National Armed Forces - Narodowe Sily Zbrojne - NSZ - The Doomed Soldiers

The Doomed Soldiers
Polish Underground Soldiers 1944-1963 - The Untold Story

Freedom And Independence - Wolnosc i Niezawislosc - WiN - The Doomed Soldiers


Zolnierze Wykleci

[...] Isolated from the world under Soviet occupation, and systematically exterminated by them, we are all as good as dead anyhow. An immediate intervention by the international community is imperative. Is it possible to establish American airbases in Vilnius, Lida, etc., and at least, use them to some extent? [...] Maj. Maciej Kalenkiewicz, "Kotwicz", Polish Home Army.


HL Deb 27 October 1966 vol 277 cc381-424 381 § 3.45 p.m.

[...] LORD BARNBY rose to call attention to the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards our former Polish Allies in this country and their institutions; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am assuming, I hope rightly, that on all sides of the House there is still a lively recollection of the service which was given to the Allied cause in the last war. Not only did the Polish airmen make a great contribution to the Battle of Britain, but the land forces throughout the fighting in Europe right to the end of the war, contributed a great deal in gallantry and unstinted duty, and they really earned the admiration of their colleagues in arms. We owe them a great debt.

[...] Peace, and life in Britain, had a bad beginning for the whole of the Polish community when the Polish Forces were forbidden to march in the Victory Parade through London to mark the triumph in which they had sacrificed, let us face the truth, far more than we. That devastating insult was inflicted by the Coalition Government, so that all Parties can divide the blame. In a sense, after that grievous wound nothing else which followed could hurt as much. The Poles had been bluntly anesthetized for the ordeal to come. There have been later cases which should cause us shame. General Bor-Komorowski's Memorial Service was such a case, and I am pleased that many of our countrymen felt shame, and expressed it in letters to the Press. I am assured that there were many more letters than could be published on the subject. Would that this should have been an isolated example! It was not. Due to the fame of the man himself - one of the most unassuming men who ever lived it obtained more publicity than others.

Sometimes, in moments of depression, it has seemed to me that since Yalta there has been a kind of official conspiracy to ignore the fact that Poland ever took part in the war among the defenders of freedom. The irony of this is striking, but signs exist, and the effect of its wider implications is a matter I shall touch on in a moment or two. First, I should like to refresh and perhaps even feed the memories of noble Lords regarding the military part that Poland played in the course of the war. It is out of step today to speak of the Second World War, yet certainly none of us would be able to dispute across the Floor as we do today, at either end of this building, unless that war had been won. Whatever Government might have been ruling us, it would not have been the Government of Mr. Harold Wilson or Mr. Edward HeathÑor of Mr. Jo Grimond. The permitted political Parties would bear no resemblance to those of today; nor would the political scene; nor would the lives we lead. So it is salutary for us to remember with some gratitude those soldiers and patriots, other than our own, who helped to forge the victory and assure our freedom, if not their own.

My Lords, since entering politics I have known one particular inhibition. In no speech and in no remark have I ever referred back, temptingly, fashionably, to the time when Britain was fighting alone. We were never fighting alone. The part played by the Polish Air Force in the Battle of Britain is known to everyone connected with that epic campaign in our skies. Some of the bare figures may startle many of our countrymen who were given protection. Every eighth fighter pilot who entered combat in those critical weeks was a Pole. The number of German aircraft confidently claimed by Polish pilots was 203, and the losses they suffered in killed were just over 2,000, of which 90 per cent. were operational. There were fourteen operational Polish squadrons in every R.A.F. Command Fighter, Bomber, Transport and the Fleet Air Arm. These squadrons served in nearly every theatre where British troops were engaged.

Much of this was visible to us. What was invisible was the even grimmer campaign being fought on the soil of Poland itself. The struggle began with the Occupation. It began with continuous acts of sabotage, developed into wider diversionary attacks and became organised partisan warfare in which 380,000 soldiers were mobilised on the Allied behalf. The most famous single action was in the Warsaw Rising, at a vital stage of the Allied advance, when this Home Army immobilised at no time less than 50,000 German troops, whose losses were 10,000 killed, 9,000 wounded and 7,000 missing, as well as 250 tanks and other armoured vehicles. The cost to the Home Army in the Warsaw Rising alone was 22,000 soldiers killed and a civilian death roll of 180,000.

