On the 30th of September Żoliborz capitulated. How do you recall the moment when you left home, in that case this basement?
By that time we had already moved from the teachers' house to our old house because it was too dangerous there. And we lived in the basement of our old house.
At the very end of the fighting in Żoliborz?
Yes. I remember how about the 20th of September we were staying in the basement and the fire became stronger and stronger - and suddenly a German was standing somewhere upstairs but we could not see him. He started yelling and ordered us to come out. My family had an excellent command of German so we understood him without any problem. And we came out. Everybody took some belongings - I had a small haversack with my treasures. We were totally unprepared for such an evacuation and people were grabbing the weirdest things. Bear in mind that it was end-September, still quite warm so nobody was taking fur coats or other heavy coats.
It was thus different from the city center when people had time to prepare themselves for the exodus?
Yes. We had absolutely no time. And I remember that they led us quickly on Krechowiecka Street which is so wide - and I saw the storming German troops. Such a film cadre that registered deeply in my memory: they were jumping out from ground-floor apartments on Krechowiecka Street of this teachers' house, the ground-floor was high - and like on films these Germans armed with Schmeissers, in helmets jumping over fairly high balconies, very deftly. In our direction. Because our house was already evacuated but others were still resisting.
Later we were led on Słowacki and then through Suzin to Krasiński Street, in that direction. And I recall that as we were walking there we actually did not feel any fear. We were guarded by Germans, German troops and were not that much afraid. But we were somehow afraid of the insurgents who were shooting - we were most scared when they shot at these Germans who convoyed us because it could end in disaster.
So this was still before the capitulation of Żoliborz?
Before, yes. We were leaving while the fighting was still going on. I think that fighting was drawing to an end - because all that shooting was drawing to an end - when we more or less reached the seat of the Nuns of the Resurrection, a little further on, that is Krasiński Street close to the allotments.
In any case, I think there was also a change in the people who were leading us - from front units to more police-based units. And I remember that - today I know that they were from Kamiński's brigade - members of the Russian National Liberation Army (RONA) were there. At the time we called all of them "własowcy" ("vlasovists") without drawing distinctions; but there were no "własowcy" .
And I remember that one of the members of RONA asked my mother something; and she said something back to him. My grandparents, my aunt, and my mother all spoke well Russian because Grandpa was a tsarist judge; it was, if one can say so, his muttersprache (mother tongue), besides the Polish language. They spoke very well Russian, with an accent. So well so that the member of RONA started talking to my mom, and afterward he took a metal comb and gave it to her, and said: "This will be useful, when there are lice." And it really was useful. He gave it to her as a gift; he did not take any of our watches...
That is, he was not aggressive; he did not order you to take off your watches; and on top of that, he gave you a comb?
No, he was not. But he warned us that further on, they could be aggressive and that they rape women - which did not mean anything to me at the time, but I understood that they could be aggressive. No, he simply met someone who spoke very well in Russian, and he himself was Russian or Belarussian. And my family members spoke as if they were Russians - not as if it was their second language; in Mother's case, it was her childhood language...
Later they took us to Dworzec Zachodni (West Railway Station). I imagine that we went along today's Armia Krajowa (Home Army) route, more or less - we had to be somewhere in that area; I do not remember everything. But I do remember that we were walking all the time; we did not stop anywhere for the night; there was nothing along the way. They were giving out water...