1st Polish Armoured Division
My name is Janusz Gołuchowski. I currently live in Warsaw. Before the Uprising, I was in the 6th company of the 2nd Battalion in Legionowo in "Obroża". The headquarters of this company was in Białołęka. I was sixteen then.
I remember the day the war broke out. I know it was a very nice day, the weather was very nice. I remember air battles over Warsaw. I remember the air battle well.
I was still a little boy then, because it took place in 1939. I was in public school. In fact, as a very young man, or actually still a child at the time, I had no great influence on how things changed. Only later, when we were approaching the period of the Uprising, until 1944 - I was older then, I was sixteen. Here I have to confess to one lie, because I was very tall and even though I was sixteen, no one thought I was sixteen – they thought I was older. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to take the oath I took, because it was only for those who were over eighteen and I was sixteen. I said I was eighteen, and here I admit it. But I took the oath.
Everyone in our family was in the underground, especially one of my uncles who took part in the Warsaw Uprising. Later he was in a POW camp. I knew he was in the conspiracy. I had friends who were also in the Home Army. I had contact with my colleagues and basically, I was recruited by Wiktor Rzecznik, pseudonym "Orzeł II". Later, he was my direct supervisor, because he was the commander of the team I was on. He got me into the underground in 11943.
One of my uncles worked at the Royal Castle, the other worked at the Office of the Council of Ministers (currently the Presidential Palace), and held a fairly high position. Because he lived there, because he was the administrative director of this complex of the present Presidential Palace, sometimes I also lived there with him, because he would invite me to his place and after a few days I would often visit him and live there. This uncle and the other one who worked at the Castle both went abroad in 1939, and they ended up abroad. One left with Prime Minister Składkowski, the other with President Mościcki. That's how they ended up abroad. The third uncle stayed in Warsaw and later he was the guardian of the family. The atmosphere was such that I was brought up in a patriotic spirit and I didn't even think for a moment when it was suggested to me that I should go into the underground. I didn't even think about it. There were also meetings at our house, of course older people met, because I was sixteen at the time. I know that they were all in the Home Army. The atmosphere was very patriotic, everyone talked about everything, you read newspapers published in the underground. I was already entering the underground life then.
I was in training all the time. In October 1943 I joined. There was less training in winter, but the spring period and then the summer, until the Uprising, we had various exercises and meetings. In Białołęka the forest was nearby and we had all the exercises in this forest. Even with and without weapons, there were even night maneuvers. A captain or a major, I don't remember exactly now, I think his pseudonym was "Arrow", he was in charge of all maneuvers. Not only our company participated, but more companies participated. It was night maneuvers, an attack on mock positions or something. It lasted all night; the night was terribly dark then and wet. When I came home, I was all wet after these exercises. It It was a foretaste of what could threaten us during the Uprising.
I grew up a lot, I thought very seriously. Why? In March 1943, on my sixteenth birthday, my father died. Since my father ran two barbershops, I took over. When my father died, I supported the family. I had to manage these shops to keep it all running, so we had something to live on. I was basically the head of the family at the time,
We were already grouped three days before the Uprising. We were in Białołęka, we lived in the underground with the Nowakowskis. There were two brothers, Mieczysław and Tadeusz. Mieczysław was arrested by the Germans, later shot in Pawiak, but Tadeusz later took part in the Uprising. He put us up in his house. Not all of us lived in Białołęka, some were from outside Białołęka. For example, I lived in Henryków. Our grouping was in Białołęka and the entire 6th company comes from Białołęka. I was in the sixth because a friend recruited me. Admittedly, I knew the company commander from Henryków, because he was my uncle's friend. They used to hang out together and we used to hang out. We were grouped three days before the Uprising. But somehow it happened that the day before the Uprising we were released. We didn't know why, but they said: "Go home, if we need anything, we'll let you know." Indeed, we went home, and I slept only one night at home. Already at five o'clock the next afternoon was the start of the Uprising. "W" hour. I had one friend who lived near me, so we both quickly went to Białołęka. Almost everyone was already there, still others were coming.
If you could call it a weapon, I had a Filipina. I got it as an accessory. I had army boots. Possibly they were German. I put on trousers, a jacket, a sweater, I had a rucksack, and a coat as well, which came in handy, but it didn't help either, because then it was raining heavily, and we were wet all night. This later made me sick, by the way. I prepared myself in some way, my grandmother put something in my backpack: There was no question, "Why are you going? What are you going for?" There were no such things. I mean, everyone knew where I was going, what I was going for, but I could only get a blessing, there were no such questions.