There was other material damage inflicted on the German war effort: 8,105 railway locomotives damaged, derailed or set on fire, and nearly 20,000 railway carriages, 38 blown-up bridges, nearly 6,000 ambushes and 25,000 separate acts of sabotage. The enemy was well aware of the Home Army.

It seems a pity that some of Poland's Allies were less aware. The contributions during this time to Allied intelligence were equally impressive. London was kept informed of every German unit being transferred from the East to the West to meet our invasion. The component parts of the V.2 were stolen and flown to England on July 25, 1944, ten weeks before the first rocket was released against London. How many British lives this saved can hardly be calculated. It may cause us a pang of conscience to day to reflect that General Bor-Komorowski, in his lifetime, received no British decoration whatever.

The noble Lord and I can speak as ex-Servicemen. I served, with no distinction whatever, but to the best of my ability, in a number of theatres. On sober analysis, I believe that the average Polish soldier did more for my country during this time than I did myself. I am not sufficiently modest to suppose that I am in a minority in this respect. My noble friend Lord Ashbourne reminded me a minute or two ago that not only did the Polish Army and Air Force take part in the war effort: their Navy also came in to help our hard-pressed ships. [...]

Before ending, I will return for a moment to the Requiem Mass which some of us attended last Thursday, in order to draw a prophecy from it. At the end of the service we heard, most of us without understanding the words, that stirring and saddening national hymn, almost a national anthem of the Poles, Boze cos Polske. It is tragically individual to Poland in that the key line has changed, from era to era, according to the tide of history. Roughly interpreted, it is either God protect free Poland! or God restore free Poland! as it is, unhappily, at this time.

Nothing can keep these people in subjugation for ever. Nothing ever has. Freedom is an instinct and a force within them, stronger and more durable than any outside pressure. They are the hard core of the soul of Europe. Polish children, born in the past sad twenty years, who have not known freedom, have grown up with this urge to freedom as part of their character, and they will win it back. The Poles have been valued allies in the past; they can be valued allies in the future. By stingy, myopic attitudes to-day, we are forfeiting for our successors the friendship they will be able to offer.

My Lords, I hope it does not seem that I have leaned upon sentiment in my argument today. My words have not been governed or impelled by sentiment. I have tried to illustrate that by neglecting those who fought with Britain in a cause which was equally vital to both nations we are offending and quenching the spirit in some of the most faithful and unflinching friends we shall ever know. We must remember, I believe, that our quality of loyalty is judged by our loyalty to the Poles, on whose immediate behalf we entered the war and who fought so valiantly by our side throughout its course. This is one of the stages of our history when Britain needs friends, a time almost without peace-time precedent in this respect.

Those to whom we turn for friendship will consider our approach on grounds of fairly cold logic and past performance. What is our name for loyalty? Before they extend this friendship and accept ours they will weigh up what that friend ship has meant in the past to other friends. What is its staying power when their immediate usefulness has diminished? They will assess the benefits of British friendship to those who have earned and trusted in it. Among such trusting friends the Poles must be paramount in the eyes of the world [...]

LORD ST. OSWALD - "Former Polish Allies in Britain, at al."

The excerpt above is belived to be in the Public Domain and is quoted here in accordance with the Greater Public Good Doctrine.

August 21, 1944 - Did you know?


"By the night of 18 August 1944, twenty German divisions were trapped in the Falaise region. During the night there had been a let up in the allied bombing of the Germans, which had allowed for the movement to the east by twelve of the twenty units, still operating as complete units: 3rd Parachute, 84th, 276th, 277th, 326th, 353rd, and 363 Infantry Divisions [...] By the time the Falaise Gap was closed on August 21, 1944, the 1st Polish Armored Division had, for six days, defied ferocious and sustained attacks by two SS corps, often accompanied by Wehrmacht troops [...] After the battle for the Maczuga [Hill 262] was over; the carnage was assessed. The commander of the Canadian Corps, General Guy Simonds, after visiting the battlefield said that he had never seen such wholesale havoc in his life [...] By holding their captured territory against determined German attacks the Poles had been crucial in the closing of the Falaise Gap. Twenty years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower will say 'No other battlefield presented such a horrible sight of death, hell, and total destruction'."

