Class 6

My wartime experiences

It was near the end of July 1941. It happened on the Pobroszyn estate a few kilometers from Opatów. We had been hearing the thunder of guns getting closer and closer for a few days. Until one night the impacts were so powerful that the whole house trembled. The German troops started to march, and the intelligence planes started to circle as a result.

We moved into the basement in the first days of August because the shots were tearing through nearby. We ran out from the basement to the park in secret to take in some fresh air and stretch our limbs.

One day I saw planes fighting in the sky. We watched them while they were far away, and when they came close we hid back in the basement. And then we faced a horrible moment. Only the whisper of prayers could be heard in the basement. With horror, we caught the sounds coming in from outside: the growing whirr of planes, the noise of machinegun fire and the clatter of shells falling on the roof of the house. It all upset us deeply.

All of a sudden a great boom was heard, and then there was silence. The planes moved away. We breathed: “Thank God!” We went out into the world once more. How pleasant, how quiet!

But the silence didn’t last long. One Russian plane fell into the beetroot field and smashed into tiny pieces. The airmen were killed. It was a horrible sight. An arm here, a leg there, further on lay a torso with its skull crushed, over there was some skin with hair. I ran away from there as fast as I could, I couldn’t look at it.

Suddenly a monotonous boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom hung over the whole house. We all looked at each other with terror, we had never heard anything like it. The Germans quartered there explained that it was that frightful katyusha. I also saw tanks burning in the fields and the villages and surrounding estates on fire. The crops in the fields were wasting away, people couldn’t work because projectiles were tearing through nearby and planes were firing from machine guns.

That lasted a few weeks. We waited for some kind of end. It must be said that it is possible to get used to anything. Even we children got used to the “banging” of the tanks and guns and the whistling of the projectiles. We learned to recognize what was firing, a tank or a cannon, whether it was an anti-aircraft gun or a manual rifle, whether it would “pass” or explode close by. One time the katyusha sounded. Dad cries: “Children, to the basement!” but the youngest, two-year-old Jerzuś, says calmingly: “Daddy, it’s only kachusha.”

And then the worst day came. We were playing in front of the house. It was a beautiful summer evening. Suddenly a group of planes came speeding over from the direction of Opatów. They were German bombers and Russian fighter planes. A battle started in the sky above our house. We hid quickly in the basement. Suddenly, a hellish boom roared out and the house seemed to collapse. The force of the air threw my dad deep into the basement. At that moment we all prayed out loud, appealing to God. The German planes were dropping bombs which fell just behind the park. All the windowpanes in the house fell out. Some of the windows were torn out with their frames. One whole wall was destroyed by shrapnel, trees in the beautiful birch avenue were splintered. Enough was enough. We moved to Opoczno the next day.

The bombing raids I experienced in Lublin and Pobroszyn are terrible memories that I will remember for the rest of my days.