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"The Battle of Miodusy Pokrzywne - August 18, 1945. (Pol. "Bitwa w Miodusach Pokrzywnych - 18 sierpień 1945")

Lt. Zygmunt Blazejewicz, nom de guerre "Zygmunt" 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius BrigadeAbove: Lieutenant Zygmunt Błażejewicz nom de guerre “Zygmunt”, commander of the 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade (photograph on the left: in the officer cadet school before the War; on the right: 1946)  

The Battle of Miodusy Pokrzywne, together with the Battle of Las Stocki (fought by the military group commanded by Major Marian Bernaciak nom de guerre “Orlik”) and the Battle of Kuryłówka (fought by the joint forces of the Polish National Underground commanded by Major Franciszek Przysiężniak (noms de guerre “Marek”, “Ojciec Jan”), was one of the three major battles fought by the anti-Communist resistance forces in post-WWII Poland. The battle was fought on August 18, 1945 by the 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade commanded by Lieutenant Zygmunt Błażejewicz (nom de guerre “Zygmunt”) and the unit commanded by Second Lieutenant Władysław Łukasiuk (nom de guerre “Młot”) against the units of the NKVD [Rus. Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del; En. The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs], UB [Pol. Urząd Bezpieczeństwa; En. Office of Security - Polish secret police] and LWP [Pol. Ludowe Wojsko Polskie; En. Polish People’s Army], which were suppressing the area of Podlasie, in Eastern Poland.

The battle culminated in the complete destruction of the Soviet task force, which had so far spread terror amongst the locals, and with the death of its commander. Before noon on 15 August 1945, a tight formation of three squadrons of the 5th Vilnius Brigade and Łukasiuk’s group marched into the small village, Jabłonna Lacka, where a local church fair was taking place. The church fair was an occasion to celebrate the Battle of Warsaw of 1920, called The Miracle at the Vistula. Major “Łupaszka” was absent. It seems that the Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant Błażejewicz. The inhabitants gave the partisans a warm welcome, showing them good will. Women gave them flowers. Soldiers took part in Holy Mass, after which Lieutenant Błażejewicz, standing on the steps outside the church, made a speech to the people that had gathered.

The church in Jabłonna Lacka, on the stairs of which Lieutenant Błażejewicz gave a speech to gathered people at the local church fair on 15th of August 1945.  
Above: The church in Jabłonna Lacka, on the stairs of which Lieutenant Błażejewicz gave a speech to gathered people at the local church fair on 15th of August 1945.  
Afterwards, the cadre of the Brigade was invited, together with representatives of the clergy visiting Jabłonna Lacka, to the presbytery of parish priest Fijałkowski, for dinner. At the same time, the soldiers took part in a dance organized by the locals. They were dancing and singing. During the dinner, a host delegation representing the local ring of AK-AKO [Pol. Armia Krajowa-Armia Krajowa Obywatelska; En. Peoples Home Army] from the area of Ostrożany in the commune of Drohiczyn reported to Lieutenant Błażejewicz. He recalls that these people ‘literally begged to be saved’. As they explained, the Soviet punitive expeditionary forces commanded by Vasily Gribko, Major of the NKVD, was operating in the southern part of the district of Bielsko by the Bug River. The Soviet group consisted of the 4th Rifle Company 267 Rifle Regiment of the NKVD Internal Troops [Pol. WW NKWD - Wojska Wewnetrzne NKVD], a platoon of the 1st Infantry Regiment 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division [of Polish Armed Forces in the East; later Pol. LWP] and the group of personnel from the Ministry of Public Security [Pol. UBP – Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego] in Bielsk Podlaski. The Soviets received information from two men: a certain Mr F[...] – a deserter from LWP. He was probably sent by the Ministry, briefly fought for the Underground, and then escaped to ‘his people’.  

