A PACK OF MY OWN
On one of the first days of May 1945 the war in Europe came to an end with Germany's unconditional surrender. There was no rejoicing among us, no hurrahs. For us it was the end of our illusions and our hope against hope that, notwithstanding the Teheran and Yalta agreements, our Allies would not abandon us to the Soviet Union relying on Stalin's empty promise to allow free elections. 87 A hecatomb of over six million Poles murdered by Germans and Russians, the sweat and blood of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers fighting on all European fronts for an Allied victory even while Russia was still in alliance with Germany, should have counted for something.
The future did not look rosy. Staying with our band of fugitives which was rapidly shrinking - some were killed or wounded in chance encounters, some left - was not a solution. After heartfelt good-byes my brother and I left the friendly band, and in order to be in contact with home territory, we returned to the Klimowizna Hospital. There were still a few younger members of the underground left, and thanks to the communication network maintained by Sr. Teobalda we soon had a detailed report on the situation in and around Wegrow. A burning problem was the number of fugitives who had nowhere to hide and were looking for a chance to join an armed band. I suspect that the good Sister had something to do with it but, before I knew what was happening, I found myself responsible for a dozen well armed desperadoes, some of them from my old command, the rest deserters from the "Polish People's Army", people once forcibly deported to Russia from eastern Poland who had joined the army as the only means of returning home. Now veterans of countless battles, each one carrying traces of multiple wounds, found that their home, the eastern part of Poland, had become Russian territory thus making them Soviet citizens. 88 They did not want to go any further. In a way I felt humbled when I first met them. One of them, a fellow my age, on just one occasion had taken five bullets in his chest and survived to fight again; another, a sergeant in the Polish army, taken POW by the Soviets in 1939 and later released from a subarctic camp to fight Germans, had already been almost three years on the front line, hoping some day to find his wife and little daughter whom he had left at home and not heard from since the start of the war.
It was a small, but highly mobile unit. I was on my own territory and had the backing of the rural population - two chief conditions of survival. We operated mostly in the northern part of the region making life for the Communist administration as miserable as we could by scaring the local activists to the point of resigning and flogging others for abuses in authority. On one occasion we managed to chase out the UB trying to arrest some peasants for cutting timber from the state owned forest to rebuild their homes and farm buildings burned in the recent fighting. Our social ethics may have seemed a bit simplistic, but it was our Country and the present rulers had no more right to it than had the Germans.
Once, just before forming the new pack, requested by Sr. Teobalda with permission from Sr. Bozena, I freed a young hospital patient held in UB's custody. It must have been quite an experience for both Sisters, far greater than it was for me and even for the prisoner. 89 Sr. Bo?ena who was the Superior there took me to the chapel for a short prayer and made me promise not to kill. Everything went without a hitch; by the time the UB man recovered from the shock of being relieved of his prisoner and his weapon he was on his way to town three kilometers away to report to his superiors. There was a raid and a search of the hospital that same evening, but to no avail. And the freed fellow was sent on a farmer's cart to where he could get further help from his friends.
It was May now and our life was less difficult; one could stay reasonably clean, the leaves on the trees made it easier to hide, the fragrance of lilacs was in the air, and at dusk the people were chanting the Litany to the Virgin Mary at the way-side shrines. One day I left my gang in the charge of the sergeant and made my way to Klimowizna. As always I approached the internal medicine pavilion from the side nearest to the adjoining forest. It was quite late in the evening, but Sr. Teobalda was still at work in the department. She gave me something to eat and told me to go to sleep in the small room adjoining the chapel - the chaplain's quarters when there was one. "Someone is already sleeping there" she said "don’t pay any attention ". I did not; there was nothing unusual about it for the Sisters helped anybody in need. The next morning a glance towards the other bed gave me quite a surprise: spread on the white pillow was a curtain of long black hair definitely feminine looking... I had just put my boots on, washed and shaved when Sister arrived to make the introductions. Her name was Grazyna, she had been a nurse/medic in partisan groups of "Confederation of the Nation" 90 until Liberation when, like many others, she landed in "People's" jail. During the transport of prisoners some still active partisan group managed to free them and the girl somehow made her way to Klimowizna for help. Introductions over, the Sister turned to me and said simply: "She has no place to go. Take her with you and take care of her". And so it came to pass that Grazyna joined my band; she had training, field experience as a medic, and was all of eighteen years. There was some initial grumbling by a few of my men that a young girl among us may mean trouble, but I impressed on them in no uncertain terms that Grazyna was a hunted fugitive just like any one of us and was to be treated like a sister or else... On her part Grazyna possessed a large dose of natural tact and grace, and in no time at all any one of them was ready to jump in the fire for her.
