An Interview with Lt. Henryk Lewczuk nom de guerre "Młot" (eng. "Hammer"). During 1945-1947, Lt. Lewczuk was a commanding officer of the WiN partisan unit of the Chełm WiN Inspectorate.
As a supplement to the biography of Lieutenant Henryk Lewczuk “Młot”, who during 1945-1947 commanded WiN (pol. Wolność i Niezawisłość - Freedom And Independence - Polish Patriot: military) partisan unit of the Chełm Inspectorate, we are publishing content of an interview conducted with Lt. Lewczuk which took place in 2001. The interview was conducted by Mrs. Stella Gronek, whom we would like to thank for allowing us to publish it.
Lt. Henryk Lewczuk nom de guerre "Młot" was born in 1923 in Chełm, where he attended Stefan Czanecki Gymnasium. His further education was interrupted by war, during which he took active part in military operations as a Home Army soldier. During 1945-1947 under the nom de guerre "Młot", he commanded the 1st District WiN Inspectorate in Chełm. In 1948 Lewczuk was forced to leave Poland for France, where he completed his secondary education. Henryk Lewczuk studied law and economics at the London University.
Lt. Lewczuk held many important positions, including that of a Head of the Planning and Distribution of the United States Army in France, Director of Research at the Computer Science Center at the Upper School of Mining in Paris, and then as a director of the Center for Informtics in Fonteinebleau near Paris. During his stay in France, Mr. Lewczuk actively participated in the activities of the Polish democratic opposition. He was also affiliated with the RPR of Jacques Chirac, and after his return to Poland was affiliated with the political circles of Jan Olszewski. In 1995, Mr. Lewczuk was a co-creator the Movement for Reconstruction of Poland (pol. ROP - Ruch Odbudowy Polski). Mr. Lewczuk was also a co-Chairman of the Board of Directors ROP, and a councilman of the Lublin Voyvodship Sejm. Additionally, Mr. Lewczuk was a member of the Parliament of the IV Cadence of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, representing ROP.
Stella Gronek (S.G.): How did you survive World War II?
Henry Lewczuk (H.L.): I was young. My generation grew up under different circumstances. We didn’t have an opportunity to mature [as our contemporary pears], whereas you progress from childhood to maturity. During the Nazi occupation, I was a Platoon Leader in the partisan [Polish underground] unit of the Home Army under command of P. Sedzimira. This was a cadre company of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Infantry Legions Regiment. Before the war it was stationed in Chełm. As a part of this unit we took part in battle for Parczewo (Makoszka), where 27 Wolyn Division was involved in combat. We joined them as a reconnaissance unit, since we knew the terrain, and they came from beyond the Bug river. After we were encircled by the SS Panzer Division, we managed to proceed through the Markuszow and reach the Janow Forests (pol. Lasy Janowskie). This was already beginning of July 1945. Not far from there, between Naleczowo and Lublin, in the Czolno, we fought a very large scale battle against Germans, and thereafter we moved into the Janow Forests. At the end of July, we approached Chełm. Already, at the so called meeting of the entire AK (pol. Polish Home Army - Polish Patriot: military) in Surchowa, where the entire unit which was ready to move to aid Warsaw, we knew that all known [by the communists] soldiers from the AK were being apprehended and sent mainly into Siberia. In order to avoid being sent [into Siberia by the communists] we decided to disarm in Turobin, and we returned home wearing plain clothes. At this time there was a mandatory draft into [the communist controlled] army, so without disclosing our membership in the Home Army, we appeared [before the draft commission]. They sent us to the newly formed First Artillery Officer School in Chełm. This, at least for the time being, safeguarded us from direct repressions.
S.G.: Why was WiN created?
H.L.: The [political] system that was imposed upon us, was in contrary with our national identity. It was unacceptable to us. We were dismayed by the methods used to implement it – the terror, the murders, the repression, that were used to enslave us. I am describing an atmosphere in which young people didn’t want to succumb to that, and that it would have been in contrary with the Home Army oath [we swore]: “Before God Almighty, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Crowned Princes of Poland, I lay my hand upon this Holly Cross, the symbol of suffering, and of the resurrection, and swear: to be faithful to my Country, the Republic of Poland, to guard and to defend her honor. I will fight for her sovereignty, with all my strength, until my death …” There were three things that shaped the upbringing of young people [then] – [they were] your mother, your school, and the Church. Through hypocrisy they wanted to destroy it, and to establish the “workers paradise”.
S.G.: What was the reaction of your generation to the disbanding of the Home Army.
