"Not Only Katyn" by Ireneusz Sewastianowicz and Stanisław Kulikowski
PART 9: OTHER TRAILS
We are in Giby … Right from the outset, right from the very moment when two years earlier Piotr Myszczynski discovered the human remains that were to be of his brothers and hundreds of others, some doubts and serious questions emerged.
Many of those interested in the Roundup would say: “There is not a single example of a grand-scale, mass execution, carried out by the Russians, right on the spot, before at first transporting those to be executed to a remote location.” This is not the way the NKVD took care of business; they were doing it completely differently.” Or, “They were afraid to be found out after the Katyn Massacre. After that, they would be afraid to kill in the place where their murders could be discovered. They transported all of them out. For sure, they transported them out [of Poland].”
“Piotr” is a pseudonym. He sent a lengthy letter, which ends with the following sentence: “I will not give you my name, because I am afraid of those who had betrayed my country. After all, the times are changing, and there are plenty of assassins. If your editorial board decides to publish this letter, please retype it, and then burn the original."
“Piotr” lost his father in the Roundup. “My mother would deliver food [to my dad] for about a week, or longer. Along with the food, she would bring a liter of grain coffee as well. She hid a piece of pencil inside the paper cork in the bottle." The last secret message received from “Piotr’s” father survived to this day. It reads: “My beloved wife, was Joziek trying to get a visit, or not? (Joziek was a name of a Communist militiaman in a green uniform). If Joziek is around, maybe he could speak with the 'Big Head'. [The “Big Head” was Jan Szostak, the head of the Polish secret police, the UB, in Suwalki]. I don’t know what will happen next. Go on living without me the best you can. Maybe I’ll come back if I am still alive. Please send me some overalls, a hat; there is some tobacco upstairs, get that too. Don’t bring me as much bread though. Be well, and stay healthy.”
Perhaps the Augustow Primeval Forest wasn’t the last phase in the journey of those arrested in the summer of 1945?
“Piotr” writes that some of those murdered were buried in the forest near Giby, but suggests other places as well: “In Sajenki, at the junction of the railroad track and the road, a fox dug up a human leg. Someone noticed it, and the news spread. My mother and I took a spade and we began to dig up corpses, hoping that we’ll find my father. The bodies of those murdered were already blue; they were shot in the back of their heads, the skulls were missing eyebrows. Dad wasn’t there. Whoever recognized a body in the pit, took it away.”
The letter contains a hand-drawn map. If the author is accurate, and his map is precise enough, the discovered bodies had to be buried near the Augustow-Lipsk road. Is it possible? Why wouldn’t the people who found their relatives say something, but rather remain stubbornly silent? There were no promising leads found in Augustow that would corroborate this information. The “Piotr” is hiding his identity under a pseudonym because he is afraid. But, what about the others?
- They are afraid! - Many say. - You are young, and you don’t have any idea how frightening it could be, and how little faith you could have in this system. After all, everyone in Augustow knows that the “Big Head” was a former AK man, who simply put, mercilessly tortured his former colleagues from the forest. And so what? When he died he was buried with honors bestowed upon only the most deserving Poles. After October! After all of these flowery words that “the blood shed by all Poles for Poland is equally precious”. But, Szostak kept on murdering the Poles. Yes, these very Poles who fought for her freedom. There are witnesses to that who are alive. There are the families of those murdered. So, wasn’t his funeral, a few years earlier, a painful hint to those who still remember it all? Do you still think they have nothing to fear?
Yes, they are afraid … There was a strange telephone call: “Why don’t you take a trip to Augustow … so we can talk about those who were beaten. … You know, those from the Roundup. But, under no circumstances will I give you my name.”
The caller revealed some details that helped me recognize him. He is an older man, and appears to regret that he agreed to meet with me. He proceeds to carefully compare my press ID with my face.
- Your hair is little longer
I invite him for a coffee, but he refuses. We’ll talk only in the car.
