Tadeusz Wincenty Szczęsny (code name “Pilot”)
One of 800 photographs of participants in the Warsaw Uprising who are still alive - taken this year and on display along Warsaw’s Aleje Ujazdowskie for the 70th anniversary….
An exhibition of 800 photographs of participants in the Warsaw Uprising who are still alive - taken this year and on display along Aleje Ujazdowskie in Warsaw for the 70th anniversary….
The grave of Stefania Grzeszczak (code name “Stefa”) in Warsaw’s Powązki military cemetery. This is also the symbolic grave of her sister Aleksandra Grzeszczak (code name “Oleńka”), who was executed by the Germans in the ruins of the former Warsaw ghetto in January 1944.
Stefania Grzeszczak (code name “Stefa”) - a courier in the Rudy company of the AK Zośka battalion.
During the German occupation of Warsaw she served in the battalion’s female platoon, which was given the name “Oleńka” in memory of her sister Aleksandra Grzeszczak (code name “Oleńka”), who was arrested by the Gestapo in January 1944 while carrying explosives. Despite being brutally tortured she didn’t give away any information to the Germans and was eventually executed by firing squad in the ruins of the former Warsaw ghetto.
During the Warsaw Uprising Stefa began her service in the Wola district, and was later stationed in the Old Town and Czerniaków.
On 11th August 1944, she and seven comrades (five male, two female) found themselves isolated from the rest of the Rudy company while defending territory in the vicinity of the Wolski cemetery. They managed to fight their way out of the Wola district and escape to the Kampinos forest, where they linked up with the Kampinos Group of the Armia Krajowa. They volunteered to join the partisans who were sent to Warsaw as reinforcements on 19th August, and after arriving unscathed in Warsaw’s northern Żoliborz district they took part in the unsuccessful attempts to capture the Gdańsk railway station from the Germans, which began on 20th August 1944 and continued for the next three days.
Despite being given the option to return to the forest, Stefa and all the others chose to transfer to the Old Town via the sewers in order to re-join the Zośka battalion, in full knowledge of the hell that awaited them there.
They managed to find what was left of Zośka on 24th August. A few days later Stefa was one of the group of partisans that Andrzej Romocki (code name “Morro”) led through enemy lines from the Old Town to the city centre, prior to the mass evacuation of the Old Town via the sewers at the beginning of September.
She was killed in the Czerniaków district of Warsaw on 15th September 1944, the same day as Morro. She was 20 years old….
The grave of Andrzej Romocki (code name “Morro”) in Warsaw’s Powązki military cemetery.
Andrzej Romocki (code name “Morro”) - commander of the Rudy company of the AK Zośka battalion.
Romocki was 16 years old when the Second World War broke out. He completed his high school education by attending clandestine courses run by the Tajna Organizacja Nauczycielska (“Secret Teaching Organisation”) in German-occupied Warsaw, and also became active in the Szare Szeregi (“Grey Ranks”) - the underground paramilitary scouting organisation that was an integral part of the Polish resistance movement.
The Zośka battalion of the Armia Krajowa consisted primarily of young people who were former members of the Szare Szeregi, and was named after Tadeusz Zawadzki (code name “Zośka”), who was killed in action shortly before the battalion’s formation in 1943. Zawadzki had been the organiser and leader of “Operation Arsenal”, an action by members of the Szare Szeregi in Warsaw which had freed his friend Jan Bytnar (code name “Rudy”) and 24 other prisoners from the Gestapo. The Rudy company was named after Bytnar (who died not long after being liberated due to injuries sustained during his brutal interrogation while in German custody), and one of its three platoons was called “Alek”, after the code name of Maciej Dawidowski, who was fatally wounded during the action.
At the start of the Warsaw Uprising the Zośka battalion had approximately 370 members and was led by Ryszard Białous. Like the rest of the battalion, Romocki and the Rudy company distinguished themselves in many key actions and battles of the uprising in the Wola district, the Old Town and Czerniaków. Nearly 70% of the battalion were killed during the fighting.
The Rudy company was initially stationed in the area of the Telefunken factory in Wola and also took part in the attack on the “Gęsiówka” concentration camp on 5th August, which liberated the camp and freed 350 Jewish prisoners (mainly foreigners from Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Hungary, Belgium and Germany). The joy of the liberated Jews was such that they swarmed around their liberators, hugging and kissing them. When one man grabbed Romocki’s hand and tried to kiss it, he took his hand away, removed his red and white armband, gave it to the Jew and gestured to him to put it on and join the resistance….
After the German counter-offensive began in Wola, Romocki and his company were involved in fierce fighting in and around the Wolski cemetery - gradually retreating towards Warsaw’s Old Town district, heavily outnumbered and outgunned by the advancing Germans.
For the next three weeks they fought in the heroic defence of the Old Town, during which Romocki’s 19 year old brother Jan was killed (on 18th August). They also took part in the AK’s failed attempt to break through the German encirclement of the Old Town at the end of August.
During this action Romocki successfully led his comrades through enemy lines to the nearest Polish barricades in the city centre. They were the only group of partisans from the Old Town who managed to escape from the besieged district above ground (another 5300 people were evacuated via the sewers on 1st and 2nd September 1944). At one point they took off their red and white armbands and marched through enemy-held territory as if they were Germans (like many of the insurgents they wore captured German uniforms adorned with Polish insignia). Romocki was wounded in the face during the escape.
After relocating to the city centre, the Zośka battalion were transferred to the Czerniaków district on the left bank of the river Wisła on 5th September. This area of Warsaw soon became the scene of very heavy fighting after the Soviets belatedly resumed their offensive towards the city. Despite further losses, the insurgents in Czerniaków were able to hold onto their positions to ensure that the Soviets would have a beachhead for landing.
In the event, it was soldiers of the First Polish Army fighting under Soviet command who crossed the river in small groups in mid-September to join the fight against the Germans in Czerniaków. Casualties were high, as their efforts to aid the insurgents - which had not been authorised by the Soviets - were ineffectively supported (General Zygmunt Berling was removed from his post as commander of the First Polish Army shortly afterwards and no further crossings were allowed).
Romocki took charge of reconnaissance operations near the riverside but was killed on 15th September, not long after the first crossings had taken place. The exact circumstances of his death are uncertain, but it is possible that he was a victim of “friendly fire” - accidentally shot by a soldier of the First Polish Army who may have mistaken Romocki for a German due to the fact that he was wearing a German uniform.
He was 21 years old….