On one of our stopovers the people informed us that the parish priest in the town of Miedzna had received a letter from the regional Office of Internal Security (UB). The letter was addressed to the commander of the partisan detachment operating on that territory. The priest was ordered to announce it after mass on Sunday.
After careful reconnaissance to eliminate the possibility of a trap - the local population was most helpful as always - we dropped in on the little town one afternoon. Since we were there in a way by official invitation I decided to visit the town hall and a local detachment of Milicja. I was not surprised however that, presumably to avoid any conflict of loyalty, all the men charged with upholding the law had retired to civilian life for the time of our visit. In a way it was very helpful because I had a chance to talk without any witnesses with the town secretary, an old friend. I signed the inspection book of the Milicja post and checked the official gazette containing the list of "Wanted" where my description, instructions where to deliver when apprehended and warning: "Armed and Dangerous" was printed on a prominent place. With Grazyna and the sergeant we then visited the parish priest to receive the letter. The priest received us very cordially and invited us for supper. The letter was a crude request for our unconditional surrender and showed a large degree of exasperation. My answer was brief and to the point: “thank you, but no thank you". We shook hands with our host grateful for his hospitality and left the friendly town with many well-wishers lining the street.
A few more intimidating actions against
the "People's" administration and the operation of a small detachment started
to make less and less sense. The international situation did not
provide any hope for a better future. If we persisted in our ways sooner
or later we would be trapped and destroyed. And our presence started
to be too burdensome for the local population. One especially tragic incident
convinced me that it was time to leave. It was a pleasant May evening.
We were just about to leave the house of our host, a friendly farmer, when
suddenly there were angry voices outside. I do not know who started the
fight, but when I ran outside my men were embroiled with about eight
newcomers at least four of them Russian soldiers. A partly inebriated
group had arrived at the back yard of the farmhouse and started a fight
for no obvious reason. Rifle butts and heavy stakes were pulled from the
horse drawn cart by which they arrived. I shouted to my men, "Don't
shoot" and tried to withdraw them from the senseless fight when one of
the local troublemakers attacked me with a heavy stake. For a short while
I tried to fight off his blows with the butt of my handgun while holding
it by the barrel. It was not much of a defense merely enraging my
attacker, and when he aimed his next swing at my head I ducked and
almost by instinct turned my handgun around and fired. The man stopped,
dropped his stake, staggered a few steps backwards, and fell. The fight
stopped. I sent the Russians on their way and told the, by now sober, troublemakers
to rush their friend to the hospital. He died on the way.
88 As agreed in Teheran and Yalta (see note 87 above) by the three Allies Poland was to be divided according to the so called Curzon Line, the demarcation arrangement proposed after W.W.I in 1919 by British statesman George Curzon even then favoring the newly created Soviet Union and giving them about half of Polish territory. The Soviet Union made a mistake by starting the war with Poland as a first step to its World Revolution and were soundly beaten by newly resurrected Poland, so the Curson line had to wait to be handed to the Russians by our western Allies. As a compensation Poland was to be given land east of the river Oder belonging to defeated Germany.
89 T. Roguski, member of NSZ (National Armed Forces) one of the major underground organizations whose members were very much sought by UB. The intervention of the Sisters saved him at least a few years in a Siberian concentration camp. And he was not as sick as the UB believed he was - Sr. Teobalda made sure of it.
90 Highly patriotic organization
of young people whose independent detachments were fighting the Germans.