I still remember that day vividly. I was only eight. It was September 27, 1939.
“Hello, Hello?” came a voice on the radio, “Can you hear us?” I knew exactly what it was about. Earlier that day, German Troops entered our city, Warsaw. This was probably some news or something.
“We are broadcasting the last Polish radio communication! Today, German Troops entered Warsaw. We send brotherly greetings to Polish soldiers at the Hel peninsula, and anybody fighting, regardless of the place, Poland is not yet lost! Long live Poland!” The Polish national anthem then began playing.
“What does that mean, Matka?” I asked my mother. She was an English woman who fell in love with a Polish man sometime in 1929. They wanted to live a better life in Poland. But their dreams were dashed this month, on my birthday, September 1. Hitler was invading.
“It means, kochanie, that Poland is not yet lost! Poland will live on forever! We will fight against these NAZI Monsters! We will fight in the streets! We will fight our oppressors! Polska nigdy nie umiera! (Poland Never Dies!)”
It was my birthday in 1940, and I woke up to my father leaving the house. I asked my mother about what had happened.
My mother replied, “He is working for those NAZI monsters! I can’t tolerate such a person in our house. So, I forced him out. I will work as a schoolteacher to pay the bills.”
On my birthday in 1943, I woke up to another surprise. My father was at the door. I was worried. Was he inspecting our house? Would he arrest us?
“Kochanie?” he called.
I couldn’t believe my ears! Without giving a thought, I ran to the door and hugged him!
“Papa!” I yelled.
“It is time I let you into my life’s deepest, darkest secret.” He said softly.
He took us to my room, shut the windows, and began a conversation in Polish. I could understand both Polish and English.
“Have you heard about the Home Army?” He asked.
“I have heard rumours. I replied, “But NAZIs like you only hunt them!”
“Well,” he said, “I am part of the Home Army!” He said.
“LIES!” I yelled, “STOP LYING!”
My mother put a hand on my shoulder, “Kochanie, it’s true!”
“If it is true, then why did he leave us?” I snapped.
“To protect us….” She replied, “If those monsters found out, even we wouldn’t be spared. We would be thrown into those concentration camps like the Jews,” She said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You know your friend Ziv?” Papa said.
“Yes,” I replied, “but I haven’t seen him since I was eight years old!”
“Ziv got thrown into a concentration camp, where they all get killed. The name of the camp was Auschwitz, I think. It is just outside Katowice.” Papa replied
“Also, if you were fighting against the NAZIs, why did you join them?” I asked.
“For secret intelligence!” Papa replied, “I don’t know much, but I heard two soldiers talk about how they are losing to the Russians, and by 1945, we would all be free!”
“That is wonderful!” I said.
“We are planning to rebel sometime around 1944.” Papa said.
The following year, on July 29th, My father arrived. “The Red Army is on the gates of Warsaw!” he said, “Tomorrow, we start the revolution.”
The following day, I woke up to the typical sound of gunfire. I looked outside the window and found troops shooting at the German forces, with the White and Red flag of Liberation flying in the sky. It was happening. Poland would be free! Free from the clutches of warfare, dictatorship, of oppression.
But then the news broke. By the end of the day, tanks began rolling in from the west, with the bloodred Swastika banner waving on them. They weren’t Russian but German. They were coming to crush us again! My father ran inside to inform me about what had happened.
“The Germans are coming to crush us!” Papa said.
“What about the Russians? Why aren’t they helping us?” I asked.
“Son, my Kochanie-” Papa said, with tears in his eyes, “The Russians want a communist Poland. They betrayed us. I will be out, trying to find a haven for us to hide!”
My father began running outside. I ran near him, and my father bent down to my level.
“Son-” he said, “Don’t tell Matka that I will die today. It is inevitable. Go back inside.”
“W-what?” I said.
“Tell her I am going to Lublin and coming back in the spring!”
Just as he said it, a bullet pierced his body, and he dropped in my hands, dead. I looked up, staring into the cruel, blue eyes of the soldiers who had done it. I started crying. He had died for us. His last wish was to save my mother and me. The Germans soon destroyed the city to rubble. The following year, after a tough battle, the Soviets “Liberated” us from our German oppressors, only to replace them with Russian ones. The Germans killed my father because the Russians wanted a puppet state. It is hard to live now, in 1955, at the age of 24, that my father would have been alive with me if not for the decision of the Russians.
Today, on my birthday, I spoke to my mother.
“He was a good man,” I sobbed, “He only cared for our well-being. His last wish was to make sure you stayed happy, sane.”