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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Relay Race of Generations

For contemporary soldiers, the traditions of the Home Army are more than just symbols. They continue the work of the Home Army soldiers who began their mission 80 years ago.

Every year, the soldiers of Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosów (JWK, Military Unit of Commandos), would attend the birthday celebration of Sergeant Officer Cadet Wojciech Świątkowski, nom de guerre Korczak, a soldier of the Home Army’s Directorate of Diversion and the Warsaw Uprising insurgent. They also visited him on his last, 99th birthday, in September 2021. “In his flat in Warsaw, we also met with his children and grandchildren. When Wojciech Świątkowski introduced us to his family, he said: »These are the boys from Lubliniec, commandos. They fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. And just like grandpa, they are soldiers of Parasol.« We had tears in our eyes,” recalls Harnaś, a soldier of JWK, which follows the traditions of, among others, the Home Army’s Parasol Battalion.

It Is Our Family

The Polish Armed Forces often draw from the praiseworthy legacy of the Home Army soldiers. The Special Forces Component Command, as well as military units such as GROM, JWK, AGAT and NIL, keep the legacy alive. In 2017, also the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) Command, as well as the subordinate brigades and battalions, started cultivating the traditions of the Home Army.

Col Wojciech Danisiewicz, the commander of JWK, admits that it is hard to indicate the exact moment when the relations between the soldiers and the Home Army veterans intensified. “We inherit the traditions of the Zośka, Parasol and Miotła battalions, but to us it’s much more than simply an order, or a formal decision written down on a piece of paper,” he emphasizes. “A lot changed in 2007, when the special operations forces became a separate branch of the armed forces, and soon after that, the regiment in Lubliniec was transformed into JWK. We were building our identity and we needed a strong ethical model. The soldiers had grown, they began their own search for their roots, which naturally brought them to the Home Army soldiers,” says Col Danisiewicz. The Command Team was the first detachment at the unit to inherit the Home Army traditions – it was the legacy of the Zośka battalion. Later, Combat Team C was given the insignia and traditions of Parasol, and in 2014, Combat Team A – the traditions of Miotła.

“Military missions have also had a significant influence on cultivating the Home Army traditions in Lubliniec. JWK has grown, established its position as a special forces unit, and the soldiers now have a clear picture of what war really is,” explains LtGen Wiesław Kukuła, today the commander of TDF, and between 2012–2016 the commander of JWK. “People who looked death in the eye during a mission gained a better insight into the activities undertaken by the Home Army soldiers. They were able to understand how demanding the tasks given to the poorly equipped and poorly trained Home Army troops actually were,” adds the general. He also recalls a situation that took place on Powązki Cemetery ten years ago, when one of the veterans removed a pin with the Polska Walcząca [Fighting Poland] emblem from his lapel and pinned it onto the pocket of his uniform, saying that all soldiers from Lubliniec should wear this emblem with pride. Soon after that, upon the decision of the Minister of National Defense, JWK insignia were designed. To this day, Kotwica, the Fighting Poland emblem, has been the symbol of the commandos from Lubliniec. Later, they also started wearing the insignia of Zośka, Parasol and Miotła battalions on their uniforms. “For me, the symbolism of Zośka is very important and valuable. We are very proud that the Zośka soldiers have given us their trust and friendship,” says Robert, the commander of the JWK Command Team. “Each of them is important to us. They are like a family. We remember about their birthdays, we send them Christmas cards. We visit one another,” he admits. Currently, the Command Team soldiers have most contact with Jakub Nowakowski, nom the guerre Tomek. “We are preparing a surprise for him – a dress uniform with JWK and Zośka symbols,” shares the officer. Combat Team C soldiers had a similar idea two years ago, when they bought a uniform for Col Zbigniew Rylski, nom de guerre Brzoza, a Parasol veteran awarded with Virtuti Militari. “Colonel Rylski is a very active man. He takes part in various patriotic ceremonies and regularly visits our unit. He had always worn a beret with his suit. We decided to do something to make him feel like he was one of us,” says Piotr, an NCO from Lubliniec. The commandos prepared and decorated the uniform in secret. “We brought him the present a day before the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising. He was very touched. He immediately took out his Virtuti Militari order and asked us to pin it onto the uniform,” recalls Piotr. On the following day, Brzoza gave a TV interview dressed in the new uniform with the emblem of the Parasol Home Army battalion. “They gave me this uniform so that I could be their soldier. It meant a lot to me, I was very touched,” he said in a trembling voice.

You Will Continue Our Work

JWK soldiers visit veterans on their birthdays, at Christmas, they celebrate patriotic holidays and anniversaries of special actions together. They also send their predecessors postcards from missions. “We are extremely lucky to have been able to meet them and express our respect and admiration for what they have done,” emphasizes Harnaś. “I once met with a woman veteran, who as a child attended a meeting with the January Uprising soldiers. Looking at the children gathered in the room, they said: »you will continue the work we have started.« Today, the Home Army soldiers say the same thing to us,” adds Piotr.