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The other person was Marian L[...], a member of the Underground, who broke down during the tortures used during the interrogation. After gaining information, the Soviets conducted immediate reprisals on people from the local cell of the Underground that were identified by these two. To ‘legitimize‘ their actions they had a judge and a prosecutor with them. Independent of Major Gribko’s task force, another group, the officer cadets of the 62nd Rifle Division of the NKVD Internal Troops were looking for ‘Łupaszka’s bandits’ in the area near Mielnik. Also, in the summer of 1945, the task forces of the 267th Rifle Regiment of the NKVD Internal Forces, the 9th Regiment of the Internal Security Corps and the 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division were operating in the area of the Bielsk county. The task forces were combing the area, checking dozens of villages, arresting suspects, recruiting spies, taking hostages and making immediate reprisals. The groups of the 9th Regiment of the Internal Security Corps were penetrating the area near the River Narew.

1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade enters Jabłonna Lacka. 15 August 1945

 

On the 3rd and 4th of August 1945, they penetrated the area near town of Suraż and on the 5th of August, approached the village of Cisówka. Lieutenant Błażejewicz, not knowing all the details, made a promise to ‘take care’ of the military units of Major Gribko. On the night of 15th and 16th August 1945, the 1st Squadron together with Łukasiuk’s group, crossed the Bug River near Drohiczyn. Around 100 soldiers were under the command of Lieutenant Błażejewicz. During the crossing, an unusual incident occurred. The partisans were fired upon by a single member of PPR (En. Polish Communist Workers’ Party). He shot from the right hand side of the river. After the shooting, he managed to escape and hide somewhere in the area. The headquarters of the NKVD in the city of Bielsk Podlaski were quickly informed about the appearance of the 1st Squadron by the Soviet spy ring.

Above: The 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade enters Jabłonna Lacka. 15 August 1945.

Two battalions of the 267th Rifle Regiment of the NKVD Internal Forces, a company of the 1st Infantry Regiment 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division, and also the Divisional School of the 62nd NKVD Rifle Division (142 soldiers from the commune of Mielnik) were sent immediately against Lieutenant Błażejewicz. Meanwhile, both Polish groups moved north-west into the area of the commune of Ciechanowiec. They spent their first night in the village of Arbasy, where they caught and shot a horse thief.

After two days, on the night of 17th and 18th of August, the two Polish groups stopped in the village of Miodusy Pokrzywne. Łukasiuk’s group was billeted on the eastern border of the village near the Ostrożany estate, while the 1st Squadron was placed in other parts of the village. Around 2 p.m., when the local women were finishing preparing meals for the partisans, a non-commissioned officer from Łukasiuk’s group ran into the headquarters of Lieutenant Błażejewicz, reporting that an enemy unit was advancing towards them from the side of the Ostrożany estate. The alarm was raised and Lieutenant Błażejewicz, with his soldiers, headed to the east side of the village. At the same time, a violent rainstorm broke out. Seconds later, from the side of Łukasik‘s positions where corporal Władysław Porycki (nom de guerre “Wilk-1”) was with his soldiers, who were securing the positions, the first shots were heard, then a violent gunfire erupted on both sides. It turned out that a considerable part of the [NKVD] task force was looking for shelter in the first large barn they could find on the border of the village. There they met Łukasiuk’s soldiers.

Around 25 task force soldiers took their positions in a ditch next to the road. The rest of the task forces defended themselves in the barn and its surroundings. An account of what happened was later given by “Zygmunt”:

"There were 8 of us from our quarters running towards the barn. We did not know that it was packed with [Communist] troops. To the right of the barn were pigsties. Behind them we could hear, but not see, the fighting in which Łukasiuk‘s group was taking part. The enemy was pounding on us from both the ditch and the holes in the barn. Łukasiuk was next to us. A few soldiers jumped out of the barn, just a few meters from us – they were shot immediately.