H.L.: On January 19, 1945 the Home Army was disbanded. It was hoped, that it will prevent repressions, but quiet the opposite happened. All of the established [underground] structures lost their foundation. We, the young people, were not relieved from our oath to the Home Army. The Nazi Germany was defeated, but a new occupier arrived and the prisons were again full of Polish patriots.
S.G.: What did your activities looked like after the last order from the General Okulicki?
H.L.: In the beginning of March, the first promotions at the Officer Artillery School took place. [At that time] I left, taking with me a large group of several dozens of young lieutenants and warrant officers, in order to give my country all that we were able to give her, that is, our eagerness, our desire to fight, and even our lives. I know, that just as during the XIX century, there were various opinions regarding insurrections, but we were inspired by [Romuald] Traugutt, and not Wielkopolski. What a incredible feeling it was, to feel that you are able to give something from yourself to your country. At that period, the Adam Mickiewicz's "Ode to youth" (pol. "Oda do mlodosci") appealed to us profoundly. If it was not for this, what we can today describe as this romantic upheaval, we would have certainly became the 17th Soviet republic.
S.G.: Can you describe to us the creation of WiN, and your personal contributions to the form it took in your area?
H.L.: There were three periods after the Home Army was disbanded: ROAK (pol. Ruch Oporu Armi Krajowej - Armed Resistance of Home Army), which continued until May; in May the Delegatura Sil Zbrojnych (abbr. DZS - Armed Forces Delegation for Poland) was established. As far as it concerns myself, I was in both, the ROAK and in the DZS. In September 1945, the WiN was created. At that time there were three political concepts in existence. The first one was represented by the right, which intended to continue fighting. The second was represented by the PSL, and it wanted to win as much as possible through negotiations, and the third concept was based on the creation of WiN (pol. Wolnosc I Niezawislosc - Freedom and Independence). As a principle, the WiN intended to fight not with arms, but through political and ideological means. It was a lofty idea, but while implementing it, it was impossible to forget about the realities of what was taking place in the area. After the Home Army was disbanded, there were many units consisting of young people who didn't want to capitulate for two reasons: one, they have sworn an oath, second, revealing ones identity was synonymous with getting arrested. Within the WiN organizations, we retained the so called Armed Forces (pol. Sily Zbrojne) in order to fight the UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa - Office of Public Security), in order to free the prisoners, and to maintain the safety and security in the area. It was known, that it was in favor of the NKVD (rus. Narodnyi Komitet Vnutriennykh Del - People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs - Soviet Communist: secret police), UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa - Office of Security - Polish Communist: secret police), and Milicja [Obywatelska] (abbr. MO - Polish Communist, police), that if common banditism is prevalent, they could accuse underground [of these activities]. Furthermore, they [the communists] would stage rubberies in order to destabilize the underground. After leaving Chełm with the group [I lead out], for 3 weeks, I tried to establish contact with the command [of WiN]. After that, I met with the commandant of the Chełm Region Inpspectorate. He offered me to take the command of the Region I of the Chełm area, because my predecessor was arrested. I agreed, and my first order was to regulate the [existing] structures [of the underground]. In my area, there existed groups of "Fala", "Tatrzan", and "Sokol", and I began by conducting inspections, and disbanding these units, and their sub-units. I consolidated some of them [into my own unit], and created the so called Sily Zbrojne (pol. Armed Forces). In the ranks of my unit were also civilians, who remained employed at their [day-time] jobs. But, when needed, they were called upon, would dug up their arms, and show up where needed. It [this unit] was called the "Garrison Unit" (pol. "jednostka garnizonowa"). The entire unit had around 800 men, from which several dozens was part of the so called "Sily Zbrojne". They were uniformed in a military style. We maintained order, fought with the UB and NKVD, and also against the fictitious WiN, and NSZ units created by the communists.
S.G.: How did you choose your nom de guerrre "Młot" (engl. "Hammer")?
H.L.: It has to be understood what kind of generation we were, what period [of history] it was. I thought then - What kind of nom de guerre should I choose? I saw my colleagues - this one is "Orzel" (engl. "Eagle"), this one is "Zbik" (engl. "Wildcat"), another one is "Lew" (engl. "Lion"). I thought, these are all royal animals, so one has to deserve such nom de guerre. And I [felt that] I don't deserve it yet. But, [I thought then], what [tool] is used to break the shackles of slavery? I simply wanted to be a tool, a hammer (pol. "Młot"), who without any pretenses, is devoted to the cause. As such, I remained [a "hammer] to the end.
