Account by Witold Jerzy Niewiadomski
„TYGODNIK STARACHOWICKI" from 1996, copy [in the ]
ARCHIVES OF THE GREY RANK'S ASSOCIATION
Witold Jerzy Niewiadomski
In the underground he was a scout in the Grey Ranks, with the pseudonym "Pączek". In the Warsaw rising he was a liaison and post carrier in the Scout Field Post in Śródmieście.
DOB 7.03.1929 Warsaw
Son of Stanisław and Irena
After the capitulation, we were recommended to leave with the civilian population.. Our superiors thought that this way it would be easier to get out, avoid repression. After all, it wasn't known how the Germans would react. The last task remained undone: hide documents, bury the archives. To the end we performed services to help out the civilian population. A mate that I went to Żoliborz with, was in the group that evacuated hospitals. He left Warsaw some two, three weeks later with groups from the Red Cross. I left together with my scout leader, Tadeusz Jarosz "Topacz", Józef Przewłocki "Placek", his mother and two sisters. On the fifth or sixth of October, we met near the Polytechnic, then headed down Filtrowa Street, through Narutowicza Sq, to Dworzec Zachodni /rail station Warsaw West/. We walked through garden plots in front of the rail station. That abundant summer, the plots were full of lush tomatoes, carrots and all kinds of greens. The "fun" didn't start until the interim camp in Ursus. We were driven to a concrete hall, no water, or any sanitary facilities. We couldn't stop from laughing when these vegetables gave us diarrhoea.
Three days later, freight cars were lined up. Selection. "Topacz", "Placek's" two sisters and I to Germany, "Placek" and mother, somewhere in the Kielce region. They loaded sixty or seventy of us in a rail car and we were off. They let us out only once at some station. They gave us a bit of soup, you could use the latrine. We traveled for three days. At night the train stopped at some station. Alarms sounded, rumbling could be heard in the distance, sudden flashes split up the night sky. Bombing. After a short stop the train brought us outside the city and came to a halt for good. The rail cars rocked on all sides from the explosions. The company emptied out of the cars and everyone took to their feet. Since they let us out, we ran. Four of us went back for our things and walked to this burning city to found out where we were. At the first house we ask these Germans - Bochum - we heard in response. Where the heck is this? In Westphalia - the German calmly explained to us. We looked far from happy. No money, no food, and without documents, we found ourselves at the other end of Germany. Our German was just so-so, and our clothing straight from the Rising gave us away. To put it simply, we didn't have a chance. We didn't want to go back to the train. We decided to turn ourselves in to the police. A bomb had just blasted the police building. It was still intact but without windows, and inside everything was "rearranged". The Germans were very polite. - "From the Rising?" - They asked. They asked a lot of questions about what it was like there. We were placed in a cell for the night. They would decide what to do with us later In the morning, it turned out that our transport had left. Where to? Our policemen had to find out. - "This will take time" - they said. "Fine, but we're hungry". Two months of hunger in the Rising, three days of travel without food had taken its toll. They sent us to the field kitchen that was handing out soup to residents of the bombed homes.
There were a lot of workers from France and Belgium cleaning up the rubble. With the help of girlfriend we managed to talk with them. When they found out that we're from Warsaw, from the Rising, they started to bring us various "treats" and bowls of vegetable soup, the taste of which I can still remember. Only then did we feel that we're alive. The policemen found out where to send us. We only knew that it was several dozen kilometres to the west. We laughed then, that we're headed to a meeting with "Tommy" - the allies. And in fact we ended up at an interim camp on the Dutch border, where you could hear the western front.
After several days of peace, another selection. This time to work. "Topacz" and I volunteered. We were sent to a camp on the outskirts of Essen, to the Krupp works. We even got blankets, bowls. Around 20 October bombs fells on our camp. The barracks went up in flames. One of the bombs struck a shelter. Russians and Ukrainians died in it. We were ordered to pick up our stuff and they took us west again, some 40 km from Essen. From there they transported us to work by train. When the Americans bombed the rail lines, then we had to return the 40 km on foot. We returned to the camp, because it was the only place to get something to eat. It was two or three in the morning before you could trudge back, and in the morning off to work again.
Although we were assigned to the building group at the Krupp plant, the Germans mainly used us to collect rubble. We worked all day, then to the camp in the evening. The next day, another air raid and we were sent back to clean up the rubble again. The Americans took good care to have something to do. American air raids took place with the regularity of Swiss watches. When a certain hour came, the sirens sounded and we quit working. The Germans went into shelters, and we hid wherever we could.
