I was a soldier in the Swietokrzyska Brigade of the NSZ(1) and commander of the infantry platoon that was dispatched from Czechoslovakia to Poland in 1945. For that I was sentenced to death in Soviet-occupied Poland in 1946. The sentence was later changed to 42 years in prison: ten years for possession of firearms, ten years for possession of broadcasting equipment, seven years for planning to gather information which, according to the judge, was military secrets; and fifteen years for belonging to the NSZ. The 1947 amnesty reduced this to 13 years, the 1956 amnesty further reduced it to 11 years. I spent the years1945-1956 in prison.
All this began in 1943, when during a street roundup my 15-year-old sister was captured, and was about to be shipped to forced labor in Germany. My family and I decided to appeal to the German authorities for an exchange: she would stay and I would go. They agreed. On my way to Germany I decided to flee together with two other prisoners. We were successful.
In April 1943 I joined the NSZ. I was put under the command of lieutenant Kazimierz Nowak (alias: "Moose") near the city of Pinczow. On 11 August 1944 the Swietokrzyska Brigade was formed, and I was transferred to it. Now I was under the command of lieutenant Jan Matla (alias: "Casimir") in battalion 202. I remember participating in battles and skirmishes near Czarnocin, Klemencice, Rzebce, Cacowo, Uniejow-Radzice, and the last battle with the Germans on Polish soil at Pogwizdow where we lost nine soldiers.
In January 1945, when the Soviet offensive seemed near, the Swietokrzyska Brigade tried to fight its way through to the western allies, unsuccessfully.
In late April 1945 I was offered the command of a group nicknamed "The Intelligence Patrol." It included Zdzislaw Maczynski (alias: "Mikus"), Jozef Rozek (alias: "Willow Tree"), Henryk Pawlik (alias: "Bonton"), Zdzislaw Kulis (alias: "Blondie"), two others and myself, Wlodzimierz Kolaczkiewicz (alias: "Zawisza").
During the night of 28-29 April 1945, we were escorted to Poland by members of a Czech underground organization. We crossed the border near Przysucha-Zywiec. . . and shortly found ourselves in Krakow. I was instructed to return to the Zywiec area with a false ID of one Karol Marczewski (alias: "Step").
On 31 May at 5:00 PM, I was arrested at Klasztorna Street in Jedrzejow. On 2 June I was transported to the regional police station in the town of Pinczow. I was transported there all tied up and in chains. There I met a high school acquaintance who greeted me with the following: "Wlodek! You managed to escape the Germans many times, but you won't escape us, we'll break your hands and legs!" I pretended I did not know him, did not confess to anything and kept saying I was Karol Marczewski.
The slaughterhouse began. They beat my soles, and my legs swelled. The Pinczow police included a certain woman nicknamed "bloody Marietta." I had the pleasure to make her acquaintance. They stripped me, hung me on a bar, and Marietta beat me over the entire body. I fell, and she seemed to wait for that. She climbed the table and jumped down on my stomach and genitals, several times.
I still have on my body traces of her heels.
After four days of such tortures my arms and several ribs were broken, and my head was bleeding and swollen.
They wanted me to say that as a member of the NSZ, I sentenced to death the commander of the communist police force in Jedrzejow. I could not say that because I did not do it.
Even though my hands were broken, I was ordered to carry a stretcher, on which there lay a bleeding, swollen, dying man. I could not recognize him, but I later learned that his name was Wincenty Jagodzinski, he was 42 years old and was the stationmaster at the village of Hajdaszek. He too was questioned and accused of killing that commander. He denied that with the last movement of his head, and thus saved my life. Like myself, Jagodzinski was an NSZ soldier. Had he made a mistake, which was easy to make, for he was dying - had he nodded rather than turned his head sideways as a sign of a "no" - I would have been killed. He was dying in pain, yet he did not surrender.
After that, the beatings became milder. I think I owed that to Jagodzinski, too. He was buried at the Pinczow cemetery. When I was let out of prison after 11 years and learned about that, I went to the cemetery and lit a candle on his grave. I do this each year on All Souls' Day.
Since I would not talk, I was moved from Pinczow to Kielce, to the voivodship's secret police headquarters. The methods used there were different. On a hot night in June I was ordered to put on a warm quilted jacket and quilted trousers, and was placed next to a hot oven with hands stretched forward. In this position I was questioned for hours, until I lost my mind and could not recall even my father's name.
When I was thirsty, they gave me a salted herring on a stick, so that I would not bite the hand offering it to me.
I was asked to write my biography some twenty times. Unfortunately I had to tell them what my real name was, because in that police office I was recognized by a colleague from the underground who apparently gave in to the tortures. He is still alive. He came to me and said: "Greetings, Zawisza!" and hit me in the face.
The interrogation began anew. I was transferred to a prison on Zamkowa Street in Kielce. Again I was out of luck. During the night of 4-5 August, lieutenant Antoni Hebda (alias: "Grey") organized a rescue mission. He liberated several people, but he ran short of explosives before reaching my cell.
