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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At noon, as I was intently observing the area outside the compound wall, I noticed a couple of soldiers dragging a body to the shade of an apple tree, not 100 meters distant. I focused my field glasses upon them. They were a couple of Ukrainian SS men, and the body – dead or nearly dead – was that of a young girl. They placed her on the soft grass, spreading her legs wide. One of them waved his hand and four other soldiers emerged from behind the trees.

They encircled her and the first two at once started to take off their trousers. One of the Ukrainians* mounted the body of the girl; the others crouched around watching. The girl did not struggle. While the first one finished, and before the second mounted the body, the girl's legs flopped limply. She was dead.

Our standing orders are not to fire until the enemy enters the side gate into the compound. But now, a shot suddenly rang out and the Ukrainian collapsed on the body of the girl. The others started running back toward their lines.

‘Thur,' who was on duty with me, jumped up behind me to find out what was happening. I handed him my field glasses. I didn't say anything, but he understood.


It is now Sunday, and the rest of our Platoon – the 226th – has just joined us. It is really good to see my friends. We are to relieve the 229th Platoon, from which only 'Jocker' is to remain with us; he has a PIAT antitank gun.

Just as our platoon was taking over the compound, Jocker' was ordered to fire at one of the tanks on Wloscianska Street. Accompanied by two soldiers carrying his missiles, he ran over to an opening in the wall, stuck the antitank gun through the hole, and pulled the trigger. The missile hit the tank on the other side of the wall.

I was on duty in the connecting trench between the Assembly Hall and the High Hall, and saw tanks breaking down the big gates and entering our compound, blazing away with their guns. Jocker' and his two men somersaulted into our trench. Shells from one of the tanks exploded nearby, seriously wounding ‘Fugas,' who was still carrying on him the PIAT antitank missiles. Although he was immediately pulled out of the trench by his comrades, ‘Fugas' died in their arms before they could reach the Health Center.

While the tanks were attacking, the enemy infantry took over the Assembly Hall and the fight continued between them and our men in the "Brick-kiln," through an opening in the common wall. The second missile fired from the PIAT by Jocker' was meant for the tanks, but it hit a pile of acetylene bottles nearby. As they began to explode, the tanks withdrew through the gate and hid behind the wall. Then the merciful night brought a much-needed respite.


Today was a hot Indian summer day. After the cold nights, the midday sun warmed my tired bones as I sat on the scorched grass. How much longer?

Then I heard a new sound-a strong burring noise high in the sky. It quickly grew closer and more intense. A large flotilla of bombers was approaching. Flying in perfect military formation, the silver planes shimmered brilliantly in the sun. Around this formation of over one hundred Flying Fortresses of the U.S. Air Force, fighter planes were hovering protectively.

Suddenly, little black silhouettes appeared below the planes-the long-awaited Parachute Brigade? The parachutes now opened and began to float down slowly. The antiaircraft batteries opened up their full firepower, but most of the white shell explosions were not reaching high enough.

I could now see that the black shapes were not parachute troops, but long-promised supplies for us. Others, realizing this too, began to jump up and down with joy, embracing each other, clapping and shouting "Bravo." We now knew that our struggle was not as lonely as it had seemed during the last six weeks-that others would help in our hour of need.


The artillery bombardment has eased, but we are now constantly harassed by snipers. It is impossible to get to the High Hall or to the "Brick-kiln," as our trench is under constant fire from Ukrainian SS who are in the Assembly Hall. They are behind us, and the never-ceasing roar of the moving tanks meets our ears from the left and to the front. In addition, the grenade-throwers, mortars, and tanks have started to fire at our trench, the High Hall, and the "Brick-kiln."

We have been crouching in the bottom of the trench, pinned down and showered by pieces of exploding shells and grenades, but miraculously not suffering any losses. A little while ago, though, I suddenly felt that I was not in exactly the safest place. So, answering to my instincts, I moved about two meters to the right, and as soon as I left my previous position some quite large pieces of metal landed there. Providence certainly has an eye on me!

