Waking up to War

After Józef’s heartfelt passage about Poland’s fate, he writes a second entry about the events that unfolded in the camp on the day war was declared. The fact that this was written at a later date explains the apparent irony of his comments on the state of the army.

01/09/39

Whatever was that terrible explosion rocking the whole building? After it came another one – similar, albeit further away – and then a third and a fourth… Next some heavy gunfire.

It was 5 o’clock in the morning. It startled me as I lay in bed, ducking at each explosion.

I ran to the window but saw only clouds of blue smoke. From amongst these clouds I recognised the shots of anti-aircraft artillery. It was like the intense gunfire I had witnessed at the firing range…

Oh this is no joke… but are they really enemy aeroplanes? …and if not… who organised an anti-aircraft defence exercise at this time and in such a tense, electrically charged, atmosphere of war?

I didn’t puzzle over this for long. With an inevitable dread in my heart, I felt some kind of strange, new curiosity, or fear. I dressed at top speed and rushed downstairs to the office…

“What is it?”

With a shrug of his shoulders in the dim light from the window the Sergeant says, “I don’t know, maybe exercises.”

I hurried into the street, to the major’s residence in the camp… and what did we find? Where we had thought there was war, there was none – just exercises. However, to be on the safe side, we sheltered under the trees to watch the exploding shells and afterwards the flight of the bombers.

It’s difficult though to make out the markings. Despite the assurances of the Major – and the majority of the officers – that war hadn’t already broken out, that these were just exercises, there was still something that I distrusted.

I tried to demonstrate my knowledge of anti-aircraft artillery drawing attention to the missiles. They were pointed, and therefore dangerous – incompatible with exercises. And the planes, although similar to Łos* are certainly German.

We were leaning more and more towards the opinion that it was war…

 

The Major heads for Katowice at speed and around midday the news is definite…

WAR…what a strange word.

I was a young child when the world war broke out, the shots were read about or read to us and talked about, but we survived it. Hm!! This is something completely new.

After all the discussions at every opportunity – will it be or won’t it? what will it be like? – this uncertainty had disappeared and even the tension has subsided…and at last there would be composure.

Even when it had become a fact however, it was still mistrusted. Perhaps there will be a retreat; maybe peace can still be rescued.

 

My heart felt heavy seeing these first unknown, enemy planes. It is difficult to describe the feeling – neither joy nor fear.

In these particular circumstances, here is what lifted us: weighing up what difficulties or benefits it would bring, what would the outcome be, and so on.

And the state, ah! I daresay the state will only gain from it. Because please  look at our army. What magnificent soldiers, such weapons, such equipment, the warehouses they only showed us at mobilisation and about which there was so much mysterious insinuation.

These and other thoughts occupied our minds. The answers were to come gradually…

 

At 12.00 noon the President delivered a proclamation to the nation in several languages. Our treacherous enemy of old had without declaration of war, attacked our country, bombing Polish towns.

We were declaring war…so help us God. And so, the word ‘war’ became a reality.

*A type of Polish bomber

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