O Poland! Who Saw You?

Józef’s diary entry for 1st September 1939 was simply one line: Wojna…Wojna…Wojna. (War…War…War). After that he starts a new section of his diary headed The September Campaign. He begins this section with a very patriotic and poetic passage. Well, his Polish is very poetic but is therefore hard to translate. I’m not sure my translation has done it justice.

Remember that he was writing up his diaries some time later, perhaps a year or two after these events had taken place, so he is looking back on them and recording them with perhaps a little more knowledge of the extent of the events than he would have had when they occurred.

…It often feels as though I still haven’t woken from that time, when at 10 o’clock in the evening I was at a house in my memory, lying in the beautiful garden rich with fruit – pears, plums, apricots, apples.

How very far from there I am now, here in Giszowiec, where last night I lay down to sleep in order to get some rest – ‘the sleep of the just’. It seemed that dreams descended on me like some kind of dreadful nightmare which choked me like phantoms, telling me to look at our martyred country, blood flowing in streams from the open wound of her best sons, mothers and young children.

O Poland! Who saw you in those dreadful September days when your entrails were torn from your living body, your garments were trodden and splattered with blood? When after trembling with convulsions your body overflowed with throngs of wild, steel-clad invaders, exhaling flames and accompanied by an echoing, unceasing throb, raining death with the bullets of steel monsters?

Who saw your martyrdom and lived? Who looked at the helplessness, betrayal and stupidity to which they led you?

One should never forget – every Pole shares responsibility for your fate and they owe all health and life to you. Filled with an unshakeable desire for cruel revenge, they are determined to serve you faithfully to the end of their days and to do everything possible to clothe you anew in better attire than you had worn up to now.

Recent history – although terrifyingly short, although it has completely overturned the existing world order, although so revolutionary – was not just a dream but the truest reality.

Józef then continues with a second entry for the 1st of September which will be coming soon.


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