After taking the oath, I became a soldier in the Siedlce area’s Special Executive Directive of the National Armed Foreces [pol. abr. PAS - Pogotowie Akcji Specialnej Narodowych Sil Zbrojnych] subordinated to Lt. Stanislaw Okninski, nom de guerre “Zych”. I was 18 years old and was in the 3rd grade [translators’ note – an equivalent of junior in high school] at the St[anislaw] Staszic Mechanical Gymnasium in Sidlce. About a year later I was assigned to the PAS NSZ [pol. abr. Pogotowie Akcji Specialnej - Special Emergency Executive] unit with the nom de guerre “Wiaz” of which I wrote briefly.
While writing this historical draft I didn’t touch upon the specific environment nor background, but only about the facts alone. However, intangibles are no less important than facts themselves, and at times perhaps even more important, because events pour out of them almost as water pours from the stream. For this reason I will now attempt to say a little about those elusive, but nonetheless important intangibles.
After leaving from around the Siedlce area in the early Spring, and after our first all-night march we woke up on the forest’s floor and we found ourselves in a different world. For me personally, this was an unbelievably beautiful world that was difficult to describe and at the same time surreal. We were amidst of old forest with old, tall trees – from among which in the beginning I was only able to identify pine trees, spruce trees, birch, and oaks. Not much later, I was able to admire majestic Pacific silver firs, the only grand fir preserve in Poland reaching this far into the north. A veritable wonder of nature! Clean, intoxicating air, blue skies during the day, and a star-lit canopy of the sky at night. I have had all of it before my own eyes, within a reach of my hand at all times, and not portioned just for a short excursion, but in each and every moment of day or night. One who had not lived under beautifully painted, star-lit Polish skies, has not walked on the a carpet woven of mosses, berries, grasses, herbs, wild flowers, and who haven’t had all of these miracles for his exclusive enjoyment; he does not truly know what the creator bestowed upon us, nor does he know how beautiful country it is. We were lucky, for during each moment of night or day we could absorb these miracles of nature undisturbed almost during an entire 1947. It was possible, for in essence, we were continuously on the move, and not only during night which was common, but at sunrise, or at dusk, at times during a scorching heat of the day, or during rainfall, or thunderstorm.
I vividly recall the impression made on me by barking dogs when marching in-line as we were approaching some sleeping village at dawn. I remember quietly drawing water from a well with a sweep, in order not to wake up the owners. At times instead of water we would pull from the depth of the well a bucket full of milk or cream. It was very tasty and straight from the cows. In general, everything during these times was delicious. Bread with lard or with bacon tasted better than pork chop, because more often than not we would walk on an empty stomach. A life full of adventures and dangers tastes better than the regular everyday-life. There was never any time for deliberation, nor was there time for just about anything else in general. Never would anyone of us have enough time to even once get a good night’s sleep.
We would leave our quarters for action at a distance of 15 to 20 kilometers or more and than, after its completion, a quickly jump back to sojourn – all together 30 to 40 kilometers in full gear, uniforms, with ammunition boxes on our backs. At times during these marches we would run into some girl walking on the forest road. Dear God! One wanted so much to chat, to flirt, and maybe more! But forget it! We couldn’t stop even for a moment, unless commanding officer allowed us to take a break. The more our lives were endangered, the more we valued them. With each passing month the circle would close tighter and tighter all around us. We saw more and more passing military vehicles with dimmed reflectors on the roads. The villages near Jaty were combed more often by the KBW (Korpus Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego – Eng: Internal Security Corps; Polish Communist: secret police) and UB units.
Even tough drinking was strictly prohibited. Our commanders, such as Lt. “Mork” and “Nalecz” gave us a dispensation for the Soldiers’ Holiday on 15 August 1947. Our invaluable cook “Grom” prepared an incredible chocolate liquor. Each one of us got 100 miligrams of this “elixir” which wormed and rejuvenated us. I have no idea in what kind of partisan units Misters Ford, Kawalerowicz, or Wajda served, because in their movies they portray partisans imbibing with full glasses of moonshine. Drinking was strictly forbidden – at least in our unit.
The prayers said aloud during morning and evening assemblies made a profound impression on me. The “Pater Noster” ("Our Father who art in heaven") recited solemly and exactly under the open skies, and under the ever-green Pacific silver firs or pines in the background that would be impossible to recreate by even the most skillful motion picture producer, gave us hope, strength, and comfort. To this day I can see before my eyes our entire unit standing in-line.
