We were told to leave the goods train at Nowy Dwor (Tiegenhof) Station. Next, we were attached to another prisoner transport. The prisoners, in irons, were waiting in open trucks of a narrow-gauge railway which connected with the main line station beyond Stuthof. We were filled with horror as we saw an enormous German escort armed with heavy machine-guns. A cold, autumn wind cooled our burning faces. And so we reached our destination.
After being thrown out of the wagons and arranged in a column we were led past the Headquarters Camp to the entrance gates of the main camp. Above these a great notice proclaimed: "STUTHOF - WALDLAGER" (Forest Camp).
Checking and segregating of our transport began just inside the gate and lasted the whole night. During the transfer at Nowy Dwor Mme. Lutostanska and "Maria" joined our group of girls from the Uprising and now we kept together. The night was cool and there was a drizzle. We were almost totally exhausted.
The camp was an enormous one, built in the vicinity of the village of Sztutowo in the administrative district Nowy Dwor Gdanski (German name: Gan Danzig - Westpreussen), 36K from Gdansk. The camp had 60 branches scattered throughout the district. The camp was extended in 1942 when a crematorium was also built. In the summer of 1944 a gas chamber became operational.
From that time there began the period of executions of prisoners held there. Previously such executions were carried out by shooting, lethal injection or hanging. The gallows stood near the crematorium by the Parade square. We learnt later that those sentenced were hanged at first. Later a different method of killing inside the crematorium building was adopted under the pretext of medical examinations. A fictitious apparatus for measuring height was installed in a special room, near a hole in the wall. When a prisoner stood to be measured he was shot in the head through the hole in the wall. But now the mass gassing of people in the gas chamber was introduced. A substance which produced poison gas - Cyklon B - was introduced by means of a pipe led into the chamber through a hole in the ceiling. It was said that death took place after half and hour and this was observed by hidden SS-men. There were three ovens in the crematorium: oil, coke and coal. These were in continuous use. And such was the condition in which we found this camp.
Among our group of girls from the Warsaw Uprising was "Biala Basia" (Barbara Radelicka), who was wounded in the arm. She needed immediate medical assistance. Unfortunately this was not given because our arrival had caused considerable commotion in the whole camp. Not only among the German authorities who did not know what to do with us, but also among the male prisoners.
All of us had to go through compulsory quarantine. We were driven onto the parade ground and were made to strip naked, all our things having been previously taken from us, including trifling possessions and warm clothes. Next, our heads were shaved and we had to bathe under cold showers. This was accompanied by yells and beatings from the SS-men. We then received camp clothing - old rags consisting of clogs, a blouse and trousers made of some thin material into a kind of pyjamas. Personal details were then written up.
The shaving of heads down to bare skin presented me with a problem since I had long hair in which was hidden Mme. Lutostanska's property which I had so far carried safely. My capable guardian managed during the night to bribe the German gendarme who was doing the shaving with a thick, gold bracelet studded with rubies and diamonds, so he did not shave off my hair. He said himself that it would be a pity to do so because my hair was so pretty. As I found out later, they shaved heads not so much to prevent infestation as to collect the hair and use it in brush production. I was given a strip of dirty cloth with which to hide my hair. The shaving of women's heads disfigured them terribly. In order that my turban should not stand out, Mme. Lutostanska paid a further five gold rubles as a bribe for the barber to give out similar rags to all the girls so as not to make it obvious that he had not carried out his duty properly.
The quarantine lasted for two weeks, during which we were continually tormented with drills, heavy exercises and various registrations in the camp offices. Later we were allocated to a block. Some civilians were sent to hard labour in district Commands or sub-camps.
The block was divided into two parts which contained an entry area, washroom, day room and dormitories. In the dormitories the two-tiered bunk beds were arranged in three rows. The paper pallets were filled with wood shavings. These burst open in time, spilling sawdust. We slept three or four to a bunk, with one blanket for cover.