Excerpt from "The Black Devils' March - A Doomed Odyssey" by Evan McGilvray. See our book recommendations.

"According to one report, the battle for Hill 262 had cost the Polish 1st Armored Division severely: 325 killed, 1,002 wounded, and 114 missing, approximately 20% of the division's remaining fighting strength. However, another report counts that the battle had cost the Polish 1st Armored Division 1,290 troops killed, 3,820 wounded and 22 missing in action. Although perhaps 100,000 German troops succeeded in escaping the Allies because of the delay in closing the gap (many of them wounded), they left behind 40,000-50,000 prisoners and over 10,000 dead. According to military historian Gregor Dallas: 'The Poles had closed the Falaise Pocket. The Poles had opened the gate to Paris."








Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz "Kotwicz" nicknamed by the NKVD, the"Besrukhii Major" was one of the most distinguished officers in the ranks of the Polish Home Army  

Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz (1906-1944), nom de guerre "Kotwicz", And the Battle Against the NKVD At Surkonty - August 21, 1944

(pol. "Mjr Maciej Kalenkiewicz 'Kotwicz' i bitwa pod Surkontami - 21 VIII 1944 r.")

"[...] there isn’t much left for him [to choose]
perhaps, only a choice of position
in which he wants to die,
a choice of gesture,
a choice of the last word

Zbigniew Herbert in "Mr. Cogito"(Pol. "Pan Cogito")


Nicknamed by the NKVD, the “handless major" ("besrukhii major"), Maciej Kalenkiewicz was one of the most distinguished officers in the ranks of the Polish Home Army [AK (Armia Krajowa; Eng. Home Army; Polish Patriot: military)]. Kalenkiewicz was also one of the first victims of the organized mass terror, conducted by the Soviets against Polish Democratic Underground, and against the Polish population at large. - He was among the most ideologically faithful individuals whom I have met in my entire life – reminisces his former colleague form the Cichociemni [Silent and Invisible - sabotage and diversion commando formation), Capt. Stanislaw Sedziak nom de guerre “Warta”. - He believed that the moral fortitude of our men will at the end bring Poland its freedom. Major Kalenkiewicz began his underground service as a second in command in the unit of the legendary, Major Henryk Dobrzanski, the first partisan commander of World War II, and died as a symbol of the underground resistance against Soviet terror in the Eastern Borderlands (pol. Kresy Wschodnie) of Poland.

"The Handless Major" (rus. "Bezrukhii Mayor")

Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz was born on July 1, 1906 in Pacewicze, Wolkowysk County, a son of Jan and Helena, born Zawadzka. His father, Jan Kalenkiewicz, was a land owner, and an owner of the Trokienniki estate. Jan was an activist in the National Democracy [pol. Narodowa Demokracja], and member of the Senate of the Republic of Poland during 1922-1927. Maciej Kalenkiewicz was educated at the Teachers And Mentors Gymnasium [pol. Gimnazum Nauczycieli i Wychowawcow) in Lwow, at a later time known as the Zygmunt August State Gymnasium, and during 1920-1924, at the Cadet Corp School Nr. 2 in Modlin where he received “examination of maturity” [pol. matura] certificate. He completed Officers Engineering School [pol. Oficerska Szkola Inzynierji], and on 17 Semptember 1927 and was attached to the T. Kosciuszko’s 1st Legions Sapper Regiment as a platoon leader. He was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant in August 1926, and two years later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. From September 1928 on he was an instructor at the Junior Sapper Reserve Cadets School in Modlin. On 23 August 1929, he was delegated to the Center for Sappers’ Training [pol. Centrum Wyszkolenia Saperow].

