White Eagle

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

[Refrain x2]

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

The back-story of Wojtek Zaleski:

Battle trail
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:

29 thoughts on “White Eagle

  1. Pingback: White Eagle | Reaction Times

  2. A beautiful tribute. The more I read about the Warsaw Uprising the more I am in awe of the bravery and courage of the Poles who participated in it.

    Your grandfather sounds like a true hero. You are lucky to have been able to spend time with him.

    Roosh, of all people, has written an introduction to the Warsaw Uprising that I would recommend to people who are generally unfamiliar with it: http://www.returnofkings.com/18415/the-warsaw-rising

  3. Pingback: White Eagle | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. Yes the Polish Bolsheviks fought a brave campaign.

    [Wrong. Armia Krajowa was an enemy of Bolsheviks. They were nationalists whose chain of command went up to Poland’s pre-war right wing government-in-exile in London. The much smaller Armia Ludowa was their Communist counterpart and they did not meaningfully participate in the rising. AK veterans of the Warsaw Uprising were persecuted and many were imprisoned or executed by post-war (((communists))) as Fascist and it was politically incorrect to even mention the ’44 Uprising during much of the communist period. The strategic objective of this operation was to liberate Warsaw ahead of the Soviet army’s arrival to secure a stronger claim on not having a bolshevik or communist post-war government. – PA]

  5. Uh huh. What about this angle? The few Jews left decided to fight to the death rather than slowly starve or be dragged off one by one to the death camps.

  6. Poland had the highest number of conscripts and volunteers of any nation in Europe. The ghetto uprising was a Jewish and pro Bolshevik lead, they were waiting for The Soviet Union to come into Warsawa but the Soviet’s waited so all Pro nationalists would be weakened by the Germans. Just the facts.

  7. Commanding sculpture too. Would be nice to see one in bas-relief, silver or gold, with White Eagle actually winged on the hunt; eagles storming in his wake.

  8. I can’t see many of our generations, young through the oldest, being able to be that brave, here. I can see, and do, a lot of them taking selfies and ignoring their own history and heritage, to our everlasting regret. Then again, there are always those of any generation who don’t and won’t fill that role, and they’ll give a good accounting of themselves. One thing our traitorous media never fails at, is to always show us the worst examples. But why is it that the example of Polish children defending their country is the epitome of Brave, and German children a few months later defending their Germany as a horrible thing? I realize the German kids were being used by the Nazis to try and save their own necks, but they loved their homeland too.

    [The German tragedies of 1945 deserve their own rememberance. Defense of Warsaw and defense of Berlin are not mutually hostile narratives. In blogging, I’ve been consistently sympathetic to the German cause insofar as war atrocities committed against their civilians, as well in their present predicament. – PA]

  9. This makes me so jealous and angry that my own nation, the dear old US of A doesn’t have solemn celebrations anymore. Memorial Day, Independence Day – I get the feeling they used to be a time for serious reflection, and gratitude for our ancestors; now they are just excuses to have a BBQ and get drunk. These are important rituals to bring a people together. It’s no shock they were (((deconstructed)))). But we *will* get them back.

  10. There’s nothing new under the sun indeed. For what is every Pepe Twitter anonymous account other than a pseudonym just like your grandfather? Once Twitter’s ability to censor the platform built upon a public good, invested and created through the tax dollars of *my people* and now used as a weapon against them is gone, we will return and remind (((them))) that we are here, we aren’t going anywhere and we will fight to regain what is rightfully ours.

  11. I’m first generation American, my parents emigrated in 1948. My father was a member of the only unit to escape Poland to the west just ahead of the Soviet steamroller. The Brigade was not part of the AK, although they mostly cooperated.
    I’d like to respond on your comment “[Wrong. Armia Krajowa was an enemy of Bolsheviks. They were nationalists whose chain of command went up to Poland’s pre-war right wing government-in-exile in London.”.
    I’ve translated two books about the Brigade and their leadership.
    The AK in-country was ordered by the G-I-E to cooperate with the invaders because of ‘An enemy of my enemy is an ally’. This proved disastrous to those AK units that assisted the Soviets, AL, etc. After the action, the AK leadership was shot, while the remainder, if lucky, was exiled to Siberia, most never heard from again.