We were entered in the camp records as "polnische Kriegsgefangene" (Polish POW's). We were allocated numbers from 101 946 to 101 985 and these numbers were stencilled on the backs of our striped blouses. So, from that time, I became prisoner No.101 961. To distinguish us from other prisoners we wore an armband on the right sleeve of our blouses with the letters "AK". The Chief Commandant of the camp was Sturmbannführer Paul Werner HOPPE. His deputy was Hampsturmführer Teodor MEYER (nicknamed "Stork").
As honourable girls we demanded serious treatment, as befits enemies who met on the battlefield. Since we had fought, we were military. And, as military, we were Prisoners of War.
We were located in the central camp at first, next to the old female camp. Our fate was uncertain for the first few weeks. We found out from the men's camp that the Stuthof Command did not know what to do with us and were doing a lot of telephoning to higher German authorities. It was feared in the men's camp that the Nazis might shoot us, as they did with Russian prisoners and even women parachutists. Despite the uncertainty of our situation and the need to suffer chicanery and torment from the German staff at every step, we maintained our spirit.
In Stuthof, where there was great suffering and martyrdom, the prisoners did not witness many manifestations of heroism. That was why our arrival - those 40 girls - became an immediate object of interest, sympathy and enthusiasm for the whole male camp. Particularly for Polish prisoners girls from the Warsaw Uprising were a symbol beyond the barbed wire of their camp. And so they threw to us over that wire cigarettes, food, apples and even flowers from the Commandant's garden - all of which were rarities at that time.
For us, however, the enthusiastic reception by the male prisoners, while it maintained our spirits, was no solution while we sat unoccupied, considering our situation. While we were receiving not only blows but horrible name-calling, curses and torment. Being jealous of the sympathy from the male camp, our female supervisors maliciously harassed us in various ways. We were locked up in one room and were not allowed to go out except for going to the washroom and toilets twice a day. We were not even allowed to look out of the window on the camp street.
Once it became known that we 40 girls, aged from 16 to 28 and including a few married ones, would not be transferred to a POW camp and would remain at Stutthof, our block supervisors, Jackowska and her deputy, Narewska, succeeded in having us transferred to the newly-constructed barracks for Jewish women, called "Judenlager". The Commandant of this camp was Oberscharführer Edwald FOTH, notorious sadist and bloody murderer. Here we were divided up among the barracks, of which there were ten. The prisoners in these barracks were earmarked for extermination.
The overcrowding and hygienic conditions in this camp were terrible. The block supervisor here was a German prostitute. With sadistic hatred she called us filthy names and cursed us, tormenting and degrading at every turn.
Normally four women slept on one bunk, but there was no room in bunks for the group of eight of whom I was one, only the concrete floor. We lay among the sawdust and wood shavings from numerous burst palliasses, trodden down into powder by previous prisoners. Crammed next to each other in the small space allocated to us. Later on we were forced to do hard physical work. We peeled rotten, frozen potatoes for many hours each day, constantly tormented and bullied by the female SS overseers. All the girls were denied the right of writing letters. Even those who had someone to whom they could write. And thus we lived our miserable lives, contracting serious illnesses. Hunger was a universal phenomenon.
I should explain here that generally living conditions at Stuthof camp were exceptionally difficult. The camp was situated in an area of unhealthy wetlands, bogs and turf, in a damp, cold climate. There was an almost complete lack of lime in the drinking water (I learnt this after being liberated). Drinking it caused the painful condition of the lower limbs known as Phlegmasia coerules dolens, which resulted in death. The climate was particularly deadly for anyone with lung disease.
In winter the temperature inside the wooden barracks did not differ much from the outside temperature. Our bedding consisted of four battered palliasses and one old, torn blanket for three persons. Hygienic conditions were macabre. Washing oneself was just a fiction. It is true that we were driven to the washroom for a few minutes, but usually there was no water. when it did run it was like a tear rolling down one's face, so not all of us were able to collect even a few drops in a metal cup. In winter, with frosts of minus 20oC we could only look for an icicle to break off somewhere, so as to thaw it in the cup and at least rub oneself down or rinse one's mouth. Holes in the ground covered with boards and intended as latrines were so iced up that they were impossible to use. Frozen excrement - for many people suffered from diarrhoea - made matters even worse. All this created conditions for stench and the spread of infectious diseases.
