Over the coming months, I would like to share with you some extracts from my translation of Józef’s diaries.
During the first two weeks of August 1939 my father was based at Mikołów (near Katowice) as the doctor with his battalion, 23rd Infantry Division.
He writes that there were clear signs of approaching war but admits that seeing the activity taking place at the nearby borders reinforced his opinion that the army would not after all be easily defeated. He writes too about having conversations about the army with his close friend and colleague, Corporal Stasiek Kędzior, and the consequent strengthening of their conviction that the Polish army would not surrender to the Germans.
On 15th August 1939, while in the company of Staszek, Józef was visited by his father. He writes the entry below in retrospect, highlighting the impact which his father’s words came to have on him.
When I first came across this passage I was struck by the disparity between the two views – I wonder which was the more common at this point.
The words of my father seemed ridiculous when he visited to bid me farewell.
When I asked him what was going on, he replied that the war would shortly reach the border, “so I want to say goodbye to you, Józku.”
“Do you think I’ll die so soon that you came especially for that?” I asked.
“Maybe not,” he replied. “But one thing is certain: as the conflict starts to blow in from the western border, you will all slip far away and we won’t see each other for a very long time. I wanted to come to see you, to say goodbye.”
I raised my eyebrows at Staszek and almost simultaneously we smiled at each other, doing our best to prove to my father that we certainly wouldn’t surrender – we had such strength and fortifications, we were armed to the teeth, “in short we won’t lose so swiftly. On the contrary, we will win…”
He smiled in reply with a tolerant nod. “How deluded you are – you are young, you don’t know what‘s going on at the top, and what’s more you don’t know the force which Hitler presents.”
I remember my father’s words to this day, to the letter. Many a time during the “retreat” of our army those words came back to me, crushing me in defeat and discouraging any return to my family’s side. My father’s words were one of the reasons for my expedition to Hungary and to France.