Emerging Anxieties – part two

…nothing good would come of “getting lost”; it seems I am at fault for him losing me!

Some Background

In August 1939, at the end of the last extract Józef was called back to answer to the Lieut. Colonel. Earlier entries in his diaries (and his official war records) reveal that he had definitely received orders to relocate, and had not simply “disappeared”!

From March to the end of July 1939 Józef was based at Wełnowiec near Katowice where, with the help of the battalion doctor and Lieut. Kwieciński, he set up the sick quarters and the out-patients’ surgery. He writes that he carried out his duties there single-handedly, reporting directly to the divisional doctor. Towards the end of July, Józef comments that he would probably have continued in his role…

…if it was not for the anger of Major Chełczyński, lead doctor of 23 infantry Division in Katowice, who couldn’t understand my independence, and who insisted that I should be under his control. So this influenced the Lieut. Colonel who transferred me to the position of battalion doctor.

So, as battalion doctor, Józef was reporting to Major Chełczyński. After 2 weeks however, the Major was transferred (to my father’s great relief) to take on duties as army dentist in Warsaw.

27th August

We left Józef about to face the Lieut. Colonel. He was sent to receive orders and, it seems, a reprimand. The Lieut. Colonel informed Józef of his extensive new duties concluding with:

…and afterwards in your free time, my good man, you will be the doctor at the Garrison Sick Quarters.”  There was no explanation. As a goodbye: “Watch your step, officer cadet. My decision is final and I will be keeping an eye on you.  And beware, this is a state of war, so it’s a bullet in the head for non-fulfilment of orders.”

I look and open my mouth, holding back tears. My knees feel as though they will give way. Questions crowd into my head…what is this and why? This is the first time since the beginning of my army service, that anyone has suggested that I haven’t fulfilled my orders. For me, the fundamental principle in everything I have done up to now in civilian life – let alone in the army – is rooted in a sense of  obligation and the need to fulfil all my duties and responsibilities.

Well, I – worthless dust, defenceless officer cadet – have to deal with the Colonel’s bad temper. What can I do about it? This lowliest subordinate of the head of service turned up just at the point when the Colonel needed to vent his anger; the war is a struggle, nothing is in place here, there are no materials and there is disarray in the medical service. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I was reprimanded and told where to go in true military fashion.

In reply: “Yes, Colonel.”…and in my thoughts: a bullet in the head is better than the enemy at the front.

Imploringly I glanced at the amiable Major Pyzik standing alongside, then about-turned and marched off. In the corridor however, I ask Major Pyzik, “What’s going on, Sir?”

He replies, “Well he’s in a bad frame of mind and it seems that Major Chełczyński made some accusations about you when he left for Warsaw…”

Aha…this is the crux of the matter. And at this moment everything became clear.

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