I was sentenced on 12 February 1946. During court proceedings I tried to show the judge my broken hands and beaten-up body, to no avail. After leaving the courthouse I was beaten up so severely that I could not get to my cell on my own and had to be carried there.
When the sentenced prisoners were to be shipped somewhere, they were dressed up in old Nazi uniforms and packed in cattle wagons like herrings. The wagons bore the sign, "Volksdeutsche." (2)
At each station we sung "God Who Protects Poland" and "We Shall Not Abandon the Land of Our Fathers," (3) so that the people would know we were Polish and not the Volksdeutsche.
I went through the prisons in Sieradz and Lodz.
If one can fish something out of these macabre memories, it is this: I remember humane treatment by two guards, Swiniarski and Petkiewicz, in Sieradz. They would secretly give us food and cigarettes. I will always remember them.
In Lodz it was the opposite.
I will always remember the sadistic guard Swiderski who tortured prisoners and profited by executing those sentenced and tortured. For one tortured and executed prisoner he would receive two bottles of vodka, the victim's clothing and 500 zlotys.
Already in Sieradz I became very ill. I developed rheumatism and eczema which accompanied me for several years.
In fall 1946, I was transferred to Wronki, with a reputation of a well-beaten up "bandit."
In Wronki I met many interesting Poles. In my native Pinczow, I could never have dreamed of meeting such people. The best of the Polish educated class were there. Had I joined the communists, I would never have had the honor to speak to President Ignacy Moscicki's private physician,(4) to the Chief of the Central Information Agency in prewar Poland, or to Father Jan Stepien, the chief pastor of the Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa(5) who was a true consoler and instructor to us prisoners. Thanks to the physicians there, I learned exactly how many of my bones and ribs were broken.
For the prison authorities, I was a saboteur and an agent of foreign intelligence. Where else would I have been rated so highly? I was just a simple country boy who never dreamt of such titles. But thanks to this assessment of my alleged secret connections, I was given a solitary cell. I spent 28 months in it. Twice I was close to suicide; apparently the prison authorities wanted it, for I was twice given a piece of rope. I did not do it but I was close to doing it. Instead, I said the rosary. I made it out of pieces of toothbrushes, and used my own hair for string. I was praying constantly and I sang softly.
In December 1948 I refused to open the window to listen to the news that the Polish Socialist Party and the Polish Workers' Party united to form the new communist party.(6) For that I had to spend time in a flooded basement with water reaching my knees. I was singing there "Virgin Mother of God, Please hear us."(7)
Some former prisoners who heard me sing are still alive. [I later learned that ] some of them knelt and cried.
After 28 months I returned to the general cell. I cannot deny that I was lucky. Some prisoners [whom I met earlier] went mad, others died, while I was still alive. Several times I was dispatched to the prison hospital because of my eczema, tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, spine problems and rheumatism. I never fully recovered. In spite of treatment which I underwent after I left prison, I cannot freely move my hands, I am bent in half and have been for years, and my rheumatism is severe. But I am alive.
Freedom came to me during the beautiful Spring of 1956. I was 38 years old then, I was a bachelor and had to start my life all over again. I went back to my native Pinczow after 11 years' absence. I have been living there ever since. My wife has died, but I have daughters and grandchildren. I think about Wronki and Kielce daily. I do not regret anything, I experienced freedom again in 1989 and I do not have to be ashamed of anything.
This autobiography was first published in Tygodnik Solidarnosc, no. 35 (258), 27 August 1993. Mr. Kolaczkiewicz was interviewed by TS 's Editor-in-Chief Andrzej Gelberg.
1 Narodowe Sily Zbrojne [National Armed Forces], a right wing underground Polish organization formed in 1942 to fight the Nazis. After the Soviets occupied Poland, the NSZ fought them. The Swietokrzyska Brigade was formed in 1944. In Soviet-occupied Poland a lie was perpetuated that the NSZ, and the Swietokrzyska Brigade in particular, worked for the Germans. Members of the NSZ were hunted with particular viciousness and persistence in Soviet-occupied Poland because of their conservative views. Many of them were devout Catholics.
2 The Volksdeutsche were persons who declared themselves of German origin and thus avoided the mistreatment meeted out to Poles under German occupation. The Volksdeutsche were treated with contempt and hostility by the rest of society. After the war, they either escaped to Germany or served time in prison.
3 "Boze cos Polske" and "Nie rzucim ziemi skad nasz rod" are Polish religious and patriotic songs.
4 Ignacy Moscicki was President of Poland from 1926-1939.
5 Narodowa Organizacja Wojskowa was a military arm of the pre-war right wing National Democratic Party. It was under the command of a much larger underground organization, the Home Army.
6 Polish Socialist Party, a purged remnant of the noncommunist socialist party under the Second Polish Republic. Polish Workers' Party, a communist party formed in 1942 by Soviet-controlled communists.
7 A popular Polish Catholic hymn going back to the14th century.
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