Zygmunt Lawrynowicz was born on August 24, 1920 in Skarżysko-Kamienna, the fourth son of Witold Lawrynowicz and Helena Grotthus. At this time, his father was the head of the General Directorate of Traffic of the Polish State Railways (PKP) in Brześć nad Bugiem - Brześć, Belarus today. He first saw daylight in a wagon-train bedroom, which was then their home on wheels in Skarżysko-Kamienna. He spent his childhood, education and youth in the house located at 34 Graniczna street in Brześć. The property was quite large; half of it was an orchard. His mother, Helena, made dozens of jars of preserves, jams and juices. The road leading to the house was adorned with lilacs. In May when they bloom, the air was saturated with perfume. The branches created a kind of tunnel leading to the main entrance of the house.
Zygmunt began attending primary school, where the principal was Mr. Porębski. The school was built of wood, it was new, bright and clean. After he finished primary school, he took the test for Middle School, with negative results (possibly math and geography). For this reason, the father gave him the nickname "kłapouch" meaning donkey with big ears, so fishing trips and other entertainment were over. He began to study the most difficult materials in order to enter the Technical School. The school was relatively expensive, but with a high technical level. In 1939, he graduated with a satisfactory grade and got a job at the Headquarters Building of the Army in Brześć Fortress.
Zygmunt tried to get to Brześć. Finally, Zygmunt reached the outskirts of Brześć. They were the last days of September 1939. A bleak picture appeared before his eyes. This was the result of bombing and fighting of General Kleeberg in battle with the German army. He reached his house and found his parents, his sister Czesia, her son Stas, and Wanda (Władzio’s wife) were hiding in the basement. Tears of joy flowed.
Then began the Soviet occupation. The Soviets hired him as coach to assist an engineer who was sent from Moscow. He lived with him; sleeping in a room and eating with the wife of a Belarussian. During the long winter nights he argued with the engineer about the war, saying that "if they had not stuck a knife in our back, the fate of the war would have developed differently."
He returned to Bresc and waited more than a month for the opportunity to go to Romania or Hungary, since the borders were very well maintained by the Soviets. One day, the city was filled with uniformed NKVD. Zygmunt could not sleep that night, nor the next. The NKVD was finding people according to addresses they had been given. They transported them with trucks to the train station and loaded them into goods wagons. Zygmunt managed to avoid being caught.
After the outbreak of war in Poland the Armed Forces were mobilized. Władek graduated as a second lieutenant officer. He ran home to say goodbye to his parents and Wanda, his new wife. Just then, the bombing of the city began. They all hid in the basement, which was well constructed and served as a refuge. Nobody thought it would be the last time they would see Władek. He served in the Army of General Kleberg. On September 17th, as the Russians invaded Poland, Władek was taken prisoner in Rawa Ruska. His parents received the news the day that the Soviets came to town. A fellow soldier had told Władek to remove the officer insignia from his shoulders in order to avoid going to prison, but Władek refused because his honor would not allow it .
In early April, 1940, their parents received a letter from Władek who spoke of being in the Starobelsk camp.. This was the last news they received from him. Władek is registered in the Katyn List as one of the 22 thousand officers and Polish intellectuals murdered by the NKVD - shot in the back of the head and then thrown into a mass grave.
Zygmunt hid from the Russians in a variety of places. His parents avoided deportation and then travel to the border 45 km from Brest. Parents had to go to Wysokie Litewskie to the house of Zygmunt Malak and their daughter Czesia. Zygmunt soon joined them. They lived a few kilometers from the town, on the farm of a peasant.
On July 22, 1941 to the family awoke to the rumblings of aircraft engines and traffic on the route in the direction Brześć. The NKVD fled in their underwear in a huge panic, it was the end of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. The war began again; rather, the second chapter. Zygmunt returns to their home in Brześć which had been occupied by the families of the Soviet military.
Zygmunt’s friend Roman pushed him to join the Home Army (AK), which had just begun to form. He told Zygmunt "We must do something." There were press releases and a form of recruitment to the ranks of the Home Army. Zygmunt consulted with Malak, who was like a brother to him. Malak encouraged him as well, and so began his service in the AK resistance.
One of the first tasks in his new service was to collect data on dislocation of the German units. He had to write down in a notebook the symbol of each unit and prepare a report. After walking all day through the streets, he sat in the evenings at the table, restoring their corresponding color drawings. Then, through Roman Zuba, he received an order to get a job on the railroad as a conductor. It was not difficult to achieve, since former subordinates of his father worked at Brześć station. There, apparently working for the Third Reich, Zygmunt submitted reports to the Home Army, until his arrest.
