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13 Is My Lucky Number
Story of fighter in Warsaw Uprising in WW II
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This book describes life in Warsaw under Nazi occupation 1939-1944, the creation of the Ghetto, preparations for the Warsaw Uprising, fighting in the Uprising, prisoner-of-war camp Stalag IVB, experiences as a liaison officer with the U.S.Army in occupied Germany, life in England and later United States in the 1950's and 1960's.
Excerpts from "Thirteen Is My Lucky Number" - Chapter 5.
Scenes during the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupiers, August - September, 1944
On the 5th of September, the Stuka dive bombers started a systematic attack on the area around
the Post Office. Most of the soldiers of our company, who were in reserve or off duty, went into
the air raid shelter built by the Germans. Some kind of premonition made me admonish Lili and
several others close to us, including Staszek Brzosko,
"Don't go to the shelter! Please, listen to me, stay here!"
One of the bombs fell through one of the large windows of the central hall and exploded in a
stair-well just a few feet from our headquarters room.-- B-O-O-M -- a deafening explosion.
Numerous noises of falling objects. Rubble fell on us. It became completely dark, smoke and dust
swirled around us. Someone cried out. Then silence.
When I picked myself off the floor my ears were ringing from the concussion. The air was so full
of dust and smoke that I could not see more than a couple of feet. Except for some scratches that
were bleeding, I seemed to be OK. I groped around and found Lili, I could barely recognize her.
A layer of gray dust covered her completely, even her face and hair, her jacket and shirt were
torn. The rest of the group were in the same shape. Only one had been hurt by the typewriter
which had been hurled off the table by the force of the explosion, but, fortunately he was only cut
and bleeding and had suffered no serious injury.
After the dust had settled a little, we crawled over the rubble to determine the extent of the
damage. When we emerged from the wreckage of the walls surrounding our room, we were
stunned to see that, although the main structure of the Post Office was standing, a portion of the
south wall had collapsed. A crater in the floor under the rubble revealed that the concrete roof of
the bomb shelter had collapsed from the direct hit. Not a single sign of life came from the couple
of dozen of our comrades who had sought security there. Quickly, rescuers came with crow-bars
and picks, but there was not enough manpower to deal with the heavy blocks of concrete. There
was little hope of finding anyone alive. The only survivors were those that were with me and some
others who had been in a different part of the building, farther away from the explosion. We were
told to move in with the Third Company which was quartered around the corner in the Gorski
Lili and I picked our way past the barricades to my father's office which was only a block away.
He couldn't recognize us at first. Then he managed to find a bucket of water and a towel and
some soap and helped us clean ourselves off and obtained a couple of clean shirts for us to wear.
After some rest and some food we returned to our group at the Gorski school.
I obtained a group of German prisoners to dig into the rubble in the vain hope that some survivor
might be found. This operation went on all night long. Truly a scene from Dante's Inferno --
bearded prisoners, most stripped to the waist, the sweat on their bodies gleaming in the light of
the flaming, smoky torches that provided the only illumination, worked with iron bars and
pickaxes to clear away the enormous blocks of concrete, grunting and groaning from their
exertion. One by one we extracted the bodies and laid them out, covering them with whatever
scraps of material we could find, bits of curtains and blankets. The force of the explosion had torn
their clothes off. As dawn approached, Lili found a volunteer to continue supervising the work
and dragged me away to get some sleep.
While the Soviet Army for six weeks stood still only 20 miles away, the German forces were
able to continue the relentless pressure against the Polish Armia Krajowa (Home Army)
fighters, now desperately short of food, water and ammunition. The following fragments
illustrate the desperate situation
........ ......... Heavy fighting developed along Nowy Swiat Street and the Second Company
suffered heavy losses. Brzosko was wounded and I became the acting commanding officer of
what was left of the unit..........
...............we were withdrawn from the battle and placed in reserve. My
command was now down to 14, including Lili and another young woman from her section, most
of whom had previously been wounded, as I had been. We were the only ones of the 160, that had
started fighting six weeks earlier, who could at least hold a gun. The victorious battles for the
Post Office, Holy Cross Church, PASTA, the aborted attempt to capture the University and
during the last few days the fight to capture the Cafe Club, commanding the crucial corner of
Bracka and Jerozolimskie, not mentioning a number of smaller engagements, had all taken their
toll. During the final three weeks of the Uprising we stayed in reserve, quartered in the ruins of
the two story house on the corner of Widok and Bracka streets that used to house a famous
vendor of kielbasa.................................
On September 12 the Soviet army resumed the offensive that had been broken off the same day
the Uprising had started six weeks before. Soviet planes reappeared over the city and dropped
some bombs on German positions. At night small single engine planes flying at low altitude
dropped small quantities of food, weapons, and ammunition without parachutes. Most of these
supplies were damaged by the drop and were unusable. On September 13 the Germans pulled
their troops back from the suburb of Praga on the east side of the river Vistula and blew up the
bridges. Soviet troops now faced the city from across the river, too late because we had been
pushed away from it except in one small area south of the bridges. Some elements of the Polish
troops in the Soviet Army made two attempts to cross the river, but received inadequate artillery
support and lacked sufficient boats to put enough men across. They suffered huge losses from the
heavy fire of German artillery and the attempts were driven back.
Convinced that the Polish forces were doomed and, consequently, no longer a danger to
Moscow's plans for communist domination of Central Europe, the Soviets finally acceded to
pressure from Washington and agreed to permit a single flight of American planes to land on
Russian airfields. On a bright sunny day, on September 18, the contrails of a large group of planes
appeared over the beleaguered city and the white parachutes started dropping like petals from
trees. It was too late, the area in our possession had been so reduced in size, and the drop was
made from such a high altitude, that most of the supplies fell into German hands. This was the
only attempt to provide large scale air-drops -- too little -- too late.......................