Ewa Polak-Palkiewicz

One of the most important messages of John Paul II directed to Poles was the words of the request-appeal spoken at Jasna Gora in 1983 and then repeated at Westerplatte, 'You must demand of yourselves even if others do not demand much of you'. The way the Polish Pope formulated that instruction indicates how much important that message must have been to him. The fact that people do not demand of themselves can cause many moral illnesses and usually can cause fatal social consequences. Demanding of oneself is a big part of man's success. People we admire, people who impress us, are those who have taken this hint seriously. Today in Poland landowners, in various environments, one can see an attempt to refer to the traditions of the nobility. When we look at the colony of charming houses, which were designed by the talented architects of the firm 'Dwor Polski' [Polish Manor Houses] or when you look at a costly conversion of an old manor house into a hotel or exclusive restaurant we feel certain lack of proportions in the Polish life. Traditions are too often reduced to only material dimension whereas we seldom remember about what is most important, about the inhabitants of the old Polish estates, about the people who contributed in Poland's history in an extraordinary way. The communists made this most patriotic environment of former Poland forgotten; almost 50 years of silence, and often years of deliberate lies, were to bury definitively the memory of their lives and martyrdom during the last war. 19 March 2006 marks the 51st anniversary of the death of Leon Krzeczunowicz, 'Roland', 'Ekspress', 'SI', one of the most invincible and at the same time least known heroes of the last war. Together with Karol Tarnowski he founded the underground organisation of landowners called 'Uprawa' [Cultivation] or 'Tarcza' and 'Opieka', which was never fully uncovered by the enemies. He played an extremely dangerous game with the Germans for 5 years. 'Tarcza' was to organise a system of communication and every kind of help for the AK units [Home Army], and from 1943 it actually protected the units: members of 'Tarcza' hid men whom the enemy looked for, collected money for the army and ransom, organised medical services, including small hospitals in the manor houses. Leon Krzeczunowicz collaborated with the AK commanders, executing the most dangerous orders and shielding the bravest actions. This man, who had a unique organisational talent, a cavalry courage and gross fantasy, extremely smart brain, a sense of humour and excellent knowledge of German, managed to twist around his little finger the governor of three counties around Krakow 'Kreislandwirth' Staupe, who said about him 'der schlaue Kerl mit honischem Lacheln ('this crafty fellow with a derisive smile'). Krzeczunowicz, whom horse-racing lovers regarded as excellent horse rider and breeder, was also a talented farmer and foresighted businessmen. During the war he had to leave his prosperous estate in Jaraczow near Lvov and to settle in a farm in Sieciechowice near Krakow, which he kept in exemplary order, securing its development in spite of hard war conditions. He was an extremely clear-headed analyst of the historical situation in which Poland and all landowners found themselves. People admired his considered and balanced judgements, which led to the conclusion that the war was not the time to bewail losses and chances, that all times, even the most tragic ones, were good to do what people were obliged to. While presenting the idea of 'Tarcza' in Krakow he simply said, 'We must do what we can so that mindlessness and daredevilry do not disperse the potential that the landowners have at their disposal today, in these war times. All of this has actually finished [...] We must use the potential, which we, landowners, have, for the needs of the Underground. That means we should secure the rear [...] But we do not have any political aims. It is a nonsense to think that political efforts are to protect our estates, we must oppose this idea because it will paralyse our potential'.
After the war Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski explicitly evaluated the merits of 'Uprawa': 'Without 'Uprawa' - 'Tarcza' the Home Army could not have fulfilled many of its fundamental tasks [...] the protection of 'Tarcza' saved many guerrilla units from hunger, demoralisation and plunder, the units that sprang up like mushrooms after 1943'. 'Leon Krzeczunowicz, whom the younger generations of landowners loved for his charm, intelligence and patriotic attitude as well as modesty and simplicity, was also regarded as great authority by the peasants', recollected Jerzy Lambl, using the pseudonym 'Brzeszczot' [Blade]: 'Together with 'Kmicic' they formed a cavalry squadron, consisting of landowners' sons, non-commissioned officers working in their estates during the war and farm folk who were carefully chosen in order to avoid drunken talking and arguments, which were so common in the country' - at the same time he had a vision to leave a certain part of great estates after the war, those estates that could afford buying machines, fertilisers and employing agricultural engineers'. 'He was a charming collector', J. Lambl recollects, 'and collected enormous sums for the AK in a quite painless way, knowing people very well and using a psychological approach. His house, full of mysterious individuals who were hid before the Gestapo, resounded with noise and laughter, and many a time with the sounds of waltzes [...] The coltish lady of the house [Wanda Krzeczunowicz, family name Czaykowska] hid a widow with two children, wife of major Nowacki, and the master of the house employed sons of the landowners from Wielkopolska and he constantly helped someone'. Arrested in an ambush near Krakow on 1 August 1944 he was cruelly questioned for several months. The Germans knew that they had an important member of the underground movement, and they did their best to break him down. The attempt to ransom him for 'a considerable amount of precious stones' and the intervention of Cardinal Adam Sapieha turned out to be late. After years his wife, Wanda Czaykowska, said that the priest, who had been in one prison cell with Leon Krzeczunowicz, found and told her: 'All prisoners regarded your husband as almost a saint, he helped everybody, he shared things from the parcels you brought, he left almost nothing for himself [...] The biggest torture was the tricky questions because being very weak one had to make superhuman efforts in order not to give people's names [...] He was so tough that even his executioner said that he had not met such a man before. And he did not grass on anybody but he saved many lives'. Some other released prisoner told her, 'I had the privilege to lie on one plank bed with your husband'. This hero who is unknown to the contemporary people, a man of great character and strength that he formed thanks to his firm principles and great discipline, was transported to one of the most horrible camps, the rock-cut camp in the Harz Mountains, where prisoners were forced to produce the secret weapons, long range rockets V2 and flying bombs V1. He was arrested when he attempted to escape, and was shot on 19 March 1945.
All quotations were taken from Michal Zolkowski, 'Leon Krzeczunowicz'. "Uprawa". "Tarcza", ed. Bigraf, Warszawa 2005.

"Niedziela" 10/2006

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