Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My father's historic visit to Warsaw: Day Five

Today began with a visit to the headquarters of the Home Army association at the PASTA building, where my father met comrades from Batalion 'Odwet'. We spent two fascinating hours listening to stories of the underground state, the Uprising, PoW camp experiences in Germany, liberation, and the varied fates that befell the soldiers after the war.

We were joined by Peter Chudy, who in the 25 years since he came to Poland from the USA has been recording the wartime memories first of cavalrymen from the 1939 September Campaign, then the Silent Unseen (Cichociemni) - the special ops paratroopers of the Polish Army in Exile. Peter is now taping interviews with Warsaw Uprising veterans.

I learn that the number of Warsaw Uprising veterans has now dwindled to around 950 (down from 3,450 in April 2014). The total number of Home Army soldiers who took an active part in the Uprising was around 25,000. From 'Odwet' the number of survivors is currently down to 44, from 356 in 1996, initially around 650 on 1 August 1944).

Left: bust of General 'Bór' Komorowski, commander-in-chief of the Free Polish Forces and the Home Army looks over the room in PASTA. He died in exile in London in 1966.

Below: next up was a meeting with his cousin, Alina (their fathers were brothers - Jan and Tomasz Dembiński. Many memories of childhood shared over lunch.

Left: another photo of my father (centre) as a boy, with his two brothers, Józek (left) and Zdzich (right).

Below: my father examining pre-war photographs in a family album. There were some lovely ones of carefree summer holidays in the 1930s.

Left: on to Bródno cemetery, to the graves of his brother Zdzich, buried with his wife Jadzia, who died last September (post here). "Zdzisław Dembinski lived 52 years. He died on 30.12.1973. Artist - Musician. Home Army soldier. Concentration camp prisoner [he survived Auschwitz, as did his wife].

Below: my father by the graves of his mother, Stefania, and his maternal grandmother, Teodora Witkowska. A big thanks to Marynka and her husband Jarek for taking us to the cemetery.

This time last year:
Country life in a capital city

This time three years ago:
My ogród is my działka

This time four years ago:
Poland's 'lemmings' will sink the Right

This time five years ago:
Mazowieckie province tempts with mini- and micro-breaks

This time six years ago:
Pride and anger

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