WARSAW AT NIGHT

By G Will Brown

The last wave of bombers had gone.  The all-clear siren had blown, and all over Warsaw

people flooded from the air-raid shelters.

Jan, a youth of seventeen, peddled the two blocks to his home. “Evidently this section

hasn’t been bombed tonight,” he thought to himself.  He went around to the back of the

building he lived in.  It hadn’t been hit by bombs so far in this war, which was lucky because

most of the buildings around had been pretty badly hit.  He took out his bicycle and wheeled

it around in front.  He peddled across town where his mother had been looking for shops that

sold food.  But food could hardly be obtained at any price.  He thought while sitting in the

air-raid shelter that the bombs had sounded as though they had been landing where she was.

He was entering the target area and the fires were more frequent and larger.  More people

were crowding around  with bedding and other valuables.  More dead.  Hundreds of people

were running around.  He saw another man lying on the pavement in front of him.  He was

dead but his body was turning.  He heard a pop as he peddled by the body.  The intestines

had bulged out of the body.  Jan smelled the burning flesh as he drove by.  He increased his

speed and left the corpse behind.  He was coming nearer to Alec’s house now and had to go

way out of his way to dodge the huge fires that were raging.  Alec’s house was in the factory

district.  “I hope he hasn’t been…..” thought Jan.  Alec was one of Jan’s good friends.

He wondered why he came down here in the first place.  He couldn’t possibly find him in

this melee.  He began to worry.  Suppose his mother had been killed in the raid.  His father

had been killed three years before.  The cook had left to fight when the Nazis invaded his

country.

His mother was making the money.  Jan had been doing odd jobs now and then but

nothing steady.  Suddenly the sirens started to blow.  Another raid.  He didn’t know what

to do so started to jump off his bike and run for shelter but decided against it.  He ran down

one street and up another, searching desperately for a hiding place for his bike.  “Crunch,

Crunch!” The bombs began to hit.  Jan was scared, scared stiff.  He dropped his bike completely

nd started to run.  He didn’t know where, but he kept running.  He saw the searchlights playing across the sky.  He saw two men running toward him.,  There was a loud explosion right near them.  One man had his head blown right off his shoulders.  When the smoke and

powder cleared away, he saw the other one lying half on the sidewalk and half on the street.

He was dead.  Jan turned and ran the other way.  Bombs were exploding all around him now.

“Crunch!  Crunch!  Crunch!  Crunch!  Crunch!”  He could hear the bombs whistling down.  He

held his ears and stood still.  “Wheeeeeee, Crunch!  Wheeeeeee, Crunch!”  God, that noise was

nerve-wracking.  Bricks and debris were crashing down all around him.  “Weeeeeee, Crunch!

Crunch!  Crash!  Crunch!  Crash!”   Faintly through the rear, he could hear the “rat-tat” of

anti-aircraft fire.  “At least we were fighting back,” he thought.  The whole side of a building

down the street came crashing down on the firemen below it.  He began to get used to the

noise, so he went back down the street to where he left his bike.  It was unharmed.  He got

on and started toward home, but suddenly, about a hundred yards ahead of him, a bomb

hit and exploded.  Another, fifty yards away.  He practically flew, getting off the bike.  It

swerved a little,  “Crunch!”  The falling debris crashed around him.  He lay huddled on the

sidewalk for a couple of minutes while the bombs crashed.  Then, almost as suddenly as it

came, the bombing stopped.  His bicycle had been blown to bits.  There wasn’t a whole piece

left.  He looked around him.  There was nothing around him but huge fires and piles of

buildings and the bodies of the dead.  The roar of the planes had died away, but the night was

still lighted by the huge fires that raged throughout Warsaw.

Jan entered his house only to find the ceiling caved into the living room.  He expected

as much.  This was a city-wide bombing, probably to terrorize the civilians.  More like it would

probably come.

Days passed; the siege continued.  Bombings came every day, sometimes three or four

times a day.  Jan’s mother hadn’t turned up.  She had probably been killed in one of the raids.

One day when there hadn’t been a raid, Jan had gone across town to where Alec had lived.

