TFN talks exclusively to Warsaw Uprising veteran Alina Matuszewska

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

Alina Matuszewska, nee Jasińska, (92) became involved in the resistance movement against Nazi Germany when she was 15-years-old. In 1944 she fought in the Warsaw Uprising.

As a courier for the Home Army in the centre of Warsaw, she was responsible for carrying messages and guiding groups of people with supplies through the system of tunnels made up of cellars and streets, which were under constant fire from the German troops.

The initial hope and euphoria of the fight for freedom slowly gives way to the understanding of what urban warfare really means and the pain of losing friends and brothers in arms.

In her memoire, Ms. Matuszewska describes the dire situations the young soldiers found themselves in:

“During the Uprising the euphoria was present only in the beginning. Later, the overall mood got much worse. Lots of Wola civilians who escaped the mass executions were living in the basements. They were running out of food and water, babies were dying because their mothers stopped producing milk. Once, when I was crossing Grzybowska street, I was attacked by a desperate crowd of hungry and dirty women. They were shouting that we would probably retreat, leaving them to the German soldiers and Ukrainian collaborators. It was one of the most tragic experiences of my life and I began to doubt if the Uprising made sense at all.

“We started losing the fight but we kept on fighting, night counterattacks helped us take over some streets again.

“I came home and met my parents and uncle Rettinger. Edward Rettinger who was a lawyer foresaw that after the war there would be a processes of the war criminals (he foresaw the Nuremberg Trials) and that we would need documents of the crimes. Together with Colonel Mazurek from the Uprising Gendarmerie he wrote down testimonies of people who were the victims of Germans. They all confirmed the authenticity of these documents with their signatures.”