“I, a Home Army Soldier” (pol. "Ja zolnierz Armii Krajowej")
Stanislaw Paczos, Home Army (April 30, 1900 - October 22, 1945)
During one autumn evening, I was sitting in a warm and cozy flat with my now deceased father sipping hot tea. It was blowing a gale outside. My usually reticent father reminisced about events and people of a distant and not so distant past. Suddenly, and completely by a surprise, he changed the subject matter, and said to me: “You should write at least few words about my friend Stanislaw Paczos. You really should! He shouldn’t be forgotten. He was unpretentious, and yet a brave soldier who was faithful ‘til the end to the oath he gave to his country. The time will come when we will be free to write about him. If not, at least make a footnote in your notes. Should you not live long enough, perhaps someone else will have something to go on, and will write about this simple soldier.” Mindful of my father’s wish, I began to secretly learn more about the life of Stanislaw Paczos. Now, it is the time that his story should be told to a wider audience.
Stanislaw Marek Paczos, son of Michal and Katarzyna nee Sarzynska was born on April 30, 1900 in Bilgoraj, now a town in southeastern Poland. After graduating from elementary school in his native Bilgoraj, Paczos enrolled in the Gymnasium (high school) in Janow Lubelski where he completed 3 grades. During military campaign in 1915, along with his parents and siblings, he was evacuated by the Tsarist’s government into Crimea. He continued his education in Simferopol where he completed additional 3 grades. In October 1918, Poczos returned to Poland from Russia with his parents, and immediately began employment as a clerk with the Bilgoraj’s City Council. During 1922-1928, he worked as a deputy secretary in the local municipalities of Lukowa, Babice, and Biszcza. In 1929 he was re-hired to work at the Bilgoraj’s City Council; at first as a clerk, and then during the period of January 1939 to August 1945, as a military court reporter, a director of a local census bureau, and as a deputy secretary at the local municipality. As we can see, during his entire adult life, he worked as a low-ranking municipal clerk.
In 1930, Stanislaw Marek Paczos married Henryka Horsowald from Zyrardow, now a town in central Poland. Henryka’s father was a master craftsman at the Zyrardow Textile Works. The married couple had three children: Michal-Stanislaw (b. 1932), Krystyna-Barbara (b. 1936), and Anna-Janina (b. 1941). The peaceful life of Stanislaw Marek Paczos, an unpretentious clerk, was periodically disrupted by larger national events that took him away from his native Bilgoraj. During the beginning of 1919 he volunteered for the newly organizing Polish Army. It is then, that he took his first military oath. At the end of that year he was demobilized, but not for very long, and in 1920 he was called again to serve in the military. Along with his unit he left for the Polish-Bolshevik war. In 1921 he was attached to Section IV of the Headquarters of the Ministry of Military Affairs in Warsaw.
During the Polish-German war in 1939, he took part in military operations serving in the ranks of the 9th Infantry Regiment. During this time, his native Bilgoraj was scorched to the ground; and along with it, his house, and all of his life’s possessions were lost.
The period of the Nazi occupation was a double-life for Stanislaw Marek Paczos. It was a daily life of an Agent de l'Etat (bureaucrat) in the German administration, and it was also conspiratorial work for the underground. In the beginning of 1940, Paczos joined the ranks of the underground Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej (abr. ZWZ - Union of Armed Struggle), and until the end of the occupation faithfully continued his conspiratorial activities in the ranks of the Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army).
||Above: War ravaged and scorched to the ground Bilgoraj in 1939. In 1939 Bilgoraj was under double-occupation. The Soviet Red Army entered the city on September 28, 1939 and was welcomed by the local communists. The city was turned over to the German army by the Soviets on October 3, 1939. Read more about September 1939 here. Photo Source: Bilgoraj
He didn’t hesitate for a moment to make this fateful decision. He knew well that this decision will endanger not only his own life, but it will also mortally endanger lives of his entire family.
