. The boy holds us strongly by the necks; luckily, he is conscious. We walk on the joist step by step. Slowly and incredibly carefully, we carry him over the abyss of the damaged cellar. We feel almost like the tightrope walkers. Later one of use comes back to fetch the stretcher and we go further.

The way with wounded "Stasiuk" through the ruins of the bank (photograph by Maria-Tadeusz Gancarczyk 1946)

         In the gate on Hipoteczna Street we find "Adam" and two Jews left there. We continue our journey with greater strength in numbers.
         In some passageway, I come across my high school friend, Halina Dalicka, running in the opposite direction. On the fly, I learn that, as a woman liaison officer she is in constant contact with Srodmiescie. She saw two of my friends on Krucza Street: Wanda Manczarska and Stasia Witkowska. She is in such a hurry that she manages only to tell me they are safe and sound. I am very grateful to her for this scant, but very important news.
         We bring "Stasiuk" just like "Edek", to the paper mill in the ministry.
         I am dead tired, and decide to take a bit of rest. I drag my legs, tripping on the uneven road to our tiny hospital on Podwale Street 19. I dream about washing my hot face, sticky with sweat and grey from dust and soot, with cold water. My wounded legs smart unbearably. My sore hands are almost falling from their sockets.
         Our little hospital is located in the basement of a modern, relatively little damaged tenement house. From a little corridor one goes to the left to the kitchenette, straight ahead to a large room which is an infirmary. It is stuffy and darkish here, as a result of tightly covered windows, but at the same time clean, neat and peaceful. The wounded lie on the floor, on mattresses made with fresh linen. The inhabitant of this house takes care of the supplies for the hospital. "Kameleon" (Irena NN) is a incredibly thrifty and clever person. From among the girls, one can always meet "Lidka"(Lidia Buczek) here, "Wisia"(J?dwiga Konopacka-Klimaszewska), "Gruba Zosia," "Iskra," often "Irena" and "Bela" - they are nurses of a longer standing.

         The boys are thirsty for news. What is the general situation, who died this night, they know this from their friends who took part in the breakdown; they are worried about the fate of the wounded, however. I tell them about our passage to get "Kanski" and "Stasiuk." It is difficult for me. I cannot control the tremble of my voice, my shattered nerves and terrible tiredness. They see it. "Nietyksza" encourages me to hide here somehow and sleep, so I could avoid being assigned to another task.
         I lie down on the very edge of the mattress in their feet, trying to take as little space as possible, curled up, and fall asleep instantly.
         A loud voice of "Kameleon" wakes me up:
         "What is that supposed to be! A nurse coming here to sleep, it is only a hospital!"
         Half-conscious, I get the meaning of this sentence only after a while. The boys are outraged and rise to my defence, try to stop me. I do not feel embarrassed, but I am very sad. Trying to stop myself from crying, I leave.

         I learn that they are looking for me, since I am one of the few people who know the way to Bielanska Street, the site of tonight's action. Our battalion's commander, "Trzaska" and his aide-de-camp, "Leszek" (Zbigniew Popowicz) have not returned yet. They have been seen neither among the wounded nor the dead. In the hell of today's attack, the chaos of the violent, decimating fire, nobody has noticed what happened to them. They are gone. Perhaps they are wounded and - unnoticed by anyone - lie somewhere in the ruins, waiting for help? There is no time to lose.
         Together with "Hala" and "Irena", with a couple of stretchers and first aid kits, we set out on the known road towards Bielanska Street. Through the ruins of Zaluski library, we reach the rear of the former city hall. It is quiet and dull everywhere. There are no insurgent units nearby, at least as far as eye can reach, the outpost, which we came across this morning, is gone. We are a bit disoriented and worried by this. The Germans can jump upon us from every niche in the wall. We have no idea where they are. Quietly and carefully we search through the nearby ruins and neighbouring houses.
         At the exit of Dani這wiczowska and Biela雟ka Streets, one can see some bodies. From the distance, it is hard to recognise them as the bodies of the ones whom we are looking for. It seems to us, that none of them look in the way characteristic for "Trzaska." We are tempted, however, to check it and be 100% sure. The place where they lie is totally exposed, and is an ideal field of fire. What about coming out officially with the Red Cross flag? We have some doubts whether Germans would not shoot at us, in spite of this? Anyway, the lying ones give no signs of life. They are dead already. We come to the conclusion that we cannot take any risks in this situation. We turn back empty handed.
         Next day, we get the message that "Trzaska" with the "Zoska" unit broke through to Srodmiescie, while his aide-de-camp "Leszek" died during the attack nearby Krolewska Street.