S.G.: Can you describe your activities in the Chełm area, and perhaps [tell us about] some of the more important engagements [against the communist regime]?
H.L.: On May 22, 1945 we conducted our first battle, during which eight of those who left [the First Artillery Officer School in Chełm with me] died. They were young lieutenants. We were destroying Militia stations, i.e. one in Zmudz, or Sielce. After some time, all stations in the rural municipality (pol. Gmina) where I operated were under my control. They didn't show any activity, and thus, I left them alone. On May 28, we destroyed an UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa) station Hrubieszow, and we freed several dozen prisoners. In 1946, "Wyrwa", an officer from my unit was wounded near Wojslawice (a place known as my capital), and was taken prisoner. He was severely wounded, and was kept at the Chełm hospital. Because of well organized intelligence net, and I can only now tell this to Dr. Benowski, M.D., a surgeon, who was also a member of WiN, that I had daily reports about condition of "Wyrwa". I asked the doctor to treat him in such fashion, so he can live through our operation to free him. While treating him, he also gave him such medications that made it impossible for the UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa), to interrogate him. It was on Sunday, in October 1946, in the downtown of Chełm during the day, that we freed "Wyrwa". We loaded him, in his bed, on a car that we commandeered earlier. We also combated common banditism. Throughout several months, we would capture thieves who were stilling cows, and horses, because it is obvious that if you still horse from a farmer, it is as if you had killed him. Because I didn't have a jail, and those captured didn't deserve more serious punishment, if we got them, they would simply receive 15-20 hits with a stick on the sensitive place [of their body - their butt]. They remember this to this day.
S.G.: What kind of perception did the inhabitants of the Chełm area have of your activities?
H.L.: I never suspected, that the inhabitants [of this area] will remember us to this day. If I was able to survive with my unit, which was viewed [by them] as the Polish Army, this long, and to be effective, then I had to have support and approval of the local population. Yes. I received a wide support, particularly, in the rural areas.
S.G.: What kind of weapons did you have, and where did they come from?
H.L.: The weapons were from the time of the II WW. When we were disarming, we hid some of the arms. Aside from the light weapons, we also had a small anti-tank cannon, as well as machine guns (RKM, and LKM); we also had telephone communications. There were enough of weapons and ammunition, but everyone had to account for it to me.
S.G.: Did you have contacts with the General Command?
H.L.: I didn't have direct contact with them. I had contact with my immediate commandant of the Chełm Inspectorate [of WiN]. It was me who decided about the activities of my unit.
S.G.: Under what circumstances did you find out that there was a death sentence issued against you [by the communist regime]?
H.L.: I never received any [official] notice, but this type activity [in which I took part] would make it automatic. But, I was never tried, nor have I ever spent any time in jail. They [the communists] would say about us "the gang of 'Młot'", and still in 1984, they couldn't forget it, and they were writing unfavorable articles about me.
S.G.: What events from that period have been embedded into your memory the most?
H.L.: This is very personal. On December 18, 1948, we stopped in Zazdzary, because the snow was falling, and wiped all the tracks. There was a forester's cabin; the forester was sent into Siberia [by the Soviets], while his wife and three children were left behind. The Christmas was approaching, so along with two of my officers, I decided that we will spend couple of nights there, and we would hunt to leave some food for this woman. The command of the unit [ in village] was left to duty officer, and myself along with two of my officers, went to stay for two days at the forester's cabin. Around 23:00, I am awaken, and I am told: "Commandant Sir, the curriers are here" - I thought - so it happened. They found me. It was known, that the place where the unit was staying was in Zazdzary, and not at the forester's cabin. Next they said, that they are for Captain "Młot". Everyone knew that I was a lieutenant. I understood, that things didn't look good for me. We quickly got dressed, while they were more, and more persistently banging on the door. We didn't have too many arms with us, but only two mandatory grenades, the so called fragmentation grenades (pol. "siekacze obronne"), one "Samozaryadka" [SVT-40 Tokarev Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva], and each one of us had a handgun. We had to act. I knew, that I can't allow myself to be captured. The others [partisans with me] had a slim chance to survive, but myself, as an area commander, would not. I already thought about it earlier. I can't fall into their hands, because I would create a lot of problems [for others in my unit]. It is uncertain to what extend a human being can withstand torture. For this reason we began to fight.