I was part of the 717 platoon. The commander of the team was Wiktor Rzecznik, pseudonym "Orzeł II", he died two years ago. The company commander was Lieutenant "Motor".
We had to march from Białołęka from the Nowakowski family, because there was a collection point near their villa. It was a wooded area, so it was quite safe at that time. Our whole company marched. We set off from there, it was already dusk. There was a rally of the battalion there. I didn't know about it, I was just following orders. We had to go through Choszczówka to Legionowo. In Choszczówka, you had to cross the railway tracks from right to left, looking from Warsaw towards Legionowo. We were reaching the crossing, which was in front of Choszczówka, where you could cross the tracks, when a shootout ensued. There were just some mounds of grain or something like that, and we ran over the grain, over the mounds, because we didn't know what it was about. Germans, not Germans? It turned out that they were not Germans, but by mistake it was another company. Spikes, advance guards ran into each other, but later they realized and started shooting at each other. The bullets whistled, but it was not clear what it was about. We hid in grain, in mounds. In the end, it turned out that they somehow figured out that something was wrong, they weren't Germans. It turned out that they started shooting each other by mistake. They had guns. We did not, as I said, I only had a "Filipino". No one used it because it could only be used on command. We weren't in action, it was just a surprise. Somehow it calmed down. At that time there was a liaison officer, also my friend with whom I played football, Tadeusz Kowalski, whose pseudonym was "Gustaw". He was the liaison, and he basically solved the case somehow.
Somehow we made it to the other side, but it had already begun to rain. It rained all night. I got wet, I was soaked because there was nowhere to hide. We walked along the tracks, there was a road, but then we had to go deeper into the forest. There was always a forest, from Choszczówka to Legionowo it was forested. The train was going through the forest all the time. We marched along the edge of the forest to Legionowo. We were supposed to attack the barracks in Legionowo to get weapons. This was later explained to us. We reached Legionowo, the buildings of Legionowo, I think it's called Cegielnia. The last buildings of Legionowo, the last houses in Legionowo stood in Cegielnia and were already in the woods, reaching the forest through which we were marching. We stopped in the forest and then German tanks attacked us. How the Germans found out that we were there, we do not know to this day. Either someone reported it, or I don't know. Because how did they know? They started firing tank guns at us. Of course, we retreated to the forest because they started to hit us with tanks. There must have been several tanks, the roar was incredible. We were withdrawing. Mr. Spinner was running beside me. I remember the name, a resident of Białołęka. He ran a shop there, had a son, except that the son was my age, but unlike me, he did not participate.
He was a soldier from my 6th company, but he was a grown man, he had a son my age. Somehow, I got to him and he was injured by shrapnel. Later, they put him on the horse-drawn carriages, took him further into the forest, and we grouped there later. We pulled ourselves together after the onslaught of tank fire. We retreated into the forest a little towards Bukowo. When everyone gathered themselves together (it was night, you couldn't see much), when it started to get gray in the morning, everyone got a little lost, they didn't know where they were.
Because I often went picking mushrooms in these forests, I was oriented, I had a good orientation. In the end, I took them from there to Buków, because that's where they wanted to go, that's where Mr. Rogoziński lived. The Rogoziński brothers were all in the Home Army. It was a large family. There was one more, Ryszard Rogoziński, whom I knew. They had a large farm there and there were several Rogoziński families. We all gathered at the Rogozińskis' and after the assembly we waited for further orders. As daylight dawned, everyone was soaked, everyone was cold. I was soaked too, even though I had a coat on, I was soaked to the skin. What to do? They didn't know much. After some time, there was an order, a decision to go home and we will be informed about further developments in our company. I don't know any more, there were some agreements between the companies. Everyone had to withdraw on their own.
I came home. It turned out that I was following the Germans (and there were still Germans everywhere). The Germans walked in front of me, I followed them, and I didn't know that they were ahead of me, and they probably didn't know that I was following them. Somehow, I managed to get home safely. They took care of me right away, but I later got pneumonia from all this. I was so soaked and cold that I was immediately put to bed, and I was ill for some time. When I was sick, not everyone got back together, but those who managed to get together somehow later crossed the Vistula River to Kampinos. Twenty-one of my colleagues are buried in the cemetery in Tarchomin. Who knows, if not for my illness, maybe I would be lying in this cemetery at the moment, because almost everyone died there.
