world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

 

 

Sylwester Braun 'Kris'. Stories Behind the Photographs. In: Reportaże z Powstania

Warszawskiego (Warsaw Uprising Reportages), KAW, Warsaw, 1983.

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Wonderful Girls

The Warsaw Uprising battle was waged on a scale unprecedented in our history. During these difficult moments, women demonstrated the highest levels of sacrifice and courage. They stood by the barricades and manned the hospitals, filling the roles of courier, medic, and soldier. They traveled through the sewers, supported the resistance fighters on the front line of combat, carried the wounded, rescued the buried, and helped in the production of grenades and Molotov cocktails.

During combat actions in which I participated, the girls awoke in me particular admiration during the battle for the Church of the Holy Cross. It was they who, during the night, used explosives to breach a wall from the side of the presbytery, through which the fighters were able to enter the area of the church, while the 'Pezetki' [members of a women’s soldier support organization] were in the burning church cooking something in a pot for the hungry and tired soldiers.

What wonderful girls!

Translated by Piotr J. Rytwiński

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A CHILD’S PRAYER

Insurgent cemeteries were set up throughout the small gardens in the courtyards of Mazowiecka Street. I was passing them as well on my escapades through the city. One day I saw a small girl genuflecting at a freshly dug grave.

From far away I started taking pictures. The last series of shots are close-ups. If I were to choose a picture to become the symbol of the Uprising, I would select 'A Child’s Prayer.' The cross on the left says 'Maid from the 2nd floor.' Good neighbors had buried the fallen, formed a mound, and erected a cross for the unknown maid.

The aura of this insurgent cemetery reflected special care for the dead. Flowers were everywhere.

During the [German] occupation in the adjoining palatial building next to the field cemetery, there was used to be a known actors’ café. Mieczyslawa Cwiklinska used to reign here. The beautiful building had been destroyed, but attempts were made to salvage part of the furnishings and art by carrying them out into the garden. A piano was also carried out of the café. I heard music during the artillery’s cannonade. I followed the sound. Andrzej Markowski was sitting at the piano, surrounded by a group of listening soldiers of the Home Army. I shot a series of pictures. 'Concerts' were not the only thing held in this garden. One day a demonstration on how to use a heavy machine gun was carried out. A father was teaching his two sons how to feed and guide ammunition strips and change the shooter’s position.

Translated by Elizabeth Kanski

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The Philharmonic

In the early morning hours of August 17 during the roll call of the platoon headquartered in the basement of the Warsaw Philharmonic, the building was hit by a shell from the largest mortar. It went through the building’s ceiling and exploded at the spot of the roll call, massacring the entire gathering of some 30 soldiers–the recently formed squad of the Home Army composed of teenage boys. The commander was lieutenant 'Tur.' During the reading of the daily command, the missile exploded some 2 meters from 'Tur'; the blast threw him under a heavy oak bench built into the wall, thus saving his life. Unconscious, he was taken to the hospital. Despite his internal injuries, the lieutenant survived. It was a miracle.

Another survivor was the squad’s courier, 14-year-old 'Czajkowski.' He returned late after his night shift and, so as not to wake up his colleagues, went to sleep in the other end of the cellar. He didn’t have to report to the morning roll call, thus he was sleeping when the shell exploded. After regaining consciousness, he crawled to the exit. There, helping hands returned him to life.

Later the boy participated in the funeral of his colleagues. They were buried in a collective grave in the square in front of the 'Under the Eagles' bank.

The survivors from the platoon were the oldest—lieutenant 'Tur'–and the youngest–courier 'Czajkowski.'

Translated by Elizabeth Kanski

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