Saturday, 30 July 2016

My father's return to Warsaw after 40 years

Among Europe's capitals, few have seen such dramatic change as Warsaw over the past few decades. My father - who was born and raised in Warsaw and fought in the Uprising - has not been back since the Gierek era.  This morning, at 1am [LOT flight from Heathrow delayed four hours] he arrived back in Warsaw for a week's visit, coinciding with the 72nd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

Ten hours later, we're at Park Wolności by the Warsaw Uprising Museum to attend the first of several state occasions commemorating the anniversary. Below: with my father is Kazimierz Możdzonek (left), who fought in the same AK (Home Army) unit - II Batalion Szturmowy Odwet.

President Andrzej Duda (below, centre) greeted the insurgents and made an impassioned speech, stressing the fact that Poland's independence and place on the map of Europe has been gained by Poles willing to fight foreign oppressors over the centuries. Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, who's office organised the event, pointed out that had it not been for the Uprising, Poland would have ended up in 1945 as the 17th republic of the USSR.

Below: after the ceremony and lunch, courtesy of the city of Warsaw, Mr Możdzonek took my father for a guided tour of the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The two veterans were feted by visitors - from around the world - wanting to shake their hands and take photos with them. They are indeed living history. A lady from Japan, a gentleman from India, students from America, families from Poland. [Incidentally, if you've not been, go - it's a world-class museum. Must see.]

Next up was a return to my father's Ochota - Filtry - ul. Filtrowa - the place where he grew up. Below: on ul. Wawelska, we visited a monument to commemorate Batalion Odwet (pron. ODvet = 'revenge'). It was around here that at 17:00 - 'W'-Hour - that units of the battalion gathered to start the uprising, which as speakers earlier today had said, was an act of stored-up vengeance against the murderous oppression the Nazis had visited upon Warsaw in five years of occupation.

We moved on to Plac Narutowicza, next to the house in which my father grew up. Vintage trams are running to the tram loop for the Uprising weekend (below). We also visited the neo-Romanesque church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Kościół Niepokalanego Poczęcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny) where  my father and his family would worship before the war. The stained glass windows on the northern side of the church tell the story of the Polish exile via France, the USSR and Britain during WW2; battle honours from the Battle of Britain to Monte Cassino and the Atlantic Convoys being listed.

We visited my cousin, who lives in the same block of flats as my father did before the war on Ul. Filtrowa 68. This is the same building from which General Antoni Chruściel 'Monter' issued the order to begin the Warsaw Uprising on 1 August 1944.

Below: my father demonstrates how as a boy he'd slide down the bannisters of this very staircase.

Below: three brothers - my father (left, born 1923); his younger brother Jożek (born 1925, who died in the Uprising, fighting with Batalion Miotła), and their elder brother Zdzich (born 1921, who died in 1973).

More coverage from my father's historic visit to Warsaw over the next week.

This time last year:
What's worse - unemployment, or a badly-paid job?

This time two years ago:
A return to Liverpool

This time four years ago:
Too good to last (anyone remember OLT Express airline?)

This time five years ago:
Poland's Baltic coast as a holiday destination

This time seven years ago:
The Warsaw they fought and died for?

This time nine years ago:
Floods, rainbows and hope


Bob said...

Great to see Michael!

dulska said...

Great!Thanks for sharing this experience! Osjejukowa

Neighbour said...

Hats off to your Father!
May he live long and in good health.

Best regards,