17. Invitation to the Homeland
In march 1933 I received a letter without a return address, in handwriting unfamiliar to me, and addressed to the Polish Bureau of Military History. I was very surprised because nobody was suppose to know that I was working there, and those that knew did not have to write since they could speak to me any day. I opened the letter in the presence of my co-workers. It was a letter from Captain Orel-Orlenko (whose name has been mentioned as a student of our Staff courses), who had unexpectedly left for France in 1925 ostensibly to look for work, but as we learned later, he applied to the Soviet Mission with a request to help him get back home. Even before that rumors had reached us that Orel-Orlenko was engaged in subversive work among Ukrainian emigrant laborers in Belgium and France, persuading them to return home. Orel-Orlenko was offered to meet me at the Continental Hotel in Danzig, he gave his address in Danzig and enclosed $10.00 for my trip. I took the letter to Gen. Salsky and we immediately went together to President Livytsky. After long deliberation President Livytsky came to the conclusion that I should accept Orlenko's invitation and find out what it's all about. President Livytsky also thought that it may be possible that Orlenko wanted my help to get back into Poland having had enough of the "Red Paradise," or perhaps he wanted to come to Poland to work as a Soviet agent. I firmly rejected any idea of seeing Orlenko and Gen. Salsky agreed with me. We also decided that I was to inform Gen. Stachiewicz about this matter, and Gen. Salsky would inform Col. Pelczynski. Gen. Stachiewicz fully approved my position stating that he saw nothing sensational in an offer to meet a subordinate communist agent, and if the Bolsheviks know about my work, then we should not exclude the possibility of their plan to kidnap me. As is well known, this is what they did with the Russian emigre General Kutiepov who lived in Paris. Of course, I did not answer Orlenko and gave the $10.00 to charity. Two weeks later I had another letter from Orlenko addressed to my home in which he wrote: "The matter is so interesting that you will surely regret not wanting to see me." This time a conference was held between President Livytsky, Gen. Salsky, Gen. Stachiewicz and myself, and we decided that if I were to consent to the trip to Danzig, the Polish authorities would take steps to guarantee my safety. Again I refused, and again two weeks went by when I got another letter from Orlenko of the same contents. After long persuasion by President Livytsky, I consented to go, but I was guarded by the Polish secret police. This was not a difficult matter for Poland because Poland had a diplomatic representation in Danzig and a military mission. They surrounded the Continental Hotel with plainclothesmen, the room in which I was to meet Orlenko was thoroughly searched, and an agent was placed in the hall. On my trip to Danzig I was accompanied by a non-commisioned officer of the military police who was of adequate physical build to handle any situation.
The meeting took place on June 24. I did not offer my hand to Orlenko on meeting him, and he was so taken aback that he could not find words to start the conversation and I was unwilling to make a beginning. In a two-hour talk Orlenko tried to present to me a picture of national-political concessions to Ukraine by Moscow in the form of a separate government, armed forces, schools, etc., and from this fact he alleged a need for constructive forces to take part in building "an independent Soviet Ukraine." He showed me an authorization for the talk with me signed by the Soviet Ambassador to France which stated that all propositions made by Orlenko to me will be accepted by the Ukrainian Soviet Government, and Orlenko proposed: I should report to the Soviet Embassy in Warsaw immediately, from there I will be taken to Paris, and then to Kiev. In Kiev my rank of General will be confirmed and I will be appointed commander of the Soviet Ukrainian 23rd Division in Kharkiv (the 23rd Ukrainian Chapayev Division was actually garrisoned in Kharkiv). I should not have the slightest fear that the agreement would not be kept or that I would have any surprises, in the event of my consent, my wife could accompany me, and he was ready to give me (1,000.00 for expenses right away. To my inquiry whether he had made similar proposals to all Ukrainian generals (there was a total of sixty-three emigre Ukrainian generals at the time), Orlenko replied: "we know whom to approach," and that "the same offer was made to two other generals, but their names or their decisions cannot be disclosed." To end the conversation, I firmly rejected his offer stating that not only I, but all Ukrainian soldiers will gladly go back to Ukraine if the Muscovites (that is the word I used) leave Ukraine and if Ukrainian national authorities take over. Orlenko also made hints that it was not worthwhile to ally ourselves with Poland because Poland "was a seasonal state." I concluded from the conversation that the Bolsheviks really knew about my work in the Staff, and that this was a very important matter to them, since in the event of a conflict between the USSR and Poland, the Ukrainian Army would stand on the side of Poland with its political demands, and then, of course, all Ukraine would rise and fight against Moscow occupation, and this was what they had to paralyze. In parting Orlenko told me that if I did not want to go to Ukraine, he proposes that I leave Poland and settle in Switzerland, where the Ukrainian Soviet Government will give me full support. During my stay in Danzig, neither I nor the Polish police could find any trace of plans of violence against me on the part of the Bolsheviks, and I returned to Warsaw without incident. The whole conversation with Orlenko was recorded. There were no more attempts by Orlenko or any other Moscow agents to talk to me. Orlenko disappeared from the emigre horizon.
