An episode from the Warsaw Rising
The seizure of the Polish Security Printing Works (PWPW) played a key role in the course of the Warsaw Rising. Thanks to that victory the Polish forces could enter the old town (Stare Miasto). And they had excellent provisions, captured in the Works, which would last for a several day fight.
On the second day of the Warsaw Uprising, about 2 p.m., the Polish soldiers could speak about the seizure of the Polish Security Printing Works. They came from various formations. Lucjan Fajer, codename 'Ognisty', who was the deputy of the commander, Captain Lucjan Gizynski, codename 'Gozdawa', led the attack at the Works. The Polish units crushed almost the German garrison, consisting of one hundred men that defended the Works. The Germans were supported by several hundred soldiers attacking the insurgents from the neighbouring streets as well as from the Fort of the Legions and the elementary school in the vicinity. The Germans were defeated although that they had excellent equipment: machine pistols, including CKM, cannons and tanks. The Germans were attacked inside the Works, which was probably the most crucial event to the Polish victory. The soldiers were the workers in the PWPW, commanded by retired Major Mieczyslaw Chyzynski, codename 'Pelka'. He was working in the Polish Security Printing Works. The group was called PWB 17, which meant Underground Note Works.
The insurgents who defended the Polish Security Printing Works included Juliusz Kulesza (a sixteen year old boy). Currently, he is a graphic designer and historian of the Uprising's fights. On 1 August he was not a soldier but an inhabitant of the building where the PWPW was located. Julek was brought up in Zoliborz. His parents worked in the Polish Security Printing Works. After he had completed elementary school in 1942 his parents moved to the PWPW building. He was forced to work in the PWPW. Then he regretted that he had to leave his school friends. Moving to Nowe Miasto, where he did not know anyone, he did not even know how to make contacts so that he could join the Szare Szeregi (Grey Ranks). But history demanded that youth. One of the thousands of episodes of the Warsaw Uprising was his. When the insurgents captured the Works he immediately approached the commander of the PWPW defence. He knew the area well, so he was appointed assistant to the commander defending the big building, Corporal Roman Marchel, codename 'Rom', belonging to Group PWB 17. From the very beginning Julek regarded him as his 'Napoleon' although he did not know the role 'Rom' and his group had played earlier. And actually they were an extremely important part of the Polish underground. During the occupation they produced documents and money for the Polish underground state.
More than an assistant to 'Napoleon'
'Today historians and the insurgents argue whether PWB 17, attacking the Germans from the inside, played the most important role in the seizure of the PWPW', says Juliusz Kulesza. 'Taking into the consideration the architecture of the building and the four metre high fence, if the insurgents had not assaulted the Germans from inside, the story of 'Pasta', which the insurgents tried to capture for three weeks, would not have repeated. PWB 17 consisted of the PWPW workers so the Germans were familiar with their faces, some even knew them. The Germans, who were attacked from outside, were in panic because our soldiers threw grenades at them in the corridors. The group acted as a Trojan horse. The sixteen-year-old Juliusz carried messages from Marchel and what was unique honour, he put spare cartridges into his commander's Szmajser. 'In the first days, because of the excellent location of our building, we were an important observation point. During the night our watch was strengthened. There were three observation points and we were watching the approaches during the night. During the day we were observing the railway bridge' Kulesza recollects. 'We reported about the trains and equipments that were going eastwards and westwards over the bridge at the Gdansk Station. That was the information for the headquarters of Home Army. I was nominally a liaison of 'Rom' but I did not walk by his side as a shadow. I was on regular duty. The very important task that we, young boys, were entrusted with was to provide emergency lights to the small hospital. So we were searching the production halls to bring kerosene lamps. We had to see to them all the time.'
The period of almost one month, which Julek Kulesza, a young soldier, spent in the building of the PWPW included the dramatic driving back of the German attacks at the Works. He also looked out for German marksmen who were big threats to the insurgents. The German had their sharpshooters in the bridgehead on the bank of the Vistula and they had excellent optical equipment. 'When it was silent, when the Germans did not make another assault, we were looking out for marksmen through our binoculars', Kulesza says after years. 'One day I almost fell pray to such a marksman. I was sitting with Marcin Szynal, codename 'Klucz', on a couch by the window where we had an excellent view over the Vistula and the railway bridge. Suddenly something whistled between our heads. I did not know what it was. 'Klucz', being an experienced soldier, immediately realised what it was. He began looking for something on the floor and found a bullet, which was still hot, shot by the marksman. Then he took off his cap, put it on his rifle barrel and place in the window. The marksman hit the target. From that moment we began hiding.'