    [That I did not know. I sincerely appreciate that insight. -PA]

  12. On a per capita basis, the Poles suffered casualties as severe as any nation which was a part of the Second World War. Only Belarus, which suffered fully twenty-five percent of her population lost, surpassed Poland, which lost more than fifteen percent of her population (Greece also suffered greatly, although that nation was not listed in the reference for the figures above). Along with Finland, Poland has the dubious distinction of being a nation attacked and/or conquered by both sides in the conflict, i.e. by both the Soviet Union and Germany.

    Free Poles in Britain and the Commonwealth Nations gave freely of themselves in Allied military service, fighting in everything from the Battle of Britain as fighter pilots, to soldiers as members of the British Army at Monte Casino, to members of the Soviet tank corps.

    The episode of the Warsaw Uprising was at once both inspirational and tragic. Inspirational because of the courage and fortitude of the Polish Home Army, rising up against the German invader, tragic because of the fact that neither the Anglo-American allies nor the USSR would come to their aid, dooming their cause. Not the finest hour of the Allied “Big Three” political leaders, not at all.

    When the Russians “liberated” Poland during the summer offensive of 1944, as part of Operation Begration and its aftermath (fall 1944-winter 1945), the Poles exchanged the German boot on their neck for a Russian one. At least the Russians allowed Poles to join the Red Army and fight the Germans, as many did.

    In the aftermath of the war, Stalin and his top people ruthlessly lured the Polish government-in-exile in London to meetings in Poland the Poles were told would determine the post-war political future of their nation. Instead, those Polish leaders who showed up at the “conference” were arrested and executed out-of-hand or incarcerated in the vast soviet system of gulags, many never to be seen again.

    It took Poland another half-century to finally shake off the yoke of Soviet oppression and at last regain her independence and freedom. Freedom that the members of the ‘Uprising had so much to do with securing for future generations.

  13. I was looking pretty deep into Polish back-history around this past New Year’s. More around the situation and days of Grishka Otrepyov “The False Dmitri.” The rather obscure and musty books were just too imaginatively fertile too mention on a blog, even PA’s; let the brightly squinting abyss dictate their eventual readers. It should be said that Poland has a flair/potential for theater unlike any other country.

  14. This story can’t be told without mention of the Ukrainian mercenaries coopted by the Germans to assist.

    Fast forward to today and I think you can argue that Poland’s push back on the EU and it’s migrant policies has its roots in Poland’s problems harbouring ungrateful Jews for centuries and other ethnic minorities including Ukrainians who now call Lwow their own city…

  15. Some commenters here have conflated the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising with the 1944 Uprising. Two completely different events, One pitted, without outside assistance, Jews marked for annihilation against SS in early 1943. The other a contrived “flushing” of non-Stalinists so that the Wehrmacht could eliminate all political opposition prior to Russian conquest. The sudden halt of Red Army advance on the outskirts of Warsaw, and holding in place for over a month, 24 hours after the broadcast call for uprising had nothing to do with logistics or any other military consideration.

    Many political leaders of 1949 Israel were survivors of the Ghetto uprising. Many of the uprising survivors were sent to the Treblinka death camp complex, which spawned the only successful camp uprising.

  16. Bravery beyond compare. God bless them all

    …from just another “ski” in the vast Midwest

  17. I always get a kick out of how many people on this blog are knowledgeable about Polish history. I said this before and someone appeared to take it as an insult; it’s not, I enjoy it, it’s just that where I come from no one knows the first thing about Poland.

    [That history is interesting outside of Poland, I think, because it is relevant today. In some important ways, the West is in uncharted waters here and now. In other ways the big questions of our time were also working themselves out in that time in Poland. There is always that persistent question: was the Warsaw Uprising a waste or a sacrifice with high recompense. The cream of a generation was wiped out, Stalinism played itself out despite the heroic stand. And yet a powerful national belief was born that unifies an entire nation regardless of ideology, and look at the country today. Forces beyond mortal plane of existence were locked in struggle for those two months. – PA]

  18. This is interesting. German rock band Frei.Wild “flirts with German taboos,” lol! The band members seem to back peddle somewhat in the article, but that might just be savvy behavior to avoid getting crushed by the state apparatus. It’s not like you can admit to pro-white views in Germany. They look like total shitlords and they sing about the homeland. So you tell me.

