Surviving Warsaw Uprising insurgents honoured in series of moving posters by contemporary artist Wojciech Korkuć
Some of the last surviving Warsaw Uprising insurgents are being honoured in a series of posters that have appeared throughout Warsaw to mark the 78th anniversary of the outbreak of the Uprising.
The posters by prolific contemporary poster artist Wojciech Korkuć are united by the slogan ‘Honour and Glory to the Heroes’.
He said: “This is a gift to the living insurgents. I noticed some time ago that it is very nice for them to be recognised in this way. It gives food for thought.”
The series is divided into two types of posters. One depicts photos colourised by Mikołaj Kaczmarek showing scenes from 78 years ago, while the second group are portraits of living insurgents holding their own wartime photographs.
“To give a better idea, I included a photo on the poster of what they more or less looked like during the uprising,” the artist said.
Korkuć has been photographing insurgent heroes for several years. This year he has added a further four.
One of the insurgent heroes to feature this year is Juliusz 'Julek' Kulesza, the last surviving defender of the Polish Security Printing Works, a key insurgent stronghold in the battle for the Old Town, which lasted 27 days.
Kulesza’s parents worked there, and he was ordered by the Germans to serve an apprenticeship as a graphic designer there after the outbreak of war.
On the second day of the Uprising, at the age of just 16, he and his fellow soldiers took part in the battle for the printing works.
A German garrison of nearly a hundred soldiers was defending the works supported by several hundred soldiers attacking the insurgents from the surrounding streets.
The Germans were well equipped with light and heavy machine guns as well as cannons and tanks.
A deciding factor in the insurgents' victory was the Trojan horse attack on the Germans from inside the factory by its Polish employees, including Kulesza.
“The Germans, being attacked from outside, panicked horribly when we pelted them in the corridors with grenades. The group acted as a Trojan horse,” Kulesza remembered.
Kulesza and his insurgent colleagues defended the works for nearly a month, fending off German attacks.
Another of the insurgent heroes featured on the posters is Krystyna 'Stokrotka' Rafalska-Kodymowska, a member of the clandestine scouts and a medic who served in the III 'Waligóra' District of the Home Army in Wola.
Rafalska-Kodymowska who joined the Bakcyl unit at a hospital in the Wola district as a teenager said: “The omnipresent terror, the uncertainty of every moment and the great need for freedom were the real reasons for the uprising. People cannot live without freedom. They are capable of fighting for it even with his bare hands," she said.
After a few days serving in Wola, the Germans launched their operation to murder every single person in Warsaw.
The Wola Massacre is considered the largest single massacre of civilians committed in Europe during World War II, as well as the largest single crime ever committed against the Polish people.
The Germans killed her father. However, Rafalska-Kodymowska survived as the killings subsided and the Germans deported her to Germany to work as a slave labourer.
Speaking about the subjects of his posters, Korkuć said: “These are the last real heroes who showed heroism as young people. We can show them as role models to the younger generation.
“Then we have a big hole, and it will be difficult for us to show patriotic attitudes to the next generation of young people. Let's find such heroes while they exist.”
Korkuć’s output as a poster artist has been prolific in recent years. Currently at the Contemporary Art Centre at Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw visitors can see his exhibition featuring Poles from the first transport of prisoners to Auschwitz.
It shows them as they looked at the time and recreated as they may have looked today wearing contemporary clothes and hairstyles.
Previously, he courted controversy in Germany with a series of posters in Warsaw with the image of Germany’s then ambassador to Poland Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven alongside images of Herman Goering and Hans Frank demanding the return of artworks seized during the war.
He is also the artist behind the poster ‘Achtung RuSSia’ featuring the characteristic lightning bolt runes of the Schutzstaffel.
Though controversial when he designed it in 2014, the poster has become a popular symbol of opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.