Stanislaw Paczos was given an extremely difficult mission. It required of him incredible prudence, and it also brought with it an extremely important task of leading the legislative cell of the Home Army District in Bilgoraj. He was particularly well suited for this extraordinarily important mission. He had blond hair, was short, being only 160 cm tall, was very thin, had blue eyes, and had very gentle nature. In short, he made an impression of a subservient, and constantly scared petty bureaucrat who was incapable of independent thinking, and incapable of making any independent decision. His irreproachable reputation of someone without any bad habits, someone interested only in work and his family, completed the deceptive picture of Stanislaw Paczos.
He was to play the role of insecure petty bureaucrat - and he played this role extremely well. Of course, it wasn’t a simple role to play in a small, provincial city devastated by war – a city of only several thousand souls, where everyone knew everyone, and everyone knew everyone’s business. His activities during the Nazi occupation were conducted in the city full of Germans, in the city’s official administrative building that was less than 200 meters away from the local Gestapo headquarters.
While officially serving as a director of the local census bureau, and that of the deputy secretary of the city administration in Bilgoraj, Paczos had access to many highly restricted Nazi evidentiary documents and official seals. He was also allowed to sign, notarize and attest official German documents.
Through his desk passed registrations of residence, arrivals and departures of individuals in Bilgoraj. Thus, his desk became the proverbial heart of the Nazi control of the population movement. It is not difficult to imagine, that his role was of critical importance. By issuing false identity papers (ger. Kennkarte) with fictitious names, false certificates, notarized dispatches, etc., Paczos saved lives of countless people.
||Above: Gestapo headquarders in Bilgoraj. Photo Source: Bilgoraj
It must be emphasized, that all of his activities were conducted through the use of original German documents, original Nazi seals, and above all, each and every one of these documents was attested with his own signature, and then, officially recorded in the city books.
Through these activities he fulfilled critical needs of not only the regional command of the Bilgoraj’s Home Army, but also those of the District Command, often the Zamosc Inspectorate, and at times, even those of the highest echelons of the Home Army. As a rule, he never knew for whom he was issuing these critically important documents.
Stanislaw Marek Paczos, a Home Army Soldier didn’t fight Nazi occupiers by holding weapon in his hands. He didn’t fire a single shot, nor did he kill any enemies. He didn’t have any weapons, nor did he have any security detail to protect him. He was defenseless during each and every second, each minute, and each hour of the day. Even the slightest mistake or inattention could lead to his death. He lived in a constant nervous attention and the highest level concentration. But, he fought the Nazis effectively and successfully. Unfortunately, we can’t venture an easy measure of that, for Stanislaw Marek Paczos was a soldier on an invisible battlefield.
The Nazi occupation was nearing the end. During the third quarter of 1944, the Soviet army reached the Vistula River. A long awaited liberation arrived. Stanislaw Paczos considered his conspiratorial activities to be over. He didn’t continue to fight. He was tired of war. He wanted to live in peace. He continued to work at the Bilgoraj’s Municipality. Almost no one knew about his role in the Home Army during the Nazi occupation.
Just like many others, he welcomed the end of the war on May 9, 1945 with great jubilation. Shortly thereafter, he decided to travel to Szczecin with his family to begin work at the municipal office there. Along with his wife he made intense preparations for a trip that was to take place in the third quarter of 1945.
By this time the entire Polish society was becoming petrified by mass arrests of Home Army soldiers who were deported into the punishment camps in the USSR, were imprisoned, tortured, or executed by the Soviet NKVD.
The frightening news about horrific tortures, and murders began to arrive from the County Office of State Security (pol. PUBP – Powiatowy Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego - Polish Secret Police) in Bilgoraj and from other cities.
The wave of terror intensified. Subconsciously, Stanislaw Paczos knew that he had to leave the city immediately. Unfortunately, his plan to leave for Szczecin wasn’t to be.
