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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Today has passed in the usual tiresome guard duties; we are still under steady artillery fire but occasionally are able to shoot at an enemy car or truck passing near our building. We have to break the monotony somehow.

We have been told that while we are defending Zoliborz, the Germans are concentrating their main effort on breaking through the area from Wola to the Saski Gardens, Bruhl Palace, then to Kierbedzia Bridge, and on to Praga. This attempt to gain an east-west corridor to the Russian Front, however, has run into fierce opposition. In spite of countless brutal sorties by the Germans, every barricade, every house, and every square foot of land is being fiercely defended.


The wedge of German steel today succeeded in advancing along Elektoralna Street to Bruhl Palace, where Fischer and his staff have been surrounded since the first shot of the Uprising was fired on Suzina Street. Isolated in his fortress palace, defended by his Storm Troopers and select SS units, the Governor has been locked in a precarious position, not knowing when an attempt might be made to capture him. Fischer can have no illusions as to what will happen to him if he falls into our hands.

Today we heard a few details of what is happening there. Three days ago, General Erich von dem Bach took over as Commander-in-Chief of all German units. Soon after that, Home Army units surrounding Bruhl Palace were pushed back, and von dem Bach sent Fischer instructions to leave the Palace as soon as possible. Von dem Bach, charged personally by Hitler not to take prisoners, to kill women and children as well as civilian men, and to eradicate the city of Warsaw from the face of the earth, had been anxious to get Fischer out as soon as he arrived in Wola, the westerly suburb.

Then Cadet-Officer ‘Zawada,' along with two others, ran to the truck and succeeded in bringing it to the garage doors at the front of our building, although they were shot at by a German ma-chine gun.

As he was under fire all the time, it did not surprise us when ‘Zawada' crashed the right wheel against the corner of the garage wall. The truck was full of wooden crates, and opening one, we found it full of German hand grenades. We were overjoyed at our luck and started to unload the crates as quickly as possible, as we knew that the Germans would press their attack even harder now. Sure enough, just as we were putting the last crate in the cellar, the whole building shook from the explosion of an artillery shell, which had hit the fifth floor.

Now a dreadful time started for us. Shell after shell began to explode in the different rooms and the gunpowder made our eyes smart – sometimes the explosions were so close that the shock waves threw us against the walls. The entire building's rooms and corridors were covered in clouds of dust, and strewn with pieces of brick and fragments of exploded shells.

But the observers held their original places and paid extra attention in case the infantry advanced behind the screen of the artillery barrage. The firing only stopped with the coming of night. We were then able to take three seriously wounded men to a hospital and dress on the spot the wounds of those less badly injured. Our building is now so perforated from the outside that it looks like a Swiss cheese, and inside all the rooms are badly damaged. We can only manage three to four hours' sleep each night, as we have to spend time at the observation posts, clean our weapons, and check our ammunition.


Today's issue of our new newspaper, the Zoliborz Daily, carries a report about the capture of the four thousand hand grenades by the 226th Platoon. It also mentions that they are being distributed to all the Zoliborz platoons.


After ten days of exhausting duty at the Fire Brigade Building, our company has been relieved and sent away from the front line for a short rest.

The building on Mickiewicz Street (between Inwalidow and Wilson Squares) where our company is now quartered is one of the few apartment houses which, at least up to now, has not been either bombed or fired upon by enemy artillery. Here, for the first time in almost a month, I will be able to sleep in a bed and to en-joy edible food.


The strain of the last few weeks, the exhaustion and hunger, have finally all caught up with me. I am running a high fever and am so weak that I cannot get out of bed. The owners of one of the apartments are kindly looking after me, and dear Aunt Stacha, notified by them, has been to visit me and bring me food.


Tonight, after two days of nursing by my hosts, I felt my fever subsiding and got up to join them in the evening meal. Their young cousin, a courier who only the day before had made a harrowing trip through the sewers, was at the table. She brought an important message from Colonel ‘Wachnowski' in the Old City. The whole evening was spent listening to the news of other parts of the city from which we were cut off.

While we were tied down in Zoliborz, fighting off individual attacks, the rest of the city had been going through veritable hell. The Russians were withdrawing from the outskirts of Warsaw after refusing to help us in any way. In fact, information reaching General Bor-Komorowski's headquarters told of his officers being arrested by the Red Army, as they carried out his order to bring all armed units of the Home Army into Warsaw through the Great Kampinoska Forest.


As the Germans began to launch yet another attack on the Old City today, two of our officers made their way to Zoliborz through the fetid sewers, with orders for the newly arrived Partisan units from eastern Poland who had come to Zoliborz through the Great Kampinoska Forest.

The orders were for the Partisans to attempt to break through the German lines in order to replenish the depleted garrison forces in the Old City. In spite of the courage and the dedication of the Partisans, however, the attack has failed and nearly one hundred dead and wounded soldiers now lie in the field in front of the War-saw-Gdansk Railway Station.


General ‘Grzegorz' and Colonel ‘Heller' have reached Zoliborz after a tortuous trip through the fast-flowing sewers. They are here to organize a full-scale attack. This time it is to be coordinated with a joint attack from the other side of the railway line. Our company's mission is to attack the Warsaw-Gdansk Station itself, thus diverting the attention of the enemy from other sections of the line – and permitting the Partisans to reach the Old City. Almost the entire force of Zoliborz, under the personal command of Colonel ‘Zywiciel,' is assembled along the full length of the line from the Old Citadel to the Chemical Institute and the artillery positions in the suburb of Burakow.

The night is unseasonably cold and the ground upon which we are lying is very damp. Our thin, worn-out summer clothes, now in rags, give us little protection. Our boots are covered with rags to muffle the sound of our feet on the pavement during the initial attack.

The field is regularly lit up by huge blinding flares, and the quiet is interrupted by long salvos of machine-gun fire, which cut down the grass and the potato plants around us. After the previous night's attack, the German and Ukrainian troops are jittery and trigger-happy. They are ready for us.


At 2:00 A.M. the order came. We started across the street and through the previously cut openings in the lines of gnarled barbed wire, but before all our detachments could cross the street, the wide expanse of sky was lit by hundreds of marker flares. The red stars hung for a long time, casting an eerie light on the troops pinned down in the shadows of the houses.

Hundreds of shells from automatic weapons now began to rain down on Zajaczek Street, while tracer bullets created a barrier of fire above the prostrate army. They spattered against the walls of the apartment houses, throwing chunks of white stucco on the black pavement, while artillery shells gouged out craters, churning up the macadam, concrete, earth, and plants.

As soon as the machine guns of our company started up, the enemy firepower began to center upon them, silencing them one by one. Our platoon advanced up to the viaduct. One boy reached a high point and threw grenades down into a heavy machine-gun nest, silencing it forever. Then, caught in the cross-fire from other machine-gun nests, he rolled back down the embankment to his starting point.

The cries of the wounded could be heard above the machine guns' rattling and the explosions, and the combat nurses crossed the road in a vain attempt to bring help. Those who could started withdrawing as the order was passed along the field. The short battle was lost.

When the enemy stopped firing, and the artillery shells from the Citadel stopped thumping, only white flares remained and bathed the field with ghostly light, illuminating the 300 dead and wounded that were left behind.

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