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
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
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.