From behind the corner appeared one of the soldiers who threw a hand-grenade at us. It exploded next to us, but nobody was hurt. When he went to throw another one, I fired a quick burst from the PPS. The grenade exploded next to him. I yelled: 'Konar! Torch the barn!’ It burst into flames straightaway. People were dying inside. Second Lieutenant Piwowarski ran out of the barn through the gate (Piwowarski was famous because of his [brutal] interrogations [of resistance members] in a prison). His military uniform was burning and smoking. Not fully conscious, he tried to put out the fire with his own hands. I fired a quick burst. He fell to the ground and didn’t move.

We moved behind the pigsties. The barn was no longer a threat to us. Seconds later, two Soviet Degatyaryov LMGs[1] started shooting from the ditch. “Konar“, “Krystyna“ and I pressed ourselves tightly to the ground. “Młot”, “Żwirko”, “Kruk” (the commander of the 1st Platoon), “Wacek” and five more soldiers dived into some shallow pits. All of a sudden, two soldiers with LMGs from “Młot“ group ran out on to the flat land in front of us, taking positions next to the clay-pits (what a perfect shelter!). They didn’t have time to open fire, one of the Soviet LMGs did them in. Woodchips from the pigsty were falling on our heads. Bullets were fired lower and lower. Luckily, the angle of the terrain prevented them from ‘finishing off their task’.

I shouted to the men in the pits: ‘Go around!’. While not taking any cover (there were ways to get to the clay-pits), Sergeant “Kruk” and “Wacek” ran into the open terrain and fell down 10-15 meters from “Młot’s” LMG shooters. “Kruk” moved for a moment, but a well-aimed burst from the ditch finished him off. “Żwirko” and “Puchacz” jumped out. They silenced the deadly LMG with a few bursts from the clay-pits [...]. The other LMG gunners ran away taking their weapons with them. They got it from where [Second Lieutenant] “Wiktor’s” position was. Two civilians wearing hats (the prosecutor and the judge) jumped out of the ditch and ran out onto the oat field. One fell immediately; the other was racing with a black briefcase in his hand. I grabbed an Austrian KB rifle from “Stasiek” (who was later severely wounded). My PPS couldn’t reach him. I fired once. The judge never reached the field. Someone from “Wiktor’s” group started to shout: ‘Don’t shoot at us!’. It wasn’t us, it was the people from the ditch. The fighting was still going on.

I stood next to the tree that just caught on fire. I was covered by the thick branches of another tree. That moment a shot was fired. A small branch above one of my temples fell. I felt cold. Then hot. That bullet was for me. God’s will. The same sniper with telescopic sights got three of my soldiers by shooting straight at their foreheads. He got “Dziadźka –Orkan”, “Gołąb”, and “Pikuś” on a potato field. The pigsties and barn were ablaze. Hiding behind the buildings, “Konar”, “Krysia” and I started moving toward the potato field – the position of “Wiktor’s” group. “Młot“ was following us [...].

We stopped behind a hut, observing the battle field. The same moment, “Pikuś's” hat bounced up into the air. ‘Straight at the head’ said “Młot” calmly [...]. The enemy was still shooting from their side of the road, ‘watched’ by “Żwirko“ and “Puchacz” in the clay-pits. Next to the burning hut, severely injured “Harłapan” shouted: ‘Don’t give up boys!’. He finished himself off with the handgun. I took my group and going around the burning buildings we took a position in the ditch, next to “Żwirko“ and “Puchacz”. The farmers were bravely struggling with blazes. A third of the village had burnt down.

After finishing off all their ammunition, the enemy, 15 soldiers, started surrendering by raising their hands up. They threw away their weapons, started getting out of the ditch and walked to our side of the road. “Żwirko” with “Puchacz” walked to the platoon commander with the Bolshevik’s gob. Somebody yelled ‘Grenade!’. The platoon commander threw a large grenade at them. We all pressed ourselves tightly to the ground. It exploded, but nobody was hurt. The Bolshevik was killed immediately. A young corporal ran to us, ‘I’m with you!’ he said.