In the mid 1945, Stanislaw Paczos was unexpectedly arrested by Captain Guranov, an NKVD [Soviet secret police] officer, and adviser to the County Office of Polish secret police, the UB, in Bilgoraj, and by two [Polish secret police] functionaries accompanying him: Kazimierz Lenia (from Krzeszow, near San) and Edward Slowik . The latter was operating under the pseudonym “Murzynek”. His real identity was unknown at the time. Paczos was taken away in the early morning hours from his office at the Municipal County building where he worked.
||Above: Present view of the former PUBP (Powiatowy Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego - County Office of State Security) building in Bilgoraj. Source: IPN
The interrogations that began were supervised personally by Capt. Guranov, who was known for his sadism and hatred of all that was Polish. As always, during the initial phases of the interrogations, the functionaries of the Polish secret police (commonly known as the “Bezpieka”) began by using gentle persuasion, coercing the accused to confess, and reassuring him that they knew everything about him.
“We know that you are a cadre officer of the Home Army intelligence. We know that you are connected with spy agencies of Great Britain and United States of America. We know that you collaborated with the Gestapo. We know that you are still active in the underground and that you are conspiring against Poland and against the Soviet Union. Confess freely to the espionage and treason against your nation. Reveal names of individuals with whom you stayed in contact, give us names of your handlers. We strongly suggest you do that, or you will regret that you mother ever gave birth to you."
He replied “I am but a Home Army Soldier. I am not an officer. I never took part in any espionage, I never betrayed anyone. I tried to serve my country” – this was the first firm response of this inconspicuous looking man. “All accusations” Paczos continued, calmly “are untrue, are made up, and committing even one of these acts is unbecoming of Polish soldier, and it deserves the harshest condemnation.”
The badgering continued “You are a soldier? You’re stinking piece of shit; you imperialist scoundrel; you stinking AK reactionary enemy of the people!” – screamed “Murzynek” and hit the arrested in the face.
“I am a Home Army Soldier, and I will not be insulted, and …” - Stanislaw Paczos didn’t finish. The blows of four large UB men fell on the small-postured Paczos. He was beaten, and kicked all over his body, and was tossed around from one tormentor to the other. After several minutes, the severely beaten prisoner was dragged into the basement where he was tossed onto a floor covered with water of the cell among other prisoners.
During the following days the “routine” interrogations continued. He was spared neither torture nor profanities. His tormentors took perfidious pleasure with snide comments about his AK affiliation. Such comments, that he is not a soldier, but an AK scoundrel, son of a whore, brood bitch, nefarious traitor, and others were among the less offensive names in the repertoire of his tormentors.
Tortured in the most despicable of ways, Stanislaw Paczos bore horrendous physical pain with true Christian patience. But, above all he suffered insufferably from the brutal trampling on his personal dignity and by comments that belittled his soldier’s honor. He lived in despair, half-conscious, repeating unwittingly: “I, a Home Army Soldier, and I will not allow my dignity and honor to be insulted."
Captain Guranov was a professional, well-trained NKVD functionary. He carefully observed the prisoner Paczos, and received frequent reports about his behavior. Thus, after several weeks of fruitless interrogations, he decided: “Let him sweep the street. He’ll say what we need to know. Carry out the order.”
During the third week of September, Stanislaw Paczos was washed up, shaved, cleaned up, and dressed up in freshly ironed clothes was lead by two UB functionaries, the brothers Jan and Roman Rapa (from Bukownica) onto the street in front of the PUBP office. Both brothers were known for their diminished intellect, and for their particular brutality. It was a sunny, beautiful day without even a single cloud in the sky. It was an early afternoon. It was the busiest time on the Kosciuszko Street – the main road in the city. One of the Rapa brothers gave Stanislaw Paczos a large broom made of birch-tree twigs with a wooden handle, and ordered him - “Sweep!”
“What’s that about? I am a Home Army soldier.”
“We know. Sweep, you son of a whore, you damned Soldier of feudal Poland!”
And this is when the situation surfaced that couldn’t be scripted even in the most of surreal screenplays. Stanislaw Paczos fell to the ground and gave no signs of life.
“Get up you gangster. Get to work!” screamed one of the Rapa brothers.
