Posts Tagged With: Home Army

“George”

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 Białous - "George"

Richard Białous – “George”

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).

"Sophy" Battalion Badge

“Sophy” Battalion Badge

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.

Richard Białous in 1st Independent Parachute Brigade

Richard Białous in 1st Independent Parachute Brigade

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.

Registration Card

Registration Card

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.

A resort in Caviahue

A resort in Caviahue

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?

The Mapuche tribe

The Mapuche tribe

Bibliography:

Davies, Norman. Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw, London, Macmillan, 2003.

Utracka, Katarzyna. Poległym chwała, wolność żywym. Oddziały Walczącej Warszawy, Warszawa 2005

http://www.1944.pl/historia/powstancze-biogramy/Ryszard_Bialous

http://histmag.org/Ryszard-Bialous-ps.-Jerzy-2851

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We remember

I’ve been planning to visit the Gunnersbury Cemetery for a long time and finally I did it. The funniest thing is I used to work in Chiswick, 15 minutes walk from the cemetery but never could find time. It was a rainy Thursday afternoon when I got there and I guess that was the reason for only a few visitors apart from me. The main purpose of my visit was Katyn Memorial at the centre of the cemetery. The Memorial is thought to be the first one to be erected in Western Europe (unveiled on 18 September 1976) but the first place to commemorate the Katyn Massacre was the Church of Divine Mercy in Manchester where in 1964 an urn with soil from Katyn and a cross made of a monastery’s wall in Kozielsk appeared. Three years later a plaque was unveiled at St Andrew Bobola Church in London and on 16 November 1975 a Katyn Memorial was unveiled in Stockholm.

The idea of Katyn Memorial faced a lot of opposition in the UK. Moscow and Warsaw were protesting and there was no support from the British Government but despite all that Polish Government-in-exile secured the support of a few British politicians like Winston Churchill, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Around 8000 people attended the ceremony on 18 September 1976, including delegations from few embassies. However there was no Western European delegation, the British PM also failed to show up. Who would’ve thought that even 30 years after the WWII Brits would have no balls to oppose the Soviets (a New Year’s resolution – I’ll try to choose words more carefully 🙂 ).

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

DSCN1957

DSCN1958

Walking towards the Memorial I started noticing a lot of Polish names. I slowed down and started reading the names. I guess at least 20% of people resting there were Polish. Suddenly I realized almost every tombstone had an emblem of Polish Eagle or Poland Fights On. Sometimes it would only say: “Born in Lviv”.

Zygmunt Witymir Bienkowski - 303 Squadron Commander (01.12.1942-04.07.1943)

Zygmunt Witymir Bienkowski – 303 Squadron Commander (01.12.1942-04.07.1943)

General Malinowski fought in Polish Legions and then under Gen Haller.

General Malinowski fought in Polish Legions and then under Gen Haller

Zbigniew Stypulkowski - one of the defendants in the Trial of the Sixteen

Zbigniew Stypulkowski – one of the defendants in the Trial of the Sixteen

Kamil Bogumil Czarnecki - one of General Maczek's officers

Kamil Bogumil Czarnecki – one of General Maczek’s officers

Poland Fights On

Poland Fights On

At the Memorial I had a chat with a Polish woman who belonged to Solidarity and arrived in the UK more than 30 years ago. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that post-war and new wave of Polish immigrants are not very well connected. Well, there’s a similar situation when it’s about post-Solidarity immigration. I didn’t want to listen to the accusations against the post-war immigration so I quickly asked her to show me the way to some graves. It really takes a war for us, Poles to stop barking at each other… But thanks to her I got a name of a Polish priest who’s involved in taking care of Polish graves in London. She also saved me some time by showing me graves of the second to last Polish President in Exile Kazimierz (Casimir) Sabbat and general Józef (Joseph) Haller who in 1920 seized Pomerania and performed a symbolic “wedding ceremony” of Poland and the Baltic Sea (as the woman described him – “the one who married the sea” 😀 ). She failed to show me the grave of general Bór-Komorowski, the Home Army’s commander – a coincidence? I hope so 🙂

Kazimierz (Casimir) Sabbat - the second to last Polish President in Exile

Kazimierz (Casimir) Sabbat – the second to last Polish President in Exile

General Jozef (Joseph) Haller von Hallenburg (“the one who married the sea” ). I think it was the best looking tombstone at the cemetery

General Jozef (Joseph) Haller von Hallenburg (“the one who married the sea” ). I think it was the best maintained tombstone at the cemetery

