It often amazes me, how long live people who went through the hell of the Second World War, seems like the horrors they had seen during the war, gave them the will to live. I met at the Sikorski Institute several 90-year-olds, Jan Nowak-Jezioranski lived 91 years, General Maczek 102 years, and Jan Karski “only” 86 years 🙂 Probably of great importance is the fact that they grew up in a much healthier environment. The air was cleaner, healthier food – not many of us will reach 90, I’m afraid.
The hero of today’s post lived 78 years, but it seems to me that he had a very successful life. But from the beginning…
Richard Mieczyslaw Białous (“George”, “Ram”) was born on April 4, 1914 in Warsaw (still in the Russian Empire). From the age of ten belonged to the Gen. Henryk Dabrowski’s Sixth Scout Team, where he went through all the stages from a youngster and from 1936 he served as commander of Troop “Powiśle”. He graduated from St. Stanislaus’s grammar school where he earned a matriculation certificate in 1932. He entered the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Warsaw and a year later he moved on Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology. In 1936 he obtained with good results an engineering degree. A year later he interrupted his studies and was appointed to the Engineers Training Centre in Modlin and in 1938 finished in second place the School Reserve Officers Engineers, with the rank of platoon sergeant of engineers. He went back to school, but already in March 1939 was called to active duty as an engineer in 8th Infantry Division in Modlin. In June he resigned at his own request, to obtain a discharge from the Warsaw Polytechnic and marry Christine Błońska. It wasn’t given to him to enjoy his wife for a long time, because on 1st August he returned to the 8th Infantry Division as an engineers platoon commander. In September 1939 using delaying action arrived with his unit in Warsaw, where he took part in the defense of Warsaw. On 19th September was wounded in both legs.
After recovering, he was involved in underground activities with Union of Retaliation (Zwiazek Odwetu), a separate body of Union of Armed Struggle (Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej). In the autumn of 1942 after Shock Troops and Kedyw (“Directorate for Subversion”) were created he became commander of a 300-people strong Special Unit “George”. His deputy was Tadeusz “Sophy” (Zoska) Zawadzki, commander of “Attack” group in Operation Arsenal, who was killed later on in the attack on the Grenzschutz’s watchtower and in his honor the battalion was called “Sophy” (01/09/1943).
During the Warsaw Uprising Battalion “Sophy” as part of the Sabotage Brigade “Beard 53” has passed the toughest trail of fighting in the Wola district, Old Town and Czerniaków. After Czerniaków’s fall “Sophy’s” soldiers (“zośkowcy”) infiltrated channels to Mokotów, and after the surrender of the district – to the city center.” George” with a small group of soldiers moved terrestrially to the Downtown South. The battalion lost about 350 soldiers during the Uprising. For his actions “George” was awarded three times the Cross of Valour and the War Order of Virtuti Militari fifth class.
After the Uprising he was sent to prison camps in the Bergen-Belsen, Gross-Born and Sandbostel. After his release he became the commander of the First Care Platoon at the Independent Parachute Brigade, he organized Officer’s Club and a school for soldiers. He decided to stay in the West, after hearing how the Russians treat Home Army soldiers. He returned to Poland in 1946 together with the gifts’ transport and with the same convoy he exported from the country his wife and children and several comrades in arms. In 1947 he lived in London, but he was annoyed by the exalted British attitude towards Poles. At the urging of a friend he decided to move to Argentina.
On 9th July 1948 he landed in Buenos Aires, which under General Peron was the scene of strikes and street fighting. This was the reason for the move with his family to the west, to the town of Quillen in the province of Neuquen. Together with a friend from the Independent Parachute Brigade he had launched a house factory, which soon went bust. Undeterred by the failure he had used his knowledge and experience in the construction of roads and bridges. He designed and supervised the construction of the airport in Quillen. In 1961 they moved to the town Zapala to allow their children access to education. Two years later he got the government contract to design and build a resort in Caviahue, near the border with Chile. He was technical director of the Board of Tourism and Resorts, then Director of the Hydrological Service and Electricity. He was completely responsible for water supply, production and distribution of electricity. In the years 1966-1969 he was the director of projects on behalf of province of Neuquen’s Ministry of Construction. As the director of “Adelphia” over the next two years he built an electricity transmission line, the road in the mountains, the pipeline. Since 1976 he also was appointed director of the thermal spas. He was active in the Union of Poles in Argentina and in veterans’ organizations. In Patagonia he founded the first in Argentina biathlon club. He was an active skier and mountaineer. He climbed in the Andes, capturing several virgin peaks. He visited Poland only once for the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the Uprising. During this visit he visited his family, places where battalion “Sophy” fought and the graves of friends.
He died on 24th March 1992 and was buried in the cemetery in Neuquen. I will try to find his grave when I’m in Argentina. Although he wasn’t exiled as Bronislaw Pilsudski but Richard Białous also turned to anthropology (beautiful continuation of nineteenth-century Polish academic traditions). He moved with his family on land belonging to the tribe of Araucanians (they call themselves Mapuche – People of the Earth). Białous was the founder of the Araucanian Society. He studied their customs, language, and traditions and had become an expert on Mapuche culture and had a large collection of artifacts. I think he was impressed by the fact that the Mapuche were not conquered neither by the Incas nor by the Spanish and only Chilean troops managed to do that. Maybe their resilience reminded him of citizens of Warsaw?
Davies, Norman. Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw, London, Macmillan, 2003.
Utracka, Katarzyna. Poległym chwała, wolność żywym. Oddziały Walczącej Warszawy, Warszawa 2005