During the May Coup in 1926, the Junior Cadets School of which he was a member, supported Marshal Pilsudski, and along with several junior cadets, Kalenkiewicz sided with the government. Many years later, he reminisced: “I thought, that the Captain will shoot me.” However, in the end, it didn’t detour his career. He was transferred to the Land Engineering Department of the Warsaw’s Polytechnique where he received his engineering certificate in 1935. In 1934, for the second time he was transferred to the Center for the Sappers’ Training. On 19 March, 1936 he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and received command of the Junior Sapper Reserve Cadets Company in Modlin. In January 1938, he was enrolled into the Upper War School, and by 1 July, 1939 he completed first year of studies. The eruption of the Second World War interrupted his studies, however by the orders of the Commander-In-Chief of the Polish Army in Great Britain, he received rank of a staff certified officer.

In September 1939, as an officer attached to the General Staff of the Suwalki Cavalry Brigade, Maciej Kalenkiewicz took part in military operations against the Nazis, and from 15 Semptember, 1939, was under command of General Waclaw Przezdziecki. After 18 September, he served as a tactical adjutant, and then second in command under Major Henryk Dobrzanski “Hubal”, a commanding officer of the Independent Unit of Polish Army [pol. Odzial Wydzielony]. At the end of November, 1939, along with Maj. “Hubal”, Kalenkiewicz was in Warsaw where he met with General Michal Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski, nom de guerre “Torwid”. During his participation in activities of this unit, he participated in military operations against Germans in and around Gory Swietokrzyskie, Starachowice, and Suchedniowskie Forests, including Chodkowo, and Cisownik. He authored instructions concerning creation of military detatchments from within ranks of units that were not disarmed during the Fall of 1939.

Major Henryk Dobranski "Hubal", the first partisan commander of the World War II   On December 2, Kalenkiewicz left “Hubal’s” unit, and through Kielce, Krakow, Tarnow, Grybow, and Przelecz Tylicka, he reached Kosice, and then on August 9th, reached Budapest. From there, through Zagreb, Medilan, Turin, and Modena, he reached Paris, France on 24 December, 1939. From January 1, 1940, he was enrolled in the sapper officers’ training course at the Versailles, France, and from March 15, was an instructor at the Center for Sappers’ Training. It is around that time, that along with Capt. Jan Gorski, Kalenkiewicz volunteered to take place in the parachute drops into Poland as a part of the Cichociemni diversion and sabotage commando unit. Beginning in May, he served as an investigator attached to the General Staff of the Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej [ZWZ; Association of Armed Struggle] under command o General of Arms [pol. General Broni], Kazimierz Sosnkowski, in Paris. On 12 May, he was transferred to Angers, where he sworn an oath to the ZWZ. After the fall of France on 25 June, 1940, he was evacuated to Crawford in Great Britain, where he was attached to the 1st Rifle Brigade, as a commanding officer of the Sapper Company in Biggar. In October, he was attached to the Section III of the General Staff of the Commander-in-chief of the Polish Army, as an investigator in the Research Department of the Parachuters’ Training Department. He is credited with establishing inter-services communications programs with occupied Poland through application of aircraft and use of parachute units. He was also a co-author of studies and briefings to the General Staff on these matters. In October, as an instructor, he also participated in parachute training at Ringway. In December, 1940, he was transferred to the deployment station Nr. 17, in Hartford, England.
Major Henryk Dobrzanski, nom de guerre 'Hubal" the first partisan commander of the World War II.  

During the night of 27 and 28 December, 1941, Kalenkiewicz was to be dropped into Nazi occupied Poland as a part of Unit 2, participating in the Operation “Jacket”. He’s was to be dropped at an auxiliary drop zone located between Sochaczew and Bolimowo. By mistake, the paratroopers descended 22 kilometers north of Lowicz, in the Paulinka-Zaluski forests, near the Sochaczew-Gablin road, in the Nazi territory.

