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Polish Underground Soldiers 1944-1963 - The Untold Story

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

Part 3

Questioned women testified that ‘Uskok’ had not yet eaten his dinner. His evening meal would be usually limited to coffee with milk, delivered either to the barn or directly to the bunker. This information gave the UB-KBW officers hope that it would be possible to capture ‘Uskok’ alive. His evening coffee was immediately prepared with the addition of some sleeping pills. Irena Dybkowska was to take it to the bunker. She obviously received prior instructions from the secret police officers as to how she was expected to behave: "You push back the three wooden boards which mask the entrance to the bunker. We will be standing on your both sides with our weapons ready. Remember, no funny business and no warnings for ‘Uskok’! You will call him out; you’ll give him the coffee. Not a word about what’s happening here! Is that clear? One word and your head will look like a sieve!" [6]

Captain Zdzislaw Bronski, nom de guerre ‘Uskok’, July 1947.  
Left: Captain Zdzislaw Bronski, nom de guerre ‘Uskok’, July 1947.

Despite the horror of the situation the girl remained calm. When she removed the wooden boards which masked the hatch, she said: "I brought you some coffee, sir." This is how she warned ‘Uskok’ of the impending danger because both sisters would normally call him ‘uncle’. Bronski quickly understood the play on words (he was to ask: "Irenka! Is it bad?"), and locked the inner flap. It is difficult to determine one way or the other at what point exactly did the soldiers come to the conclusion that ‘Uskok’ knows about their presence on the premises of Lisowski. Almost certainly they didn’t realise that it was Dybkowska who had warned him. Three times throughout the night she was escorted to the bunker hatch to check if the sleeping pills took any effect but each time ‘Uskok’ answered her summons.

It isn’t entirely clear what further actions (other than the attempt to give him sleeping pills) were taken before dawn on May 21st. According to Henryk Pajak, who based his conclusions on the Dybkowskie’ sisters story, the UB-KBW officers were trying a vast array of methods to capture ‘Uskok’ alive. Initially they used ‘Babinicz’ as emissary to get him to persuade ‘Uskok’ to be ‘reasonable’ and when this attempt failed they decided to flood the bunker with water (the firemen brought to execute the task were allegedly to refuse it). Unfortunately it’s hard to verify this because there is no mention of it in the official reports on this case produced by the Head of the WUBP in Lublin.

Finally around 5 a.m. they commenced the attack. An assault group entered the barn to get to the locked hatch. ‘Uskok’ answered with gunfire, asking: "Who’s there?" [7]

On the request to surrender, Bronski first hesitated with the answer; instead shooting with his pistol and throwing grenades (this is probably when it was decided to use ‘Babinicz’ as an emissary, to turn his attention away from the KBW soldiers). The assault failed.

At approximately 7 a.m. members of the assault group heard a massive explosion coming from the bunker. Officers immediately started calling Bronski but there was no answer from the inside of the bunker. As it wasn’t clear whether Bronski was still alive or not, they decided to undermine foundations of the barn from the outside and use TNT to blow up the wall to get inside the bunker. The wall was blown up at 9 a.m. and a mutilated body was found. Bronski was lying on the floor, with his head and right arm missing, from which it appeared that he committed suicide by detonating a grenade. Amongst the items found in the bunker were: 31 shotguns (visual inspection proved they were all functional), few hundred pieces of rifle and pistol ammunition, a ‘Philips’ radio, a German radio station and a suitcase containing various documents. In the latter there were diaries of both ‘Uskok’ and ‘Zelazny’. The arrested women and ‘Babinicz’ were brought to the remains of the bunker to identify the corpse. All of them confirmed that those bloody human remains were ‘Uskok’s body (the final doubts were dispelled by ‘Babinicz’ pointing to a wound in the knee, which his commandant received two years earlier). [8] The corpse was loaded onto a truck and taken away in an unknown direction. The burial place of ‘Uskok’ remains unknown.

The assault operation ended around midday. Soon after that Katarzyna Lisowska was arrested by the UB officers. With the WSR verdict in Lublin, of 21st January 1950 she was sentenced to 10 months in prison plus forfeiture of property, despite expert opinion about her psychiatric disorder. She was eventually released on 21st July 1950. Her granddaughters were arrested on 28th May 1949. On 15th November 1949 Irena Dybkowska was sentenced by the WSR in Lublin to 5 years in prison. On 2nd January 1953 the same court reduced her sentence to 2 years and 6 months (she was released 4 days later). With the WSR verdict in Lublin, of 15th November 1949 Helena Dybkowska was sentenced to 8 years in prison. On 3rd July 1953 her sentence was reduced to 5 years and 4 months. With the WSR verdict in Lublin she was released conditionally on 15th October 1953 (she left the Fordon Prison 5 days later).