Death of 'Bacik'
Juliusz Kulesza, codename 'Julek', had his baptism of fire on 3 August when the Germans launched a massive attack to recapture the PWPW building. Then the German infantry, supported by tanks, marched from the Cytadela Fortress. When the building, defended by Juliusz's group, was raked with tank-gun fire he had to race with balls through the floors. The Germans made another attack the next week, when 'Julek' fell asleep after his night's guard. 'Klucz' was on the top floor, observing the area. The sound of an explosion woke me up, and then there was another explosion and horrible shouts from upstairs' Kulesza recollects. 'After a while we rushed to the staircase. I can see my colleague shouting, 'Help 'Klucz'! I look at 'Klucz' and he is full of holes as some Swiss cheese. One of the shells struck the hall he was in. But it did not kill him. He was seriously wounded. On 16 August Kulesza had to repel another massive attack. It was one of the most critical moments in the battle for the PWPW. The Germans launched the biggest attack against the barricade placed at the fence. 'I have seen some macabre scenes earlier but that impressed me most', Kulesza says. 'The barricade was manned by the company commanded by Lieutenant 'Osa'. One of the soldiers stuck his head over the barricade. When one says that someone was killed, a shell or some shrapnel kills him. But it was different here. The tank shot flat trajectories, the boy exposed his head to gunfire and the shell simply wiped it out. Then for the first time in my life I saw some hanging muscles, veins. I would have fainted if there had been no more shooting and the situation had not changed quickly. A few days later the Germans made another attack. On 20 August they attacked the basement that 'Julek' together with several dozen insurgents defended. The Germans broke the sewage pipes and the running water made our moving difficult. But the insurgents managed to repel the attack. Three days later the Germans captured the building but after several hour fight the insurgents recaptured it. Company 'Osa' and Group 'Lesnik' supported the defenders of the building. The next storming of the Germans was on 23 and 24 August. The Germans attacked the PWPW from four sides. The biggest force was directed at the building. The gunfire came from the gardens between the Vistula and the PWPW. There were breaks between the attacks. Although the German attack was supported by bombardments the Germans had heavy losses. One to five. Suddenly a storm cannon was brought to the jagged fence of the Works and the ruined walls. The Germans began shooting at the basement and cellars. 'I heard an explosion and horrible cry. A cannon ball struck quite near' Kulesza narrates, 'I jumped to the small corridor, the sight was horrible. I saw 'Rom' holding his face. He, my commander who was my 'Napoleon'...! I never thought that something could happen to him. Then I thought he was seriously wounded, that his face was ripped. However, it occurred that shrapnel hit the arch of his eyebrow, which was bleeding terribly. He was staggering like a blind, groping the walls. I caught his elbow to lead him. It was the end of the world for me. And he told me, 'I can manage myself, you go and rescue 'Bacik', i.e. Kazimierz Bereziecki. I rushed into the hall, which was struck by a shell, and saw my friends taking 'Bacik' out of water. I ran to help them. He was a big man. And suddenly he slipped out of our hands. We dropped him. We were too weak. We slept a few hours. We were constantly on guard or fighting. At last we managed to take him out. I saw the red spot around his heart increasing. We were shocked. I thought that his fall into water made him die quicker. Well...Until today, for sixty years, together with my colleague I have wondered whether 'Bacik' was still alive when we took him out of water. The doctor told us he had been shot in the heart but who knows for sure...? This was my most horrible experience of the Uprising.
Several days later, on 28 August, the Germans captured the Polish Security Printing Works. They pushed the insurgents to Stare Miasto. They murdered several insurgents in the small hospital in the Works, including Hanna Petrykowska, the doctor who treated the insurgents.
Within almost 30 days about 600 insurgents fought for the Polish Security Printing Works. The German forces had almost 2,000 soldiers with heavy equipment. They were also supported by airplanes.