Another cause of suffering were the endless parades when, even during severe frosts, one had to report to the square and stand there under SS-men's escort waiting until everyone was checked and counted. We also had to participate in spectacles of torture of prisoners by the SS crew. They organised entertainment for themselves like "Roman Games", including the carrying out of executions in the square.
The clergy and monks were treated with particular sadism in this camp. They were tortured terribly before being finished off in great torment. Our bad treatment - the girls from the Warsaw Uprising - by the Nazi authorities clearly showed the failure of the Germans to abide by the guaranteed agreement at the signing of the capitulation of Warsaw by Gen.von den Bach-Zalewski, that the women incorporated in the AK would be treated as soldiers. The principles of the Geneva Convention were flouted.
The Chief Medical Officer of the hospital at the Stutthof camp was Hampsturmführer SS Dr. Otto HEIDL - a cruel sadist. Among the staff was the notorious medic Otto KNOTT who took part in executions in the crematorium and in the selection of prisoners (especially Jewish women prisoners), also Hans Rach - Chief of the camp crematorium Fritz PETERS, chief of the second shift and the crematorium, Jozef WEBERSKI and many others.
The Jewish camp hospital located in Block 18 in the new camp and to which we were allocated, was terribly overcrowded. For this reason a new hospital was built while expanding the camp, intended exclusively for Jewish prisoners and called "Judenkrankenbau". The prisoners called it "Stinksaal" - or the finishing-off place. The number of deaths here was simply terrifying.
This hospital was located in Block 20, fenced off from other blocks and carefully isolated from the rest of the camp. In this "hospital" by name only there was a lack of basic equipment. The majority of patients lay on the cement floor and there was a lack of medicines, instruments and dressings.
Drs. Kaplan-Molk Riwa and Idelson worked here as prisoner personnel. Bronia Lewin (a Lithuanian Jewess), Rachel Lipschnitz, Hilde Neumann and Ziana worked as nurses. And the prisoner-forewoman of the hospital was a Pole, Wanda Sliwinska.
Jewish women were forced to do heavy labour beyond their strength in the sub-camps where they were kept in macabre conditions. Women-ghosts were returned to Stutthof as unsuitable. These were immediately placed in the hospital "finishing-off" room. Bunks were obtained only by those who could still drag their legs along. The rest nested in the general hall, rotting in their own excrement. When food was brought the supervisors nudged each one in turn with their feet to see if she moved. It was hard to distinguish the living from the dead. This situation prevailed not only in the hospital but also in our barrack. All too often someone would depart from this world while the rest of us, huddling together, did not know that death had liberated her. On the other hand, those completely unsuitable for work were immediately directed to the gas chamber.
Selections were carried out by SS-men, chief doctor Heidl and Dr. Heindrich. Pregnant women were, in principle, murdered in the camp gas chamber, having first been subjected to sadistic torture. But they also died in other circumstances. Here is one example which we were forced to see:
The SS Commandant, Ewald FOTH, a wild animal in human form, picked out during selection women who were obviously in advanced stages of pregnancy, or others with weak legs. These were taken to the parade ground where prisoners had previously been assembled as an audience.
A considerable distance away from Foth's position a finishing line was set up and the selected women had to run to it. With accurate shots Foth sent crashing to the ground any who were being left behind, as a spur to those in front to greater effort. He did so knowing that in any case those who reached the finishing line would fall dead from exhaustion.
The Nazis thought up another form of torment and extermination under the pretext of caring greatly for the prisoners' hygiene. Particularly during winter when, in our camp, water for washing had frozen (for there was no drinking water in the Jewish camp - this was brought in and rationed).
Women were taken from the barracks allegedly to avail themselves of the ecstasy of a warm bath. Thinly dressed in their striped pyjamas, they ran to the wash house 11/2 kilometres away. There they were given a hot shower but afterwards had to wait in the cold until they all finished. An identical situation to that in the Warsaw ghetto in the notorious "parowkas". The women returned to camp half naked. No wonder that many died after such a bath. Some died immediately, from a high fever - others later.
Another form of torment from the latter period was as follows: it was announced that there was a possibility of work in a sub-camp for women capable of sewing socks, stockings and underwear. Many women, wanting to improve their conditions, volunteered in the hope that this was true. A wagon would draw up outside the crematorium and collect the women waiting there. It then drove round the camp and returned to the crematorium where the remains of those gassed in the wagon with exhaust fumes were thrown into the oven.
Under these conditions I did my best to hide my pregnancy as far as possible. Fortunately my striped pyjamas were roomy. Only the bust protruded, helping to hide the deformed figure below.
Summing up, the main purpose of the camp, among other persecutions, was the degradation and debasing of every prisoner. To drive them to the point of breakdown. To make them insensitive to the wrongs and the death of another human being. Thus neither death nor life held any heroic connotations to another prisoner watching from the side. People died in a state of stupor and extreme indifference. They died in the dirt and stench of their camp hovels as the result of illness and epidemic. They died from festering wounds covering the entire body. And the lice and other insects left their remains, transferring themselves to others.
There was a time when overweight prisoners died in terrible circumstances. It transpired later that they were killed and their bodies were subjected to a special process for melting out body fat, which was then made into soap. I heard about this in the camp and there is reference to it in Zofia Nalkowska's boom, "Medaliony", 1952.
Here I must add the fact that whole transports of underage children were sent to Stutthof. Children who were separated from their mothers on the spot were locked up in the specially designated barrack No.5 in the Old Camp. And so the camp was filled with moans day and night. It seemed that the whole world would collapse at any moment from the heart-rending sobbing and screams. Later, children were selected and sent variously to sub-camps (older ones to work), others to Auschwitz for extermination, while others still were liquidated on the spot.
In such conditions of camp life, where the lives of everyone imprisoned here hung by a thread each day, we reached Christmas, 1944. There was a severe frost. Snow fell and there were blizzards. Several corpses were dragged out from our barrack. Sleeping on the same litter with them, we did not know they had been released from martyrdom. The drunken SS guards yelled out at the tops of their voices their favourite carol, "Stille Nacht, Hellige Nacht" (Silent Night, Holy Night). I was not feeling too well. Mme. Lutostanska and Maria surrounded me with care as best they could, but their means were limited. They suffered equally with everyone else.
Parasites were an additional torment which was destroying us. There was a constant movement of lice on my head day and night. I could not get rid of my hair because I was still hiding in it Mme. Lutostanska's remaining property with which she helped in times of need whenever she could. However, those with shaved heads did not avoid this affliction either. The lice burrowed under the skin, which was even worse as wounds caused by constant scratching would not heal. Fleas and other blood sucking insects added to our acute torment.
With the advent of the New Year 1945 there was confusion in the camp headquarters. Executions in the crematorium intensified. The female guards and supervisors became more sadistic. Thus I endured, exhausted in spirit, until the 8th of January, 1945 when, at 8 o'clock in the morning, hidden and in secret, my little son came into the world. The youngest prisoner of Stutthof.
There was no water. My companions in misfortune, apart from my two "guardians", Greek, Chech and Lithuanian Jewesses, collected their rations of corn coffee which we received from time to time to enable the baby to be washed. Previously Mme. Lutostanska hid a collection of old striped pyjamas obtained with bribes. These she now tore into rags in which to wrap the baby.
They managed to substitute for me at the morning roll call that day while I wrapped myself in the bedding. Previously bribed forewomen and supervisors did not penetrate our barrack deeply. But at 12 noon we were all brought to our feet by a repeat roll call due to someone's transgression. Supported by my devoted guardians, I stood in the frost for several hours with my feet in wooden clogs and my legs bare. Wearing only the thin, striped pyjamas with nothing underneath, for our underwear had been confiscated at the quarantine.