I had a grenade. I brought it home and later buried it. I never dug it up just in case. Later the Germans caught me, I was taken away and it stayed there. When I came back to Poland, it was better not to touch it then. I buried the armband with the grenade.
I do not regret participating in the war. I was sorry that it ended so stupidly for me. Finally, when they went across the Vistula to Kampinos, I couldn't go with them because I was sick. They went without me. I hid later. I no longer lived in my house, but in my grandparents' house.
When the Uprising broke out, we moved to our grandparents. I went back to them. Hungarians liked the house. These were units that cooperated with the German army. I don't know if it was a battalion of Hungarians or who was there, or if it was a large unit, what kind of unit - anyway, they came to our house, occupied the first floor (because there were two rooms on the first floor) and a commander, a lieutenant, lived there. They brought all sorts of things - as supplies they had to have everything. They piled it on the front lawn, it was covered with tarpaulins and so on. That saved me later and those Hungarians saved me. After I had recovered a bit, I had to hide there. The Germans went around and looked for these people, especially men. I was tall at the time, so I didn't look my sixteen years, but much older, they even gave me twenty-two. The Germans would have caught me and I don't know what they would have done with me. Anyway, once the Germans came, the Hungarians hid me themselves. They were very friendly to us. To Poles, at least to us. They hid me under a tarpaulin among their goods.
There was food and other things, I don't know what exactly. I didn't ask them; they didn't tell me. In any case, they hid me among the bags and crates that were there, covered me with a tarpaulin. The Germans did not look there anymore, but they searched the house. If I had been home, they would have taken me. Because I was under the tarpaulin, and a soldier was standing there with a rifle. It saved me. It happened twice, somehow, I managed. Later, I stayed a bit in the yeast factory because it was right next to the yeast factory. The factory was converted into a plant producing fragrance synthetics. No one was there either, only a caretaker was watching. My grandfather worked in this yeast factory, he was a gardener, he did all the gardening stuff. There were greenhouses and a garden. There was a deep, huge cellar. We hid in this cellar many times. I met one of my friends there, who also didn't cross the Vistula to Kampinos, but found himself somewhere here. His name was Edward Sławiński, I don't remember his pseudonym. I also don't know if he was from the 6th company. Anyway, he was my friend from the time of the occupation. We met there and they often hung out in that basement. There was no one in the garden, it was there that we could sit quietly. What happened to him after that, I don't know, somewhere they must have caught him. In the end, the Germans displaced all of us. At first, they made roundups, caught men, and later, they were all displaced.
This was just before September 15; I think September 13. We were then driven to Bukowo. In Buków, as a man, I was separated from my family, my family was expelled, they went to Jabłonna. There were Henryków, Dąbrówka, Buków, Buchnik and Jabłonna. We had a family in Jabłonna and they got there the next day. We stayed one night in the camp in Bukowo. It was a camp, they sent everyone there. There were some barracks there - what was there before, I have no idea. There were always Germans there, although maybe they weren't there later. The fence, the wires, they put them all there. They separated me from my family. The family was driven to Jabłonna, they left me in the camp. We were there for a day or so, and our family was driven to Jabłonna on the same day. The next day, all the men (including me) were formed into a column. I don't know how many people there might have been, it was hard to count. There were several hundred men, maybe three hundred, maybe four hundred. It's hard for me to say now. We were driven out of the camp. Later, under the escort of German soldiers with rifles, we were chased through Buchnik, through Jabłonna, and somehow nobody from my family realized that I was among those people. People were standing in Yablonna, they had not yet been driven out of there. Everyone who lived closer to Warsaw was displaced, including us from Henryków.
You could only take hand luggage. I met Dr. Antoni Religioni. He was a friend of our family before the war, during the occupation and after the war. Italian surname. I only met him when I was walking, when they were rushing me: "Doctor, please say goodbye to my family." That's all I told him. "Where are they?" He said, "I don't know." They were somewhere, but they were not there at the time when we were herded through Jabłonna along the main road. He told them later. They drove us towards Nowy Dwór, towards Modlin. I know it must have been September 15 or 16, because then there was an airdrop of supplies to Warsaw from Allied planes.
Everything was visible. Planes flying overhead, the weather was nice that day (if it wasn't, there wouldn't have been a drop), it must have been September 15 or 16. Later we were herded to the Zakroczym fortress. There was a fortress in Zakroczym and we were packed there. Before, there must have been some prisoners there, some people were imprisoned or something, because we were driven there and that's it. They gave us groats, something to eat, and we slept in dugouts dug by our predecessors (there was only straw). In the morning we were driven away under arms to dig trenches at the current airport in Modlin. It was an airport area, probably a German airport. It was rather a field, but these are the areas where a passenger airport has now been built. We were kept there and when the Uprising in Warsaw ended, we were put on a train, in cattle cars and taken away. It is not known where. There was a whole train, several hundred people. They were mostly all men.
It was known that the Uprising broke out in Warsaw. It is known that the fighting was going on there, it was burning. It was visible across the Vistula; it was not far away. I was wondering how to get to Warsaw, but how to get there? The Germans were around and if they found me, they would shoot me on the spot. When they caught someone, they didn't think twice. We knew it. Smoke, fire, burning Warsaw. You could see everything, but you couldn't get to it - that is, get to Warsaw and join the insurgent battles.
There were Germans in the areas where we stayed, and later in Modlin and Nowy Dwór there were also Germans. When the Russians approached Warsaw on September 14, they partially occupied Praga, then withdrew. Further away (Legionowo, Nowy Dwór, Modlin) were still occupied by the Germans. We were put on a train there, it was in Modlin and from the Modlin station that we were going to who knows where.
Of course, the Germans always treated us as enemies, and we treated them as our oppressors. It's all under arms, with rifles, we had to dig ditches. I was still young, I didn't have enough strength yet, so in the end they even hit me with the stock more than once, because I couldn't keep up. The adults somehow got over it quicker. Everyone had to dig their own section. I just didn't have the strength to do it. Even my colleagues helped me, the older, stronger ones, otherwise I don't know what would have happened. I got the butt and that was basically the end of it.
I did not encountered shootings or shooting people directly. They were still under arms until finally they put us on a train, and we were taken away. I landed near Hannover. I know that we went through Piła to Hannover. In Hannover, we were just dropped off the trains, and then to the camps and so on. Later, thirty of us were selected, all from Warsaw. We were Banditen von Warschau, we were called bandits from Warsaw. Thirty of us were sent to a sugar factory. There was a period when there was a sugar campaign, and there was a big sugar industry. Beet growers, Germans, farmers, farmers grew beets. There were sugar factories there. We were taken to such a sugar factory. They divided us, everyone had their own plot of land and we stayed there from the beginning of October until December 4th. We worked the entire sugar campaign in this sugar factory.
The camps were temporary. They packed us into some camp, we don't know what it was called, we were given a bath, clothes for delousing, they ordered everyone to bathe, everyone's head, hairy places were treated with something. They were terribly afraid of typhus.
They drove us into the fortress of Zakroczym, it was basically ramparts and some defensive walls. There was a building inside, but the Germans occupied it, and we stayed in burrows, embankments and dug holes for almost two weeks, from the sixteenth of September to the second of October.
We found out from somewhere, I don't remember where. But we knew that on 2 October the Uprising collapsed. We found out. It coincided with our transportation. We also left there on October 2 or 3 – they put us on a train and took us to Germany. That's why we were called Banditen von Warschau, because it coincided with the end of the Uprising. The insurgents went to a prisoner-of-war camp, and we did not. It wasn't a POW camp, but that's how we were treated there. From there, on December 4, we were transported to a camp in the Harz Mountains. The sugar factory was called Othfresen, near Goslar. A big city, historic, ancient, and very pretty. There were beet plantations around it. Everything was at the foot of the Harz mountains. The Harz Mountains looked like our Świętokrzyskie Mountains, because they are very old mountains, low, not soaring peaks, but rather gentle.
We were taken to this camp. There were some Russians there. What kind of Russians they were, we don't really know. Anyway, they had no place to put us, so we (thirty of us) were rushed into a room. There was a separate building in this camp, where there was a kind of performance hall, there was even a stage or something. We were forced into the room and we were kept there. There were bunk beds, we all slept on these beds. Winter came, we were driven to work to cut down the forest, to pull carp out of the ground. Cars back then were powered by wood gas (holzgas they called it), it was fired with charcoal. It was baked in the form of a toast; they called it in Russian. There was no burning fire. Something like this was made of quite thick branches, it would glow in the smoke and charcoal would come out of it.