[I remember] the morning assembly and Squad Leader, Sargeant “Maly”, giving report to the unit’s commander, Lt. “Mrok”. In front of the unit stands commandant of the sappers, Lt. Tadeusz Moniuszko, nom de guerre “Bej”, “Mrok”. To his side, at a half a pace distance behind him stands District Commandant of PAS, [pol. abr. of Pogotowie Akcji Specjalnej - Special Emergency Executive - Polish Patriot: military] Captain Stanislaw Okninski nom de guerre “Zych”, “Nalecz”, “Bronisz”. After the count, Korporal “Maly” gives report and returns to the line. Because I was the smallest one, I always stood at the end. From this place I could precisely observe faces and demeanor of all of my taller colleagues.
If I remember correctly the order in which we stood: the first in line was always Korporal Karol Sawicki “Maly”, medium height, athletic built, dark complexion, black, slightly thinning hair. The “Maly” was somebody I aspired to be, he was an idol of mine. With respect I gazed at his posture and his eyes gleaming with an extraordinary dedication and fate looking straight into the eyes of the commanding officer who was receiving his report. He impressed me with his efficiency and his complete devotion to the cause. Next to the “Maly” stood Korporal Antoni Makarski, nom de guerre “Zbik”, Zjawa”, a leader of the operations section, and my best friend from the gymnasium – also an impressive posture, face of dark complexion, bright, creative, reassuring eyes full of vigor. The next in line was rifleman Jozef Wyczolkowski, nom the guerre “Grom”, our cook, and the tallest of the whole group, nearly 2 meters tall, a thin blond-haired, and sympathetic looking. Next to him stood senior rifleman Janusz Olko, nom de guerre “Kubus”, also tall like “Grom”, of athletic build, blond hair, and half-cocked smile on his round face. Further down one saw sportsman-like built posture of rifleman Zdzislaw Lysakowski, nom de guerre “Danka” with girl-like, dark completion face, and proud demeanor. Next to “Danka” stood rifleman Zygmunt Marcinek, nom de guerre “Dabek”, tall, light-haired, with blue eyes, and chubby, red face. His eyes were always full of elation and proud content that he was accepted into our partisan unit. He would tuck along with us for about 2 months, and paid for it with full 9 years of incarceration at the Wronki prison. Next to him stood erected like an instrument string the youngest soldier in our unit, rifleman Witold Taraszewski, nom the guarre “Orzel”, “Zryw” – only 16 years old, but built well, a tall blond-haired youngster with short mustashe under his nose to give him more courage, tall forehead, straight nose, a haughty look, but genuine and well-tempered. Next in line is rifleman Marian Ordys, nom de guerre “Boruta”, “Czarny”, also tall, skinny, of dark complexion, and black hair like a crow, with delicate face, and dark, alerted eyes. He was a machine gunner, manning our light machine gun who was head over heels in love with a girl named Stasia. To his left stood rifleman Kazimierz Antolak, nom de guerre “Halina”, well build, stocky boy with head full of hair, sharp look, with face full of freckles, very sympathetic, and full of energy. He was one of not many who was dressed to the tee like a real partisan, wearing English military paratrooper’s jacket, knickerbockers, and tall officer’s boots. Next to “Halina” stood rifleman Stanislaw Wierzchucki, nom de guerre “Blyskawica”, “Sek”, beautifully built blond man with chubby round face and happy, pert look in his eyes.
Next to him stood Korporal “Komar” (N.N. – Nieznany I Niezidentyfikowany – Unknown And Unidentified), of medium height, stocky, with black mop, pale complexion who joined us from Miedzyrzecze Podlaskie in July – serious, concentrated, always silent. From the Miedzyrzecze we were also joined by “Lis” (N.N.), standing next to him, who was with us very briefly, for around a month. Two times he received a leave to take care of some court case involving his family, but never returned from the leave. Was he an UB mole? Next to “Lis” stood rifleman Waclaw Kalicki, nom de guerre “Wrzos”, “Parasol”, with dark, curly blond hair, as if he just returned from the barber shop. At the very end stood the shortest one of all of them – rifleman Ryszard Mikolajczuk, nom de guerre “Rys”, “Szkot”, short, stocky, with round chubby face, often pensive, as if he was not present, but lucid – at least as much as it was necessary. They called him the “scientist” because he carried Polish-German dictionary in his backpack. Besides the fact that he could write verses, and at times even composed love letters for his collegues to be sent to their girlfriends, he was a pillow, and there wasn’t much use for him at all.
