“Kasia, we must. It’s our only chance.”
Kasia knew Łukasz was right. The sewers-or death.
Huddled in a gun-smithy at Franciszkańska Street the insurgents watched as the sewer worker pointed to a map. “Here’s the sewer entrance-a tunnel in the basement. Natek will guide you.”
Survivor of the crushed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Natek knew the sewers.
He tied a rope around his waist, then connected the four insurgents to himself.
Tomasz. Zofia. Kasia. Łukasz at the end.
Natek bowed his head. “Pray to God. I as a Jew. You four as Christians.”
He led them into the tunnel. They approached the sewer’s brick-lined oval passage.
Kasia had expected the stench. But the incessant drip. The scurrying rats.
Most difficult to bear, was the fear.
With each step she recalled the days since September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.
Her father, a professor at University, was murdered.
Her fiancé Jacek, was killed in the defense of Warsaw.
Her ten-year-old brother, a courier, was shot in the street.
Her mother was tortured and hanged for harboring Jews.
For five years, the AK (Polish Home Army) planned the insurgency. Weapons stockpiled, ammunition stolen, fighters trained.
On August 1, 1944 the insurgents struck.
The Germans were taken off guard. The AK took the Old Town and for the first time in five years the red and white fluttered over Poland’s capital.
At a City Centre food storehouse, Kasia pointed her gun at three German soldiers. “You will remain where you are.”
The Germans surrendered the storehouse.
When Polish Lieutenant Wacław Micuta learned of her accomplishment he invited her to join his platoon.
“We’ll free Goose Farm.”
“Yes sir, I’d love to.” Kasia saluted
On August 5 Micuta’s platoon liberated 348 Jews from Wola district’s Goose Farm concentration camp.
But German bombs rained on the city. How would the insurgents return to City Centre?
Only one way. The sewers.
The stinking water sloshed at Kasia’s ankles. Crept up her legs….her waist….her chest….SLUDGE……..
Images of herself and Jacek floated before her. May 1939. They were walking in Łazienki Park. Sounds of Chopin’s Polonaise wafting through the air. She breathed the perfume of the wild flowers that Jacek gave her and savored the black current juice and homemade rye bread at a lunchtime cafe.
That evening at Café Adria, they danced to the music of Henryk Gold's orchestra. The aroma of Turkish coffee and the buttery sweetness of raspberry pastries haunted her.
“Kasia!” Łukasz shook her. She had been dreaming. Fainted.
“I can go no further.” She crumpled in exhaustion.
“Follow the light.” Natek tugged on the rope.
Above her shined a sphere of white light.
Am I dead? Is this heaven?
Someone was lifting her up and out. She gulped the sweet air and luxuriated in the sun’s warmth.
“Not a moment to lose.” The AK guard hurried the five out, away from the manhole.
For days after, Kasia’s stomach and lungs struggled to expel the sewer toxins.
After sixty-three days of fighting, the Rising ended in failure. The AK was forced to surrender.
The Germans destroyed nearly the entire city of Warsaw.
More dreadful still the Poles learned that their supposed allies, the Soviets had refused to help them. As the Soviets pushed westward they rounded up and shot members of the AK.
The United States and Britain had sold Poland down the river at Yalta. When peace came in May 1945, Poland was forbidden to march in victory parades. After fighting for her freedom and for the freedom of all Europe, Poland was a Soviet satellite.
At this news, Kasia wept bitterly. “All out sacrifices-in vain.”
“Kasia-look.” Łukasz pointed upwards.
Amidst the rubble of ruined Warsaw, a statue of Jesus still stood.
From a damaged piano somewhere inside a bombed out building, she heard the tinny but unmistakable melody of Chopin’s Polonaise.
For forty-four years the memory of the Warsaw Rising stood as a beacon of hope, inspiring the Poles to resist their Soviet occupiers.
In June 1956, the Poznań workers’ strike initiated the slow ascent to freedom.
In December 1970, the Gdańsk shipyard uprising spread throughout Poland.
August 1980 saw the rise of the Solidarity Movement that prevailed despite brutal martial law instituted by the Soviets.
At last in August 1989, fifty years after Germany invaded her, Poland was free. Soon after, Warsaw erected The Heroes of the Warsaw Uprising monument, inscribed with these words:
“Go passerby and tell the world that we perished in the cause.”
This story is fact. The characters are fictional with the exceptions of Wacław Micuta and Henryk Gold.
CNN Documentary---Warsaw Rising: The Forgotten Soldiers of World War II:
Photo-Musical Tribute to the Warsaw Rising:
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