An extract from Boleslaw Taborski: “Moje powstanie wtedy I teraz” (“My Uprising Then and Now”) 

This contains the notes he wrote at the time. (1-08-1944 to 19-09-1944). Translated by Zbigniew Pelczynski

The saga of the attempted escape from Mokotow to the centre of Warsaw has frequent references to “Jagiello”, “nom the guerre” Zbigniew Pelczynski adopted as a member of the underground

We are waiting at a manhole. At 5 am we descend into the sewer. The germans are already on Kaziemierzowska and Raclawicka Street [about a mile from the manhole – ZAP]. A row in the sewer – neither forward, neither back. We are waiting for an hour, with arguments and swearing, at last we reached the master sewer under Pulawska Street.  “Walet” [one of our unit – ZAP] runs off with some-others. Three of us joined the unit of a captain “Gustaw” and move forward with a group of 148 men. I stick to “Jagiello”. A slow tragic march a long way sewer to Rakow. Useless cries for silence. There is no guide. Encounter with a group returning from the opposite direction. There is a crowd at the crossroads. “Strata” joined us [our unit member – ZAP]. We follow an unknown LT “Woss”. We stopped at a manhole. “Woss” killed by german grenade, the rest takes to the hills. Section of the sewer leading to the centre covered with rubble. The germans start filling the sewer with water, they let in the choking gas. The crowd disperses trampling people under foot.  “Jagiello”, “Stratta” and I crouched in a niche, near a manhole. LT “Dab” proposes to move forward when the crowd moves on. We hear the sound of grenades. We are waiting for death. Hell. Finally some people force the manhole open (at the corner of Rozana Street), men start climbing up and surrounding  to the Germans. We also climb out. We are ready for death. We see tremendous destructions caused by bombs and soviet artillery. It is one o’clock. The Germans confiscate our things, form us into unit and lead through Rozana Street. The whole Mocotow is on fire. A sitting rest facing some “calmucs” [German mercenary soldiers from Soviet Asia, with a machine gun pointed at us – ZAP]. We take a last look at our brick forty-fight and the ruins of Warsaw, when they lead us along “Independence Avenue”, past the “Altasar” [forty-fight insurgence block – ZAP] to the “Mokotow fort” [an old military stronghold]. All surveying Mocotow defendants (2000 men) and some civilians. I and “Jagiello” join men from our unit. All are there except “Walet”. The gentle general v. Bach makes a speech [commander in chief of German forces in Warsaw – ZAP], “We are prisoners of war”. A pea soup is served excellent and plentiful. After lunch long march around the outskirts of Warsaw (..) Late at night we reached an old railway depot in Pruszkow [an old according to Taborski’s book the number of soldiers of our “B1 company” fighting in Mocotow was around 4 hundred of whom 158 died in the uprising – ZAP].

“Wednesday 27th of September

(…)

I am waiting in a crowd of other insurgents near the manhole at the corner of  Szustra and Baluckiego Street. The sewer is chock-a-block with people. At 5 am the germans are already on Kazimierzowska and Raclawicka Street [probably around 3 km away]. The officer in charge of evacuation single-handedly pushes me (together with around 150 other injured men) into the manhole. People pile on each other. The sewer is less than 1 m high; we need to crawl on all fours. (…)

The main sewer in front of us is blocked. In this claustrophobic situation people are going mad. I cannot move forward nor backwards for an hour. One hears only quarrels and swearwords. Finally we reach the storm sewer under Pulawska Street. Here one can move upright, than we have to emerge into stinking “waters” of the sewer. (…) Down here one needs to keep total silence, yet for frightened mob this is an impossible task. The hysteria of the civilians affects even some soldiers. (Why are they even here, in this military evacuation?(…)). Our group begins to disperse. I stick to Jagiello, who also left hospital after a concussion. Than “Strata” [our section leader] joins us.

We join a large group of LT “Gustaw” (…) .  Emerged in this stinking slush and darkness, we are desperately trying to reach Rakowicka street. But there is guide. The germans are above; one must be silent. But asking for it is of no avail. We are at a junction of two sewers (…) . There is crush and confusion because we try to move forward and others push backwards.

We are following a LT “Woss”. We stop at a manhole. We hear screams: Germans have heard noise and threw down a hand-grenade.  “Woss” supposedly perishes. The mob panicky rushes to escape this horror, treading everybody under foot.  I see corpses in the water. (…). There are rumours of grenades being thrown in, flooding and releasing poison gas. The scenes resemble Dante’s Inferno.

In this Gehenna situation I, “Jagiello” and ”Strata” decide to crouch in a canal niche and wait. (…)

We hear detonation of grenades; we lose the will to do anything; there is nowhere to go. Emerging on the surface is a certain death. But it also awaits us underground. In fact we are convinced that we will not make it alive no matter what. (…). Just as told in movies my whole life passes in front of my eyes: From early childhood till this hopeless uprising; and my dear ones I am not going to see.

Some people force the manhole cover , they climb out and surrender. We consult each other briefly and do the same, convinced that death awaits us up there. What’s the difference where one dies? And yet we prefer not to perish in the sewer – like rats. It is 1 pm. We have spent 8h in the sewers. Strangely it seemed like 24h.

The germans help us out of the manhole. One of them “helpfully” pulls “Jagiello” by the hand and steals his watch. We stand blinded for a moment by sunlight. We realise we are in a small square, so near the place where we first submerged into the sewers. We see tremendous destruction caused by  soviet artillery which is still firing. Germans are circling around seizing anything that is valuable. Whenever a missile lands near they leave us in the middle of the street and run for shelter. Eventually they put us under wall and put machine gun in front of us. So is it now? Again images more and more chaotic are passing before our eyes.

(…)

We are saved by an officer on a motorcycle who stops potential execution in the very last moment.”


ZAP: Than we we grouped in a small formation and started marching. We slowly left Mokotow observing the tremendous damage and remaining houses being set on fire by the germans. We take a last look at our brick forty-fight and the ruins of Warsaw, when they lead us along “Independence Avenue”, past the “Altasar” [forty-fight insurgence block – ZAP] to the “Mokotow fort” [an old military stronghold]. All surveying Mocotow defendants (2000 men) and some civilians. I and “Jagiello” join men from our unit. All are there except “Walet”. The gentle general v. Bach makes a speech [commander in chief of German forces in Warsaw – ZAP], “We are prisoners of war”. A pea soup is served excellent and plentiful. After lunch long march around the outskirts of Warsaw (..) Late at night we reached an old railway depot in Pruszkow [an old according to Taborski’s book the number of soldiers of our “B1 company” fighting in Mocotow was around 4 hundred of whom 158 died in the uprising – ZAP].

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