18. In Polish Military Service
In a talk with Col. Perkowicz early in 1936 I made a request to attend a course at the High Command and General Staff College, and Col. Perkowicz was simply shocked. Not because he thought this odd or unnecessary, but because he was surprised that I still wanted to study at the age of forty-eight. I really did always have an itch for study, and in 1929 I graduated from radio-technical school (of a military type, under the command of Staff-Major R. Jackowski). Col. Perkowicz made inquiries of the College Commandant, General T. Kutrzeba and chief of the 2nd Department of the General Staff, Col. T. Pelczynski, and the matter was favorably resolved. Early in May I was offered a contract with the rank of Major to undergo a staging training with the 18th Infantry Regiment during summer maneuvers. General Kutrzeba knew me personally from meetings at the Bureau of Military History where he spent much time collecting material for his book published in 1935 under the title "Wyprawa Kijowska 1920" (The Kiev Expedition of 1920). At his request I worked on organizational and operational data about our part in that war, particularly about our 6th Division which marched on Kiev together with the 3rd Polish Army. General Kutrzeba only saw difficulties with my rank because according to regulation, the College only accepted officers between the rank of lieutenant and major. When Col. Perkowicz informed me about this, I replied that a Polish military rank was no obstacle to me. From talks with officers who graduated from that school I found that its scholastic level was very high and I wanted to increase my knowledge of tactics even at this advanced age. I was particularly impressed with the leading thesis of Polish military doctrine on which was based practical training of officers and ranks, the motto of Marshal Pilsudski: "Strategy and tactics of real situations."
I was sorry to leave the Staff where I put in so much work, but I was glad at the prospect of getting a modern military education.
When I arrived at the 18th Inf. Reg. of the 26th Division, I was being awaited there (Capt. Guttrie had brought the news) and I was met by deputy commander Col. T. Klimecki (General during the war, Chief of Staff of Gen. Sikorski, both killed in an airplane crash at Gibraltar in 1943). For my staging Col. Klimecki assigned me to the 2nd Bat., 18th Inf. Reg. under the command of Staff-Lt. Col. W. Wislocki (later professor of Infantry Officers' School and during the war chief of staff of General Olbrycht's Operational Group). A real gentleman, but very demanding as a soldier, Lt.-Col. Wislocki did not spare time or effort to get me to know all secrets of Polish military art. Several days later the commander of the regiment came back from furlough. He was Col. F. Matuszczak, a Pilsudski legionnaire. He spoke Ukrainian, being a native of Galicia. He was a first-rate tactician and exceptionally intelligent, his peculiar trait was watching without saying a word. For example, he knew by memory all tables of machine-gun firing. After a few days he introduced me to the Division Commander, General T. Kozicki who asked me why I had joined the Polish Army. With my answer "to learn" I placed myself in the right position with him and I was treated as an equal of all the other officers, to my great satisfaction. During the next maneuvers I commanded a battalion defending a position against enemy attack. I organized the defense in such a way that the commander of the maneuvers, Col. Matuszczak and the arbiters recognized my battalion's right to hold the defensive position all day and only toward night they permitted the enemy to penetrate the battalion's position to a depth of about 200 meters. When I took the initiative to throw the enemy out of his position in a night attack, and succeeded. Col. Matuszczak and Gen. Kozicki praised my initiative during the discussion following. The next time during division maneuvers I commanded a regiment holding a defense line, and all went well. Gen. Kutrzeba, who was acting Army Inspector and in charge of inspecting the 26th Division, was particularly emphatic about the good organization of defense through proper utilization of artillery and reserves.
My social relations were the best, and among others, on motion of Col. Matuszczak, the general meeting of the officers of the regiment awarded me the regimental badge, in spite of the fact that I had been with the regiment for only a few months, and the rules required at least one year's service to be eligible for the badge. After the maneuvers I read a paper to the officers of the garrison (18th Inf. Reg. and 26th Art. Reg.) on the struggle of the Ukrainian nation for independence, illustrating the origin and course of the war of 1920 with graphs. Incidentally, I had the opportunity to show an original map from the Brockhaus & Ephron Encyclopedia (Russian edition of 1869) of political conditions in Europe around 1340 AD in which the city of Moscow did not appear, and the territory along both banks of the Dnipro were marked "Ukraina." In my comments upon the map I stated that neither the publishers nor the Russian censor could be considered pro-Ukrainian, but they could simply not avoid presentation of true historical facts. The deputy of Gen. Kozicki, Col. W. Hulewicz listened to my address, and then took the floor commenting favorably on what I had said and wishing in the name of those present that the Ukrainian people might "soon become masters of their own home," and that I should be successful in my studies. After the speeches the officers held a banquet in my honor at which Lt-Col. Wislocki made a very warm and sincere speech. I wish to note that among the regimental officers the most erudite and best oriented was Captain Hala, who fell in the Battle of Kutno in 1939.