- Affected by the deaths of the best soldiers, who were still lying next to us, I didn’t recognize that it was the traitor Fijałkowski. And this is how all died - all fifteen of them. All together, 61 of the enemy. The only one that survived was Major Gribko’s horse courier [...].

The 1st Squadron during the stop-over in Białowieża Forest. 9th from the left Lieutenant “Zygmunt” (May 1945)

Above: The 1st Squadron during the stop-over in Białowieża Forest. 9th from the left Lieutenant “Zygmunt” (May 1945).

After two hours, the very fierce battle was over. After firing all of their ammunition and throwing all their grenades, Major Gribko’s task force was completely destroyed, only after it spent all of its ammunition and grenades; the partisans did not seize any of the grenades. Gribko himself fought to the end (found dead, he was still tightly gripping on to his Walther, which had no bullets left inside the magazine). The partisans didn’t take any prisoners. Those who got out of the ditch with their hands up were executed on the spot.

Vasily Gribko, Major of the NKVD, a Soviet in the County Office for Public Security in Bielsk Podlaski, was killed on 18th August 1945 by the 1 st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade  

Around 4 p.m., the soldiers securing the village from the Ostrożany estate side reported that a semi-truck had appeared in their range of view. It withdrew after being fired upon by the two of partisans’ LMGs. Later, it returned protected by the infantrymen group (a sub-unit of the 2nd Battalion of the 267th Rifle Regiment of the NKVD Internal Troops) and fired on the NSZ [Eng. Polish National Armed Forces; Pol. Narodowe Siły Zbrojne] unit, which was on the move from Miodusy Pokrzywne to Ostrożany. The unit of the NSZ was billeted in a short distance from the 1st Squadron. Despite the fact that the soldiers from the 1st Squadron had fired flares into the air (which was a fixed alarm signal), the NSZ unit didn’t come to their aid.

After taking the injured, the dead and seizing their weapons, the unit withdrew towards the village of Perlejewo. There, they left the bodies of those who had been killed in the battle; people from ‘the cell’ buried them at the Perlejewo and Śledzianów graveyards. Next, the unit quickly moved to the forest near the village of Rudka. There, under the villagers’ care, they left most of the injured. One of the injured soldiers died soon after in the village of Radziszewo.

Different sources give different accounts on the number of the Communist task force's casualties. Lieutenant Błażejewicz declares (probably, with a tendency to overstate) that Gribko’s forces lost 61 people. Similarly, 50 casualties are stated by the NZW [En. Polish National Military Union; Pol. Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe] intelligence. The commander of the 62nd Rifle Division estimated the loss of 27 men, plus 8 injured soldiers of the NKVD, omitting the personnel from the Ministry of Public Security or any ‘accompanying men’ (informers, the judge and prosecutor) in his report. The command of the 1st Infantry Regiment, estimates this number to be 30 dead (17 NKVD, 9 LWP, and 4 UB casualties).

Above: Major Vasily Gribko, NKVD, an advisor ["Sovietnikh"] to the County Office for Public Security in Bielsk Podlaski, killed on 18th August 1945 by the 1 st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade

Corporal Rajmund Drozd (nom de guerre “Mikrus”), who was “Zygmunt’s” horse courier, stated in his testimony that “30-35 people died on the Soviet’s side”. According to our assessment, the number of losses couldn’t be lower than 36. At least 18 of the NKVD officers and soldiers, 11 soldiers of the LWP and 3 staff from the UBP in Bielsk Podlaski died during the battle. To this number, we have to add (omitted in all sources) 2 men who were the personnel of the justice administration and 2 informers.

After the battle, another wave of Communist roundups of death swept through Bielsk county. Colonel Ryezinkin (second-in-command of the 62nd Rifle Division) received an order from General Nikolai N. Selivanovsky (the Soviet advisor to the MBP) to carry out a special military operation – the complete destruction of “Zygmunt’s criminals”, whom he viewed as extremely dangerous. A new task force which was a part of the 267th Rifle Regiment came to the area of Ostrożany, Drohiczyn and Siemiatycze. A group of the 1st Infantry Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Duda (which at the time was carrying out a ‘special task’ near the town of Siemiatycze) was strengthened by the unit of Lieutenant Korobkov (part of the 1st Infantry Regiment; 152 soldiers all together).