It was tedious because it was already December 4th. They sent us to the mountains, so we had to walk six kilometers every day. To get there, you had to go down 654 steps. I remember to this day because we were counting it. It was necessary to descend from the mountains to the level of the river that flowed there. The river was called Bode. Later, on the bank of the river, we walked a few more kilometers to the slope. The trees were cut down, then the stumps were pulled out with some machine. We had to transport it all. Some people set up logs, others uprooted stumps, a tree, and so on. Except that they didn't let us burn wood, only those green branches, which gave more smoke than fire and heat.
There were friends, but they were always a bit older than me. There were a few still young, but they were a bit older. Out of thirty, there were maybe six or seven of us young ones, a bit older than me. One was younger than me, but he was with his father. They were also from Warsaw. How they ended up in our group, I don't know. They were escaping from Warsaw and they were caught. He also had to work. He was fourteen at the time, so they sent him to the boiler room. Later, I managed to get there, also as one of the youngest. This boy and I (I don't remember his name, Miecio, I think) were assigned to help in the boiler room. We had to bring wood to the boiler room so that the stoker would have something to burn. The smoker, by the way, was Jewish. He succeeded and survived as a German Jew. His name was Jacob. A very nice and good man. He looked after us like his sons. Young people, and he was probably in his fifties, I don't know. Maybe more.
He miraculously survived. I know that he worked in this boiler room for quite a long time. It was in the mountains, there was a camp built where these Russians were. These Russians were also taken somewhere to work. We had no direct contact with them. There was also a group of Germans who were brought there, probably after some injuries they suffered during the war, some wounds they were healing or something like that. There they were brought to the mountains to convalesce because the air there was fantastic. We were freezing incredibly, the frost was over a dozen degrees, because if you put out a bucket of water, it would freeze by morning. It was so cold there that we slept two by two. Everyone had only one blanket, so two of us would sleep on one bunk to cover ourselves with two blankets, one of them cuddled up to the other to make it warmer.
I didn't even get a cold. Even though I was under dressed, I was freezing, none of us was sick. Strange thing. The air apparently saved us somehow, the mountain air. There was no resort there, but there were some resort towns nearby. It was close to the town of Blankenburg. A very nice city. Despite the harsh conditions, frost and snow, the air saved us so much that we did not get sick there. No one got sick, no one died there, and they only gave us a bowl of soup a day and a quarter of a loaf of bread. That was all. You had to live on it. Some ate everything at once. They ate everything: a quarter of a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup, and the others divided it into three. They ate the soup. Half a quarter of bread in the morning (two slices) and the rest was kept for dinner. You warmed it on a stick by the fire and ate it warm. All the warm food that was there was just bread on a stick.
It was already spring. By the time the snow melted in the spring, it was already March. The forests were beech, they grew in our area in the camp. We started collecting beechnuts. It tasted like our hazelnuts. They were greasy. We must have picked the them three times, but we were satisfied. A handful of the nuts has already given us something. We were always hungry. At the beginning of April, we heard planes flying above us. Thousands flew, and when the British bombed, the mountains shook. Forty kilometers from us, they bombed the city, it was a carpet raid, they dropped bombs, more were coming - the mountains were shaking. We had a feeling that something was about to happen. We didn't know, we didn't have any news. It was obvious that someone was bombing the Germans. Allies, but who, we didn't really know either. In this way, we waited until April 10, I think. It was already warm. We didn't work on Sunday, only six days a week. We basked in the sun a bit because the sun was shining, it was spring, we sat in the sun by the wall. One day thirty of us were gathered – some may have been Ukrainians, but they spoke Russian.
They also worked but it was a separate group. Our thirty was not mixed with them. An assembly of the thirty of us was ordered in front of the building where we lived. In the morning, instead of going to work, we were placed there, and we stood there. We stood and we stood. Around noon we were told to enter the building and nothing happened. We didn't know what it was about. But among the convalescent Germans there was one old soldier, a Silesian. He knew we were Poles. He spoke Polish. He came to us sometime in the evening (not to us, but to one of the colleagues he met) and said: "Be careful." A cauldron was made for the Germans. They were surrounded, the Harz Mountains - English, Americans, Russians everywhere. They started to push, and the area where we were was the Americans. There was a bit of panic among the Germans. They were afraid of us, as it turned out. They were afraid of thirty Banditen von Warschau, not those Russians, but us. A friend told us later. He said: "Listen, he told me that they wanted to take us to such a garage", at the so-called ninth kilometer - a kilometer from our camp there was a fork in the road: the road leading through the Harz Mountains and a side road for the future construction of the dam (which has now been built) . There was a big car, a huge wooden garage, they wanted to pour gasoline on it and burn us there.
He told us about it. We had already prepared ourselves accordingly. There weren't many Germans there, we'll attack the Germans, whoever dies may die, but the rest may be saved. So we decided. The next morning the same thing again: assembly, we were lined up and we were given a piece of bread to eat, something like that. They drove us back towards the "ninth kilometer" where this garage was located. We were prepared not to be burned there, God forbid. Two Germans were leading us with rifles and two Germans in the back. Four Germans, there were thirty of us, even though they had guns. We agreed that if something like this were to happen, we would attack them. It was seven against one, we'd manage somehow. They rush us to the "ninth kilometer", there was a side road. They walked us to the main asphalt road that led through the Harz mountains. We see that we pass the "ninth kilometer" and the garage where they allegedly wanted to burn us. We pass and nothing. We're just watching to see what happens next, whether by any chance they'll start shooting at us. If they start shooting, we'll throw ourselves at them too. Finally, we reached the point where the road went down to the valley, where the river Bode flowed below, there was a bridge, the road went up and towards Blankenburg, because it was ten, eleven kilometers from Wendefurt, where we were. At some point, those Germans who were walking ahead of us fell back behind us. I say, "Be careful, because they may start shooting at us now because they have retreated." They don't, just: Raus! rao! weiter! weiter! - keep going. They tell us to go, so we start going down. The road led quite far to the river, but it was a long way, there was quite a drop. We go, and at some point those Germans: Raus! rao! - keep going straight. They turned around and went back, and they told us to go forward. I say: "We will not follow them, they told us to go forward, so we go forward."
We walked, and we walked - we came down to the river, we crossed the bridge, we went to the other side of the river again uphill, but the mountain was already a bit smaller. Up, we're going down again. Some planes flew in and started shooting at us. We scattered, one to the right, the other to the left. Somehow, nothing happened to anyone. They came back later, they shot some more, but they saw that no one was visible anymore. Why did they start shooting? As I said, they made a cauldron for the Germans and German troops were stationed in these forests. The Allies apparently knew about it and hunted them there. They saw a column coming along the road, let them shoot, because they are Germans. They did not see in advance that we were going, not the Germans. Thank God, nothing happened to anyone. We go further. We came to a village. It was starting to get dark. I say, "Well, where are we going now?" A bit dangerous, because they chased us away, and here it's full of Germans, they're still shooting from above. We don't know how they will treat us. They see thirty men; they might blow us up too. They just seemed a little scared. We somehow went down to the village. There was even an SS here, they rode somewhere in the woods, you could see that there was some movement. We reached the village calmly and it was getting dark. then we go. "Where?". To the Bürgermeister, to the mayor or the village leader, saying that we were in the Wenderfurt camp, and the Germans expelled us. "Where are we supposed to go now? You must take us here." He did not want to. "We're not going from here." Finally, he brought us into the barn and put us up for the night. We were hungry, but no one gave us food. We got up in the morning, the delegation went to him again, there were colleagues who spoke German, they were older. One lieutenant was with us, he was in the Foreign Legion, he knew French, he knew German, he became a leader. He mainly went to negotiate with this German that we were hungry, so that he would give us food. He says there is no foodt and we have to get out of here. "No, we're not leaving here until you feed us." Rad, not rad, went to the bakery, brought a few loaves of bread, distributed among the thirty of us. We got a piece of bread each and, as agreed, we went on. We passed the village, the village ended, and we could already hear explosions, sounds of war, of some sort of struggle. It was indeed so; the Germans were surrounded. The Allies (they were Americans) were already attacking the German troops and shooting at them. The cauldron was getting closer and closer, and it was getting louder and louder.
We had not gotten out yet because the Americans had not arrived yet. There were still Germans and we were a bit afraid, because we don't know what will hit these Germans in the head. We passed this village, we came to another village, we passed it too, and we came to a stop, it was called Timmenrode. It was a train stop. The railway tracks and the road ran more or less parallel, but we were on this road and we were wondering what to do. We entered the ditch, a wide ditch. The grass was already green because it was early spring, and it was already April 12. We sat on the grass to the side, and the Germans, some of them, pressed from the other side, were going this way, and the others, being pressed from the other side, were going that way, and some people were running away from there, and others were running away from here, and all in all they were closing in. We were in the middle. We hear conversations. I caught from their conversations as they passed by, talking among themselves that Roosevelt was dead. I think: "What kind of propaganda are they doing." Indeed, Roosevelt died then, but we did not really know whether he died or not. We didn't know if it was true or not. We stayed until the evening, but in the evening, we went to the station building, which was about two hundred meters away by the railway tracks. Of course, it was empty, because no one was driving then, especially since the hostilities were approaching. We settled there behind the building, behind the railway track. There was a large escarpment behind the embankment. In the evening, when it was already dark, the wife of the station manager (as it turned out later) came to visit us. The station manager wasn't there because he was probably in the army. The trains did not go there at all and she invited us to the waiting room in the station building. She let us into the station building for the night. "Come on, it's cold." We thanked her and took advantage of it. We went there and spent the night.