The regiment returned from maneuvers late in September and I was given a three-week furlough to prepare for the High Command and General Staff College which was to start on November 1st.
Actually, the College did not teach "strategy" only technique of staff service and provided the necessary background for higher studies. Strategy and operations were studied at special courses, maneuvers and games in the General Inspectorate. The course in the College was two years. During the first year we studied tactics of units up to a division, followed by games on maps, maneuvers and studies in the field. During the second year there were studies of operations of combined arms at the operational group level, also games on maps, and then studies and maneuvers in the field, usually with studies of operations from World War I. In addition, during summer courses students inspected fortified installations, arsenals and industrial plants to learn production. Military plants and laboratories in the so-called C.O.P. (Centralny Okreg Przemyslowy – Central Industrial District) impressed me with bold planning and specialization in manufacture of heavy arms, at a time when Poland had been an independent nation for only twenty years.
The first weeks in the College surprised me with the tempo and variety and quantity of tactical and technical terminology which was so rich that it left no time for homework. Normally Polish officers assigned to the College had several years service as line officers, then required the Officers' Infantry School, and only then could they qualify for the College. I lacked this technical preparation, and had to work very hard for the first few weeks to catch up with them and go along at the required pace. I was already fifty years old, but everything went fine.
I have retained very good impressions from that period of interesting events. During the summer maneuvers in the first year we had so-called skeletal maneuvers. I commanded a regiment, my aide was my colleague Captain Braksal, and the umpire was Staff-Col. Wondolkowski. During a certain tactical situation he asked me what my decision was and what arguments I had to offer. My answer was correct because he made no remarks. After finishing my arguments, the Colonel asked me: "And what next?" I could not see what he wanted, and Capt. Braksal also repeated all that I had said before and could add nothing. Then the Colonel said: "In that case, you gentlemen will stay here, and I will advance because you said nothing about what you are going to do. Naturally, you had to add: and now we shall advance." Such surprises happened often in order to test the students' reaction. Every idea during games or maneuvers had to be related to the umpire, otherwise without his approval no move could be made. This was quite a normal requirement, but people were so tense on maneuvers that sometimes they would forget to relate the decision to the umpire and ask for his acceptance. The faculty of the College was recruited from among the ablest graduates, full of fire and energy, with the most outstanding among them being Staff-Col. Litynski, Staff-Lt-Col. Sabatowski, and Staff-Lt.-Col. Werigo. Some of the students were very friendly to me, particularly Capt. (now Col.) M. Tonn, Capt. (now Lt-Col.) I. Krzyzanowski, Capt. Dr. M. Bereza, and others. All were very pleasant and loyal colleagues.
One winter night a group of students of the Military Command School came to my house and we worked on the solution of a very difficult and complicated group assignment. After solving our problem we had some doughnuts and coffee, and my friends left a little after midnight. Toward dawn I woke with acute pains in my abdomen, and nothing helped me, neither sedatives nor hot packs. Finally my wife called an ambulance from.the Army Hospital and I was taken to the Hospital nearly unconscious. After some injections the pain stopped, but my stomach was distended and drugs did not help. The doctors said that I probably had kidney stones and they would operate on me the next day. But I avoided an operation miraculously. I went to sleep in the afternoon, and when I woke up, the pain was almost gone. When I was x-rayed the next day, my kidneys were found to be normal, with no trace of any stones. My attack had been an intestinal block from a twisted intestine which is usually fatal, but in my case it just righted itself.
I completed the College in September 1938 with "good" grades and I was immediately offered a contract of Lieut.-Colonel with the provision that the following March 19th, the traditional day of promotions (Pilsudski's birthday) I would be given a contract of Colonel.
After graduation I returned to the 18th Regiment and took over the position of deputy regimental commander. Life in the regiment was routine until the middle of March 1939, when as a result of Hitler's ultimatum, the regiment along with our and ten other divisions was placed on a footing of mobilization readiness. From that time on I had the duty of directing tactical exercises of battalions and of the entire regiment until our transfer to the Poznan area to man the border on the Kcynia sector. I had to prepare tasks for each battalion and serve as umpire during tactical exercises because the regimental commander was swamped with administrative work and could only spend one to two hours on inspection from time to time. One day in April, when we held defense exercises of the battalion with live ammunition shot by artillery of the division polygon and took all the necessary precautions, three howitzer grenades fell about thirty paces in front of the deployed infantry and twenty-three men were wounded. As commander I was standing even closer.
