Zbigniew Zbigniewski, born 1929
Testimony on the "Exodus of Warsavians"
I have lived in Warsaw since my birth. In 1944 I was 15 years old and I lived together with my family - i.e. my father, step-mother, seven year old sister and one year old step sister at 32 Grzybowska Street. (...)
The Warsaw Uprising caught me at work in a bakery on the corner of Ciepła and Grzybowska Streets. During the first ten days of the uprising I stayed together with my family in our flat. Then civilians have been evacuated from that region as it became a scene of heavy street fighting. And here our wandering started. Together with the family I stayed in an apartment owned by people known to us at the corner of Pańska and Mariańska Streets, where the situation at that time was relatively quiet. (...)
On the moment we about to leave a storeroom with food rations, Germans entered the place. We have been led out of the region along Grzybowska Street towards Towarowa and Kercelego Square. Those who managed to stay alive have been attached to a larger group of people and all of us were led along Wolska Street to St. Adalbert Church (kościół świętego Wojciecha), which was used then as a place for selection of Warsavians, the selection that was to determine their still unknown future. I have been ordered to join a relatively small group of males, which were meant to replace - as it turned out later - workers in a force labor camp set up in Sokołowska Street. The camp has been actually set up in a compound of unfinished buildings behind the St. Adalbert Church. (...) Some 300 men were stationed in the camp. A day would usually start with a roll-call, when we were being divided into groups of between 10 and 30 persons, the groups being taken then over by German soldiers and ordered to perform various types of work - collecting debris from the streets, loading of goods, burring of dead bodies and other useful work. As fighting still continued nearby, we were also forced on many occasions to work risking our lives within a shooting range - building fortifications or dismantling barricades. So from time to time the man-power of the camp had to be enforced with new groups of males to substitute the wounded and fallen ones.
After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising a new forced labor camp has been set up on the military grounds at the corner of Puławska and Rakowiecka Streets (today it's 4 Puławska), when also I did end up in November 1944. There were around 200 of us there, all males, and here too we were used for various types of work, mainly for transshipment of goods within the area of Warsaw. (...)
On January 15, 1945 instead, as usually, being led to work, we (the whole camp) have been quickly moved, being escorted by soldiers, out of Warsaw, along Wolska Street towards the town of Błonie. The Germans were already escaping from Warsaw. Marching day and night we managed to make it up to the vicinity of Pawłowice. Here - on January 17, at noon, when it was really cold - we were met by advancing Soviet troops and this was the end of our "adventure" with the Germans. The first hours of freedom we spent in a village there, rejoicing the new situation together with country folks and Soviet soldiers, who were offered a treatment at every single house.
Having calmed down from the joy, we started organizing a return to Warsaw. I found myself on a horse wagon, we were headed at night towards Grodzisk Mazowiecki. There I spent the rest of the night at the place of a distant family members, from whom I learnt that my relatives were alive. Next day I went afoot along the railroad to Warsaw. I stopped at my aunt's house in the Włochy suburb and here unexpectedly I met my father. He was convinced I had been killed, so you can imagine his (and mine) joy upon our meeting. My father had made it to Włochy from a village next to Grójec, where he stayed with the whole family after being driven out of Warsaw. Immediately on the next day, which was January 20, 1945, we both went to the city to inspect the ruins of Grzybowska Street. It was impossible to live there then. We have moved into a room on the attic of a building at Serocka Street in the district of Grochów, where normal life was already back. We managed to bring my step mother and the sisters from the village near Grójec and in such way we have started a poor but new life. Somehow after Easter of the year 1945 we moved to the left bank of Vistula and we renovated for living an apartment at Wilsona Square, where then my parents would live for whole next 28 years. I - as the oldest of their children, who worked and studied from the first months following the liberation - after four years there have moved to my own place. Currently I am a construction engineer, still working in my profession. (...)