The roll call lasted until dusk. The escapee was caught by the camp dogs. In charge of the specially trained dogs was Rottenführer Karl Zurell. The escapee had been badly bitten, but was alive. It was the camp law that, dead or alive, an escapee had to be returned to the camp. They tried to finish him off three times before our eyes, but he lived. I knew that there was an international convention that if someone remained alive after execution it was forbidden to carry out the verdict for a second time.
Unfortunately the SS-men did not take that into consideration. Eventually he was taken to the mortuary in a very serious condition. Later we heard from the male camp that he was still alive when they brought him there.
Early the next day the whole top brass of the camp appeared there and continued to beat him until he died. An autopsy was carried out immediately. This showed that he had two hearts, one larger, the other small. the small one was completely destroyed by bullets while the larger one continued to function. He was finished off by shots to the head.
Standing in line at that macabre roll call, supported by my friends' arms, I felt that I would not endure. A fever took hold of me. And again I whispered in my mind: "Why, oh God, why? Why must I live through so much cruelty, why must my eyes see so much suffering and torment? Why?"
I endured, but barely managed to drag myself back to the barrack with the help of my friends. It was as well that darkness had fallen. I lost consciousness in the barrack. No one believed, as I was later told, that I would survive that terrible night. It seems that I was delirious, but not a word fell from my lips concerning the conspiracy or the Uprising. I was gabbling incoherently about some childhood experiences. Dr. Kaplan was unable to help me, apart from a temperature lowering potion. She could not take me to the hospital section for two reasons: one, that they would finish me off together with my baby. And the other because of the typhoid epidemic which was intensifying.
I had glimmers of consciousness during that macabre night. For a second time in my life I longed for death as my salvation. Unfortunately, I was not granted an earlier release. My star had not yet been extinguished. My companions named my little son Jedrus and Mme. Lutostanska, who was a Catholic, christened him with water. We hid him among the litter, moving him from place to place. Mme. Lutostanska gave me a rag with some moistened sugar smuggled from the men's camp, to use in place of a dummy which I did not possess. Fortunately, he never cried. I should add here that later, after the Liberation, he also did not cry like other infants. Even when he was wet he clenched his little fists and got angry, giving out muttering sounds but not crying. But for a long time loud noises such as a slamming door caused him to curl up and shudder.
I had a lot of milk, which was seeping out. When I learnt from the men's camp that a seriously ill Pole needed fresh milk I collected it in a dish and sent it across, receiving sugar in exchange to make dummies for my infant. I learnt later that the sick man was the former Commandant of the AK Inspectorate "Hurtownia" - pseudonym "Lech". He had tuberculosis and my milk saved him from death.
During the period of the Soviet offensive which was pushing West and driving retreating Germans before it, there was chaos in the camp. Hurried preparations were made to evacuate the camp, or rather to liquidate it. And so, from the 20th January, 1945 transportation of women from the Jewish camp - where we were also - was organised. During the selection it was explained to us that we would be transported to Germany to work in Berlin. Even bribery did not help us despite the fact that Mme. Lutostanska took out another eight gold coins and distributed them in our barrack. However, she obtained three additional sets of striped pyjamas for us which we put on. This provided a little warmth.
In the evening we were driven to the square in front of the crematorium where stood a goods train with an engine. There we entered the wagons. Mrs. Lutostanska had a bundle tied to her breast containing my little son. From the day of his birth she took him under her protective wing. It was stifling again in the wagons with the doors closed and locked from the outside so that we could not open them. An armed German soldier from the Wehrmacht sat on the roof of each wagon.