On March 4, 1944 the nightmare began. He was arrested and taken to prison in Brześć.
Then, as the Soviet front approached, the Gestapo began to "liquidate" the overloaded prison. When Brześć prison was almost empty, one day a guard entered his cell, "Du, komm her!" (Take your things and go!) he said.
Early one morning, when Brześć prison was almost empty, all the prisoners were taken out, and Zygmunt with them. The status of all was fatal. an order to undress and then formed rows for a medical examination was heard. Zygmunt felt his destiny, as well as that of the others, was in danger. After the medical check they received some rags with the stamp "SU Kriegsgefangenen" (Russian POWs). Again, they formed ranks and ran to the station, where the cattle cars were waiting. Dozens of prisoners were put in each. It was summer of 1944, the beginning of July and the heat was incredible.
Transport went in the direction of Siedlce - Warsaw, and after a short stop the train left for the Third Reich. At some stops bodyguards opened the doors to remove the corpses. People were dying of thirst. Zygmunt was cornered by a hole, breathing fresh air, like a fish just removed from the water. His nose dripping blood. The day came when the train stopped and they were brought several kilometers to a prison camp in Bolche,, near Metz. It was a POW camp named Straflager F XII (Karolin - Kaserne). He remained there nearly three months, until the start of the invasion in Normandy (06/06/1944), when the Allies began their invasion of Germany.
At a different camp, there was a group of Poles who were sent to work on farms, Zygmunt asked: Gentlemen, where are they? One of them warily glanced at his ragged appearance, answering: Are you Polish? - Of course, said Zygmunt. Then the other: Okay, you take off those rags and wear civilian clothes. And so, Zygmunt mixed with the group. After the airstrike, the column of Russian prisoners continued their march and behind them Zygmunt and the Polish group. One of the Poles informed him that this lead to Forbach bei Kleinrosseln to work in a coal mine and dig trenches.
On 1 September 1944, he escaped from the labor camp but remained in its territory. It was a stoker who helped him hide, hiding him in a boiler that was temporarily unused. Thus, Zygmunt spent a few days in hiding until the evacuation of the camp of Poles to the interior of Germany. The stokert shared his modest meal on the night shift. He comforted Zygmunt, saying troops will soon appear from the Armored Division of General Patton. In fact, the roar of engines and the noise characteristic of armored tanks could be heard. It was the middle of November and the snow had begun to fall, and Christmas was approaching. Americans stopped the offensive but had not stopped the artillery fire against the German lines and the territory of the mine.
Civilians in the town and the area of the mine were evacuated. His guardian, Lorrainer, came to say goodbye, because he was also being evacuated. The German front was reinforced with SS divisions. The administration and the mine itself were below in a valley. The Allies, every day, from morning to night, continued artillery fire aimed at the area of the mine.
Zygmunt remembers well that Christmas Eve. He sat on the ramp of a mine shaft, where he had moved, because the building of the pumps and the boiler was destroyed by American artillery. Heavy snow fell, and the cold night had calmed down artillery on both sides.
A few days later, two Russians appeared in the hideout, who had escaped from a prison camp in Grossrosseln. One was called Fiedka and the other Wołodka. They were taken prisoners in Leningrad. They went to seek food in houses abandoned by the Germans, and shared it with Zygmunt. They stayed in the hideout until 25 January 1945, the hunger nearly consuming them. In this difficult situation, Zygmunt was forced to make a decision. He was in the German front line and decided to cross to the American side because there was no other option.
The night was freezing, the artillery fire did not stop and he had to run 3 to 4 km to pass the the railway line and to get into a small pine forest. He started the race, continually running, falling, getting up, and running again, as the bullets never stopped. Zygmunt was drenched with sweat and felt he had a fever. How much energy can a man have? At that time Zygmunt weighed just over 40 kilos, soaked. With a last effort, he climbed the embankment and ran, accompanied by the sound of bullets hitting the rails. It all took a couple of hours. Suddenly he heard the command: Halt! His legs weakened, his hairs stood on end. In a white suit, like snow, there appeared an American and he realized that he was free!