Thus, with an exception of this one unworthy member, the unit consisted of extraordinary, happy soldiers, who were full of vigor, energy, enthusiasm, and imagination. The great majority of them were very handsome youngsters who without any doubt would fit the bill to be a part of a presentation guard. One could see all of them at the same during the briefing. When I observed their faces during these briefings, I was always curious what brought them here? How among these Pacific silver firs did the fates gather all of these extraordinary boys? But it was difficult to, if not impossible, to pierce into their hearts by looking alone, and the mirrors of their souls, full of secrets were impossible to decipher. And so it remains a mystery to this day. A man is a mystery – even to himself – not to mention others.
Out of 16 men in our unit, only 7 of those who served until the end remain. Shortly, we will all leave for the eternal service. I hope that merciful God will allow us once more stand next to each other at an assembly in heaven, as we did in Jata, and among the friends, and in a family-like circle, seeing, as in a mirror, beautiful Polish forests, and fields. I would like to reflect about the watches we kept while in the Podlaski region.
For me, standing guard in the middle of night in the depths of the Pacific silver firs forests, when all soldiers slept like rocks in the dug-outs, was something extraordinary. What silence all around; what a depth of silence. Even the smallest whisper can be felt. How peaceful; what a blissful peace all around! Stars sparkle through the lampshade woven of pine and Pacific silver firs against a blue firmament of the sky. All creation rests after a hot day. I am absorbing into myself this solemn silence as if it were a serene elixir of the heart. I pray with no words, silently, just like the nature all around me – just like this osika tree - next to me, whose shimmering leafs thank the Almighty [for being part of his creations]. In such silence one feels closeness of God, His majesty, His love, His care. A few paces forward; a few back. You can stand still, but God forbid, don’t lean against the tree. Remember, you can’t, or you will fall to sleep! You have to keep guard so those sleeping in the dug-outs can continue on with their dreams asleep, so they can rest a little after an operation.
Another time I kept guard at a farm at Kolonie Smiarskie. But, I was so tired and sleepy, that my eyes were closing shut. In order to stay awake I walked around the farmyard but felt that it didn’t help and that I am walking asleep. Right then a saving thought crossed my mind that near me is a deep well full of medication for sleepiness. I got a bucket of freezing water and poured it over my head. It helped, but not for very long. I am glad that my high school friend, Korporal “Zrywa” who was in charge of the watch noticed my fatigue and relieved me by taking over the watch himself. Thank God for that.
Even though our service was tough and we didn’t have time for anything, during the first months we were able to get a little time to relax. I remember a small picnic on some sort of large forest clearing in Jata. After the breakfast consisting of black bred with salted lard which tasted great, we had some free time. “Sek” got his harmonica and started to play some folk songs from the Podlasie region. After that we sung some partisan songs, and at the end “Danek” began to sing a Russian song. We sung the popular “Katiusha”, and after that “Danek” sung a beautiful Russian song: “Na tzakate stoyi barin … kto evo znayet , tsathem on markhayet …“ Danek” had a nice voice, and sung beautifully as if he was a professional singer on a stage. And the background [to this performance] was truly beautiful. These were the memorable and pleasant moments.
During such idle moments, Captain “Bronisz” would tell us all sorts of jokes, often of Jewish origin, which were the funniest, or told us stories of exploits of Captain “Remisz”, about the unit of “Zenon”, “Mlot”, and others. We listend to him, bewitched, because he was a gifted story teller and a joker.
My own family saved many Jews by providing them with temporary safe heaven on our property, which incidentally, was located immediately next to the Siddlce Ghetto. For example, we saved a well known shop keeper Leon Goldman, his daughter, and his brother Jonte Goldman (a well known brick layer in Siedlce). Of course, there were talks about some Jews – specific lackies of Stalin – but never in general. The Jews were mentioned as individuals, or by names. Such names as [Jakub] Berman, [Jozef] Rozanski, Landsberg, Borejsza, [Julia] Brystigier [nicknamed "Bloody Luna"] and in Sieldlce specifically, Alberg, Blumensteins, Kwiatek, and others were mentioned to berate their sadism, banditism, and hatred towards the Poles. Similarly, there was no xenophobia directed against the Russian people – we rejected the Bolshevik leaders, leadership of the NKVD, or SMERSH. We had nothing against beautiful Russian military songs, or Russian, or Ukrainian songs. However, we could not sit idle while Poland was occupied and pillaged, whether it was perpetrated by Germans, Russians, or by their Polish or Jewish henchmen.