Late at night the train dragged itself to the vicinity of the standard gauge line at Nowy Dwor and halted before the semaphore, waiting its turn to cross. Some Kashubian railwaymen who worked at this station ran up to the train. They opened the doors and gave us bread, biscuits and even fruit and meat preserved in jars. We learnt here that we were not going to Berlin after all and would not be transferring to the standard gauge line, but that the train would be shunted to a line going back to the camp, straight to the gas chamber. tTey told us also that they would not lock our wagon because it was the last one, so we had a chance to escape. The railwaymen also told us that a few day s previously a similar transport had a normal railway wagon with double doors attached to it. On the return journey this was filled with poison gas and everyone was killed. This train was no different, so they wanted to help us escape the same fate as those other women.
Not all the women in our wagon could decide to try to escape. Some were totally worn out and hardly made it into the transport. Others were completely resigned to everything, nervously exhausted, broken psychologically. Five joined us. Mme. Lutostanska immediately instructed us how to jump out of the wagon and at what intervals, which we were to count off in our heads.
When the train moved off and was passing through some fields Mme. Lutostanska gave a signal and we started to jump one by one. First Mme. Lutostanska with my little son in her arms. I followed her, then Maria, then the rest. The goods train was not moving quickly, juddering and rolling about. Of the brave ones, only we three found each other. What happened to the other five we did not know. It was not possible to call them or look for them, especially as the guards were shooting from the roofs of the train. And so one did not know whether they succeeded, or were killed or wounded and had to remain there.
The night was frosty and the snow squeaked underfoot. Despite the extra layer of thin pyjamas the frost reached our bones but we tired not to feel it. Energy gave us strength to get out of this predicament as quickly as possible. Not knowing the terrain, we followed the railway line, having been previously told by the railwaymen in which direction lay Warsaw. After a time we saw a glimmer of light from a little hut in a wood some way off from the railway embankment. Following a narrow path trodden through the snow, we reached the place not knowing what we might find. But what other solution did we have? We had to take the risk in order not to freeze to death in the snow drifts.
With trembling hearts we knocked on the door. It was morning already but winter, so still dark. when the door opened Mme. Lutostanska spoke in fluent German. It proved to be an indigenous German family which cursed Hitler. They gave us shelter. We were fed and suitable warm clothing and footwear were found for us to change into, together with a feather pillow to wrap my baby in. Although it was getting light, we were taken across to a barn with hay in it to burrow into, thus keeping warm. We slept the entire day. Late that night, when it was quite dark, we were fed, supplied with provisions and a blessing. Having been given suitable directions, we went on our way. Where? Where else could we direct our footsteps but towards Warsaw? At parting Mme. Lutostanska reached again into my hair, where it was getting quite light now, and handed over payment to the helpful people who risked themselves for us. I know that the local Kashubian population actively supported Stutthof prisoners not only during escapes but in the camp itself, where they sent food parcels, etc.
We had left the Capital in ruins following the failed Uprising . We now hurried towards it in order to begin to search for those whom we left in the first day of fighting for it. We knew that all surviving citizens of Warsaw would also be making their way back. Naturally we only travelled by night, stopping where we could along the way and trying to get out of this district as quickly as possible. This was, of course, the German Reich. In order that the three of us should not fall into some trap Maria and I took turns to reconnoitre conditions for a halt. However, we found good will and assistance everywhere. Thus we reached Skierniewice and went at once to the former Strakacz brewery. We only found Mrs. Strakacz. She we living somewhere else as the brewery was still not working after being destroyed by the Germans. The Nazis exterminated her husband that memorable day when I delivered arms and ammunition for the partisans. Thus our greeting was very painful. Nonetheless, we received kind hospitality as previously.
Because Mme. Lutostanska, together with Maria, were looking after my child and conditions at Mrs. Strakacz's were not as prosperous as formerly, I went to the Health Service Centre after resting and composing myself for a few days. I attached myself to the local Policlinic for a few hours daily, working in an honorary capacity for the sake of contact with people. It was a question of searching for our families. Despite the fact that this was an unpaid position, I had the means to live. Many sick people attended the Policlinic, among them many peasants from surrounding villages. Our aim was to treat for nothing those who could not pay . On the other hand, those who could afford to pay were asked to do so in kind: bread, potatoes, dairy produce, flour, sugar, etc. The country people readily agreed to this and quite a few brought us meat. There was a problem with purchases at that time. Previously the Germans took everything and now the Russian army was doing the same. In this way I was able to supply our hospitable home, so we had no problem with this.