I only saw one of my friends' body hanging from the window frame. I broke the window with the butt of the rifle, and then I hid between pieces of timber under a small roof. For a moment, I could hear groans. Than, I hear her - God Rest Her Soul, Kalinska - who exited with her two children, and spoke, and begged, that nobody is here any more, and to leave her alone. While swearing, they opened up with a machine gun burst. They murdered her, and her kids, and then set everything on fire. After a moment, I saw clouds of smoke, and I heard a burst fired by one of ours, because just as those who play a musical instrument, were able to recognize [the sound of] our [own] weapons. It became hectic, they started to retreat, and when I was covered by smoke, I was able to escape into an open field. Only then, did I loose consciousness, and I didn't even feel that I was wounded. The next day, farmers from this village transported me on the horse carriage, to the place which we earlier established. I recovered [from my wounds] there. This particular fight is well embedded in my memory, and is an important one to me, because it depicts communist crimes against the defenseless civil population. It has to be said, that there were many such crimes.
S.G.: What forced you to make the decision to leave [Poland]?
H.L.: The first moments after we revealed ourselves in March 1947 were beautiful. Particularly, since I received [from the communists] conditions like no one else. The fact alone, that it was me who dictated the conditions for [revealing myself and my unit] ... The first condition was that there will be no interrogations, and that my soldiers will only state their name, nom de guerre, and their rank. The second was, that they will be able to freely, and in their uniforms, to move around the town for two weeks. And the last one, to which initially they didn't want to agree, was that we will return our weapons in Wojslowice, and not in Chełm. How did it happen? They arrived at 7:00 o'clock; a 15 UB men (pol. UB Man - "ubowiec") lead by Pawluk (who participated in the Zazdzary [murder of Mrs. Kalinska and her children]). I told [them] what the itinerary will look like for the day. From 7:00 to 8:00 we will ready ourselves, then at 8:00, we will have our last debriefing, and that at 9:00, we will participate in the Holly Mass. I even suggested that if they so desire, they can join us. Only later, I revealed myself in the rural municipal office (pol. Gmina). Why there? Because "the gmina" was a symbol of the government, so I was also a host there. You can only imagine - I was sitting down, and they were standing. You that only when you are twenty, or so, years old. When I arrived to Chełm, I was greeted, I guess, by a half of the city; people were standing from Gorki to Borek. And there were so many flowers in the house I received. These were the times... It was very brief though. At first I was being persuaded to write something, but I refused. Then people were hearing that there are rumors about alleged plans to assassinate me. I thought then, it is not good - I have to be very careful. And then, in June 1948, when I returned home - because I was in the Eastern part of Poland, and they had to keep me under surveillance - because they immediately sent somebody to tell me that the head of the UB wants to see me. I went to see them, and pretended that everything is fine. He "opened up" to me, that his intelligence reported that they discovered that there are some who want to kill me for revealing myself. And because he is "concerned" about my wellbeing, he suggests that they will provide bodyguards for me. He showed me these two [UB "bodyguards"], and you could see right away that they are the real "bezpieka" men. While smiling at them, I was guessing, which one of them will be firing into the back of my head. I said - it would be better if you didn't give me these bodyguards yet today, because I have an appointment with a secretary about an article (it was real) [I would be writing]. They agreed, and it is all that they have seen of me [after that].
S.G.: How did you manage to escape through the "Iron Curtain"?
H.L: After the conversation with the head of the UB, I mentioned, in an hour I packed [my belongings], and with my own security I left for Lublin. There, at the train station, they waited until I boarded the train, and then they left. From there, I made my first attempt at crossing the boarder near the Szklarska Poreba. We pretended to be foreign merchants. I had some bacon, some alcohol. At the boarder crossing point in Wieniec Zdroj, (today it is called Sieradow Zdroj), I was captured, but I was able to bribe them, and because I had false documents, I escaped once again. This time I chose another route, but not that the one facilitated through the WiN channels, because while we had some smuggling operations in place, I didn't trust them. Since our leadership was being arrested so easily, it meant that there was a leak [somewhere]. My escape route lead through Szczecin, and it was horrific. If I had to do it [again] today, I would probably not do it. For a certain period of time I was on a barge, and on the top of me, there were, I am guessing, several tons of coal. I could breath only through a small pipe. When I passed a certain zone, I traveled towards the Frankfurt. After many peripeteia, I was able to enter the English zone, and later the American one. There, I mentioned that I knew Derek Selby, an American correspondent. They checked it out. Later I went through a temporary refugee camp. And then, at last, via plane, I reached Mannheim, through the "air corridor". I was received very warmly at the airport. After a short period of time, I decided to leave for France, although other countries were suggested to me as well. They needed farmers in Austria, so I even obtained a "farmerÍs certificate". The Americans furnished me with [an educational] stipend, and proposed that I go to the United States. I refused. I didn't know what the life will bring me, so I decided that I should go to France, since I can return home [to Poland] by walking back, if I had to. This was the real reason.
