“Warszawskie dzieci, pójdziemy w bój”
(“Warsaw’s children, we go to fight”)
Today is the 74th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, which was organized by the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) resistance movement and which lasted from August 1st to October 2nd, 1944.
[UPDATE: This post is about the general Warsaw uprising in 1944, not the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943.]
Zero Hour is commemorated at 1700 hrs local time every August 1st with one-minute’s howl of air-raid sirens to mark the start of the insurrection.
There is nothing new under the sun and there already was a Generation Zyklon. No, they didn’t gas anyone, but they fought like warriors to take back their city. And they won — seven decades later, the city belongs to them. There is special lore about the kids who took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Boys as young as ten fought as riflemen, boys and girls served as nurses’ aides, barricade builders, and couriers who navigated through sewer tunnels.
Between its walls, a constant stream of citizens and freedom fighters made their perilous, just perilous, sprints. They ran across that street, they ran through that street, they ran under that street — all to defend this city. “The far side was several yards away,” recalled one young Polish woman named Greta. That mortality and that life was so important to her. In fact, she said, “The mortally dangerous sector of the street was soaked in the blood. It was the blood of messengers, liaison girls, and couriers.” — President Donald Trump (Warsaw, July 2017)
Through the duration of the war, Home Army (AK) conspirators knew each other only by pseudonyms so that in an event of capture and interrogation, real names wouldn’t be revealed. After the collapse of national defense forces in 1939 in which my grandfather was a lieutenant, he continued his commission in the AK. His gravestone at a veterans’ cemetery shows his rank and pseudonym. He and I talked briefly about the war in January 1997. That was the only time I saw him in my adulthood.
A haunting song by Natalia Sikora, called “White Eagle,” salutes the 11-year-old Wojtek Zaleski (ps. “White Eagle”), who distinguished himself in action in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
Orzeł Biały / White Eagle
Na ulicy w powstańczej Warszawie / On the streets of the Warsaw Uprising ’44
Sprzedawano blaszane Orzełki / Little tin eagles were sold
Zanim dziecko Virtuti dostanie / Before a child gets his Virtuti Militari
Niech Orzełkiem na czapce się cieszy / Let him enjoy the eagle on his cap
Nie chciał nikt żeby dzieci walczyły / Nobody wanted the children to fight
Nie chciał nikt by co dnia umierały / Nobody wanted them to die each day
Lecz powstrzymać ich nikt nie miał siły / But nobody could hold them back
Same sobie broń zdobyć umiały / They knew how to get weapons
Ile Orłów sprzedano zbyt tanio? / How many Eagles were sold too cheaply?
Ile Orłów sprzedano zbyt drogo… / How many Eagles were sold too dearly…
Cena prawdą umarłych zostanie… / Only the fallen know the price …
Żywi z bólu rozliczyć się mogą… / The living can settle out their sorrow …
Na powstańczej kronice zostały / The insurgency chronicles show
Zdjęcia chłopca co poległ na Ciepłej / Photos of a boy who fell on Ciepła Street
Jedenaście miał lat Orzeł Biały! / Eleven years old, was White Eagle
A nazywał się Wojtuś Zaleski / His name was Wojtek Zaleski
W Chrobrym dwa każdy Orła doceniał / On 2 Chrobry Street, all hailed the Eagle
Umiał przejść wszystkie linie niemieckie / He knew how to pass all the German lines
Wyprowadził bez strat z okrążenia / He led the “Grześ” group with no losses
Grupę ”Grzesia” – znał drogi bezpieczne / Past the encirclement — he knew the safe routes
Potem poległ i Tygrys i Magik / Then Tiger and Magician [pseudonyms] fell
I tysiące z tych co nie walczyły / And thousands of those who did not fight
Umierały też dzieci Warszawy / Also died the children of Warsaw
Które Matki szaleńczo chroniły / Whom mothers fervently shielded
Orzeł Biały miał grób na Ceglanej / White Eagle had a grave on Ceglana Street
W bramie była Maryi figurka / Virgin Mary watched from the gate
Krzyż Virtuti przyznany zostanie / The Virtuti Cross will be awarded
Wszystkim Dzieciom z Naszego Podwórka / To all of the children from our courtyard
Downtown North. The youngest soldier in the assault group of Master Sergeant “Grześ.” He served in the unit from the start of the Uprising and earned the admiration of the older soldiers when on August 2, 1944 he passed through German lines to the area of the heavily guarded Main Railway Station. After three hours of observation, he returned with a report on manpower, weapons and the organization of enemy units. On August 15, taking routes known only to him, he guided his platoon out of encirclement. For this action, his battalion commander Captain “Lech Grzybowski” nominated him for the Cross of Valor.
Place of death
He died in the area of the police barracks on Ciepła Street while carrying a report from MSgt “Grześ.” His body was pulled from the rubble under German fire. That action was immortalized by insurgents’ film crew [See link above for still images under “Zobacz Galerię” – PA]. The field burial of “White Eagle” took place in the courtyard at Ceglana Street 3.
A short tribute to the living veterans of the Uprising: