world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Teresa Wilska 'Bozenka', Zoska Battalion. Diary.

Courtesy of the Polish Academic Information Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo

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Women couriers brave German fire

August 3, 1944
zoskaI reached Marszałowska Street without any problem, but no further, for the shooting from the direction of the Saski Park is furious. Two men stand by the barricade waiting for the right moment to dash across. The street has a sinister look: glass, broken bricks and wires litter it. In the middle, a streetcar lies on its side. I am gripped by fear, again. Someone makes a dash from the other side. Right behind him a red flash as a shell hits the streetcar.

Supposedly, the crossing on Złota Street is safer. I retrace my steps but the situation there is similar. I try several times to force myself to make the dash, but, lacking courage, I am unable. What the blood hell! I must reach Górczewska Street with the order, damn it! At last, a group of men dash across, one after another. I follow them and make it; the devil is not as awful as portrayed. Through various courtyards and cellars, I reach Zielna Street, but there it's even worse than on Marszałkowska! Yet, having conquered my fear, I want to run across. The men whom I followed stop me, however.

"What's the hurry?" they ask. "Take it easy."
"I am a liaison officer and have an urgent order to deliver!" I reply.
"That's why you had better wait; what use would it be if you and your order got hit?"
We wait about 15 minutes. Finally, they decide.
"I will dash across first, "says one of them, "and I will cover the rest of you."

He makes it across. Unfortunately, the next one is hit and collapses just short of the doorway on the other side. No sense taking chances. We wait another ten minutes. I get impatient. How long can one wait. I have to get there. I spot Lodka in a doorway on the other side. She dashes across. Shots ring out but she reaches us.

"Listen," she says "don't take notice of these guys. They wait for hours to make the dash. It's a waste of time. Get to the other side; I'll wait and see how it goes for you.,'

The guys look at me crossly. I sprint across. In the middle, a volley of shots, then another. I make it. Lodka waves her hand, the guys shout 'Well done, girls" and get ready to follow.

Women delivering ammunition through the sewers

August 21, 1944
"How long will it take us?" we ask.
"Two to three hours, depending" replies Mirka, our sewer guide.

We slip our shoulders into the straps of the grenade and ammunition rucksacks which are handed out to us. They are made so that the load hangs on the chest.

We descend into the sewer: it's elliptical in cross-section, three feet high and two wide. We each have a stick the length of which matches the width of the sewer. Using it, we proceed with a toad-like step, that is, by resting the stick on the sides of the sewer we have a support for our arms. Leaning forward we can move a step forward at a time. It's really tiring.

Suddenly, Mirka gives us an order:

"Lights out, absolute silence, we are crossing under an area held by Germans."

We maintain contact by touching the leg of the person in front. As we pass under an uncovered manhole, we clearly hear German being spoken. Our hearts pound. Did they hear us?

Finally, we reach our destination. First Mirka climbs out to reconnoiter the area.

"Come out quickly and rush to the nearest doorway," she tells us upon returning.

Evacuation through the sewers

September 1, 1944
I am to lead the Wigry detachment; about 50 men. The wait under a wall for the order to descend into the sewer. On the other side of the wall, the battle rages. The sewer manhole is under heavy fire. Planes are bombing ceaselessly. Finally, the order is given. I lead and they jump in one after another. I have to wait quite a while, but finally they are all down. I tell them to take a count, but they swear and refuse.

"What for?" the men ask. "This is no parade, don't bother us. Let's go." The are dead tired, many have flesh wounds, some are scared of the sewers.

"Precisely because this ain't a parade, you will take a count," I reply. "I do not intend to lose any of you in the sewer."

After a long moment, they decide to do as bid. I instruct them that they must not use any lights nor do any talking in the sewer, for voices carry far ahead. They must follow each other in single file, I tell them, and there will be no swapping of places.

We start. After a few minutes someone starts swearing. Flashlights are switched on. The din is getting louder by the minute. I stop and try to calm them down, but with a group of 50 guys who are in the sewers for the first time, that's no easy task.

"What the hell, what are you?" I shout, raising my voice above the din. "A bunch of civilians, or what? Don't you understand when one talks to you? Silence! Right now or I'll blow off the head of the first one that talks."

Wonder of wonders, it works. Did they become afraid? Or maybe they felt ashamed. All's quiet and we move ahead. In any event, my threat was quite ridiculously empty: I don't have a firearm, even one of the most puny kind.

We reach the exit manhole. I climb out. Helping hands assist those who follow me.

Translated by Peter K. Gessner

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