Forgotten graves of the insurgents

Andrzej Tarwid

The insurgents of the Warsaw Uprising, whose heroic deeds could be reconstructed on the basis of historical documents, were buried in neglected graves.
The inhabitants of the capital lit thousands of candles on the graves in the Warsaw Military Cemetery Powaski on 1 August. But only now - on the 63rd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising - candles were also lit on several dozen graves that had been neglected for years. The lapse of time caused some graves to fall apart. Nobody knows how long that condition could have continued. Fortunately, the workers of the Warsaw Uprising Museum took an initiative to renovate the graves.

Cross and Anchor

'I felt it was a mission I embarked on. I felt that I was participating in something unique', recollects Krzysztof Dziomdziora, director of the Volunteers in the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Almost two years ago, together with Edmund Baranowski, vice-chairman of the Association of the Warsaw Insurgents, inspected the burial places in the Military Cemetery Powaski. The 25-year-old worker and the Home Army soldier, who was over 50 years older than him, did not go to see the ordered insurgents' graves. Their aim was to see the civilian part of the cemetery. The families and friends who had survived the uprising buried the insurgents there after the war. When the families died nobody took care of the insurgents' graves, which gradually fell in. It is worth reminding those who do not remember the times of the Polish People's Republic that the communist authorities made it difficult to bury the insurgents whose provisory graves had been discovered. Many a time those who did the exhumation were arrested. 'In 1946 a secret committee aiming at caring of the graves was created. Only after the thaw in 1956 we could do some work. But the present shape of the A-20 section [of the unit 'Zoska'] was completed in the early 1980s', says Kazimierz Lodzinski, President of the Committee for the Care of the Graves of the Zoska Battalion. Those who visit the Military Cemetery Powaski in August can see identical grave tablets scattered in sections: A-22, A-23, A-25 and A-27. They were designed by the sculptor Dariusz Kowalski. The monuments were made throughout July. The works of Edmund Baranowski and Krzysztof Dziomdziora that had begun in the autumn of 2005 were finalised. What they saw then was depressing. 'I felt some disappointment that there were so many neglected graves of my brothers in arms', says the vice-chairman of the Association of the Warsaw Insurgents. 'People make paths across some graves. Ferns grew on other graves. Crosses were placed only on some graves. Most graves did not have any inscriptions about the deceased. The most neglected graves were to be renovated first. Where there were tassels there are cement crosses now. Epitaphs and anchor-symbols of Warsaw Fighting were also put on the graves.

Almost parallel biographies

Bronislaw Rachwal, codename 'Glin', was buried in one of the newly renovated graves. The headquarters of Home Army assigned him to serve in the Armoured Division. He had fought in the September Campaign. Afterwards he managed to reach England where he completed officer cadet school. In 1943 he was parachuted over Poland. After the rising broke out he was an operational officer in the staff of the District Srodmiescie. He was killed at the corner of Jasna and Kredytowa on 2 September. His body was buried by the falling walls that were destroyed by an artillery salvo. He was awarded the Virtuti Militari Cross - the highest Polish military medal for outstanding military deeds. Miroslaw Krynczukajtis died 15 days after the death of 'Glin'. His biography is almost identical to the life of Rachwal. Krynczukajtis, codename 'Szary' was also a soldier trained in the West and parachuted over Poland to join the resistance forces ('cichociemny'). He fought in the September of 1939, and then completed officer cadet school in England. After his return to Poland he was an officer in the headquarters of Home Army in the sappers' division. By was the head of the sappers in Srodmiescie Poludnie. He was killed in Mokotowska Street on 17 September in mortar fire. He was also awarded the Virtuti Militari Cross. 'Officer of great knowledge. Excellent sapper...''This is the note about 'Szary' in our archives', says Katarzyna Utracka, the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. Its historians dug piles of archival materials to verify information about the insurgents' graves in Powaski. It was necessary since the cemetery books only included the dates of burials. They explain who and where was buried and when a person was born and died. They do not tell whether he or she was an insurgent and whether he or she was killed in battle. The renovation of the graves could not begin without this information. The information concerning the insurgents buried in 28 graves was verified. Another problem, which the workers of the Museum had to face, was where to take funds from. Jan Oldakowski, Director of the Museum, had an idea. However, the Museum had no funds in its budget for that purpose. 'We collected money from the inhabitants of the capital. He put special money boxes in the museum', says Katarzyna Zalewska who collected money in the streets of Warsaw. The renovation was paid from the money we had collected. 'Visitors can still support the renovation of graves since our collection has not been closed', says Mrs Zalewska, and she adds, 'One money box is inside the Museum, the second one is in Wolnosci Square. The graves of 'Glin' and of 'Szary' as well as over 20 more insurgents' graves have been renovated. There are still 150 graves in the Military Cemetery to be renovated. Many more need smaller repairs.'

"Niedziela" 32/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: