Class VII

My wartime experiences

August came. The streets of Warsaw filled up with people. It was very pleasant. The flowers smelled beautifully, and only the sweltering heat troubled the passersby.

I planned to go to town, but all of a sudden a mass roundup commenced in the district where I lived. It did not bother me too much, for this was a frequent occurrence. And so I passed by the guards and observed the people in the street; many appeared confused or even distraught. Men were standing in the gates, a few to each. They held portfolios and papers, and looked closely at those walking by. This surprised me greatly, however I continued to observe the scene. I heard someone say: “The uprising will break out today at 5.00 p.m.”. So that was it! I hurried back to my house, which was no longer surrounded by soldiers.

Now I was just waiting for something to happen. I assumed that I would learn about the outcome of the uprising either today or tomorrow morning.

As the clock struck 5.00, an artillery piece fired off in the distance, while a few minutes later I heard revolver and rifle shots, and also the belch of large cannons. The streets were empty, and the house gates closed. At home, the silence was complete, punctured only by the roar of exploding shells. At the time I didn’t feel any sadness, however later, when I and the other residents received stern orders to hide in the bunkers, remain in the house, not go near the windows or walk out of our flats, talk quietly and walk down the stairs slowly, I started feeling miserable and depressed. All I could do was look at the darkened corridors and cellars, with huddles of praying people here and there.

Somehow I managed to pass six days in this state of silence. On 6 August, I saw armed Ukrainians in the courtyard, their faces blackened and threatening; they ordered us to leave the house. I find it hard to describe the terrible desperation I felt. Mothers with children in their arms, the elderly, some leaning heavily on walking sticks, and all the other residents of our house gathered in the courtyard under the watchful gaze of one such [Ukrainian] murderer, who was armed with a heavy machine gun.

I left my beloved family home, not knowing that I would never return there. I felt such sorrow in my heart that the entire moment seemed but a dream. We made our way to the Red Cross building, where we were directed to a large room. I didn’t know what I was supposed to wait for there. Perhaps for freedom and a happy return to the house which I had only just left?

I remained in my dear city for 12 more days. On the fifteenth day an aircraft dropped leaflets which encouraged those of us who were willing to take the risk to proceed westward carrying white flags. But no-one wanted to go anywhere, especially not under the sign of surrender – we preferred to die as free people in our home city.

On 16 August we had to leave our temporary abode. We were forced to move out westward carrying a white flag. I cannot even describe the pain I felt in my heart when our ragtag group made its way over the ruins of familiar houses, seeing only the skeletal remains of once beautiful buildings and churches. We were shot at along the way, and these barbarians forcibly deprived us of our last possessions, taking a few young women with them. If anyone had tried to come to the assistance of these women, fainting with fear, he or she would have been killed on the spot.

Eventually we reached Okęcie, an outskirt of Warsaw. There, we were locked up in an enormous square fenced with a high wall. Some new Hitlerite thugs [appeared around us]. They took our identity cards and took a dozen or so of the women for their pleasure. The rest of us sat down in a corner of the square. I could no longer see Warsaw, only the smoke coming from the burning tenements.

Finally night fell. Some ordinary soldiers, Ukrainians, started looking among us for young women, and if they found any, they would take them from our group by force. By the light of the moon I saw women falling to their knees and begging the soldiers for mercy, all the while imploring the Lord for salvation. And this is how we made it through until the morning. As the sun rose, all I could see were the corpses of so many young, attractive girls. We were tormented like that for three nights, until on the fourth day the Germans marched us off to the railway station.

Such are my experiences of the uprising in Warsaw.