On 20th August 1945, Korobkov’s sub-unit together with Col. Ryezinkin’s group set off from the town of Ciechanowiec towards the Bug River, penetrating the villages of Glinna, Tworkowice and Dudy on their way. After reaching the Bug River, the group started moving towards the village of Granne, where the main forces of Col. Ryezinkin were located. At the same time, Lieutenant Duda’s group operated in the area near Siemiatycze.

On 22nd August 1945, 144 soldiers from the task force of the 9th Regiment of the Internal Security Corps [Pol. KBW – Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego] commanded by Colonel Taslenko were sent into the Bielsk county. They were supported by a mortar platoon and were equipped with a radio transmitter. Together with a unit of the NKVD in Bielsk Podlaski (the 267th Rifle Regiment), they were supposed to carry out military operations in the communes of Ciechanowiec and Brańsk.

  Vasily Gribko, Major of the NKVD, a Soviet in the County Office for Public Security in Bielsk Podlaski, was killed on 18th August 1945 by the 1 st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade
Above: The place of burial of the 1st Squadron partisans who died in the village of Miodusy Pokrzywne. The cemetery in Perlejewo.

Their main task was to locate and to destroy the 1st Squadron. Simultaneously, a task force of the 1st Infantry Regiment was sent into the same area. Joint forces of the NKVD, KBW and LWP combed the area of the Uroczyszcze-Rudka Forest near the town of Brańsk and the area of the forest near the village of Rudka. The assessment of the operation provided by the commander of the 9th Regiment of the Internal Security Corps was as follows:

[...] as a result of the operation, 300 men were arrested, of whom 61 were deserters from the WP (translator’s note: other name used for LWP) and the MO [Pol. Milicja Obywatelska; En. Peoples’ Militia]. Also, 4 injured bandits were captured. They testified that they were members of “Zygmunt’s bandits group” which operated in this area. With them, a doctor who was treating the injured bandits hidden in a haystack was arrested as well [...]

A great number of captives were people chosen at random. In the village of Holonki, Widźgowo and other nearby villages, 50 people were captured, including the members of the NZW. Unfortunately, the information about the arrest of soldiers from the 1st Squadron was true. We can assess that the local underground cell did not provide them with proper security. They were arrested as a result of denunciation. Tortured with extreme cruelty during interrogations at the County Office of Public Security, rifleman Stanisław Romańczuk nom de guerre “Staś“ lost his leg; another soldier, N.N. nom de guerre “Broda“ was brutally beaten and then driven around villages by the staff of the UBP and the KBW and asked to point out any people cooperating with the Underground. After two weeks, one of the injured soldiers from “Młot’s“ group managed to escape from the prison.

Meanwhile, the 1st Squadron had waited in the area of the commune of Boćki (billeted i.a. in the village of Osmola) until the Soviet troop raids were over. They were informed that the date of the military concentration had been postponed for a week. Marching towards the appointed meeting point with Major “Łupaszka’s“ group and other squadrons, on September 16th, they ran into a militia patrol from the militia station in Wyszki. The County Office of Public Security in Bielsk Podlaski reported:

“At the beginning, they [militiamen] wanted to run away, but they didn't succeed and they were surrounded by a group of bandits. The bandits did not touch the commandant or his companions, did not disarm them, but they handed the commandant the following letter:

To the Peoples’ Militia Station in Wyszki:

We believe that the newly organized Militia aims solely and only to restrain the lawlessness of banditry spread through the community. We do not aim to interfere or hamper such a difficult task. Therefore, we impose the following conditions [on the members of the militia]:1. Stop when ordered by a sentry or other soldier [in the Democratic Underground]/2. Put your hands up/ 3. Don't run away and hide/ 4. Don't fire upon soldiers from a forest/ 5. Don't report about any forest units’ stop-over or their moves/ 6. Be tactful in you dealings with civilian population.