         1 September 1944
         After the unsuccessful breakdown to Srodmiescie, and because of the hopeless situation in the Old Town, the command of the Home Army issues the order for the insurgent units to retreat from the Old Town and Zoliborz through the sewers. Also the wounded are to be evacuated, those who are slightly injured and can walk on their own or with help of a nurse, as well as the sanitarian units. The civilians and the badly injured remain here. The latter usually without any medical care. Unless our friends - nurses - decide of their free will, or often against the orders of the commanding officer, to stay with them. A part of the medical staff stays in the hospital on Dluga and Miodowa Street.
         It has been decided that the badly injured who cannot walk on their own and who would have to be carried on stretchers are to be left in the Old Town. It is not possible to transport them through the sewers.
         The preparations for the marching out last a day long. The nurses make new bandages, distribute the necessary injections to these who are staying as well as to those who are to be evacuated. Some of them have to be bandaged anew, so that they do not have the protruding splints and would fit in a sewer.
         As far as the Wigry unit is concerned, a selection of the wounded is conducted just before the retreat through the sewers. A doctor and a nurse made a round around the dressing station and qualified those who could be taken. It happened that some friends were qualified to stay, but the nurses took them to the sewers on their own responsibility.
         The majority of the wounded wants to leave the Old Town. They do not believe the Germans, even those who can hardly stand, drag themselves out of their beds. They delude themselves that they will manage to walk. They will manage... if the nurse supports them, drags them or even carries them on her back, if it is necessary. Edek "Kanski", weakened by a loss of blood after the recent wounds is taken to the sewer from the hospital on Dluga Street 7 by "Justyna" and "Krystyna" on their own responsibility, who save his life in this way. Edek is wounded during the breakdown. These are fresh wounds, but they are wounds from shrapnel, without serious injuries. "Kanski" loses a lot of blood and is totally exhausted. The way through the sewers is very hard and troublesome. Sometimes one has to carry the boy on one's own back, he faints several times during the way. However, they manage to lug Edek to Srodmiescie.
         "Nietyksza" has a fever (39蚓) and gangrened hand. In the last moment he decides for the crossing. I lead him to the manhole: He drags his legs with difficulty. He stops from time to time. He catches his breath. As a farewell, knowing I stay here, he gives me his Colt revolver, saying:
         "I don't need it anymore, take it, maybe it will be of use.."
         By turns, in groups, we lead the injured to the manhole on Krasinski Square. They join a long queue. Before their turn comes, they stand here for several hours.
         The nurses go with the wounded to the sewers . The survivors from the units are still on the barricades. They cover the retreat. They will leave as the last, if they make it in time.
         Late evening, the surroundings of the Ministry building on Dluga Street and Kilinskiego and Podwale Streets are empty. The quarters of the battalions also become deserted. During the uprising, when the headquarters of the command was located here, it was perhaps the busiest part of the Old Town. Now it is dull and dead, at least seemingly. There are living people here... hundreds of living, exhausted people, civilians and the wounded lie in the cellars of houses which have not fallen into ruins by some miracle yet. Left to their own fate, raging with despair and uncertainty what awaits them, they curse the uprising in their hearts.
         Huddled in the corner next to their bundles, suitcases, they wait in silence and fear until they are not roused by a wild yell: "Rauss!! Schnell!!"

         Post scriptum
         This is how my diary ends. Originally, I made notes by pencil on German factory prints, then by pen on checked pieces of paper. The passage of time has done its job. Now the beginning of the diary is, in principle, unintelligible.

