Tuesday, 1 August 2017

73rd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising with my father

Back again, back to the building in which lived my father before the war and during the occupation. And the building in which General Chruściel "Monter" gave the order to launch the Warsaw Uprising. Of course my father didn't know this, but suspects that "Monter's" HQ might have been the flat in which a scout leader named Kamiński lived. Outside the building, ul. Filtrowa 68, in which my cousin's family has lived from the end of the war to this day, a wreath-laying ceremony is about to begin. The guards of honour await. The street is just how I imagined Warsaw prior to the uprising as a boy; wide, tree-lined streets, sun-dappled, with fine architecture on either side.

After the ceremony, my father becomes the focus of interest; he is unique in being a participant of the Uprising who lived in this very building, from 1926 until the morning of 1 August 1944.

Time for a family reunion; my father meets his two cousins Ala (left) and Hanna (right). Their three fathers were brothers. And see that photo on the wall? That's of my father, centre, with his brothers Jozef (left) and Zdzich (right)

Left: at Plac Narutowicza, my father is about to board the vintage tram heading up ul. Towarowa in the direction of Powązki cemetery. Two special heritage tramlines are operating on the day, T and W. Beautifully restored, they give an authentic taste of prewar public transport in the Polish capital. Respect to the guys who keep these trams going in concours condition.

Below: we reach Powązki military cemetery, where the main commemoration of 'W' Hour is to take place. A group of reenactors, wearing captured German camouflage smocks and whatever else they had to hand, are marching in step towards their assigned position.

It was a sweltering hot day, with temperatures in Warsaw exceeding 35C. Below: my father was treated as a star! Two girls stopped him to hear his story - and to get his autograph on an Uprising armband.

Below: my father met his colleagues from Batalion Odwet, by the unit's memorial. He reflects upon those who fell during the Uprising.

Below: on to the memorial of Batalion Golski, the unit with which my father fought for most of the Uprising. After the failed attempt to seize the SS barracks in Kolonia Staszica, soldiers from Batalion Odwet made their way across Pole Mokotowskie to join Batalion Golski, with whom they fought right through to the end. They were fighting in the area around the Politechnika. This is why students and graduates of that institution from the Korporacja or student fraternity (which has roots going back to 1908) tend the Golski memorial.

Below: my father gives an interview to Paddy Ney, and immediately, a small crowd on people gather to hear his testimony. The full interview can be watched online here.

The next stop was to pay respects at the grave of my father's younger brother, Jozef, who died aged 18, fighting with Batalion Miotła in Czerniaków. This time last year, Moni found the grave. Thanks to Peter Chudy for a photo that includes me in it!

On to the central Gloria Victis (glory to the vanquished) memorial in the centre of Powązki military cemetery. A great many people milling around, visiting the graves of family members who fell in the Warsaw Uprising. On the Metro heading back to Ursynów, people would shake my father's hand and thank him for their freedom - extremely touching gestures.

This time last year:
Godzina W remembered - a day of emotions

This time four years ago:
Godzina W commemorated in a more civilised way

Godzina W five years ago (2012)

Godzina W six years ago (2011)

Godzina W eight years ago (2009)

1 comment:

Bob said...

Very touching story throughout. We can never imagine what people like your father and others bhave gone through - both in the war and thereafter.