"Not Only Katyn" by Ireneusz Sewastianowicz and Stanisław Kulikowski
PART 6: THE COMMOTION NEAR GIBY
For several weeks, in the summer of the 1987, an unfamiliar path in the woods connecting Giby with Rygol became the busiest dirt road in the Augustów Forest. The parked cars of various makes, exhibiting license plates representing very distant places in Poland, marked the place where on June 29th, near Dworczysko village, Stefan Myszczynski discovered some unmarked graves.
Above: Stefan Myszczynski had a dream that his relatives were buried in this place. In the morning, he rode on his bicycle there, and he dug out some graves.
July 12, 1987 was a Sunday. A couple of dozen people gathered tightly around the place he discovered. It was marked with a birch cross, and a white-and-red Polish national flag. Here and there, one could see some signs of digging. There was a skull covered with a thin layer of soil laying in one of the shallow holes. Few candles were lit, and more and more flowers were being brought-in. A makeshift-plate bore an official seal of the Okolki Forestry Office warning that “as a sign of reverence to the discovered human remains, and in order not to disturb the present state of the find, that may prevent its thorough analysis, its alteration in any way, is punishable by a fine”.
One of the locals recalls:
“Myszczynski had a dream that his relatives were buried here. In the morning, he rode his bicycle there, and he dug out some graves.”
Others added, that in July 1945, the NKVD arrested Myszczynski’s three brothers and their stepfather. Where are their graves? Where are the graves of the others arrested during the Roundup? Are they located in this particular place, or elsewhere, halfway between Giby and Rygola?
On the 13th of July, one could sense a similar atmosphere during a Mass celebrated behind a makeshift altar by a priest who arrived from Warsaw. He spoke not only about people whose lives were taken, but also of those who were deprived of their right to a Christian burial. The number of flowers and candles was growing.
On July 15th, international news outlets announced the news about the discovery of the graves. A report from Poland appeared in “The New York Times”. The “Voice of America” broadcast an interview with Stefan Korboński, a historian, and “the last leader of the Polish Underground State.” He described the discovery in no uncertain terms. He called it the “Second Katyn”. It was commonly believed that Polish [Communist] authorities are trying to cover up the issue.
Above: The priest spoke to the congregation not only about the people whose lives were taken, but also, about those who were deprived of their right to a Christian burial
A team from the District Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Białystok arrived in Giby on the same day. Its members included: the District Attorney Waldemar Monkiewicz, Judge Wacław Andrzejewski, and Dr. Tadeusz Jóźwik from the Forensic Medicine Institute of the Medical Academy in Białystok. Two 25-meter-long mass graves were partly dug up. They revealed 11 human skeletons buried at the depth of 1.2 meters. Amongst many items found, were two identification badges with legible inscriptions “Stamm Kp. FEB 22 2618” and “BTL 202”, buttons from German uniforms. Also found, were a cigarette case with the inscription “HANUCK 11 Korporalschaff”, metal pieces of military groundsheets, braces, a comb in a case, and a penknife.
In the “Protocol of Examination” we read:
“It can conclusively be ascertained, that the skeletons that were found, are the remains of German soldiers who died during military operations in 1944. Based on the foregoing, the investigation is closed.
These findings are supported by the testimony of Antoni Jajer, from Dworczysko, who was present during the exhuming of the graves. Antoni stated that while walking around the woods during the 40’s he came across a wooden cross with a German helmet placed on the top.
- “An orderly-fashion in which the bodies were arranged, and the nature of the remaining items that were found” - said W. Monkiewicz, the next day - “indicate that we discovered a makeshift German field cemetery. We suspended any further exhumation. We would have probably unearthed some 20-30 skeletons, but our commission is not interested in [old] Werhmacht mass graves.”
The District Attorney Monkiewicz, expressed an identical view during the press conference at the “Interpress”, where both he, and the Polish [Communist] spokesman meticulously avoided the subject of the Roundup, by persuading journalists, that it were German soldiers buried near Giby.
- “The present Polish [Communist] Government is neither in possession of any information indicating any mysterious disappearances, nor is it, or should be, trying to locate anyone. Simply put, we don’t know anything about it.” - Assured Jerzy Urban, the Communist Government spokesman.
In mid-August the government press spokesman made another reference to the discovery near Giby.
- “It’s been ascertained without a shadow of a doubt, that the discovered graves contain remains of the deceased Nazi soldiers” - said Urban. “The District Attorney in Białystok addressed this issue during one of my previous press conferences. However, some of those living around the village of Giby insist that their relatives died under some unexplained circumstances in 1945. There are various rumors regarding this matter that are circulated. Certain individuals established some sort of self-proclaimed committees. They are not only unable to explain any of this, but rather, are instigating [unwarranted] emotions. And, this is exactly what these instigators want” - he continued.
The only news about Stalinist crimes could be heard from foreign broadcasts.
I tracked down Stefan Myszczynski in Dworczysko. He confirmed that he lost four relatives in July 1945. He was reluctant to speak about the discovery; he dreamt about something, and had heard something from other people. On the day of the Festival at the Saint Peter and Paul’s Parish, Myszczynski wandered around the woods all day, and dug in various places. He finally discovered human bones, and erected a cross in that place.
“If these are the Germans who are buried here, then where are the remains of my brothers?”- Myszczynski asked rhetorically.
Continue to Part 7 - "We Will Not Be Silent"