General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, cavalryman, Olympian, Home Army's Commander, Warsaw Uprising Commander, Commander-in-Chief, Prime Minister

General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, cavalryman, Olympian, Home Army’s Commander, Warsaw Uprising Commander, Commander-in-Chief, Prime Minister

Oh, by the way, only 161 days left 🙂

Categories: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Between old and new

I’m embarrassed to admit but before August this year I’ve never been to Polish capital – Warsaw. I guess I was never “in the neighborhood” and besides Warsaw, like every capital, is not a very popular city amongst the rest of countrymen. But because it is  Polish capital, I always wanted to visit it. It’s a city full of symbols – we say that some place is busy as Marszalkowska Street, Muniek from T.Love was singing about Krakowskie Przedmiescie (literally Krakow suburb). Seeing the Palace of Culture and Science put a smile on my face as if I just saw the Statue of Liberty 🙂 And believe me, it is an ugly building, but I’ve seen it in so many movies that it’s just simply a part of Warsaw to me. We can’t forget how much the city suffered during the last war and you can see it straight away after entering the city. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a building older than 65 years. And we’re talking about a spot where a settlement has existed for more than ten centuries. I also had a personal reason to visit – my very good friend and his wife live there.

Walking around Warsaw makes you think. About history of the city, people who used to live there. I was whispering at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier even though it’s almost in the middle of Pilsudski Square. The Royal Castle looks beautiful in the evening and it’s hard to believe it was re-built after the war.

Guard of honour at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier

Royal Castle in the evening

The original Zygmunt’s Column

Apart from spending some quality time with my mate (pub crawling :)) I really wanted to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Don’t worry, I’m not going to discuss here if the Uprising was a good idea or not but the Museum is worth seeing. It’s very modern and everyone will find there something interesting to see. Life under occupation was hard but people dealt with it with wit. A few times during the visit I read things that forced me to move along as the cruelty of Nazis was unbearable to read about. But I think the most emotional moment for me was watching a short film “City of Ruins”. It was made from a German plane flying over Warsaw in 1945 and you can see almost a whole city flattened… 1.3 mil people living in Warsaw in September 1939 and after the Uprising less than 1000 people (they were called “robinsons”) hiding in ruins (including a famous pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman). Those two numbers show what Warsaw went through during the war.

Posters calling to fight

The Home Army’s soldiers’ oath

Kubus – homemade armored car

I would love to go back to Warsaw as there’s still so many places and things to see. On top of my list is Stare Powazki cemetery, place of resting for many famous Poles.

Wawel Castle

A few days later I went to Krakow. I must say I was a bit depressed after visiting Warsaw – such a beautiful city ruined in 5 years time. But I quickly felt alive again. Krakow is so… Polish, so full of great history. It wasn’t destroyed during the war, so there are a lot of gems waiting for tourists on almost every corner. Walking around I realized I was standing in front of Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland, founded in 1364 by king Casimir the Great (at that time the University was called Studium Generale). In Warsaw I was thinking that Nazis did quite a good job in getting rid of everything that was Polish. After war we ended up as Soviet Union’s satellite country for 45 years (thank you dear Allies). Does it always have to be so hard for us, Poles? But then I heard the Heynal, saw the Wawel Castle, tombs of kings Casimir the Great, Wladyslaw Jagiello and John III Sobieski, the St. Maurice’s spear, which was given to Boleslaw I the Brave by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in 1000AD, tombs of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Jozef Pilsudski and Gen Sikorski and I had an epiphany. This is our birthplace, the source of our strength. Thanks to Piast and Jagiellonian dynasties Poland was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. Yes, there were partitions, but we lived through it, without losing our identity. We gained our independence in 1918 only to lose it 20 years later, but there was the September Campaign of 1939 and Home Army (the Polish resistance) that gave us hope. After communism there was time of Solidarity and Lech Walesa… I understood that “Poland has not yet perished, So long as we still live”. Of course we quarrel and argue all the time, but if there is a need we always unite to fight the enemy – something none of the occupants could ever understand. I come from the generation that had nothing to fight for. Old enough to remember queuing for toilet paper but too young to fight the system. But I remember 1997 and the Great Flood. The way we helped each other was amazing. It didn’t matter if someone was old or young, from left or right wing, we all built the walls to protect our cities and homes and when the water receded we all started helping the ones who suffered most. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life before. Fortune is fickle, after bad times good ones come. So when I turn on the TV in Poland and see politicians arguing with each other, I say to myself – it’s all good 🙂

St. Maurice’s Spear

Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s tomb

Jozef Pilsudski’s crypt

Categories: Misc | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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