Mieczyslaw Lisowski, nom de guerre ‘Zagiel’, the farm owner, managed to get through the encirclement on 20th May 1949. Soon thereafter he came into contact with Stanislaw Kuchcewicz, nom de guerre ‘Wiktor’. They were in hiding together from September to December 1949, after that he was on his own. He joined ‘Wiktor’s unit in June 1950 and remained there until he got arrested at their headquarters in the town of Zezulin on 27th October 1951. On 20th November 1952 he was sentenced to life by the WSR in Lublin. With the verdict of the Regional Court in Lublin, of 18th June 1956 (based on the amnesty of 15th April 1956) the sentence was reduced to 12 years in prison. With the verdict of the Regional Court in Bydgoszcz, of 20th February 1958 he was released conditionally and thus prevented from serving the rest of his sentence. He left the Potulice prison 5 days later.

‘Uskok’s chief of staff and co-resident of the bunker – Zygmunt Libera, nom de guerre ‘Babinicz’ was on 23rd March 1950 sentenced by the WSR in Lublin to 13 death sentences. President Bierut did not exercise his right of mercy. ‘Babinicz’ was executed on 28th May 1950 in the basement of the administrative quarters of the Lublin Castle.

Having accomplished the Dabrowka mission, officers of the PUBP in Lubartow undertook various cover up actions, to hide the real mechanism of this mission from the public. Employees of the Ministry were keen to disorientate the local community, to hide from them who really contributed towards the death of ‘Uskok’, therefore to grant protection to Franciszek Kasperek. On 24th May 1949 informant ‘Halas’ [] received the following task: "Spread the message that ‘Uskok’ has not been killed. Make it clear that these rumours come from ‘Uskok’ himself." [9]

The services of informant ‘Janek’ were highly valued by his UB superiors. For help with the arrest of ‘Babinicz’ he received 20,000 Polish zloty on 20th May 1949 as a "bonus for his work". He also received small sums of money few times afterwards for his active cooperation with the Ministry [of Public Security]. On 6th July 1949 his superior officer assigned him with a pistol, an automatic ‘pepesha’ and a hand grenade. It didn’t however save Kasperek from the partisans. Stanislaw Kuchcewicz, nom de guerre ‘Wiktor’ gathered incriminating evidence against ‘Hardy’, using a network of his colleagues. On 1st September 1950 Kasperek was shot dead with 9 machine gun bullets. The sentence was probably carried out by the unit of Edward Taraszkiewicz, nom de guerre ‘Zelazny’.

The inscription left by officers of the UB on one of the wooden boards after the completion of the Dabrowka mission, 21st May 1949. It reads: "The bunker and 'Uskok' went to hell."

Above: The inscription left by officers of the UB on one of the wooden boards after the completion of the Dabrowka mission, 21st May 1949. It reads: "The bunker and 'Uskok' went to hell."

When the Dabrowka mission was accomplished, officers of the UB wrote the following on a wooden board which masked the hatch: "The bunker and ‘Uskok’ went to hell." They were right – the hunt which took them several years resulted in a major success. The end of ‘Uskok’ meant the end of the organised armed resistance in the central part of the Lublin Region. His soldiers were still continuing to fight in the armed units of both ‘Wiktor’ and ‘Zelazny’ but in their actions one could clearly feel the lack of central decision making and the authority of a commander the class of ‘Uskok’. As the time went by, the bonds between units loosened, which resulted not from their commanders’ ambitions but mainly from the widespread presence of communists and the inability to maintain any groups bigger than 3 men. Over the next few years the remaining partisans belonging to ‘Uskok’ were hunted down and ruthlessly exterminated.

‘Zelazny’ was killed on October 6, 1951; eighteen months later it was ‘Wiktor’s turn (on February 10, 1953). The last soldier of ‘Uskok’ – Jozef Franczak, nom de guerre ‘Lalek’ died in combat on October 21, 1963.

To the communists the death of Captain Bronski did not mean the end of fighting. His physical death was only one part of it. The next stage was to fight the legend of ‘Uskok’ and the memory of his contribution to the local community. This is why for the next forty years he was the target of attack from the historians of the regime, who would call him – and others like him – "spit soaked reactionary dwarfs" [Pol. "Zaplute Karly Reakcji], "reactionaries", "degenerates" and, above all "bandits".

Written Artur Piekarz, Lublin Office of the Institute of National Remembrance, IPN, Poland

Translated by Magdalena Homa


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[6] H.Pajak, op.cit. p. 136

[7] This at least is what can be concluded from the report written by the Head of the WUBP in Lublin. Hypothetically, we can therefore presume that until dawn of 21st May 1949 ‘Uskok’ was not aware of his position and therefore the attack of the assault group took him by surprise. It is however worth mentioning that these reports are contradictory to those obtained from the Dybkowskie sisters.

[8] ‘Uskok’ was severely wounded on January 12, 1947 in Luszczow in a battle against a small patrol squad of the MO and ORMO. He was allegedly shot by accident by one of his own soldiers – Jerzy Marciniak, nom de guerre ‘Sek’

[9] IPN Lu 08/123, part 1, Object case of the crypt. ‘Eskadra’ – bandit group of ‘Uskok’ with the roots in AK-WiN, Denunciation of the informant ‘Halas’, 24th May 1949, c.59




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