While being transported from Warsaw, in Pruszków I threw out a card though the window to my aunt's address with news about myself. It reached my mother in a few hours. Later, then in the camp in Essen, I frantically searched for contacts with my family. I sent letters and post cards to all the addresses I knew. In the middle of December the first news from Poland arrived, which was still the General Government then. From this letter I found out that my oldest brother is in a POW camp, and my father along with my second brother at the Hagen camp, in Westphalia. I also found out that my mother gave birth to my youngest brother at a hospital in Milanówek. I was happy, because even though our family was spread out in five different locations, everyone had survived.
At the end of the December I wrote to my father. Some Sunday at the beginning of January I received a pass from the camp commander to leave. I went to visit my father. In Hagen it turned out that the address is not current, because during bombing of the city the camp was burned down, and everyone was moved to a nearby school. I found the school, even met our Warsaw neighbours. But my father and brother were no longer there. They were released on account of their poor health and left for Poland on the same day I arrived to Hagen. I must have missed them at the rail station.
For the second time in such dramatic circumstances I just missed seeing my parents. The first time during the Rising, I tried to reach my family home on 25 August, which stood next to the Poniatowski Bridge viaduct - which was nobody's land then. Insurgent patrols stopped me then, right in front of the house. I found out that Germans had just occupied the house. They dragged all the residents into the street, then set fire to all the flats, one by one. The residents were driven to Pruszków. This same day a mate from the Field Post reached my parents with a letter. He came out a moment before me. He ended up in Pruszków along with my parents. I was very close, but I didn't manage to see my parents.
In January 1945, when the Soviet offensive started, all contacts with Poland broke off. Letters went undelivered. When the Western front approached, we received notice from Krupp. They ordered us to return all our belongings - the blankets, bowls. We even received compensation. 90 marks a head, though a loaf a bread cost 350. Later we were handed over to the army and ordered to dig ditches. It kept getting worse with the food. We lived in unfinished barracks without windows. We slept on concrete, always frosted over by the morning. One night we were awoken by rumbling. It turned out that the allies were crossing the Rhine. We delayed to the last minute from going into the shelter, but when the artillery shells started to fly over our heads, we ran in search of some shelter. That night I lost all my documents and notes, which I started on during the Rising.
In the morning Germans took us in a column and led us out of the camp. We barely managed to go 2 km, when bombing of the synthetic fuels factory started, which was adjacent to the camp. We hid in concrete rings lying alongside the rode. The massive rings swung like trees in the wind from the bomb blasts.
The Germans led us around Essen for three days. We fed off what we found in the fields. At the end of the third day we figured out that the Volkssturmists that were guarding us, had fled. We felt free and decided to head west, closer to the allies. We had a bag of shelled peas with us. We asked some farmer on the outskirts of Essen if he could cook this for us. The farmer, a good-natured guy, threw the peas to the chickens and then set out a bowl of food for us. We ate what they gave us. The servant girl asks if we want something else? Of course! She went around three times with seconds, and the next day brought the four of us food in a bowl. We stayed with this German guy. After half a year stay in Germany, it was the first time we felt revived. Finally we could wash up, really scrape off the dirt. After all, I hadn't taken off my shoes for a month. Even then, the Americans occupied the Ruhr basin, we didn't really want to leave his place. Actually the first meeting with the American army wasn't the best. My friend, who had a scout badge tried to explain to them that we're Polish scouts transported to Germany, but they didn't even want to listen to us.
We worked for the German for another month. Only in June did we move to the interim camp for Poles. At this American run camp, we walked around hungrier than at our farmer. If not for the fields of potatoes growing next to the barracks, it would have been hard to survive.
In the first days of July we decided not to wait any longer. It was a time of true wandering of peoples. Some went east, others west. We gathered up our belongings, a bit of food and headed off to the station. The trains were so "covered" with people, there was no place to grab on to. On the stairs, roofs, inside the railcars and between them, there were people everywhere and everyone wanted to go. No schedules were in effect. We just considered whether a train was headed east or west. In Holten, the British closed the border and didn't want to let us to the Russians. We sat in this town for nearly a week, spending the nights in empty railcars parked on the siding. You had to get out of them quickly in the morning so not to end up going somewhere unnecessarily. In the end we made it to the Russians through the "green border". They transported us "footmen" to Magdeburg. It turns out there was no crossing there. The bridge over the Elba river was broken. We sat there for quite a few days. I split up with "Topacz", my scout leader, there. I went through Lipsk, Drezno, Zgorzelec, Głogów, Żagań, and he went with the rest of the group through Szczecin. We got home the same day on 31 July 1945. A day before the anniversary of the outbreak of the Rising I reached Zalesie near Piaseczno, where I met up with my parents. I stood at the door in the short scout pants I went off to the Rising in. That ended my war epic.