S.G.: Can you tell us about your life in France, and your activities in the emgre democratic circles [there]?
H.L.: Exactly on July 22, 1948, just like many others, I arrived at the factory located in the center of France, near Lyon. In the beginning I would perform the most strenuous physical labor. With time, after I learned the language, I finished high school, and university, and began to clime up the social ladder. At the end, I became a director of the Center for the Informatics, where I remained until my retirement. Through this social promotion, I wanted to earn the right to bare the image of myself I left behind in Poland. During the difficult times, I only found solace in memories of the past. During this entire time, I never stopped to participate in the activities of the democratic emigre circles. I personally knew General [Stanislaw] Maczek, who stayed with me during his inspection. I [also] also had three debriefings with General [Wladyslaw] Anders. I was a director of youth programs in the central France. We were very much in touch with the events taking place in Poland, and around the world. This was a period of time, particularly during the Korean War, that another conflict could have erupted. In our selfish perception, we thought, that this conflict will be the only way through which we will be able to gain independence. During this time our efforts were intensified, and we would undergo military training. In an event of war, I was to take command in the Lublin area.
S.G.: What was your relationship with the political party of [the French President] Jacques Chirac?
H.L.: The Chirac's party was most appealing to me both ideologically, and its agenda-wise. It was obvious, that people like me, could not stand on the side, while the changes were taking place. I thought, and it came to the fruition, that if I was to return [to Poland], these contacts will help to establish friendly relationship with France. I was of opinion, that it was prudent to have friends in places that mattered. Because of these contacts, I had an opportunity to travel Poland in 1970, as an adviser to the [French] Prime Minister. The polish [communist] government issued a condition however, that I relinquish my polish citizenship. This was the price that I couldnÍt pay, and thus, I had to wait to visit my country for another 20 years.
S.G.: Having a well established life in France, you decided however, to return [to Poland]. Why?
H.L.: I always knew that I will return. I couldn't believe, that it could be any different. They [the people in Poland] would have said that "Młot" is doing so well, that he doesn't care about his country. I couldn't allow that. Thus, on 4 July 1992, I crossed the Polish boarder in Zgorzelec. In the eyes of some, I committed great crime - I dared to return. I am the only commanding officer of this type of [underground] unit, who was never promoted in Poland, since 1944. But, I am glad that at least to some degree, some of my colleagues were recognized.
S.G.: What do you think about falsification of the post World War II history of Poland, and in particular, [falsification] of the activities of WiN?
H.L.: Presently, the history is adopted to suit various political and ideological aims. The theory of the "Civil War" is an absurd. How can you compare situation of the post-war Poland with that of the "Spanish Civil War", where the populous was [clearly] divided along the ideological lines. Who did we fight [in Poland]? We fought against a foreign invader, and the lackeys of the NKVD, because who were the UB, or the MO? They collaborated with them [the NKVD], realizing that it will benefit them personally, while, we were fighting for free, and sovereign Poland. But now, they forgot about it. Today, after so many years, it can be said that my generation - through the [workers'] uprisings of 1956, 1970, and 1980, and in fact throughout the last 45 years - paved the way for our country to regain its sovereignty. I will share a personal reflection here - I don't think this is the kind of Poland we fought for. But, what we have is perhaps sufficient. Those who gave their lives in order for us to have freedom, have earned it, to be recognised. What we have seen in the Sejm [Polish Parliament] - an address given by certain Mr. Pastusiak, and others - is reprehensible. These old people [the surviving Polish underground soldiers] who came to [the Polish Parliament to] petition [this body of government] asked only for a modest recognition of their contributions to this country. The theory of the "Civil War" was a slap on their face. So, please, don't be surprised, that they simply, [honorably] stood up, and left. It is necessary to act in such fashion, so that no generation is forced to show their dedication to their country through acts that were required from our generation. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, it is necessary to enrich ourselves intellectually, and to remain faithful to certain values, i.e. respect for others. At the time when this respect will take place, it will be received. But, we all know what it looks like today. Personally, I am convinced, that at last, the truth will prevail.
Lt. Henryk Lewczuk, nom de guerre "Młot" died on June 15, 2009 in Chełm. Gloria Victis!
Also see: "Atack On Communist Prison in Włodawa", by Grzegorz Makus