Around 1956, he met with an UB employee, his acquaintance from the neighboring village. They drank a lot. It was then, that his acquaintance told him that he knows where they, those missing, could be buried. He found out about it while drinking with the NKVD men. One of them said: “Tshast zalkyutshenykh lezhit v Sayenku” – Some of those we rounded up are buried in Sajenki.
So, it is Sajenki then? The old man didn’t share any additional details.
- I am barely literate. My son will draw you a detailed map, because he is educated, and we’ll send it in the mail. Please don’t look for me – he asks before leaving.
We didn’t look for him. The map never arrived. A plea for help published in the newspaper didn’t bring anything new. The older man never contacted us again.
But, the subject of Sajenki returned once again. A woman from Augustow wrote: " I know where the graves in Sajenki are."
Once there, however, the author of the letter hopelessly spreads her arms. The forest is so big these days … perhaps here, or there. It becomes obvious that rather than seeing these graves, she only heard about them.
Often enough in this story, there are some references to dreams that people had. We didn’t ignore those either. The Holy Mother told Stefan Myszczynski in his dream - as he had stated himself - where he should dig. The fact is that he indeed found the graves, but not the graves he was looking for.
- You shouldn’t be surprised that people speak of dreams and ghosts – We heard. – For many years these matters were dangerous to speak about, or for this matter, to know anything about. It was more convenient, and safer to attribute any information about the Roundup to the supernatural.
So, we treated the narrative that follows very seriously as well.
Stanislaw Delnicki from Karolino lost his brothers in the Roundup. He was arrested himself as well. – The Russian colonel stayed in our place. My sister begged him, and they released me. I saw the Melania C. – she would say – I betrayed the innocents, because if I was to betray the guys from the forest, they would have shot them.”
The name of Melania C. appears in this drama again.
- I heard this – Delnicki says – in Rygole. I was vaccinating a hog there in September 1945. It was Saturday. I spent the night at the village leader’s place. They were talking about the Roundup, and about the Pepesha machinegun shots that could be heard during the night. The next day, under the pretext of letting the cows graze, the women would go into the forest to see what was happening there – where they were shooting. It was at the intersection of Giby and Okolek. There was a twenty-by-ninety meters patch of freshly dug up dirt. I was returning to Giby on a bicycle the next day […]
There are opinions that the NKVD would never carry out these executions inside of Poland. The Polish-Russian border is nearby, about several dozen minutes away by car. After all, they always transported people away, but these are only suspicions.
The letter from Irena Franciszkiewicz appeared to be serious enough to follow up on. Irena lost her father in the Roundup. At that time, they lived in Nowy Lipsk. At first, her father and others were kept in the Konopka’s barn, and then they were moved to Sztabin. "After two weeks – she writes – they were transported away. The people from Sztabin were saying that those detained were loaded onto trucks and were transported to two different destinations. Some trucks loaded with prisoners traveled towards Bialystok, and several other vehicles traveled in the direction of the forests. After that, they had all vanished […] " In 1945, the same year, the Lozowskis received a postcard stating: “They transported us now to Volkovsk punishment camps. We have no idea what they will do with us now. Please save us. Send us bread.” This is why I think they transported them across the border [to Russia].
It was the first lead that could be corroborated by an existing piece of evidence – a letter from Volkovsk. If Ana Lozowska, who was arrested during the Roundup, sent a postcard from Volkovsk, then indeed, those arrested were after all transported across the border.
Both these women, Irena and her mother, confirm the existence of that letter. But, do they accurately remember what they saw? Irena was only a child then, and today, her mother is a very old woman. If the letter survived, it is in the possession of the arrested woman’s brother – Antoni Lozowski from Nowy Lipsk.
- But, this postcard was not written in Anna’s handwriting – both women say. She probably asked someone to send it for her. Things like this happened at times.
The postcard didn’t survive. They were moving, and the memory is not the same anymore. Maybe there was a postcard, or maybe somebody got little confused …
Continue to Part 10 - "The Missing"