         About 50 boys from "Wigry" went to Srodmiescie through sewers . They entered the sewers by several manholes. Some went through the manhole on Hipoteczna Street. There was a very low sewer. The manhole on Krasinski Square was high up, on the stretch to Miodowa Street there was a storm sewer there. Someone told me that he went to the sewer by the manhole on Dluga Street, next to Krasinski Square and on Hipoteczna Street.
         Some wounded from "Wigry" had to remain in the Old Town. These were "Stasiuk," "Klecha," "Robert," and "Ikar." "Ikar" was even not from "Wigry" but from "Zoska." Wounded nurse Kazia Swiderska, who was friends with our friend Ewa Faryaszewska, also stayed. Mrs. Faryaszewska stayed with Kazia Swiderska.
         In our first aid station on Kilinskiego 1 there were 5 people and some other in the hospital on Dluga Street in the basements. Among others, "Falinski," "Lot" and two other people whose pseudonyms I do not remember. The nurses were ordered to retreat to the sewers with the military units. I and Janka decided, however, to stay with our wounded. It was our decision, without any agreement with the command.
         I was coming back with the Colt revolver I got from "Nietyksza" from the manhole to our quarters. Along the way, I was told that our commanding officer, "Prokop" is looking for me, because he named me his aide-de-camp. It was actually "Trzaska" who was out commander, but he went with "Zoska" to Srodmiescie during the breakdown.
         I was angry, because as a person assigned to "Prokop" I could not stay. I remember how I went through the street with the gun in my hands, with the barrel pointing luckily downwards. I entered the Ministry of Justice area. "Prokop" with a group of other friends stood in front of our quarters, which had the entrance on the side of the ministry courtyard. I went towards them with the gun in my hand. Something came over me, I pulled the trigger and shot in front of them, luckily to the ground.
         "Prokop" was rather faint-hearted, he got very nervous, but nothing happened. He repeated that I was named his aide-de-camp and I have to be constantly available near him if there are any orders.
         Among the friends standing there, Tadeusz Wolny noticed that I have a gun in my hand and said:
         "What do you need this gun for? I'd be glad to take it."
         I eagerly handed the gun to Wolny.
         Later this day, our platoon was suddenly taken to support the units on the Old Town Market, as the news came that the Germans were already there. The rest of the units went to the sewers. A group of friends went there, and I remained with "Prokop."

         On 1 September, in the evening, our colleagues from the 2nd platoon, to which I was assigned, were gone. A part of the wounded went with the nurses to the sewers. On Dluga 7, there remained 6 girls who were considered stronger, among them two doctors: "Irena" and "Zosia." They were actually medicine students, but on their last year and this is why we called them doctors. On Kilinskiego Street 1 there were the wounded, and our friend Wisia Konopacka and Mrs. Irena Faryaszewska remained with them. "Wisia" remained there with the agreement of the command. Everyone else had to leave for Srodmiescie.
         Late evening the nurses who were with the doctor were gathered together and told that according to the orders of the command they all have to leave for the sewers. Also I and "Janka" were included in this group, even though we had other plans. An order in an order, however. The entire group was directly commanded by the doctor, Irena, who told us to prepare for the entrance to the sewers.
         The group headed to the manhole through Krasinski Square. At first, we were waiting on Hipoteczna Street, later on Dluga Street. I and "Janka" asked repeatedly to be allowed to return to the wounded. Even our friend "Teresa" wrote it down in her diary. It was to no avail, however. We were waiting for our turn near the manhole, in the passage between Dluga and Hipoteczna Street.
         We were constantly thinking how to return to our injured boys. We did not want to leave their to their own fate, even though the order of the command was against it. Without telling anyone, me and "Janka" simply left the queue and returned to Kilinskiego Street 1, to only 5 wounded. We found "Wisia" and Mrs. Irena there.
         The boys were very glad to see us, since we had been absent for a couple of hours. We consoled them saying that we will stay with them to the end. We were terribly tired, sleepy. There was the breakdown the night before. The night before it did not leave any time for sleep. In the cellar where the wounded, "Wisia" and Mrs. Irena were, there was no place. One could not even lie on the ground, because the wounded were lying on the stretchers.

         On the last day, the wounded remaining on Kilinskiego Street 1 and on Dluga Street were appropriately prepared. They were all dressed by us in civilian clothes. We even tried to find their own civilian clothes, which were gathered in our quarters on the first floor, in the room on the side of the courtyard, which survived.
         There, we came across Tadzio Suski's jacket. "Stasiuk" had railwayman's uniform. Everyone had IDs. They had work certificate cards, some of them had also Kennkartes. Some of them had a good place of employment, like Stasiuk, who was a railwayman, another one worked in some municipal institution. They were to pass for civilians.
         They knew that the units go away and they stay here. They were very brave and did not panic. What they thought to themselves, I do not know, but they did not let it show. One of them, Robert, even wanted to stay. His legs were injured, the wounds were fresh and he was afraid to get them infected in the sewers. "Stasiuk" also had wounded legs after the breakdown attempt. Actually, all of them had leg wounds, Tadzio Klecha had his knee shot through. Klecha was the youngest, he was 16 years old. He was very nervous and absolutely wanted to go to Srodmiescie. He was not taken, though, because he could not walk.

Barbara Gancarczyk-Piotrowska

prepared by Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translated by Katarzyna Wiktoria Klag

      Barbara Gancarczyk-Piotrowska
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"

Copyright © 2013 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserve.