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"The death of Captain Zdzisław Broński, nom de guerre ‘Uskok'"(Pol. Śmierć kapitana „Uskoka”)

Part 2

At 11.40pm ‘Babinicz’ arrived in the farm of Kasperek on his own and, according to plan, went to the barn. At a previously agreed signal (coughing) two KBW soldiers (strz. Wladyslaw Orlicki and strz. Stanislaw Berezinski) and a PUBP Lubartow officer (Marian Wojtowicz) threw themselves at Libera, trying to capture him alive at all cost. ‘Babinicz’, armed with two pistols put up a fight and shot several times, wounding strz. Orlicki in the arm and thigh. When he got knocked to the ground he tried to detonate a defensive grenade which he had had in his pocket saying to Wojtowicz: ‘I’ll die but you’ll be damned too’. Eventually he gave in, incapacitated, his weapon taken. Two pistols were found next to him (one Nagan and the Colt revolver), one defensive grenade and 52 pieces of ammunition.

A group of soldiers from the ‘Uskok’ unit during mobilisation gathering in the forests of Kozlow (stary Tartak), July 1944. Standing in the first row: fourth from the left – Second Lieutenant Zdzislaw Bronski, nom de guerre ‘Uskok’, fifth from the left – Sergeant Kocyla, nom de guerre ‘Jastrzab’ [Eng.tr.Hawk], sixth from the left – Zygmunt Libera, nom de guerre ‘Babinicz’; sitting: first from the right – Jan Mendel, nom de guerre ‘Czarny’ [Eng.tr.Black].  
Left: Lieutenant cz.w. [cz. w. - in the time of war] Zygmunt Libera ‘Babinicz’. Arrested on 20th May 1949. Murdered on 28th May 1950 in the Lublin Castle, as ordered by the WSR [pol. acronym Wojskowy Sad Rejonowy - Regional Military Court] in Lublin.

The mission ended on 20th May at 3am, after which the group returned to Lubartow where ‘Babinicz’ and his weapons were handed over to officers of the PUBP headquarters. ‘Babinicz’ was thoroughly searched onsite by the local Polish secret police officers (Boleslaw Gol, Marian Radomski and previously mentioned Wojtowicz) and – so it seems – taken immediately to the WUBP in Lublin (this presumption is based on the memoirs of Artur Jastrzebski, then Head of that office, more on the subject below). Libera was subjected to a very intense and sadistic interrogation. Brutally tortured, he eventually gave the whereabouts of his commandant, detailing the topography of both the Lisowski farm with the surrounding area, and the bunker: "In the village of Dabrowka, district of Wolka, province of Lublin lives Mieczyslaw Lisowski in whose barn is the said bunker. Lisowski’s house is located about 300 metres from the river ‘Wieprz’. About 50 metres from the barn there are bushes (mainly young hornbeams, stretching some 100 metres along the ravine).

On one side of the barn there is a garden and bushes, on the other side there is a rye field (waist-high). Behind the rye field there is a clump of bushes. Lisowski’s house is located about 15 metres from the barn; there is no fence, only some lilac bushes. Lisowski owns two dogs that bark when strangers approach.

On entering the barn, the bunker is located on the left hand side and is covered by blowers. There is a 70x70 centimetre hole which is masked with 3 wooden boards. There are stairs leading to the entrance (3 stairs made of wooden boards), the corridor dimensions are: L – 2 metres, W – 70-80 centimetres, H – 1.40 metres. The bunker is located on the left hand side of the corridor and can accommodate 4 people. This is where the entire office of ‘Uskok’ is as well as two radio stations and storage for weapons. Heavy machine guns are hidden under the floorboards whilst on sight ‘Uskok’ keeps two pistols, one Colt revolver and one TT, one automatic ‘pepesha’ and six full cartridges spare, one MP plus 3 cartridges spare, one heavy machine gun plus one cartridge of ammunition, and 2 grenades - one defensive and one offensive.

The best access is from the town of Nowogrod (district of Wolka, province of Lublin) going from the river Wieprz (off the beaten track), then following the river for one kilometre to reach the ravine. Walking down the gorge it is possible to approach the house unnoticed to the distance of 30 metres." [2]

he Lisowski barn in the village of Dabrowka (Nowogrodzie), where the bunker of Captain ‘Uskok’ was located.  
Left: The Lisowski barn in the village of Dabrowka (Nowogrodzie), where the bunker of Captain ‘Uskok’ was located.

Having obtained this data, the WUBP officers didn’t waste any more time. The information on the whereabouts of ‘Uskok’ was immediately passed on to the headquarters of the 3rd KBW [Internal Security Corps] Brigade. An operational group, whose members were to – if at all possible – capture Bronski alive, was formed instantly. On 20th May at 6.40pm the group in the strength of 140 men under the command of Major Wasilkowski (Head of 3rd KBW Brigade) left the Lublin Garrison.

They were equipped with 4 radio stations and 3 military working dogs. The group, along with the arrested ‘Babinicz’ went to the town of Nowogrod by car, where they unloaded and divided into two subgroups in the strength of 1+52 men each. Additionally, they also arranged two reserve groups (in the strength of 1+10 and 1+20), following which the subgroups marched off to the village of Dabrowka, to surround the farm with the bunker of ‘Uskok’.

At 8.10pm the farm was encircled by two subgroups, whilst the reserve group in the strength of 1+10 carried out an inspection of the buildings and stopped all present family members. At that time, apart from ‘Uskok’ who was staying in the bunker, only three people were around: Katarzyna Lisowska (Mieczyslaw’s mother) and her granddaughters – Helena and Irena Dybkowskie. It wasn’t entirely clear where was then Mieczyslaw Lisowski. In the interview with Henryk Pajak, years later, he said that on the evening of 20th May he was on the premises and having noticed the KBW soldiers, just about managed to notify ‘Uskok’ of the impending danger (Bronski who was then standing outside of the bunker was to shout ‘You run away, I’m staying!’), after which Lisowski managed to slip outside the encirclement. However, in his testimony just after he got arrested he explained that he was then in the church in Kijany, attending the May mass. On his way back from the mass he noticed the soldiers and decided to hide in the rye field near the house.

Detained women were gathered in the house and immediately confronted with ‘Babinicz’. The UB officers were keen to get the final confirmation of the data obtained as a result of Libera’s interrogation about the hideout of ‘Uskok’ in a bunker under the barn. The sight of the handcuffed and brutally tortured prisoner shocked both Dybkowskie’ sisters. ‘Babinicz’ pointed out to them that he had given the information about the hideout of his commandant to the UB. Any denial wouldn’t make any sense anymore and so the women confirmed that the bunker was located within the buildings of the farm.

At this stage it is worth to quote a report of one of the members of the ZG ZBoWiD Historical Commission Artur Jastrzebski (aka ‘Ritter’) from 1978. Serving in the capacity of the Head of the WUBP in Lublin in 1949, he was directly responsible for the killing of ‘Uskok’, he also participated in the preliminary interrogation of ‘Babinicz’. This is how, years later, Jastrzebski remembers his confrontation with Libera: "The Deputy of ‘Uskok’ [sic] was only arrested by chance and brought to me afterwards. A few hours talk over some tea and cigarettes was enough for this young man [sic] to approach the map and reveal the location of his bunker. It is quite significant that it was only during this conversation with me, in the office of the Head of the WUBP, that he learnt that the People’s Government acts in the interest of both peasants and workers; and even that by the same authority his father was given the land ownership as a result the land reform. He was simply staying in the woods and didn’t have a clue about any of this." [3]

Despite the fact that the report is full of inaccuracies about ‘Babinicz’ himself (i.e. his function in the unit, the age of the detainee), the description of ‘treatment’ of the ‘Uskok’s chief of staff sounds completely unbelievable. Some years later, Irena Dybkowska recalled: "When they led ‘Babinicz’ to the house of my grandparents I could hardly recognise him. And it wasn’t even his badly swollen and bruised face that shocked me the most. It was the sight of his bare feet. They looked like two logs! Swollen so much that in the whole world there probably wouldn’t be a pair of shoes he could possibly wear! Suddenly I understood everything..." [4]

It is not known at what point and how the members of the operational group finally managed to confirm Bronski’s presence in his hideout (at the time of appearing of the group searching the premises, senior officers were still unsure if ‘Uskok’ was in the bunker or, just like ‘Zagiel’, managed to escape from the farm). After confirming that the hideout wasn’t empty, they proceeded to execute their plan. [5]

At 10.30pm a group based within the premises staged fake departure (relying on the possibility that Bronski would attempt to flee the bunker once everything ‘calmed down’), but the encircling groups remained on the spot. Meanwhile, the secret police officers who stayed in the house were trying to obtain the information on the daily habits of ‘Uskok’ from the detainees (i.e. daily schedules, mealtimes, etc.), which would either help ‘lure’ ‘Uskok’ out of his hideout or, once he’s more relaxed and less vigilant, allow the assault group get in to the bunker.

Back to Part 1 | Part 3

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Notes:

[2] Direct quote after H. Pajak, ‘Uskok’ vs the UB, Lublin 1992, p.144 (copied word by word from the original)

[3] The battle to consolidate the People’s Government. State of the research. Materials from the symposium which took place in the town of Rynia, near Warsaw on 25-26 October 1978, ed. W. Gora, Warsaw 1979, p. 197

[4] H. Pajak, op. cit. p. 134

[5] It is possible that this is when they introduced guides with military working dogs.

 

 

 

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