After the jump, along with three other paratroopers, he was apprehended by the Grenzschutz [German Boarder Police] and was lead to the police station in Wszeliwy. When the Germans attempt to frisk the paratroopers, they opened fire and killed four Germans. However, during the firefight, Kalenkiewicz was severely wounded in his left arm. The paratroopers quickly left, and along with severely wounded Kalenkiewicz, they made it to the contact point in Domaniewice. From there Kalenkiewicz traveled to Warsaw, where he stayed at various safe houses including the 4 Natolinska Street, 5 Sluzewska Street, and 6/16 Slowaciego Street. In the beginning of 1942, he was attached to the General Command of ZWZ in Warsaw, in a position of Chief of Tactical Investigations in the Department III of the Home Army. On 27 December, 1941, he was promoted to the rank of Major. After his jump, and his combat against Germans, on March 19, 1942, he was decorated by the Commandant of the Polish Armed Forces At Home, General Stefan Rowecki, “Grot” with the Cross of Virtuti Militari of the 5th Class. On 10 September, 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Major with Seniority [pol. Major ze starszenstwem]. During this period, he used documents baring the name “Jan Kaczmarkek”, a fictitious owner of the printing business.

He was a co-author of the second plan of nation-wide insurrection code-named W154, listed in the operational report of the Commandant of the Home Army Nr. 154/III from September 8, 1942. He was also an author, and co-author the majority of combat manuals, and cooperated with the Technical Research Bureau of the Sappers of the General Command of the Home Army (pol. Biuro Badan Technicznych Wydzialu Saperow Komendy Glownej AK). He was additionally, one of the founders of the underground publication “Zaloga” (engl. “The Crew”), and a member of the editorial staff of the aviation publication “Wzlot” (engl. “Into the air”).

On behalf of the the General Command of AK (pol. Armia Krajowa – Home Army), Kalenkiewicz conducted inspections of Home Army Kielce and Lublin Districts. During August, 1943, he commanded operations directed at seizing Nazi boarder posts located on the German – General Gouvernment boarder, and aiming at testing proposed new combat methods. He also initiated establishment of a committee to fund a standard for the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, and along with two other jumpers served as honor guards during its baptism at the Siostry Kononiczki church, at 3 Bielanska Street in November, 1942.

In February, 1944, after receiving promotion to the rank of Inspector of the General Command of AK, he was assigned to normalize situation in the Nowogrodek District of Home Army. On 20th February, along with the legendary partisan, Lt. Jan Piwnik nom de guerre “Ponury”, he left Warsaw under the guise of being a carpenter in the German organization Todt. The purpose of this fact finding mission was to find out about the circumstances under which Lt. Jozef Swida “Lech” (a commandant of the Near Niemen Home Army concentration of partisan units) between 30 December and 4 January, 1944, conducted unauthorized negotiations with Germans in Lida . As a result of these negotiations, an 8-day ceasefire was implemented between Germans and the partisans, and 5 large trucks full of arms were acquired from Germans. In his memoirs, “Lech” explained that these activities were previously approved by the commandant of the District, and aimed at obtaining arms from Germans, that were in turn to be used during the Operation “Tempest(pol.“Burza”) The commandant of the District, Lt. Col. Janusz Szalski “Prawdzic, who at first agreed to go along with “Lech’s” plan in January, changed his mind when particulars of this operation were no longer a secret. In the beginning of March, “Kotowicz” participated in the proceedings against Lt. Swida conducted by the Special Field Military Court which took place at the Szlachtowsczyzna village, near Wasiliszki. While “Lech” admitted his guilt, he didn’t confirm approval of the District Command. The carrying out of the death sentence against Swida was suspended until the end of war.

On March 14, 1944, Kalenkiewicz took over command of the concentration of partisan units composed of 1st, and 4th Battalions, and later VIII Battalion, “Bohdanka" of the 77th Infantry Regiment of the Home Army. It operated in the area south of Lida (See location of Lida on the Map), on both sides of the Niemen river, and between tributaries of Lebioda and Gawina rivers, that is, it controlled more than 2,000 km. On 15, April Kalenkiewicz left Wilno and met with Col. Aleksander Krzyzanowski “Wilk”, in order to propose and discuss particularities of the Operation “Serce” - “Ostra Brama ”, which he authored. The goal of the operation was to capture Wilno (Vilnius) with combined forces of Home Army units from the Nowogrodek and Wilno District(s),. During this time, he would primarily take quarters at the Bagatelka estate, near Hodowo. While there, he also established a Junior Infantry Officers School. The goal of reaching the “Stolpce” concentration of partisan commanded by Lt. Adolf Pilch “Gora”, was to aid Pilch in disengaging from both the German regular army, and Soviet partisan units in and around the Iwieniec region who were attacking his units simultaneously. [See the "Stalin's Secret Order"]. (More information about Pilch here - in Polish). Ultimately, the combined forces of both units were to liberate Wilno. On June 23, leading nearly 600 men of the Polish underground forces “Bagatelka” unit, by June 24, Kalenkiewicz managed to reach Iwa, where during combat operations against Germans he was severely wounded in his right arm. On 26 June, he took part in the ambush against German transport convoy near the estate Kwiatkowce, located 4 km from Subotnik. Throughout this time, his unit was also under attack from the Soviet partisan units in the area. At a later time, he moved to Dziewieniszki, where the field Command Headquarters of the Home Army District(s) Wilno and Nowogrodek were located.