By the end of May the regiment was combat ready after reserves had brought it to full strength. Before tensions between Poland and Germany reached the nature of inevitable war, the Ministry of Military Affairs ruled that regimental commanders could grant short furloughs to thirty per cent of the reservists for the purpose of taking care of their family and business affairs. Each case, however, had to be considered individually on its merits. I was appointed chairman of the furlough commission. Being to a certain extent an impartial observer, I found some interesting things in this connection: whereas generally speaking the officer corps of the Polish armed forces was full of patriotism and pride of the nation, ready for sacrifice and enthusiastic about the Government's decision to resist German aggression, and properly trained and prepared to engage in war or other military action. These characteristics did not apply to the ranks, and particularly to reserve ranks. It seemed that they placed family interests above all else, and had an acute feeling of being torn away from their families. There were no social security provisions for families of men called into military service and many men told me that there families were destitute. This, of course, reflected upon the reservists' morale who were compelled to weigh duty to country against duty to family, with the latter consideration usually gaming the upper hand because of their comparatively low intellectual level. All requests for furloughs were nearly without exception certified by officers of the local administration, and we were swamped by hundreds every day. My position in this matter was quite precarious, and I asked to be relieved of that duty.
In my daily work I also found that material and technical equipment of the Polish Army, although of high quality, often lacked in quantity (e.g., anti-aircraft artillery, automatic arms, anti-tank cannon, vehicles, etc.). This was not a surprise to me, with all their sacrifices the Poles simply could not build up a machine to oppose Germany within merely twenty years of their statehood. Polish military circles knew this as well as I, and even the rank soldiers saw it, and felt depressed. In retrospect one cannot resist comparing the situation in 1939 with the patriotism and sacrifice of the Poles during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when they no longer thought about family, and did not pay attention to technical and material shortcomings, but without food or even water, attacked German tanks with bare hands.
On July 7th the regiment was put aboard trains along with the entire Division and we went to the Poznan region near the city of Kcynia, where the Division was preparing a defense line along lakes under the command of the Divisional Commander, Colonel Parafinski, to whom I was attached as chief of staff. In this work the Colonel and I had good opportunities to appraise the possibility of outbreak of war between Poland and Germany, and the chances of its outcome on the basis of personal observation. I realized that war was unavoidable, and that German technical superiority, especially in tanks and aviation, was overwhelming. In my opinion, the direct outcome of the war looked grim for Poland because the Poles could only oppose German technical equipment with manpower.
During that time we learned that an Allied Mission was negotiating with Moscow for some time, on the alleged premise that the position of the Communists could prevent the outbreak of war. But with negotiations dragging, it became clear to me that the Communists were playing their own game, and that their position will not decide on avoidance of war, but, on the contrary, will contribute to its outbreak. I believed that Moscow offered a graver threat to Poland than Germany even if only because they could not forget their Warsaw defeat of 1920.
Toward the end of July Col. Matuszczak was promoted to deputy chief of the Infantry Department, and Col. Majewski came in his place. My relations with the new regimental commander were the best. In connection with Col. Matuszczak's departure, the officers decided to buy him a farewell gift which was to be performed by a delegation consisting of Major S. Kulczycki and myself. We visited Col. Matuszczak in Warsaw and gave him the present. During our talks he was still quite optimistic and hoped that the attitude of England and France would prevent the outbreak of war. I did not share his optimism, but I had good reasons to keep my thoughts to myself.
Before my return to the regiment, I discussed the possibility of war with my wife, and I asked her to stay close to the other officers' wives who were to be taken care of by the commander of the reserve battalion, Major Kolendowski. When I reached Kcynia I learned that my forebodings were coming true: the Germans began concentrating their forces along the border, and it was clear from this operational concentration opposite the Poznan Army that they intended to split the Pomeranian Army of General Bortnowski and our Army under General Kutrzeba. Full combat readiness was ordered and positions selected for the Division were temporarily manned with small units.