The commandos have collected some very touching and valuable memories in recent years. They shared a particularly strong bond with BrigGen Janusz Brochwicz-Lewiński, nom de guerre Gryf, a soldier of Parasol. In 2015, Gryf received a beret of the special operations forces and became an honorary JWK soldier. The unit keeps his memorabilia in the Hall of Tradition, which also houses the Buzdygan, an award given by Polska Zbrojna. “Gryf supported soldiers, he met with them on a regular basis. Sometimes he would call me to say that my officers had paid him a visit. He would talk for hours about the uprising. Those meetings were extremely motivating to us. Gryf was a modern man, looking at the world through the eyes of a young person. He was proud that modern-day soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces identify with the values that were so close to his heart,” emphasizes LtGen Wiesław Kukuła.

The youngest inheritors of the Home Army traditions at JWK are Combat Team A soldiers. The commandos have worn the symbol of the Home Army Miotła battalion on their uniforms since 2014. “I attended the first meeting of the soldiers with veterans from Miotła. We quickly got along and simply became friends. After an hour or so we were engaging in lively discussions. They told us about their »job«, and we told them about ours. We share much more than a set of values and attitude towards military service. I think we simply have the same DNA,” emphasizes Błażej. The NCO admits that he has the closest relationship with Halina Jędrzejewska, nom de guerre Sławka, and Jerzy Mindziukiewicz. During one Christmas meeting, also American soldiers stationing in Lubliniec talked with Sławka, who told them stories about the Warsaw Uprising for over an hour, in fluent English. As to Jerzy Mindziukiewicz, Błażej also visits him privately, together with his family.

GROM’s Silent Unseen

All JW GROM soldiers start their service at the... Hall of Tradition. They are first told about the unit’s history, missions, most important successes. “There, they also learn about what’s most important to us, that is the history of the Silent Unseen, the legendary Home Army paratroopers. Their story is the foundation upon which we build our soldiers’ identity,” says Paweł, a long-time JW GROM soldier and an honorary custodian of the Hall of Tradition. In 1995, JW GROM was named in the honor of the Silent Unseen [Cichociemni] and given the right to inherit and continue the traditions of the Home Army paratroopers.

Candidates for JW GROM operators learn about the Silent Unseen already during their first trainings. “The special operations course, and later the basic training, are the most difficult trainings operator candidates go through. The award for this effort is an identification badge for combat squadron soldiers, a patch with the inscription: »cichociemny«. I will remember the moment I received my badge for the rest of my life,” says Marcin. “The fact that the unit inherits the traditions of the Silent Unseen was the main reason I decided to serve in the special operations forces,” adds Mateusz. The operators explain that several years ago the badge was presented by the Silent Unseen soldiers themselves, and now the unit commander does it on their behalf. It is always an amazing experience, but I remember the reactions of those who received the badge from the hands of the Home Army paratroopers. It was admiration mixed with overwhelming emotions,” admits Paweł.

“Symbols are very important to us, but the relations we have built with these people are even more important. I really enjoyed the visits at the flat of Gen Stefan Bałuka, nom de guerre Starba, in Żoliborz, where I had the chance to listen to his stories about the war, intelligence operations and the photos he showed me,” says Paweł. He met with the Silent Unseen not only during the annual JWK’s celebration day, but he also visited them at their homes, helped with their daily errands. For example, he would drive LtCol Alojzy Józekowski, nom de guerre Sadyba, to the hospital, so that he could visit his ill wife.

JW GROM soldiers, as the inheritors of the Silent Unseen, feel the obligation to pass on the knowledge about the legendary Home Army paratroopers. “Several years ago, our soldiers found out that one the schools in Warsaw had announced a plebiscite for students, who were to decide on their school’s new patron. One of the proposals was the Silent Unseen. The students dismissed the idea in the first vote, so we sent a delegation of our officers to the school. They taught the students about the merits of the Silent Unseen. In the second vote, the students had no doubt about the name they wanted to choose. The school is now named in the honor of the Silent Unseen Paratroopers of the Home Army,” recalls a JW GROM soldier.

Extraordinary Bond

Close relationships with the Silent Unseen, as well as their families, have been established by GROM soldiers during annual rallies, traditionally organized every May since 1957. They say it is a way to combine the past with the present and nurture the extraordinary intergenerational bond. The soldiers also participate in anniversary celebrations, connected, i.a., with the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising or commemorating the drops of the Silent Unseen.

The JW GROM operators are particularly close to Maj Aleksander Tarnawski, nom de guerre Upłaz, who is the last living Silent Unseen soldier. They immediately hit it off, although Upłaz made JW GROM wait for him for quite a long time – he only accepted the invitation to the Silent Unseen rally organized by JW GROM in 2014. In the same year, on September 7, in Książenice near Warsaw, he surprised everyone by doing a tandem jump with a JW GROM soldier. “It is generally thought that when you are – pardon my French – an old fart, you are afraid of everything. I wanted to check if it’s true. To my astonishment, I learned it is not,” joked the then 93-year-old about the reasons for his decision. The soldiers are unceasingly enthralled by his views, lifestyle, extensive knowledge and sense of humor. “We once invited Tarnawski to the shooting range. He grabbed a gun and showed us what muscle memory is. He was already in his 90s, but his eye and precision remained as sharp as ever,” recalls Paweł. Due to his old age and weak health, Aleksander Tarnawski is now unable to visit the soldiers in Warsaw. However, he is always glad to welcome them in his home. He and his wife are taken care of not only by JW GROM, but also by the soldiers of JW AGAT in Gliwice. They support the couple on a daily basis, and recently they have celebrated Tarnawski’s 101st birthday. 

