TFN talks exclusively to a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising, Alina Matuszewska

TFN talks exclusively to a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising, Alina Matuszewska Joanna Jasińska/TFN

Alina Matuszewska, nee Jasińska, now 92 years old, was born on January 14th, 1927 in Warsaw.

She and her younger brother Jerzy (born 1930) became involved in the resistance movement against the Nazi German occupation of Poland when she was 15-years-old . In 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, she became a courier for the Home Army.

Receiving orders from the Żoliborz-based 235 platoon, she became separated from her unit and spent the first days of the uprising trying to reach the troops fighting in central Warsaw. There, she was assigned as a runner to the women’s Pomoc Żołnierzowi (the Soldier’s Aid) organisation, which was an auxiliary formation providing meals and other necessities to the insurgents.

In an interview with The First News, Ms. Matuszewska recalls the first days of the Warsaw Uprising. She mentions the elation the young insurgents felt, their desire to die for their country and a certain naivety they had regarding the chances of victory.

During the first days she experienced first-hand the horrors of what was happening  in the Żoliborz, Wola and Śródmieście districts of Warsaw – witnessing the fighting, the tragic losses and civilian struggles. But behind it all she felt a ubiquitous faith in Poland finally regaining its freedom.

In her memoire, Ms. Matuszewska wrote: “ As we all know, the Uprising army was an army of volunteers. The orders that reached the soldiers through secret communications were not forced upon them. Everybody decided for themselves if they wanted to fulfil the orders and turn up at the meeting point.

“My allocation was in Żoliborz in the so called “Glass House” at Mickiewicz street. The fights in Żoliborz started before 4 PM. The trams did not work as I walked. On Krasińskiego street I saw two German trucks which were shot at from behind a wall by our troops. The Germans were throwing grenades and shooting with machine guns. At 5 PM the Home Army platoons with white and red bands on their arms started walking out from gates at Wilson Square.

“Suddenly the Germans stopped me and I realized that I had my white and red band in a suitcase which I was really proud of. Luckily, at that moment the shooting started from the direction of Zajączka street and the Germans started running away from the slope. We all ran towards Krasińskich Square where we reached our troops.

“I walked with some people to Saint Lazarus Hospital where they wanted me to stay and work as a medical aid. Wola was a totally unknown district for me and all the people I knew lived in the centre of the city and I wanted to reach them so I refused.

“This decision might have saved my life, because on the next day the SS Brigade consisting of prisoners and a group of renegades from the Red Army commanded by Mieczysław Kamiński murdered almost 60,000 people within a few days. They walked from house to house, raped, plundered and shot innocent people.

“In the Wola Hospital they murdered 300 patients and all the staff, in Lazarus Hospital they killed 1,000 people. Only on Saturday, August 5th, 20,000 Wola inhabitants were killed including the headmistresses from my school – Mrs. Kowalczykówna and Mrs. Jawurkówna.”

More in tomorrow’s The First News