Signs of the Enemy

In the previous extract Józef and the health cart were joined by the rest of the supply column in Nowy Korczyn and from there they headed north to Ucisków where they found the rest of the squadron. After a few hours’ rest they continued their difficult journey north-eastwards across farmland and poor tracks , with the hope of supporting an organised resistance to the approaching enemy.

In this next extract, their march continues with devastating evidence of the enemy’s advances. The journey from their previous stop in Ucisków to Solec – where they arrive at daybreak at the start of this piece – is about 14 km. Smogorzów is a very small village on what is now the main road between Stopnica and Busko Zdrój.


It was just starting to get light and daybreak unfolded fully as we came in to Solec. Remaining hale and hearty and proud of our demeanour, we continued as a squadron on towards Zborów, Suchowola and Stopnica. We stopped only on the outskirts of Stopnica and then pushed along the road to Busko Zdrój. In Smogorzów I went into a manor house to try to exchange a heavy cart for a lighter hay cart but the place was empty and I couldn’t find one. So we had to continue to exhaust the horses.

Looking back from here I saw a gruesome sight. The black, burnt, bare walls of the health building stood out, still smouldering next to the road. Nearby and exposed to view, were burnt, charred, human remains. A particularly shrunken but clearly human figure made a shocking impression. Almost all of us made the sign of the cross out of a superstitious fear. Signs of the enemy could already be seen everywhere around us: a German lorry in a ditch, remnants of a motorcycle, burnt haystacks and houses.

In order to avoid coming across tanks and other armoured units patrolling the road, we turned out of Smogorzów to the right of the road, went on for another four or five kilometres and stopped in the woods on a hill. Patrols and reconnaissance groups reported that the enemy was in Busko Zdrój. Thus we had the information we needed in order to be ready to repel the German advanced guard at any time, and so the major ordered us to turn back to the road.

Travelling at a trot along the road, we very quickly made our way back to Stopnica. On entering the town itself, we discovered that the enemy had been there already. It was easy to tell from the burnt and damaged houses. From the people there, we learned that the Germans had been there about 24 hours earlier, stolen what they could, terrorised the population and burnt down some storehouses before going north.

The squadron set up camp in some gardens and we stopped the supply column here – even the once-lost kitchen.  A servant woke up in one of the houses and made us some scrambled eggs with bread. I was given a separate room and a bed at my disposal. A snatched hour of sleep helped to revive me.


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