Poland holds memorial service for wartime scout leader

Captain Białous, by a decision of the defence minister, was promoted posthumously to the rank of colonel in the Polish Army. Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Poland held on Wednesday a memorial service for Ryszard Białous, commander of Poland's legendary wartime "Zośka" (Sophie) scout battalion which played a major role in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi Germans.

Białous, who died in Argentina 27 years ago, wanted to be buried in Poland. The Wednesday ceremonies were attended by Poland's top officials including President Andrzej Duda, Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński and the head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, Jan Józef Kasprzyk.

"This is an extraordinary moment, the dream of a free Poland is realised. For Colonel Ryszard Białous, for 'Jerzy', a dream for Poland to be independent, fully sovereign and flourishing is just coming true," Duda said during the ceremony.

Captain Białous, by a decision of the defence minister, was promoted posthumously to the rank of colonel in the Polish Army.

"The colonel's attitude is a model for today's soldiers of the Polish Army," Błaszczak said presenting the colonel's nomination to Białous's son. He thanked the colonel's family for agreeing to bring his remains back to his homeland and thus fulfilling his will.

On his final journey from Argentina to Poland, Białous was assisted by soldiers of the Polish Army, the Territorial Defence Force.

The Zośka battalion, formed in late August 1943, was part of the Polish Home Army (AK) resistance movement during World War Two. Including mainly members of the Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) paramilitary scouting organisation, it played an instrumental role in the Warsaw Uprising and won fame for liberating prisoners of the Warsaw concentration camp Gęsiowka in August 1944. Zośka scouts freed 383 prisoners (including 348 Jews) from the Gęsiowka camp, most joined the battalion and fought in its ranks during the Warsaw Uprising.

Zośka was named after the nom-de-guerre of Polish scoutmaster and AK resistance fighter Tadeusz Zawadzki, who was killed in a 1943 attack on a German border police checkpoint near Wyszków, central Poland. The Zośka unit was formed soon after Zawadzki's death, adopting his codename.

Ryszard Białous (April 4 1914 in Warsaw - March 24 1992 in Neuquen, Argentina) was a Polish scoutmaster and a captain in the Gray Ranks organisation. He commanded the Zośka battalion before and during the Warsaw Uprising. Before the unit adopted the name Zośka it took part in the famous March 1943 Operation Arsenal, the first major operation by the Gray Ranks, under Białous's and Zawadzki's leadership. Its name deriving from the Warsaw Arsenal in front of which it took place, the operation aimed to free scoutmaster and resistance fighter Jan Bytnar "Rudy" (ginger), who was arrested with his father by the Gestapo. The operation was carried out by 28 scouts, the attack group was led by Zawadzki.