We left in the morning, but the sounds of fighting were heard more and more and there was a general racket among the Germans, because they were already busy with themselves, they did not even pay much attention to us anymore. We decided to go (my friend and I at least) to the village. The sounds of fighting are getting louder. We will go to the village and in the village, we actually came across Poles who worked at some farm. A few Poles worked - there was one family, husband and wife and two children. They came to us in the evening: "Come in the evening, we will hide you here, we will hide you." First of all, they fed us, they brought us half a bucket of soup, so we ate the soup, of course, because we had nothing to eat at all, because nobody gave us anything. There wasn't even a quarter of a loaf of bread. They fed us there because they had something to eat at the farm. There were other workers who worked on the farm. For the night they packed us into the barn, gave us blankets and we slept in this barn. More shots are heard. Around noon it turned out that there was such a racket that my friend and I left the farm. We went to see what was going on. As a result, we reached a kind of park, a manor house maybe - I don't know what to call it. The Germans were sitting, but they were so resigned, they no longer thought about the war, about the fight, but it was as if they were waiting. At one point you hear: Amerikanen sind schon da! It means, "The Americans are already here." A terrible uproar began between these Germans. They didn't know what to do with themselves. As a result, I say: “Stasiu, listen. Come on, because they say the Americans are here. Then go this way." The park where we were was near the main road that went through the village. So, we ran to this road, we looked: indeed, the tanks were moving and the Americans came.
We got an American, he was of Chinese descent or something, slant-eyed. We threw ourselves into each other's arms. We had the "P" sewn on. They saw. The Germans broke the weapons, destroyed the rifles, and in the end the Americans probably took everyone prisoner. We did not witness this. Once the Americans arrived, everything was quick with them, the organization was amazing. The tanks entered, in a moment we hear that they have already occupied the building where the Bürgermeister lived, where the offices of the town or village office were located, because it was a large village. They came in, immediately through loudspeakers they broadcast orders in German that this and this and that, that this and that, that the Americans are the new administration.
During my stay in the Home Army, we had various actions in which I took part. Of course, I didn't play first fiddle, but when I did, I was always on guard. That's when I was getting the Parabellum, and I was already familiar with guns because I was learning how to use them and so on.
We returned to the place where we were in the Harz Mountains, from where we had been expelled. Of course, the Germans were gone, and we stayed there for a few days. The Americans shot us a goat, a deer. They gave us their American sixteen-shot rifles. We said that we were from Warsaw, that we were from the Uprising. We stayed there for a short time, a few days, the weather was beautiful, we sunbathed. Later, they gathered everyone into one large camp, there was a large German barracks in Blankenburg. There were probably four thousand Poles gathered from everywhere. I was in this camp for a few days. The Americans were leaving there, and the Russians were supposed to take over those areas. "Who stays because the Russians come here, and who wants to go, cars are provided." I think there were only six people left, and the rest of the train of cars was sent elsewhere and I was on my way.
There were a few thousand people there, that's six people who wanted to go home. "We'll wait for the Russians." The rest was taken by the Americans. They provided cars and drove them to various camps.
I had no contact with my family during this time. Only when I was already in this camp. We reported to the military camp as former soldiers of the Home Army. We were admitted to this military camp. First it was in Watenstedt, then we were transferred to Herte. The command of this camp was Polish. There were different people there. They were from the Uprising, we were there too, and the prisoners from 1939. Somehow the company got together, and a military camp was created. From there, I wrote to the Red Cross that I had two uncles, I was looking for, and so on. One was found. The one who lived in Scotland. The one in Scotland knew that his other brother (and my other uncle) was in the 1st Armored Division, which was already in Germany, which I didn't know. I didn't know that there is an armored division. When I was in the camp, the camp commandant came to me and said: "Listen, you are to report." There was a liaison officer, there was a platoon from the 1st Armored Division. He was working with this platoon about two or three kilometers from us. I don't know what the name of this place was, I don't remember. He says, "They call you there to him." I say, "What do they want from me?" I was surprised because I didn't know what it was about. I went. We were already dressed in English uniforms. I went, I was looking for some captain, so I reported to him. His name was Captain Turnel. He says, "I'm the liaison officer, but congratulations to you, buddy." What is he congratulating me on? I do not know what's going on. "But what are you congratulating me on, sir? I still don't know what it is about." - " I have this letter, you found your uncle who is in the armored division and wants to take you to him." Thus, in a few days I was in the 1st Polish Armored Division. Except that I had to go, because it was near Braunschweig, and the division was stationed near Osnabrück. It was half a day's train ride.
I returned to Poland in 1947 with the last transport after demobilization. I was in the division from early 1946 to mid-1947, a year and a half. I finished two classes of junior high school in the division, because General Maczek ordered: "All young people are to study." In this way, I lived to see demobilization. As demobilization approached (it was already August 1947), it was necessary to decide whether to stay there or to go to Poland. The headmaster was the director of a junior high school from Łowicz, later a professor from Warsaw who taught me history. We had to decide whether we wanted to go to Poland or stay in England. After all, I had an offer. There were a few boys from the Home Army in this armored division school, we had a tutor who arranged for us that we could (if we agreed) go to the United States - we got a scholarship. You could use it until you got your PhD. I wrote to my mother - I already had contact with my family, because when my uncle was found, contact was also made with the family. I wrote to my mother that I had such a proposal. My mum wrote to me: "And will we, son, see each other again in our lives?". The heart squeezed. I had a sister who was five years younger than me. My mother stayed, my father died in March before the Uprising, on my sixteenth birthday. I say, "Well, I'll go to the United States, and my mother will stay here with my sister, and what?" I said, "I'm not going." And I returned to Poland. My uncle died in London in 1962.
I had some disappointments on my return. One, that I couldn't get a job, that's one thing. I arrived in the uniform of the armored division, a black beret and so on. But they didn't know anything about me, that I was in the Home Army. I did not report it. When I arrived in Szczecin (because we were brought to Szczecin by train), I did not say that I was in the Home Army, and the authorities knew nothing. If they had found out, they would have taken me for a bear hunt, and I don't know how it would end. Would I survive it or not? They usually didn't come back. Somehow, I survived, but later I was accused of espionage and for half a year I had to report to the UB every Saturday. My friend was imprisoned for half a year on Rakowiecka Street. The other friend sent him a package and wrapped something in a German newspaper. They accused him of being a spy. A German newspaper is a spy right away, and he was imprisoned for six months. I made it somehow. I got a job in construction because it was the fastest place to get hooked. I was released on Saturday and on Saturday I had to report to the UB and I stayed at the UB all day. They mangled me all Saturday. A major would come from Koszykowa. Then they started accusing me. I saw that they didn't know many things about me, and what they knew was not true. I took advantage of that and said, "Mr. Major, Citizen Major, this is all untrue." "How is it, isn't it?" I say: "If it were true, here in this indictment that I lived in Buków. I have never lived in Bukowo. Whoever wrote this must not have known me. Since he writes that I lived in Bukowo, and I lived in Henryków. It was three kilometers away, but I didn't live there." Such a number of things they attributed to me that I claim that there is no free trade in Poland. My mother once ran a private shop with my sister. I say, "How can I say there is no trade when my mother has a shop? You can see it…”. That's how I got out of it. Later, when he saw that he couldn't win against me, they started giving me proposals. "We'll give you this, we'll give you that." They started promising me the opportunity to study and so on, of course I didn't say anything. "I give you two weeks. Report to me here with a decision." After two weeks I come. "So what? So what?" I say, "Unfortunately, I can't do those things." It was about me reporting and all that. I say, "It's not my way, I can't agree to that. I do not accept such offers.
Whatever you say about the Uprising, there are different opinions on this subject, but if it came up again, I and everyone else would probably make the same decision. In short, without any special justifications, you would have to talk for a long time. There was a need of the moment and under this need of the moment a person made such decisions and if it had to be done again, I would do the same.
The original interview in Polish was led by Małgorzata Rafalska-Dubek,
Warsaw, July 23, 2012
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Polish: Bronze Cross of Merit, with swords