In the midst of this we learned that the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop had flown to Moscow on August 23, and within two days had signed some agreement, obviously not in Poland's favor. This was fresh confirmation that Moscow continued playing its dirty game: the Allied Mission could not reach an agreement during months of negotiations, and Ribbentrop was able to do it in two days. His propositions must have been more attractive, and probably suited Moscow's political and strategic plans. I believe that this was the final blow to Polish optimism which had most probably not been shared by the responsible leaders. Poland proclaimed general mobilization on August 29th but several hours later the order was withdrawn under pressure of England. The anarchy this caused in the whole country is beyond words: all roads and railroad stations were cluttered with milling people, and all mobilization points. There was a literal back and forth movement. It was very strange that neither the British nor the Poles considered all the negative possibilities flowing from setting in motion the huge machinery of mobilization and then recalling it. The order and countermanding order produced simply disorder. I could not understand why British military leaders did not explain to umbrella-armed Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that this was one of the chief causes of Hitler's military victory even before he started the war. I could not understand either, why the regiment received two sets of opposite orders and as a result, it abandoned very carefully prepared defense positions and began marching in the direction of Inowroclaw, and then again it was supposed to man a position in the rear of the Division. Regroupings were made during the night, and battalion commanders, following receipt of orders from the regimental commander with whom they had not managed to find a "common language" for the brief period he was in charge, asked me for explanations. But what could I say, except that the orders issued by the regimental commander were based on orders that he received from the Division, and that every one of them could use his own initiative in carrying out his orders. The maps told me that things were not in order. The most nervous was the late commander of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment, Major Kozubowski, whose task was to establish a bridgehead in defense of the highway leading to Inowroclaw. That night we learned of the contents of Hitler's speech to the Reichstag, in which he enumerated the reasons for declaring war on Poland, and among them was the necessity to end the persecution of the German minority in Poland. This, to my personal knowledge and, observation, was a complete falsehood and a provocative accusation: in Poznan province where I was stationed, and where the German minority was quite numerous, I never saw or heard of a single instance of any excesses against the German population. On the contrary, I had the impression that the local Germans were quite openly critical of Hitler.
At dawn on September 1, the Germans started the war, and we felt the brunt of it immediately, being attacked during our march by German divebombers.
Our 18th Regiment, less the 2nd Battalion left behind to defend the highway, finally managed to reach Inowroclaw after being subjected to many attacks by German aircraft. We began to prepare to defend the city from tank attack. Col. Parafinski and I chased all over this fairly large city to supervise construction of anti-tank barriers because our troops, tired from the night-long march, did not display sufficient energy. During the day the city was bombed by German planes several times and the Germans had no losses because our anti-aircraft defense was very modest and there was no opposition from the Polish air force at all. Late that night we received orders to move into a forest southeast of Inowroclaw to defend the important highway passing through the forest, Polish reconnaissance planes having spotted large German tank forces moving along this highway. When Col. Majewski and I went on a side road from the forest toward the highway, our driver stopped suddenly and began to back into the forest which was very close to the highway. After crawling back to the edge of the forest we noticed two large objects which we found to be German tanks. Their crews were probably asleep because they had not noticed our car.
That day Col. Majewski received orders directly from the General Staff to send me immediately to the Staff in Warsaw. This was September 3rd, but I could leave only on the 5th using the motorcycle belonging to one of our sergeants because the regiment had no vehicles and railroads were at a complete standstill under attacks of German aircraft. It took me two days to cover the distance of 130 kilometers to Warsaw: all highways were so clogged with troops, reserves and evacuee civilians that I had to walk most of the way, and push the motorcycle. On the night of September 7th I reached Skierniewice through Kutno and Lowicz. My apartment was locked, and I could not find out either from neighbors or from soldiers in the barracks what had happened to my wife, some believed that she had been evacuated together with officers' families in the direction of Demblin. We started for Warsaw right away. Warsaw was in ruins from enemy bombardment, and streets were bisected by anti-tank ditches. I tried to find President Livytsky and Gen. Salsky all night, but they had all left in the direction of Kholm. At the Ukrainian Committee headquarters I found most senior Ukrainian leaders with Gen. Bezruchko and Gen. Zmienko, but they knew nothing about President Livytsky or General Salsky, and even less about my wife, although I had hoped that she might have come to Warsaw.
At 8 A.M. I reported to the City Command, and at 10 A.M. to Chief of the General Staff, General W. Stachiewicz who only greeted me, and directed me immediately to his deputy. Col. Jaklicz. The latter informed me as follows: the Germans were advancing along the entire Polish-German border spearheaded by strong tank columns, and north of the Warsaw-Kalisz line there were at least two tank divisions in the Army of General Blaskowitz. There was very heavy fighting in the Kutno area, west of Lowicz and in Upper Silesia. All Polish means of communication were disrupted and the Staff maintained only radio contact with its Armies. The Staff was making all possible effort to assemble reserves, halt the enemy advance at least temporarily, and to prepare for a defense of Warsaw along the Modlin-Zegrze-Zyrardow line. The object was to gain at least a little time before the Franco-British front would become activated. The General Staff was aware of a possible Russian invasion and was planning to organize a defense of Galicia; for this purpose two Ukrainian brigades would be created under my command. For the time being I was to go by car to a forest region east of Praga (suburb of Warsaw), and there with the help of several platoons of Military Police halt the eastward flow of disorganized units of the 1st Polish Army. These units were coming into the area from Pultusk, I was to reorganize them and wait for orders to use them in defense of the Radzymin-Modlin front. This proposition was conditional, i.e. if I did not wish to declare my contract void. According to the provisions in our contracts and oral assurances between our Government and Poland, we had the right to terminate our contracts, particularly in the event of war against Germany. It was unthinkable to be wearing the uniform of a Polish soldier and to take it off at a rime of Poland's calamity – in any case I never even considered it, and most of our contract officers stayed in the armed forces and discharged their duty with honor.