  19. Tom Saunders: You’ve got your history of Poland and WW2 correct. There were two uprisings, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1944 and the general Polish Free Army uprising later (The was a terrifying movie about it entitled “Kanal” that I saw in the 1980’s. Well worth seeing).

    [In case that was a typo… the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was in 1943 – PA]

    Most of the Jewish leaders of the Ghetto Uprising were more like democratic socialists (European style), than Democratic Communists (an oxymoron if there ever was one). The ones I’ve met or heard were basically Zionists in religious outlook (i.e. looking towards the reestablishment of the State of Israel).

    A late acquaintance of mine was Stefan Korbonski, one of the leaders of the PFA. He smuggled food and arms into the Warsaw Ghetto so that the Jews could fight back instead of being slaughtered like helpless lambs. He was awarded the highest Israeli/Jewish honor title of “Righteous Gentile” for his helping the Jews of Poland fight the Nazis.

    Also, I’ve seen a wide span of percentage figures of those who were slaughtered by the Red Army/KGB in the Katyn Forest Massacre in the early 40’s. Figures for the percentage of Jewish Officers in the Reserves ranged from 20% to over 50% and by wiping them out, the Soviets wiped out the present and potential Jewish leadership of the Jews in Poland, who would be more anti-communist than pro-communist.

    [The commonly accepted figure for Jewish victims at Katyn is 8%. The number of Jewish reserve officers who were mobilized in 1939 would reflect the higher Jewish (along with ethnic German) representation in Poland’s pre-war middle class but upward of 20% seems really high to me. Just looking it up now, Poland’s demographics in 1931 were 68.9% Polish language speakers and 63.7% Roman Catholics, and 7.8% Yiddish speakers and 9.7% Jewish by religion – PA]

    This is one reason they were killed. The same for the Christian Polish officers.

    By the way, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Sen. Judiciary Committee, published a short report entitled “Warsaw Insurrection: Communist Version Versus Facts”, 18 pp, 1969. It is well worth getting. Check the internet to see if it is posted there.

  20. — Commanding sculpture too. Would be nice to see one in bas-relief, silver or gold, with White Eagle actually winged on the hunt; eagles storming in his wake. (Each Pond Gone)

    The sculpture of the boy in the original post is The Little Insurgent monument in Warsaw. Below is a zoomed-out photo. The memorial statue to the ’44 Uprising as a whole is also below. You might recognize it as the backdrop to Trump’s Warsaw speech last year.

  21. Speaking of WW2, I hadn’t heard of Salomon Morel before, for some reason, but here he is:

    In 1994, soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Morel was investigated by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the “revenge killings”[6] of more than 1,500 prisoners from Upper Silesia, most of them local population, i.e. Polish and German Silesians, but also including some other nationalities.[7] After his case was publicized by the Polish, German, British, and American media, Morel fled to Israel and was granted citizenship under the Law of Return.


    Extradition requests were of course refused.

  22. Another Jewish Communist – Stefan Michnik. He served as judge on Poland’s post-war military tribunal in 1951.

    Everyone I’ve ever talked to who remembered the Stalinist years 1945-1954 told me that those years were a terror in some ways comparable to the preceding German occupation. Jews, as Poland’s most zealous Communists, were appointed to high places and ran the pro-Soviet puppet government and the secret police. They rabidly persecuted people who had been involved in Armia Krajowa or any other non-Soviet backed wartime resistance as fascist.

    Stefan Michnik was involved in the show trials that imposed capital punishment on about 40 AK veterans, all of whom were posthumously exonerated post-’89. He personally sentenced nine people. Five of them were executed or died from torture/abuse in prison.

    He left Poland in 1968, when Gomulka’s government expelled most of the old-time Jews from their positions in the Party. Most of them fled to the US or Israel. Michnik got asylum in Sweden, where he still lives, now in a nursing home in Gothenburg. Sweden has denied Poland’s extradition requests since 2007.

    (His brother Adam is the founder and long-time editor in chief of “Gazeta Wyborcza,” Poland’s biggest left wing newspaper.)


  23. Sweden has denied Poland’s extradition requests since 2007.

    I sometimes wonder if Sweden will ever get anything right. But presumably it’s because he’s a commie (wow! we love commies!) and a Jew (plenty of legal resources, no media attention).

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