He was taken to the headquarters of the command in a Jeep. They had no signs of rank. Their questions were simple: who is he? and where does he come from? Zygmunt saw on the face of the examiner confusion, the American finally showed him a topographical map and asked him if he understood his role. The officer kept asking for the location of the German battery. Zygmunt made out the map and marked it with a pencil. Thank you, boy - the official said. He picked up the phone and gave the order to fire in the direction indicated by Zygmunt. After heavy shelling, the German battery was silent.
Zygmunt was taken to a hospital with a 40 dergree fever and an acute dry cough. There he came under the care of doctors until his partial recovery. They sent him to Luneville, Nancy then to Paris, where he was in the Collective Camp No. 1 in the Bessieres barracks. In these barracks Zygmunt finally recovered and returned to a normal weight. On February 1st 1945, a positive medical examination qualified him for military service. On February 13th, with a group of volunteers, he got to the port of Le Havre, boarded the ship "Pułaski" and sailed to England.
It was a beautiful evening; the port had been destroyed by bombs. A large ship prepared to leave the port, crammed with about 1,000 US soldiers. Suddenly he heard an explosion and the ship began to lean to one side and began to sink. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
Zygmunt’s turn came to board the "Pułaski". They sailedaAlmost 40 hours to get to Southampton, accompanied by alarms and bomb explosions, launched by the escorting convoy. Finally, on February 16, "Pulaski" happily entered the port of Southampton.
The next day they moved to Balado Bridge, Scotland. On March 17, 1945 the AC Squadron was mandated for the construction of runways at airports. So he moved from Scotland to Gatwick in Surrey, to join the squad.
On November 5th,1945, Zygmunt is sent with the squadron to Germany. As he says, "this time I was sent as an occupier." On November 8 he reaches Wahn bei Koeln and on December 29, he moved to Quackenbrueck near Osnabrueck. He received a telegram from his brother Romek from Kiel Canal. This was the first sign of life from his family after World War II. On January 26, 1946 he returns to England.
There, in England, there was the possibility of continuing his studies. He is admitted to the the Faculty of Architecture, and is awarded a scholarship of 20 GBP (pounds sterling) per month. He rent in London, at Victoria Street, a small room in a basement. He studied wearing a military coat and gloves, but the worst problem was drawing. You can not draw with gloves on. The temperature in the room was below 0 °. Water froze in the kettle. After putting 6p (pence), the flame of the gas stove rise for a short time and can not keep the heat in the room. Soon it turns off. For 20 pounds he sent food packages to Poland. He feeds on sandwiches with tea, and goes to lunch at the Red Cross - hot soup or burger with fries was the "heavenly food".
Zygmunt was eager to return to Poland but his mother, Helena, was terrified with this decision. Romek advised to migrate to sunny Argentina. After a selection from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada etc., he decides to travel to Argentina. He is 27 years old.
On April 4, 1948, he starts this new stage of his life. He goes to the Hotel of Immigrants in Buenos Aires, where he stays for two weeks. Luck accompanies him again. Through a megaphone he hears a request for a technician or architect to work in the Ministry of Public Works. After a short interview, he gets the job.
He mety Wiktor Wojciechowski on the ship from England, traveling together to Argentina. He was accompanied by his wife and young son. Looking at the family photos, Zygmunt wondered who is this beautiful girl. "My younger sister, Marysia" - said Janka Wojciechowska. A year later, Marysia, his future wife, came to Argentina. Immediately after they met, Zygmunt was blindly in love with her. On 22 January 1949 they were married at the altar of the church of Buenos Aires.
Marysia faithfully accompanied Zygmunt until the tragic day of her death on March 14, 1984. She was an orphan, born in Krzątka party Kolbuszowo in Subcarpathian region. It was on February 10, 1940 when the Russians deported her entire family; parents and three sisters, to the "inhumane Russian land", to the area of iron mines. After the ‘amnesty’, in July 1941, with her three sisters she left the Urals to join the ranks of Anders Army. Unfortunately, as happened to many Poles, her mother died in Turkmenistan, and her father die in Krasnowodsk. In Palestine, Marysia attended a middle school, called the School of Young Volunteers, in Nazareth. After graduation, she traveled to England to work in the registry office.
Their first daughter, Krysia (Teresa Krystyna) was born in 1949. In 1951, their second daughter, Basia (Barbara Małgorzata) was born. The third daughter, Alicia (Alicja Beata Helena) was born in 1957.
Zygmunt and Mary (nee Wrobel)
Zygmunt Mary and their daughters, late 1960s
Zygmunt at age 95
Copyright: Lawrynowicz family