We wanted Poland to be sovereign, to be free, and to be governed by Poles who were elected in free elections. We wanted to save ourselves and others from being transported and tormented in the depths of [Communist] Russia, and to be safe from arrests and imprisonment – most of all, we wanted to survive while retaining dignity and honor. To what extend we we’re successful – that is another story.
I’d like to make sure that in this short account I don’t fail to mention all those who, having very little, shared with us the last piece of bread they had. These were the inhabitants of villages around Jata, inhabitants of Mroczki, Smiary, Dacbog, Jagodne, Zdziary, Grezowka, Domanice, Jastrzebie, Emilianowka, Wodyn, Seroczyn, and many others. They were supportive and shared with us all that they had when we collected food for the unit. For this kindness and disregard for repressions for supporting us, on behalf of myself, and my colleagues from the unit, please allow me to thank you will all of my sincerity. God Bless you! I would like to offer similarly warm thanks to the game keepers in the grand forest complex and at the same time at the Jata forest preserve who during the entire 1947 helped us and supported us in every possible way. We want to thank you for letting us draw water, to bathe on your properties, at times to get something to eat and to rest. We want to thank you for alerting us to the presence of UB and KBW patrols, and for sharing valuable information, for providing us with safe houses. God Bless you.
I vividly remember names of many friendly game keepers, namely: Misters Kubiak, Cudnik, Michalec, Kedziora; the name of the Master Forester, Mr. Wojewodzki from Jagodno who had a beautiful forester’s house that resembled a small royal estate. But, more importantly I remember his two beautiful daughters with whom we were all madly in love. Under the pretext of getting some water, sour cream, or just about any other pretext, we would gladly visit his house get take a peek at his beautiful girls – if only for a brief moment.
Quite often we wrote letters to our parents, families and our girlfriends in which we wanted to console them and reassure them after our sudden disappearance from our family homes. The fashion in which this correspondence was circulated was a guarded secret, and to this day I don’t know exactly how it was done. I know only that a beautiful girl would knock on the door, deliver an unmarked envelope, and immediately disappear from the field of vision of the recipient. The delivery of correspondence and a slew of other conspiratorial activities at times partially open, but most often deeply guarded, is a testimony to the impressive organization of the NSZ (National Armed Forces).
The more time would passed from the time of Potsdam and Yalta agreements, the more difficult our service in the underground partisan units had become. To this day I am amazed how precislely all of this functioned. How was it possible that a small, only 16-men unit – yes well armed, but consisting of only youngsters – was able to maintain control of the greater part of the present area of the Woyvodeship for over seven months.
While this is a small consolation for the veterans, it is a consolation of sorts nonetheless. I am personally very satisfied that I had lived long enough to see liberation from the Soviet occupation, and hope to live long enough to see the crumbling of post-communism [in Poland]. The path through the hell of slavery and through prisons hardens ones character. In prisons I had an opportunity to meet many extraordinary individuals, great patriots whom I would have never met anywhere else in the world. One could have met unforgetable individuals of crystal-clear conscience most often in the underground or in prisons. These were those times, and so is the fate prepared for us by history.
Written by Ryszard Mikolajczuk, nom de guerre "Szkot", Narodowe Sily Zbrojne, NSZ.
The original Polish language text can be found here.
 "Brystiger personally oversaw the first stage of an investigation; she would torture the captured persons, using her own methods, such as beating men's genitals with a whip. One of her victims was a man named Szafarzynski, of the Olsztyn office of the Polish People's Party, who died after interrogation carried out by Brystygier. One of persons interrogated by Brystygier said later of her: "She is a murderous monster, worse than German female guards of the concentration camps". Anna Roszkiewicz-Litwiniwiczowa, a former soldier of the Home Army, said of Brystygier: "She was famous for her sadistic tortures, she seemed to be obsessed about sadistic sex and she was fulfilling herself in that field". Source: Wiki.
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