During the night several officers under my command assembled about 6,000 men, and they were immediately joined by their officers. We fed them and let them rest for the night. But right before dawn German aircraft bombed and strafed the woods in several sorties, and the men dispersed all over the countryside again. From the accurate and deliberate German attack I had the feeling as though the Germans had been well informed of our assembly in the woods. I dispatched one of the MPs with a report of the happenings to the General Staff, and in return I received orders to proceed to Garwolin which was the location of the reserve battalion of our regiment. There I found Battalion commander Major Kolendowski with a small staff, waiting for the rest of the battalion. Major Kolendowski knew nothing about my wife and thought that she had left with the entire "officer family" for Kowel and Rozyszcze in Volhynia. I was much disturbed by this news because she could easily fall into Communist hands, but instinctively I had confidence in her calm nature and ability to foresee events.
When a large number of soldiers gathered in the region of Krasnystaw from different units, I was appointed chief of staff of Colonel Bratro who commanded a composite brigade with parts of the 18th Infantry Division and we received orders to capture the city of Kholm, already in German hands. The night operation prepared by me was not carried out because the Germans abandoned Kholm during the night. In the forests of Kholm, Hrubeshiv and Zamostia many soldiers gathered and there I found my teachers and colleagues from the Staff and Command College. Col. Wislocki was there as chief of staff of the 39th Infantry Regiment and at the same time chief of staff of the Gen. Olbrycht Operational Group. I was appointed commander of a group consisting of: Col. Bratro's group (he was already a prisoner of the Germans), Col. Wania's group, Col. Szulewicz's group with an anti-aircraft battery under Lt. Laszkiewicz and Lt.-Col. Gumowski's group.13 The task of the group was to defend the region of the city of Krasnobrod to provide cover for evacuation behind the defense line to the south in the direction of Romania.
But this was already September 23, the Germans were entering Warsaw and the Communists were approaching the Lviv-Sokal line. We were between the hammer and the anvil, but I organized a defense of Kransnobrod and fighting there went on for two days. I was in the first line and this gave an opportunity to observe the courage and sacrifices of Polish soldiers, especially officers under my command: one lieutenant badly wounded in the leg did not leave his machine-gun until he had shot all ammunition, and only then consented to my order to be carried to an ambulance. On the other hand, there was also reason to admire the Germans in attack: they marched in combat columns under fire as if on parade. All around us were hundreds of corpses, dead horses, wrecked cannon, wagons with ammunition and supplies, a terrible sight of disaster even to a soldier who had often looked death in the eye before. A notice reached me from Col. Wislocki that Soviet troops were approaching Ostrovets at a distance about twelve kilometers from us, and that I was to attend a conference that night called by Gen. Olbrycht. A fairly large number of officers attended, and after informing us of the situation Gen. Olbrycht offered a way out: to surrender either to the Germans or Russians. There was a heavy silence and I took the floor and stated that surrendering to the Bolsheviks meant torture, and for me certain gallows. A majority sided with me, but some decided to go to the Bolsheviks. The next day we permitted the men to go home, and we officers under the command of Gen. Olbrycht travelled in a column of cars to Ostrovets where we surrendered to the Germans and they transported us to Kielce. There, we were placed in barracks of the 4th Artillery Regiment: several days without food, only "German coffee" once a day, without water to wash in, and sleeping accommodations on the bare floor.
During the battle of Krasnobrod I felt a pain in my neck behind the left ear, and I probably infected the little wound with soiled hands and it grew to a large swelling. Only on Col. Wislocki's intervention with the Germans in Kielce, I was taken in high fever to a hospital where the swelling was cut, and the doctor extracted a fragment of steel, probably from a grenade. After two weeks I was taken to the Offlag in Breslau, but I was still in the camp hospital under care of a Polish POW physician. Unfortunately, I did not have enough strength to note the name of the physician who performed a real miracle on me. My condition was very critical: I would not eat anything, and I did not sleep at all: I was saved by injections. I was put before a German medical board which, seeing my hopeless condition, released me from camp with permission to return home. The Polish physician even asked me where I should be taken because the chief German surgeon permitted me to ride in an ambulance at my disposal. I asked to be taken back to Kielce, to the home of our Captain V. Zarytsky. The Ukrainian Colonel M. Krat, my colleague from the years 1919-1920 visited me in Kielce. He had been formerly deputy commander of our 3rd Iron Division, and not only an experienced field officer, but a fine gentleman. I told him my fears about the fate of my wife and he offered to go to Skierniewice to look for her. She had, indeed, returned to Skierniewice, and Col. Krat found her there. This was the end of October.
