class 7
Bełżyce, 9.06.1946

My wartime experiences – bombardment

One day of the war has particularly stuck in my memory. A hot summer day had just dawned. It was a Sunday, so I went to church. I was surprised to see numerous cars and Polish soldiers by the trees. In the corn there were guns concealed with branches. People stopped – some looking at the troops, others asking the soldiers for news from the front.

Suddenly we hear the roar of planes from above, followed by distant explosions, coming nearer and nearer – the German planes are approaching. People scatter like frightened sheep when a wolf breaks into their midst to snatch one of them. There is shouting and crying. A whole fleet of planes is approaching. A few of them come in low, firing from machine guns. The Polish commandant gives a sharp order, “Hide under the trees!” On his signal people crowd under the branches.

There is a huge explosion and smoke belches into the sky. It’s at the station! The Germans dropped a bomb that set fire to an oil tanker train. People flock to the church, as mass is about to begin.

The planes were flying and bombing almost the whole day. The evening was coming on; the glow of the setting sun sent reflections across the river, and the tiny brook murmured drowsily, flowing into the river in a narrow stream. The sun “shook its gleaming lashes” for the last time in the gathering grey dusk. The water reflected the lights from the houses on the bank like a mirror. The village was filled with the silence of a summer’s night, but also with fear, as nobody knew if they would survive till the next morning. Only a tawny owl could be heard from time to time, or the dogs gave a howl – long and deep… Gradually all the lights went out. The world sunk into darkness.

The low buzz of insects can be heard, like metal strings. No! These aren’t insects, a new squadron of planes is approaching! It’s getting louder and louder, louder and louder, and then everything shakes violently, the doors open and the windowpanes tremble. The great glow illuminates the sky. The planes pass over our heads. Luckily we are safe and sound. I remember it very well – as if it were yesterday.

Dawn was breaking. An ultramarine forest, bathed in dew, could be seen from afar. It seemed that it too was mourning human misery. Above it billowed dark clouds of smoke. We thanked God that we were alright, but how many people had been killed or left without a roof over their heads?