A little later, a corporal raised his head above the trench in order to see whether the tanks were moving in to attack us, and immediately a bullet from a Ukrainian rifle struck him. I opened his uniform and shirt, but I could see only the entrance hole in his back. The savages are shooting with dum-dum bullets!

As soon as night comes, we hope to withdraw under the cover of darkness to the High Hall and the Health Center.


Early this morning, we were again greeted by a mortar shell which fell in front of the makeshift bunker where ‘Skawek' and ‘Thur' were on duty. Part of the exploding shell flew into the bunker, hitting ‘Thur' in the heart. The seventeen-year-old boy received two mortal wounds and died instantly, spurting blood onto his friend nearby. ‘Slawek' fortunately was not wounded.

‘Thur' had been on duty with me forty-eight hours before his death. We had talked to each other a lot, and ‘Thur' had told me he had a feeling that he would be killed and was terribly sorry that he would not see his mother again. I told him it was nonsense. But he was right. His last wish, was to be buried in the Zoliborz gardens, among the trees and flowers. He hated the idea of being buried beneath ruins.


Thur's' wish has been carried out; today he was buried with military honors in a small cemetery in the middle of the gardens. Colonel ‘Zywiciel,' Lieutenant ‘Szeliga,' and a priest, along with our detachment, were at the burial ceremony.


We have been directed to Wilson Square, where we are supposed to rest. We have been relieved at last by the other platoons of our company, and we are looking forward to the break, but my over-tired condition has again brought on a high fever.


During a lull in the fighting, I stumbled along an unrecognizable street to a makeshift field hospital. A doctor there looked at me and sent me home to Felinski Street, where I went straight to bed.


My fever will not leave me. I feel very depressed because, while all my friends are fighting, I am flat in my bed. But I am so weak that I cannot even get up without help. The pain in my stomach, head, and chest has exhausted me completely. Marysia visited me yesterday afternoon – she had managed to get a pass from the hospital where she works. I was not fully conscious, so I remember only that she was there and that her soft, gentle voice was very soothing.


Early this morning, the Germans launched a strong attack from the direction of the Warsaw-Gdansk Station. At nine o'clock they seized Prince Poniatowski School with the help of Goliats. The latter are small robot tanks filled with explosives and steered by remote control by cables or radio. Our house is separated from the school only by the width of Polish Army Avenue and two other houses, so I could see parts of the crumbling building from my bed-room window.

My father has also been lying ill with a fever at home. Aunt Stacha is our only mainstay, for the Germans have already taken Aunt Wanda and no one knows where she is. Mother is still at Baniocha, and the house is filled with strangers taking refuge there. My bedroom has been turned into a shambles because of a Soviet arms drop without the benefit of a parachute, which hit the house last night.

My father's wounds from his escape through the sewers are not yet healed, and I, still weak, have a very high fever and am spitting blood. Father and I can not stay at home any longer, how ever, no matter how sick we are. So around noon we crawled from our beds, dressed ourselves as best we could, and left the house. We went through the communication trenches, which were under artillery fire, and around Saint Stanislaw Kostka Church to reach Wilson Square-or rather its ruins, since only piles of rubble marked many places where buildings had once stood.

In these surroundings, I said goodbye to my father, not knowing whether I would ever see him again.

I went to the building where our company had its headquarters, and a dreadful scene stretched before my eyes. Among the ruins of the Warsaw Cooperative Housing Colony, the grotesquely positioned corpses of women and children lay in bomb craters. Other bodies hung from the balconies. Even the once lush green trees of Zoliborz were now uprooted and entangled with the dead.

After some searching around the rubble and cellars, I finally found one of the nurses from our company. She took me to a cellar where there were already a few wounded people. ‘Wilk' was among them, convalescing, along with another wounded Cadet-Officer and a beautiful young girl, a nurse who had been wounded in the legs. I spent the rest of the day there, under never-ceasing artillery fire.

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