This was the story of my wife. On September 1, the Germans bombed the barracks in Skierniewice, and all who were alive fled to the countryside with Major Kolendowski, and from there, according to plan, toward Kholm. After the bombing my wife sent her maid to the barracks to find out where the officers' wives were, and what she was to do. The barracks were on fire, and nobody was there to ask. My wife went out of the house and after telling a policeman what had happened, asked for his advice. He immediately sent her a requisitioned buggy, and my wife, accompanied by the maid and her husband who acted as coachman because the owner fled the first night, proceeded in the direction of Demblin and then east. After two weeks of travelling on country roads, she reached Kowel, 400 kilometers from Skierniewice. After two or three days in Kowel the maid's husband came running with the alarming news that the bolsheviks were entering the city. They barely managed to escape because the roads were again clogged with refugees, she then decided to go back to Skierniewice. The Vistula had to be crossed in Demblin over a German-built pontoon bridge and the German sentries refused to let her cross. My wife could not make herself understood to the sentries, but when she showed them a map and pointed to Skierniewice as her home, the Germans let her across. It took two more weeks for her to get back to Skierniewice. Our home had been plundered by the Germans who took all my uniforms and civilian clothes, a large collection of postage stamps, and a sword presented to me by our government with the signatures of President Livytsky and General Salsky on the handle. After the Germans, local civilians completed the looting, including all the furniture, the leader of the looters, as I was told later, being the janitor of a near-by school. In 1945 this janitor was appointed mayor of the city by the Communists. Meanwhile my wife found shelter in the home of a sergeant, and there she was found by Col. Krat. From there they both went to my brother in Lodz with the intention to go to me to Kielce. Things turned out fortunately for us; at that time I had sent a letter to my brother through a young Polish officer who had been released together with me being ill with TB. I wrote in the letter that as soon as I felt better I would join him. The letter reached my brother just at the time when my wife got there. I found them both there on November 6.
During my stay with my brother where I was still undergoing treatment, I was visited by local Ukrainians, and one of them, Col. Nahnybida told me that there was a Ukrainian officer attached to the German District Command. He was Capt. Professor I. Mirchuk whom we all knew as the Director of the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Berlin. My friends decided that it would be a good thing for me to get a letter of recommendation from Dr. Mirchuk to the commander of Skierniewice. I got the letter of recommendation, but when I presented it to the commander in Skierniewice, he shouted at me and asked who gave me permission to appeal to Capt. Mirchuk. True, I was not put under arrest, but the commander rubbed his hands in sadistic joy and ordered me to report three times a day at the commandantura. This reporting prevented me finding any job, and here we were at our wits' end. We received some food from the Skierniewice City Council, headed by a former teacher of the local high school, H. Wittenberg who was of German descent. Soon, however, a new commander was appointed who was a more humane person because he issued orders that Polish officers were to report only once a day, and this was cut to twice a week a few months later.
 Copy (translated from Polish) of Gen Olbrycht's order of September 23, 1939:
No. 85/op. Mp. Sept. 23, 1939, 17:45 Two groups are formed:
1. Under Staff Colonel Duch, composed of units of the 39th D.P. 6 pap. and B/Plot from the Group Command.
2. Under Colonel Szandruk, composed of: Col. Bratro's group, Col. Wania's group, Col. Szulewicz's group, and B/P. Lot of 2nd Lieut. Laszkiewicz and the group of Lt.-Col. Gumowski.
Commander of the 39th D.P.