As a result of received wounds, Kalenkiewicz developed gangrene in his shot up arm, and on 29 June in Antoniszki, near the Oszmina, his hand had to be amputated. After the amputation he was moved to the field hospital in Onzandow. Despite his serious condition accompanied by very high fever, on July 9, he still managed to report to General “Wilk” (a rank with which Col. Krzyzanowski conducted negotiations with the Soviets) in Wolkorabiszki. His medical condition prevented Maj. Kalenkiewicz from taking part in operations that lead to the liberation of Wilno from Germans. After the Soviet forces entered the city, and the arrests of the Home Army soldiers began, a meeting of commanding officers, and soldiers of the AK took place in Wilno, and in Bogusze. On 17 July, along with his unit he retreated from Juszuny to Puszcza Rudnicka. The situation was dramatic.

I am grabbed by a messenger remembers one of the officers of the V Battalion of the 77 Infantry Division of Home Army who is carrying orders. Under the light, I read: Our commanding officers including ‘Wilk” were arrested. I learn that we are moving West, towards Puszcza Rudnicka. At the intersection near Jaszuny, we merged with other units from the Nowogrodek. We have nearly two thousand men.”

All roads and pathways are filled [with Home Army soldiers] - an officer of the VII Battalion of the 77 Regiment of the Home Army wrote many years later - They are all moving West. Our Battalion stops in the forest near the village of Gajczuny, by Wisnicz. We are to wait there until the night, in order to disengage from the enemy. The Soviet reconnaissance planes are circling above us. They are circling lower, and lower. They are dropping leaflets.

Soon thereafter, a squadron of Soviet light bombers begins to circle above the partisans’ heads. Under these circumstances, the command staff of the Wilno-Nowogrodek partisan units called a meeting of all officers and junior officers from all units. The highest ranking officers, Lt. Col. Janusz Szalski “Prawdzic” and Lt. Col. Zygmunt Bluminski “Strychanski” who assumed command after the arrest of Col. “Wilk”, decided that it is necessary for all units to disperse. There were two possibilities left. One, either to remain in place; or two, to move towards the West. This second option was chosen by Lt. Col. “Prawdzic” and by the part of the III and VII Battalions of the 77 Infantry Regiment of the Home Army. Those who remained, slowly began to reestablish conspiratorial structures of the democratic underground in the area. In his reports to the General Command of Home Army, the Chief of Staff of the Nowogrodek District of AK wrote: "I began my work anew. The relationship between Polish and Belorussian populations towards the Soviets is hostile. They are fighting the Soviet [government] representatives. Major 'Kotowicz' took command of the district."

Realizing that after the entry of the Soviet Army on the eastern territory of Poland, only smaller units have a chance of survival, during the second half of July, 1944, Kalenkiewicz selected around 100 soldiers from within ranks of his large unit, and reorganized it into a more flexible and smaller unit. Other underground commanders began their activities as well, among them Lt. Jan Borysewicz, nom de guerre(s) “Krysia”, and “Msciciel”, who along with the District’s Chief of the Bureau of Information And Propaganda (pol. Biuro Informacji i Propagandy) Czeslaw Zgorzelski, “Rafal”, in the name of Home Army, issued an appeal to the civilian population calling for calmness, and offered reassurances in lieu of prevalent feelings of affliction and disappointment.

