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Boleslaw KONTRYM

Once, there was a man who had more lives than a cat - and more medals than a Soviet marshal.


LIFE 1: 16-year-old Bolesław Kontrym from Wolyn, a grandson and great-grandson of Polish insurgents, leaves school to fight in WWI as a cavalry scout in the Imperial Russian Army, with three medals to his name.


LIFE 2: Taken prisoner by the Germans he escapes but is immediately conscripted into the Red Army and gets enchanted with the communist ideology. Soon his tactical talents bring him the command of a rifle brigade and three Red Banner Medals.


The red banner is the one under which he fights in the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, covering Tukhachevsky’s retreat from Warsaw – while his grandfather and great-grandfather turn over in their graves. In February 1921, Kombrig Kontrym is sent to study at the General Staff Academy in Moscow.


LIFE 3: That’s where the Polish Intelligence recruits him. For twenty months he passes secret Red Army documents to Polish Embassy military attaché Wolikowski, until his men smuggle him out of Soviet Russia and to Poland in late 1922.


LIFE 4: He joins the Border Guards, and in the summer 1923, in retaliation for the Soviets snatching one of his officers and putting him in the OGPU prison in Mińsk, he kidnaps their officer and four privates, whom he exchanges for his man.


LIFE 5: In late 1924, he finds a job with the police, and soon moves to its political section, dealing with espionage and anti-state activities. He specializes in infiltrating communist organizations, and his successes in that department earn him three more medals.


LIFE 6: When WWII breaks out, he is interned in Lithuania, but soon escapes to France, to join the Independent Highland Brigade. With it, he fights at Narvik in May and June 1940, and is awarded two Crosses of Valor.


LIFE 7: After France is defeated, he escapes from another internment camp and reaches Britain. In mid-1941, Kontrym volunteers for a Polish special-operations paratrooper unit, and after an extensive, year-long training, is parachuted into occupied Poland.


In the Home Army, he is involved in diversion, espionage, intelligence, and counter-intelligence activities; he also builds and commands a hit squad that carries out death sentences on collaborators; in the end, he has 25 notches on the butt of his gun.


LIFE 8: When the Warsaw Uprising breaks out on 1 August 1944, Cpt. Kontrym co-launches it – at the "W" Hour, 5 p.m. sharp. From the 1st floor balcony, he opens fire at German servicemen in the street below with the Colt he brought from Britain.


During the fights in Warsaw, he gets five wounds, his third Cross of Valor, a Virtuti Militari medal and a promotion to the rank of Major. After the Uprising he ends up in a POW camp and escapes a week later. Caught, he escapes again, crosses the front line and reaches Polish troops in Papenburg.


LIFE 9: Kontrym becomes a company commander in Gen. Maczek’s 1st Armored Division. The war is over, so he puts together a football team that defeats all the others, including the national team of Belgium. He gets six more decorations for his war exploits, including British and French medals.


LIFE 10: He keeps thinking about returning to Poland, and his brother Konstanty, a Soviet general transferred to the Polish People’s Army, guarantees his safety. He returns in May 1947, but the net is closing. He is, after all, a deserter from the Red Army, a spy, and a pre-war catcher of communists.


There’s more to it: a special task group within the Ministry of Public Security is looking for dirt to splash communist dignitaries Gomułka and Spychalski with. Kontrym is picked up 15 months after his return: he may know something, and his interrogators are going to beat it out of him.


It will take over four years of horrendous torture in a security services safe house in Miedzeszyn before they are satisfied. Then comes a short trial, a quick verdict, and finally, on 2 January 1953, an execution by hanging in the infamous Mokotów Prison in Warsaw, followed by burial in an unmarked grave.


The last life was used up.


However, in 2013 the IPN Search and Identification team found Kontrym’s remains in the “Łączka” burial plot, part of the Powązki cemetery, where the communists used to hide bodies of their victims. The memory of the man was brought back and lives on.


That's Bolesław Kontrym's extra life.



Copyright: Institute of National Remembrance FB page

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