(-) OLBRYCHT, General of the Army
20. In the Clutches of the Gestapo
I had been to Warsaw on January 17, 1940, and on my return home my wife told me with a tone of despair that Gestapo men had come in two cars asking for me, they had searched the whole house, and finally said that I was to report at the Gestapo in Warsaw, Al. Szucha 25, the next day. When I appeared at the Gestapo, I had to wait for several hours, and I noticed that officers of different ranks had been coming out to the waiting room and looking at me closely. Finally some kind of officer appeared and told me to follow him through a barred door to a cellar. In a long hall I saw a long row of people facing the wall. The officer turned me over to a sentry who took me to the end of the hall, made me face the wall in a corner and warned that I must not turn around, if I wanted something I should raise my hand. This was 12 noon, January 18th. I had a wrist watch which was not taken from me, and no search of my person was made. I stood that way until 9:00 P.M. after which I fainted and woke up in a cold cell lying on the floor, there was not even a stool there. It was 4:00 A.M. At eight in the morning I heard a voice in the hall: "Colonel Shandruk, only cold coffee twice a day and 200 grammes of bread, no hot food." In the morning on January 21, I was transported in a prison van surrounded by armed Gestapo men to the Mokotow Prison and placed in a solitary cell on the fourth floor where my first warm soup was served to me. We were fed three times a day in the prison: in the morning a cup of unsweetened lukewarm grain coffee and 200 grammes of bread, which was bread only by name, the same cup of coffee at night, and at noon a pint of soup made of peas or some kind of grits or peas mixed with dirt. Within a few days I felt terrible pains in my stomach and was ready for another constriction of intestines, but this did not happen, probably because I was lying for hours with my stomach on a hot radiator which burned my skin. This went on until February 21, with death staring at me every day. On February 21, the same van took me back to the Gestapo at Al. Szucha. When I was being led upstairs to the second floor I heard someone cry out in the waiting room below, I turned around and saw my wife. As she told me later, she did not recognize me at first, and then she cried out horrified at my appearance. Because I had turned around the guard hit me over the head with the butt of his revolver. But I felt happy at seeing my wife because I feared that she had been arrested, too. I learned from my wife later that she had been called for an interrogation in my case. I was interrogated very closely until 5:00 P.M., with the subject of the inquiry being my relations with Polish military circles, with special emphasis on the allegation that I had been ordered by the Polish General Staff to organize sabotage on Polish territory occupied by the Germans. I was told to relate always to the hour all my assignments and places of sojourn since September 1st. I told them everything I could remember, particularly about my work in the Staff of the Minister of Military Affairs, its purposes and the reasons why I wanted to study at the Staff and Command College. To the charge that I was ordered to organize sabotage, I replied quite ironically in spite of my tragic position that for that kind of work the Poles have plenty of their own young officers, and do not have to engage an elderly foreigner. I added that even if someone on the Polish General Staff had wanted to make such a ridiculous proposition to me, I would not have consented. Then I was asked about my relations with some of our officers. After the interrogation I was taken back to prison, but this time by car and without guards. After that I was interrogated at different times at least six times more.
Even after the first interrogation a Polish prison guard came into my cell; and gave me the sign to be quiet and offered to take a letter to my wife if she lives in Warsaw. I did not give him any letter out of caution, but I told him the address of our Colonel S. Ivanovych. The very next day he brought me some sugar and butter from Col. Ivanovych and the news that my wife was in touch with the colonel about my case, and that she would soon come to Warsaw again. Several days later the guard gave me a letter from my wife in which she stated very briefly that she was using all means to get an explanation of the cause of my arrest, that she had been interrogated by the Gestapo about me several times, especially about my work in the Polish Army and my relations with the above mentioned officers. So, she was asked the same questions as I. It became clear to me that the change in my treatment came because our testimony did not differ and this must have impressed the investigator.
After another interrogation in the endless row to which I was now being brought without guards, the investigator told me that my wife had also been interrogated several times and that everything in my case was now clear, but that the person who informed on me was supplied ever new petty accusations which must be cleared up because the Ukrainian informer "has pull in Berlin" and they don't want to have to reopen my case once it's closed. Incidentally, they offered to transfer me to a larger cell so that I would not feel lonely, but I refused. Now I could read books from the prison library, the food got better, and my wife was permitted to send me food parcels. On my part, I asked my wife not to send me food because I could not eat much after my terrible stomach trouble. I was kept this way until the end of April, when I was called to the prison office, my watch was returned to me, and I was declared released. I was taken to the Gestapo from prison and the interrogator had a long talk with me which he called "of a confidential nature." He told me that the informer had been an officer of my acquaintance, who cited as witnesses two other officers, who were alleged to have heard me boast in public on the night of September 7-8 at the Ukrainian Committee headquarters that "the Poles had picked me to perform sabotage behind German lines." But the Gestapo had investigated everything, and through my case they lost all confidence in the informer. Leibrandt was directly responsible for my release. Later, when I reported to President Livytsky, he told me that on the eve of my release he was visited by a high official of the German Foreign Office Herr Leibrandt whom he had known as a landowner in Ukraine. The President told Herr Leibrandt that he would not talk to him because the Gestapo was holding me in prison without cause. At this, Herr Leibrandt went to the Gestapo, studied my case and ordered my immediate release, advising the President.
Incidentally, during my last talk with the investigator he asked me for my opinion on how the war would end. I was completely taken aback with this question coming from a Gestapo man, but I replied without hesitation that I did not know what was now going on in the world, but that the Germans' attitude toward the Poles, about which I knew from reports of the guards, carried the seeds of protracted war in which the United States might take part as in World War I, and that only the Communists would profit from such world turmoil in the final analysis. He answered: "This is all very interesting, but I don't advise you to tell it to anyone because the Bolsheviks are our allies and you might be reported."
On my way to the station to go back to Skierniewice I stopped at a photographic studio and had my picture taken - I had not shaved once during the entire time of my imprisonment.