world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Stanislaw Jankowski. From Old Town to Zoliborz. In: Andrzej M. Kobos, Kanaly w Powstaniu

Warszawskim. Zeszyty Historyczne, No. 109, Instytut Literacki, Paris, 1994.

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  piescCaptain Stanislaw Jankowski 'Agaton', decorated in August of 1944 with the order of Virtuti Military [ medals ], commanded 'Agaton' company of 'Piesc' (Fist) battalion. He fought in the Wola, Old Town, Kampinos Forest and City Center districts. After the fall of the Uprising, he became an adjutant of Gen. 'Bor' Komorowski, commander of the Home Army.

Translated by Marcin Markowski.

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[...] We had come to an agreement with the Old Town commanders on when the assault on the Gdansk train station will come from Zoliborz, the Old Town units had to attack simultaneously with our units. Therefore we had to pass to the Old City through the sewers.

At that time a certain sewage system worker informed us that the passage near the Gdansk train station is very dangerous as the Germans have opened a manhole and placed a heavy machine gun over the opening, from time to time they would also toss grenades down in the sewer.

We went anyway. Its horrible traveling through the sewers, it reeks of decay, its mucky a person is submerged up to the waist in the filthy grime. Dirty water is dripping in near total darkness we can’t talk because we are moving through the German held territory. We finally arrived at the open manhole. There was a narrow passage linking the sewer we were traveling through with the storm overflow channel. I remember crawling on all fours through this passage behind the sewer worker when I saw him reversing backwards. He told us that the guide line he placed last night in the sewer returning from the Old Town. The Germans must have noticed the rope and tore it apart with grenades. We were told to return to Zoliborz, maybe someone from the Old Town will come and install the new guide rope along the way.

We then told him that we are not going back. I tied a rope to 'Wojtek'1 who was convinced that he is the heaviest out of all of us and was the first one to jump into the whirlpool of water as I held on to the rope. I counted his steps as I watched him going through the beam of light cast through the open manhole, just four more, three more, two more, one. We all2 got through successfully, seems like the Germans weren't paying attention at the time to the open entry way.

We all went to see ‘Wachnowski’. It was then covered in the rancid muck that I saw for the first time General ‘Bor’ Komorowski. We decided on the hour of simultaneous assault. The same day we traveled through the sewers back to Zoliborz and took part in the failed assault on the Gdansk train station3.

Its’ quite possible that the sewer we used to go from Zoliborz to Old Town was traversed by someone else before us but there weren’t any tracks left behind. However based on the fact that the sewer worker told us about the sewer before anyone else, lead us to believe that we were the first ones to use it.

The people who would probably know the most about the sewers were the girls that used the sewers to move about. One of those young women traveled from the middle of the city to the old part of the city in 18 hours flat. I remember that we withdrew once only. After the failed attack on the train station we traveled again from the Zoliborz to the Old Town. We were summoned by ‘Wachnowski’ when we arrived he told us the following: “You traveled through the sewers already, now you will move to the middle city with an update for General ‘Bor’. This is Basia, she will take you to see your guide for the passage through sewers.” We then replied: “We don’t need a guide because we traveled enough through the sewers."

Nevertheless we went with the guide. She was a petite unknown girl which was introduced to us by Basia once we reached the sewer entrance. We went into the sewer. I wasn’t afraid of the Germans, I wasn’t afraid of the mud either, the only thing that scared me were the bricks. The sewer was 120 cm by 60 cm [3.9 ft. by 1.9 ft.] in cross section. The person was surrounded by bricks from all sides. It was a horrible feeling of enclosure and claustrophobia. The guide gave us short staffs which we used to jump, hop and prop against the sewer walls. You couldn’t travel on your knees as the bottom was covered by broken glass bottles. After a few falls into the mud I told the girl I am not going any further. I asked my friends if they want to go ahead in front of me. They didn’t want go further either. We decided to turn back.

When we were coming out from the sewers our guide wanted to console us on our weakness during the journey, she told us: “Nobody has yet tried to pass this way with a machine gun on their back."

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1 Jan Wojtowicz second lieutenant decorated with the Order of Virtuti Militari and Cross of Valour [ medals ] died in Canada in 1992.

2 The third soldier in ‘Agaton’s patrol was Kazimierz Piechotka ‘Jacek’ decorated with the Order of Virtuti Militari [ medals ]. The name of the sewer worker remains unknown.

3 August 21st to 22nd.
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