The traditions of the Polish Underground State are also cultivated by territorial defense forces. “We consider the Home Army and post-war independence organizations as heroes, indomitable fighters, people who we identify with, towards whom we have a debt to pay,” says LtGen Wiesław Kukuła.

In June 2017, the TDF Command adopted the traditions of the Home Army’s High Command. It was also decided to put the Fighting Poland symbol on TDF’s eagle’s shield. There are, however, many more Home Army symbols at TDF. There are brigade and battalion patrons, names – the Agrykola officer course or the Sonda NCO school. Also, TDF codenames for tactical and staff exercises are a reference to the Home Army. “This is a question of symbolism, manifesting the strong bond that exists between the Home Army and TDF soldiers,” says Gen Kukuła.

Continuation of the Mission

The territorial defense soldiers have offered particular support to the Home Army veterans during the pandemic. They provide them with warm meals, do their shopping, organize transport to doctor appointments, help with vaccinations. “Due to the pandemic, I met Capt Feliks Jeziorek, the Home Army Gozdawa battalion insurgent, an underground activist in right-bank Warsaw,” says SrCpl Przemysław Łuszczki of the 5th Territorial Defense Brigade, on a daily basis an employee of the Praga-Północ District Office in Warsaw. “We met on the occasion of delivering Christmas packages. Our relation quickly evolved into friendship,” says Łuszczki. Once a week, he would visit Feliks Jeziorek and his wife and bring them groceries. They would talk about the war, the modern-day army and football, as they were both Polonia Warszawa supporters. “Regular visits really brought us closer together. They treated me like family, they even prepared Christmas presents for my kids,” recalls Łuszczki. Unfortunately, Feliks Jeziorek and his wife got infected with the coronavirus. “They spent 73 years together and they didn’t want to be separated even in sickness. We managed to get them into one hospital room, but they lost the battle against the virus. The pandemic brought me to them, and it took them away from me. However, they managed to teach me an extraordinary lesson on humanity and love,” admits Łuszczki.

2ndLt Anna Szczepańska of the 4th Territorial Defense Brigade also admits that TDF soldiers remember about veterans not only on their birthdays or at Christmas. “We are there when they need us. The pandemic has significantly influenced the veterans’ health. The virus is not the only risk factor. There is also isolation and loneliness,” says the officer. She also points out that the 4th TDB was one of the first units to engage in the initiative Dinners for Heroes during the Pandemic. Together with warm meals, the soldiers also provided the Home Army soldiers with protection packages: disinfectants, masks and disposable gloves. The soldiers also helped with organizing vaccinations. “After a doctor’s check-up, a nurse would vaccinate our heroes at their homes, and a rescuer would control their health condition in order to provide help if needed. During one such visit, it turned out that one of the veterans – Ludwika Mendelska – had fallen down the day before and needed to be taken to the emergency room due to her indisposition,” says Szczepańska. She mentions that Mendelska lives alone, and she lost her whole family during the uprising. 2ndLt Szczepańska does shopping for the elderly woman, she visits her regularly. They attend various celebrations in Warsaw together, they bring flowers to the graves of the fallen, including Mendelska’s parents.

With each passing year, the number of living Home Army veterans is smaller. “Are we ready for the day when there are none left? Our duty is to continue the mission they entrusted us with, in order for this relay race to go on,” concludes Gen Kukuła.


 

Mariusz Błaszczak, Minister of National Defense

The respect we have towards the Home Army soldiers largely defines who we are and what values we will pass on to our successors. It is a bond connecting generations – a bond of military loyalty and service to Poland in any circumstances. Regardless of the passing years and changing reality, these are the values that are the backbone of our national spirit. The spirit that is particularly strong among soldiers – fighting with a white and red armband on their sleeve 80 years ago, and serving in the Polish Armed Forces with a white and red flag on their shoulder today.

Inheriting the traditions of military units is an exceptional and honorable obligation. It is not only about cultivating the memory and taking care of the veterans from a particular formation, but also about taking responsibility for what our heroic predecessors believed in. It is particularly important when we talk about units that formed the Home Army. It was the spirit of the Home Army soldiers that proved we can survive and fight for Polish identity even in the most difficult and most brutal circumstances of occupation.

The values for which the Home Army soldiers fought have remained unaffected by time. This legacy, passed on from generation to generation, allowed us to redefine the notion of fidelity, sacrifice, loyalty and will to fight. Honor and Glory to the Heroes!

Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek

autor zdjęć: DWOT, Michał Szlaga / JWK, 4 BOT

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