Following the liberation of Warsaw on the 17th January, 1945 columns of Soviet troops drove through Skierniewice. Many people who had been displaced from Warsaw by the Germans came out on the road to get more news about the city.
We made contact with the Red Cross, which was functioning actively, to seek news of our nearest. Before long I received a reply that my parents were alive. They survived because the Uprising found them on the far side of the Vistula, which saved them. The reply stated that my parents were delighted about a grandson and sent their congratulations and blessings. As soon as Papa could obtain a pass from the military authorities to cross to this side of the Vistula he would come for us. We had to wait patiently and not move from this place.
Here I should explain that at the time there was a problem with crossing the river. It had frozen over and many brave people crossed surreptitiously, but the Russians caught them and sent them back. The military had pontoon bridges in place of those which had been blown up. Obviously the military had priority, which was understandable. Civilians had to wait their turn. And so I waited patiently, happy with my child.
One day a girl who worked for Mrs. Strakacz came running to tell me that I should come at once, that I had a visitor who could only stay two hours. I wondered who it might be. I questioned the girl, but could not find out much, except that it was an officer. And so I excused myself from work and hurried back.
I experienced great joy and happiness as well as great surprise to find my husband holding our child in his arms. He held the rank of captain and was incorporated in the Polish Army in Russia. Known as Armia Kosciuszkowska, this had been organised by Gen. Berling and was attached to the Russian Army.
My husband had been arrested by the NKWD and transported to the depths of Siberia when he fell into their hands. When the opportunity came to join Gen. Berling's army he took it in order to escape the cruel Siberian land. He obtained my parents' address from the Red Cross through which he had also been searching for us. He called on them at Praga and learnt from them that I was alive, living here and that he had a son. He longed to see us, to embrace us, so obtained a pass. He had little time because his unit was going West and he would now have to catch up. He was delighted, emotional and very proud that he had a son. The youngest prisoner of Stutthof and a little hero. Time passed swiftly and we had to part. But this time with great hopes that we would be united soon.
Not long afterwards Papa managed to get through to us and took me away with my child and my two guardians. Again we followed side roads because the main arteries were filled with troops. Having reached the Vistula we had a problem in getting permission to cross by the pontoon bridge. When Papa showed the grandson he was carrying in his arms to a Russian officer and explained that, although an infant, he was returning from a concentration camp, he let us through first. At the same time he explained to the crowds of civilians waiting to cross that priority had to be given to a future soldier. We had to wait for some time until traffic from the opposite side of the road stopped because traffic on the pontoon bridge was one way. After all my experiences I arrived at my parents' home, an apartment which Mama had bought. Mama was happy as never before, both with me and, above all, with her grandson.
Maria found her husband and daughter quickly. However, she lost her son in the Uprising. On the other hand Mme. Lutostanska stayed with us for some time, devastated by the loss of her daughter, exterminated by the Nazis, and her older son, who fell in the Uprising. For the moment we were unable to learn anything about her younger son. Later, when life in the Capital stabilised, she moved to Zalesie Gorne near Warsaw. There her daughter's mother-in-law was bringing up the two little twin boys who were also Mme. Janina's grandsons.
Terrible things were happening in the period immediately following my return to Warsaw. Large numbers of Warsaw people were settling in among the ruins wherever and however they could. Russian soldiers were prowling round the houses and knocking on doors, garlanded with sausage rings, with bottles of vodka in their pockets, looking for "dziewoczki" (girls). They were often persistent, blocking partly-opened doors with a foot, forcing their way in like wild animals and raping women. In this manner two of my former friends, the Zdunczyk girls, were murdered in front of their parents, who were terribly beaten up because when they answered the door they maintained that there were no girls in the house.