He found him alive and well.  One of them had heard that Pete Pilsvodski was organizing an

underground unit.  He had a deserted cellar on the north side of the city at his disposal.  The

underground had already started up with ink, paper and a press from a bombed newspaper

office and  guns and ammunition for night raids from where the Germans finally occupied

the city.  This was a brilliant plan.  They agreed to get back at the Hitlerite swine.  They

would speak to Pete today.

Jan and Paul Wiloskawycz were to make tonight’s raid.  They slipped through the

darkened streets past German guards.  But suddenly as they neared their objective, “Halt!”

yelled a Nazi guard.  The two raiders stood still.  “Who is dere?” bellowed the guard.  “Come

forward or I fire.”  Jan stepped out of the shadows and into the light, but Paul remained

behind.  “Come,” said the guard.  “You will be questioned at headquarters.”  As they passed

a doorway, a long, strong arm reached out.  There was a short gurgled gasp.  The guard

relaxed.  His rifle clattered against the sidewalk.,   “Well done,” commented Jan as the two

figures slipped into the darkness again.  “Your turn next,” was the reply.

The guard in front of Gestapo headquarters passed back and forth nervously.  A noose

suddenly curled around his neck.  He coughed and struggled as he was jerked upward.  Up and up he went, still struggling desperately.  Four hands reached out and pulled the wriggling

form in and over the roof.  Minutes passed.  The rope was lowered back to the sidewalk and

a man dressed in a Nazi uniform climbed down to the street.  It was Jan.

He went into the headquarters of the Gestapo.  Two men passed him on the way in.

“Hallow, Yalter,” one said as he left.  Jan said nothing but kept on walking.  He thought over

the plan.  Paul was to hide across the street.  Jan would go to the cellar and throw the main

switch off.  Stopping the entrance of all electricity to the building and when the lights went

off, Paul was to come through a window and make his way down the hall to where the safe was.  Paul knew the combination.  Jan would fire at anybody who came into the cellar.  Jan made

his way into the cellar; then he reached the main switch.  Paul scuttled across the street,

leaped through the window and ran into someone running across the room.  Paul grabbed

the person’s mouth.  A flash of steel!  He went on down the hall.  He felt for the door.  Here

it was.  He burst the door open.  His hands felt for the knob on the safe’s door.  “G to the right,

4,11, next 12.”  The door swung open.  He fumbled quickly through the papers and picked out

a leather briefcase.  He shone his flashlight in it.  They were the right ones.  Just then

someone came in the door.  Paul flashed off his light and jumped behind the safe.  He tugged

at his gun.  “Crack, Crack.”  He heard someone hit the floor.  On went his flash.  Someone

was wriggling on the floor.  “Crack, Crack.” The body stopped moving.  Paul left the room

and raced out of the house and across the street to wait for Jan.

While all this had been going on, Jan had stood by the switch with the machine gun.

Three figures cam rushing down the hall.  Jan’s machine gun chattered.  “Rat ta tat tat ta tat.”

Tracers splattered around the cellar.  There was a scream and the noise of falling bodies.  There was a lot of yelling from above.  A pile of soldiers came down the stairs.  A short spurt

of fire from Jan’s machine gun, then steady firing.  Screams were audible above the gunfire.

Some soldiers rushed back up the stairs.  Tracers flew.  More screams.  Tumbling bodies.

More soldiers piled down the cellar stairs, some of them returning the fire.  The machine gun

chattered.  Now there were three Nazis at the top of the stairs, firing machine guns at him.

Jan retreated to the rear of the cellar under heavy fire.  Jan’s face was set in grim silence as

he swung the machine gun from side to side.

There was a window right in back of him.  He pushed the machine gun through first,

then climbed through after it.  Jan now was in a yard in back of the Gestapo office.  A wall

about fifty or sixty feet high surrounded it.  The only means of escape was the vine that went

to the top.  Up, up he climbed:  forty, fifty feet.  One hand reached the top.  He looked back.

He reached the top.  The Nazis were coming through the window now.  They spotted him.  He

unstrapped his machine gun from his back.  Bullets were whining around him; he returned

fire.  A bullet smashed into his shoulder.  The wall seemed to give way under his feet.  Down

he plunged.  His neck broke as he hit the ground.  A machine gun went off in his face.  His

features blew apart like an eggshell.  But Varonezh fell to the Russians that week.

Posted in: 1943 Stories

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