They both began to kick the prisoner, lying motionless and unconscious. This entire incident was carefully watched Guranov and a group of young secret police trainees through the UB building window. From the window, Guranov ordered to bring the prisoner into the building. A doctor was summoned, and stated that Stanislaw Paczos suffered a severe heart attack, and advised that he be immediately moved to the hospital.
In the local hospital Stanislaw Paczos was tenderly cared for by Dr. Stanislaw Pojask, also a former Home Army soldier, and by Ursuline Sisters nurses. Poczas was diagnosed with severe heart attack, extreme physical exhaustion, many other severe bodily injuries as well as extreme mental exhaustion and persecution psychosis. The fight to save the Home Army solider began, carefully guarded by the rotating secret police sentries. The guards stood put in the hallway and next to the door where the severely sick soldier lay. Poczas hallucinated and didn’t attempt to make any contact with anyone. Only from time to time he repeated: “I, a Home Army Soldier had to sweep the street”. The doctors and nuns-nurses didn’t understand the reason why he was saying these things. For it wasn’t unusual for unconscious patients to say difficult to understand and illogical things.
Under the loving care, good will and contact with his wife and children, the sick man was quickly returning to health. The removal of the armed sentries from the hospital in the mid-October also had positive effect on his recovery. There were moments when he confided about his ordeal in Dr. Stanislaw Pajas, his wife, and his brother Rev. Jozef Paczos, who traveled from Ksiezomierz where he was a Roman Catholic priest. He asked them, and perhaps more so, was asking himself:
“Do you know that they were forcing me to send innocent people to death? Do you realize that they were forcing me to lie? Do you know that they wanted to degrade me and to force me to betray my soldier’s honor? Can you imagine that they wanted me to break my soldier’s oath that I swore to my country?”
These brief moments were always concluded with a statement:
“My tormentors forgot that I am Home Army soldier.”
But, he always reflected “They can interrogate me again. Will I be able to survive again all that I have gone through already? They can’t be trusted.” During those moments, one could sense an intense fright overtaking Stanislaw Paczos.
All indicated that the tragedy of Stanislaw Paczos was coming to an auspicious ending.
But, one cannot really predict man’s fate.
During an early morning doctor’s visit on October 22, 1945, Stanislaw Marek Paczos learned that his treatment was progressing well. With a smile on his face, he told those in the room:
“I am Home Army Soldier.”
After the visit was over, he took advantage of the morning confusion at the hospital, and unnoticed by anyone left his room, and committed suicide by drowning himself in the Biala Lada river, a mere 100 meters from the hospital building.
Captain Guranov and his attentive Polish secret police students knew very well that in order to take the man’s life, they didn’t have to kill him with their own hands.
A Home Army soldier perished, and we don’t know what nom de guerre, an attribute of Polish Underground State, he used.
Stanislaw Paczos wasn’t buried at the military cemetery in Bilgoraj among his fallen comrades – there was not place there for those who committed suicide! He wasn’t laid to rest at the Honor Lane, for those who commit suicide don’t deserve to be buried among that special group of people.
His body was laid to rest in his family tomb, next to his parents, his brother, and sister.
His funeral was less than a modest one. Only his wife, children, his siblings, and several closest friends attended. Who, after all, goes to the funeral of someone who commits suicide? The last rites for Sanislaw Paczos, the fallen Home Army Soldier, were given by his brother, Rev. Jozef Paczos. There were no speeches – only a quiet prayer for the soul of the deceased man, and few sorrowful tears.
The Paczos family tomb is located at the Bilgoraj’s parish cemetery at the Lubelska Street in the main alley leading to the cemetery’s chapel. It is the seventh grave located immediately next to the main gate on the right. On the grave stone you will find very small and unpretentious looking memorial plate with an inscription:
Lived 45 years
Rest in Peace
Written by Dr. Jerzy Markiewicz, PhD
 During the night of April 12, 1945 in Siedlce, Edward Slowik participated in a brutal murder of 16 members the Democratic Resistance from Narodowe Sily Zbrojne (National Armed Forces] and Armia Krajowa [Home Army].