Rape, robbery, attacks and great lawlessness reigned. God forbid if the Russians learnt that someone had taken part in the Uprising. They were judged by a kangaroo court and executed on the spot. Later there were arrests and transportation to "the white bears" - or Syberia - where they were finished off. Many people of my acquaintance were killed in this way. They included the former tenants of the house in which we lived, a couple called Borkowski. They never found their son, but he had taken part in the Uprising. A week after my return they were dragged out from their apartment and shot in the yard. I was horrified.
At that time and for a long time afterwards, the organisation AK, which disbanded on the 1st of January, 1945 was enemy number one. Its former members had to be destroyed as they were a threat to the Soviet regime. All who returned were seen as confidantes and spies in the service of London. Thus many worthy people were murdered. Others, when they learnt about this on their return, did not admit or reveal that they once belonged to this organisation.
Two weeks after my return they reached me. It is difficult to speculate what caused this - whether it was the result of an accusation, or whether they had some documents which fell into their hands. The fact is that I had gone to the chemist for some medicine for my child and when I returned I found five Russian gendarmes in the apartment with automatic weapons known as "pepesza" ready to fire. One of them opened the door to me. Another stood back in the hallway and a third was in the room where my child was asleep in bed with Mme. Lutostanska sitting beside him. The remaining two held my parents in another room facing their gun barrels.
A junior officer, seeing my surprise, spoke to me in broken Polish with a Russian accent: "We for you - understand?"
I was speechless for a moment, then asked what this meant? What business did they have with me?
He yelled out, threatening me with a wagging finger in front of my eyes: "No more lady, gentleman! Lords finish, understand?"
He pulled a document from a satchel and began to read out that I had returned from the Uprising, so where were the others? That I was sure to know Lieut. Borkowski and knew where he was at that moment, so had to tell and then sign the paper.
My explanations that this was impossible, that they could see I had a tiny child, so my circumstances did not coincide with the accusation, did not help. To see Papa's reaction they threatened to arrest him on the spot. I signalled with my eyes that he should keep quiet. But nothing helped. They told me to give the medicine to Mme. Lutostanska and then took me to the headquarters of Russian Security located in the building of the Directorate of the Wilenska Railway Station on the corner of Targowa and Wilenska streets.
It was strange how the destiny of Fate treated me. I had torn myself away from one hell, one place of slaughter, only to find myself in another where once more they tried by brute force to get me to confess that I belonged to the organisation AK, that I knew Lieut. Borkowski and many others about whom they questioned me and whom I had never seen in my life. Although they held me in a cellar for two full weeks, they got nothing out of me. My parents' efforts to have me released produced no result. They let me go eventually, but immediately put our family under their control.
The lawlessness continued for a long time. In later years, when Poland became a communist country, they exterminated many famous people, fabricating false processes against them. I could never understand how they could behave like that when they came to our country supposedly as friends. I was not familiar then with the intricacies of politics.
After the war ended my husband came back and found work. My mother-in-law, incarcerated towards the end in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, was saved by the Swedish Red Cross which removed many female prisoners from that camp to Sweden in April, 1945. The family was complete, devoting time to social work in the restoration of the Capital. Our hands shifted many a brick, carried many a wheelbarrow of rubble, preparing the ground for rebuilding.
With the passage of the years an even more beautiful Warsaw rose from the ruins. Restored and rebuilt by the hands of returning Warsaw citizens, creating a future for the new generation. And in her bosom my little son Andrzejek, "Jedrus", grew in the warmth of family love.
Some years after the war the National Museum of Martyrdom was created on the site of the former Stutthof camp. The victims of that camp were given the symbolic award of the Grunwald Cross IInd Class. A Memorial of Battle and Martyrdom was funded. Engraved on it the mottoes:
"IF PEOPLE ARE SILENCED, STONES WILL CRY OUT"
"LET THE NEWS PASS FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION SO THAT THE NATION MAY REMEMBER THE STUTTHOF CAMP."
The memorial was unveiled on the 12th of May, 1968
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