In the case of not adhering to one of these conditions, the militia station in Wyszki will be liquidated, just like the one destroyed in Boćki and other places. If the following conditions are met, members of the militia can keep their weapons and ammunition.

[Signed by] Second Lieutenant “Wiktor”, the 5th Vilnius Brigade

As we can read in the letter, “Wiktor” set the militiamen free due to their good reputation. The main thought of this correspondence was, on one hand, a belief in the good will of the militiamen from Wyszki, on the other hand, setting forth a demand to show loyal behavior towards the partisan units and a proper attitude towards the local people. This was not an isolated case; with some of the militia stations, partly staffed with people co-operating with the AK-AKO, “Zygmunt’ even exchanged code words during the spring and summer 1945. This allowed the troops to move around the area without any conflict.

The 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade on the move; summer 1945.

Above: The 1st Squadron of the 5th Vilnius Brigade on the move; summer 1945.

Because of Soviet troops raids, which were conducted in the County of Bielsk after the Battle of Miodusy Pokrzywne, and probably due to the delays with receiving commands from the district headquarters, the agreed date of the military concentration was postponed by a week. The place of the concentration was also changed. Major “Łupaszka” ordered all squadrons of the 5th Vilnius Brigade to meet on 7th September 1945 in the gamekeeper’s cottage in Stoczek in the commune of Poświętne, on the eastern border of the Wysokie Mazowieckie County. The place of military concentration, which lasted 2 days (7th and 8th September), was completely surrounded by forests. Here on a large glade, all of the soldiers gathered for the last time. Here, all members of the cadres, all squadron commanders and all second-in-command officers met. Major “Łupaszka” informed his subordinates that he had received an order to disband the 5th Vilnius Brigade. However, a single disbandment was simply impossible. The demobilization was supposed to be a gradual process.

The cadre of the 5th Vilnius Brigade, August 1945.

Above: The cadre of the 5th Vilnius Brigade, August 1945. On the left: N.N., N.N., 2nd Lt. Lucjan Minkiewicz “Wiktor”, Lt. Marian Pluciński "Mścisław", Lt. Zygmunt Błażejewicz "Zygmunt", Maj Zygmunt Szendzielarz "Łupaszka", 2nd Lt. Władysław Łukasiuk "Młot", 2nd Lt. Jan Zaleski "Zaja", 2nd Lt. Romuald Rajs "Bury".

In time, the squadrons were gradually disbanded. However, due to the danger of the NKVD, KBW, UBP and LWP raids, a considerable number of the Brigade soldiers returned quickly to the forest to continue their struggle. New volunteers from the County of Bielsk, who were "exposed” or in danger of being arrested would strengthen the forest units. The 2nd Squadron, commanded by Second Lieutenant Romuald Rajs nom de guerre “Bury”, was not disbanded and together with its commander moved to the NZW (Pol. Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe; En. National Military Union) to continue their struggle there.

The last military concentration of the 5th Vilnius Brigade on 7th September 1945

Above: The last military concentration of the 5th Vilnius Brigade on 7th September 1945; gamekeeper’s cottage in the commune of Poświętne. In the middle, Maj. "Łupaszka", next on the right 2ndLt. "Młot", first on the right 2ndLt. “Bury”, kneeling Lt. "Mścisław".

Based on K. Krajewski, T. Łabuszewski: "Łupaszka","Młot","Huzar". Działalność 5 i 6 Brygady Wileńskiej AK (1944-1952), Oficyna Wydawnicza Volumen, Warszawa 2002.

Translated by Magdalena Nogal, Additional Editing by Jan Czarniecki

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[1] LMG - Light Machine Gun.

 

 

 

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