world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Julian Eugeniusz Kulski. Dying, We Live. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979.

Reprinted with author's permission.

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Those attacking from the other side of the railway line, led by Major ‘Bolek,' had to withdraw at dawn yesterday after an equally hard fight and with many casualties.

Our company endured particularly heavy losses, and we were all very upset to learn that the head of the nurses' section in our platoon was killed. ‘Mitis' was a middle-aged woman who, although wounded herself, went into the battle line to dress the wounds of our soldiers. She had already lost her husband in Auschwitz, and her two sons had been executed by the Germans. She met her death when she was hit a second time-a dum-dum bullet struck her in the back.

Cadet-Officer ‘Mirski,' who had led the patrol in which I took part on the first day of the Uprising, was also killed during this at-tack. Sadly, his body lay so close to the enemy's positions that it could not be recovered.

Among the wounded was a friend of mine, ‘Gryf,' who lives in the apartment house in which our company is stationed at this time. His mother, who had already lost her husband to an execution squad, heard that her son was dying in the hospital. He had been seriously wounded in the stomach and died after thirty-six hours of awful pain. He became delirious in the last hour and screamed, "Attack, boys, attack-avenge my father." Lieutenant ‘Szajer,' our platoon leader, got a very bad leg wound.


Our platoon has been taken over by Cadet-Officer ‘Tadeusz' who, with his detachment, joined our platoon at the beginning of the Uprising. He used to belong to Special Groups, and has participated in many of the most famous actions of the Home Army. He is definitely the best leader we could have after ‘Szajer.'


This morning I visited ‘Bogdan,' who is still in the hospital. Then in the afternoon Aunt Stacha brought me the news that my father escaped from the Old City to Zoliborz through sewer pipes, and is now in bed at home. His legs were badly cut by the barbed-wire coils the Germans have laid in many of the tunnels, and these cuts are now infected from the raw sewage. I immediately asked for a pass so that I could go and see him.


The Old City is now a pile of rubble. We hear General Bor-Komorowski has left it today, escaping through the sewers to the Center City; he has ordered us to hold on so that other areas can continue to fight, until help arrives from the Soviet armies across the Vistula-a forlorn hope.


Today, Monday, our company went on duty at Colonel ‘Zywiciel's' headquarters, situated on Krasinski Street near Wilson Square. During the morning, the barricade on Slowacki Street was dam-aged by German and Ukrainian fire, and ‘Thur' and I were ordered to get a party of German prisoners of war to repair it. We collected some spades and went down to where the military police were holding the prisoners. They were eating lunch. While ‘Thur' gave his orders to the sergeant, I had a chance to look at these Germans who were our prisoners. They all looked tired, dejected, and nervous. Among them were two who looked about our age, one blond and the other red-haired. We ordered the prisoners to take a spade each and to fall into line. I led this column, and ‘Thur' brought up the rear.

The blond and the redhead began to mumble and stagger like a couple of drunks. Then they suddenly broke ranks and started running toward the rear of the column. I had hardly swung my rifle on them when I saw that they had fallen at ‘Thur's' feet. The other prisoners looked on apprehensively, and ‘Thur' looked startled. I asked one of the older prisoners, who had Russian campaign stripes, "What the hell is going on?" The prisoner was silent. Then he stepped forward and, looking down at his worn-out boots, said, "They are begging you not to kill them; they think we are being taken to dig our own graves with these spades."

We were disgusted and told everyone to get back into line. Then we marched them off to the damaged barricade where the military police sergeant put them to work.


Zoliborz is under unrelenting bombardment. On this sunny after-noon, countless enemy Stuka dive-bombers flew over our positions and over Wilson Square. As they were not fired upon, they swooped low over the roofs of the apartment houses, and one could easily see the huge bombs attached to their fuselages. I saw them dive over the lower part of Mickiewicz Street. After a few minutes, a dreadful explosion shook Zoliborz, and a terrible sight met my eyes.

Wall after wall of the enormous apartment building at 34-36 Mickiewicz Street began to fall down. The front wall of the building slipped out at the base, as a result of the well-aimed bombs, ex-posing all the interior floors.

After a while, a curtain of dust began to descend over the whole building. My heart sank-it was the building in which Marysia lived. My first thought was to run over there to help. But I was not allowed to leave our quarters. Later, though, an order from our commandant sent us off: "Detachment to dig up the ruins, at the double."

He did not have to tell us twice!

I started first, and forgetting military discipline, I left my detachment behind. Fear of what might have happened to my friend made my heart thump even faster than the exertion did.

Fortunately, the wing of the building where Marysia lived was still reasonably intact, but the entire middle part had collapsed onto the cellar in which the inhabitants of the building were gathered. The bombs had been dropped aslant and exploded nearly at the foot of the building.

Some rescue squads were already at the place, together with Colonel ‘Zywiciel' and our Company Commander Lieutenant ‘Szeliga.' Along with the others, I began to dig under the rubble. We could hear the groans of the victims buried under the broken bricks and glass.

After an hour, we succeeded in digging out a middle-aged woman whose legs were smashed and twisted. Before she lost consciousness, she whispered through pale, blood-covered lips that about ten other people had been with her before the bombs fell.

Now we began to notice a head, a leg, or an arm under the debris-a sign that we were coming to more bodies. The next to be uncovered was a man, but he was already dead, his body damaged almost beyond recognition.

After three hours of intense digging, we found a woman holding a baby in her arms. The baby wailed like a wounded bird, and its mother, though injured herself, clasped her child tightly. She lay in a very difficult position, so it took a long time to free her.

Soon after that we had to stop, and went round to what had been the back of the building to have a breather. The whole garden was full of corpses – there they all lay-men, women, children, and infants. Then, among the civilians standing in a dazed huddle, I noticed Marysia – miraculously, she was not even scratched. The scene made many of us who had never cried before, do so now – particularly because the dead were mostly women and children.

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