After taking command of the Home Army district, “Kotowicz” called for a General Staff meeting of all officers who remained in the Nowogrodek area. A gradual reorganization of the district began, as a result of which two concentrations of partisan units were created. At the same time, Kalenkiewicz ordered Lt. Czeslaw Zajaczkowski “Ragnar” to begin operations against the Soviets.

1938 Military Maneuvers - Capt. Macjie Kalenkiewicz, and officers of the 1st Sappers Baon.Above: Aboard PF 518 Lazik - an off-road military car - officers from the 1st Sapper Baon during 1938 military maneuvers, Sitting in front Capt. Bienkowski (driver), and Capt. Maciej Kalenkiewicz. Sitting in the rear, Capt. S Buzdygan, and Capt Matribinski.

  The members of both of the Home Army districts found themselves near Dubicz, in the Puszcza Ruska.  To their advantage, in their rear they had the grand Bersztanskie forests, and the Horiaczy Bor backwoods.  They also had a good insight into the traffic passing through the Wilno-Grodno road.  For almost a month, the cadre units of the Wilno and Nowogrodek districts remained in the forests, but the Soviet net was getting tighter, and tighter. At the outset of this period, Maj. “Kotwicz” had less then two hundred armed men under his command.  But, these numbers were trickling down – not because of desertions however, but because of normal human, and family complications. The commanding officers didn’t make it difficult for soldiers to leave their units, and those who requested to be released, were allowed to do so.

It was very well understood, that smaller units were easier to maintain in the field, and easier to procure provisions for. If necessary, a mobilization could have been initiated to replenish the ranks of the underground units. In this period running engagements were discouraged, but armed clashes did take place, they were accidental, rather than planned. “Kotwicz” repeated:  Don’t engage the Soviets, and in particular, [don’t engage] their larger units.  I don’t want to die, and I don’t want anyone of you to die either.  I want each one of you to return to your homes, and even to have 6 kids." The “Don’t Engage” policy, was however, accompanied by another, that stated: “If engaged, defend yourselves."

Maneuvering through such narrowly defined path is difficult. Considering the goal of the Soviet government to annihilate Home Army, the confrontation was inevitable sooner, or later . The Smersh [acronym of SMERt' SHpionam; Eng, “Death to Spies”, Soviet – counter intelligence] commanders realized that should this “foreign army” remain behind their advancing front line, they will have to pay for it with their positions, or perhaps, even with their heads.

Home Army Soldiers on the march in July 1944 in Puszcza Rudnicka   Despite the Soviet betrayal, which was difficult to swallow, Major “Kotwicz” didn’t loose faith in the sensibility of continuing to fight. An ad hoc briefing of surviving leadership of the Home Army units took place On 10 August in Staje near Dubicze. In addition to Kalenkiewicz, the meeting was attended by Major Czeslaw Debicki, nom de guerre “Jarema”, Captain Edmund Banasikowski, nom de guerre “Jez”, Lieutenant Adam Boryczka nom de guerre “Tonko” who commanded the remnants of the VI Brigade, two members of the Cichociemni, Captain Franciszek Cieplik, nom de guerre “Hatrak”, and [Cavalry] Captain Jan Skorochowski, nom de guerre “Ostroga”, as well as Captain Boleslaw Wasilewski, nom de guerre “Bustromiak”, and others.
Above: Home Army platoon lead by Wladyslaw Miciuna, nom de guerre "Kulawiec" in the Puszcza Rudnicka in July 1944. Photo Source: Zarys Dziejow Armi Krajowej Okreg Wilenski  

Captain “Jez” remembered this debriefing as follow: “I attentively looked at the Kalenkiewicz’s emaciated face. A crippled officer with only one hand who didn’t bow under the weight of the unveiling tragedy and difficult conditions in the forests – he opened his heart and his mind to us". "Is it reasonable to look into the future with optimism and hope? – I think so said Kalenkiewicz. – The most important basis for this hope is the [character] of the Polish nation which so many times during its history demonstrated its desire to fight, to live [and survive] through captivity, and repression. The second basis for this hope is the contributions of the Polish soldier who fought alongside our Allies. The agreement between members of the Alliance fighting the common enemy is based on the principle of inviolability of international laws stating: 'nothing about us, without us'. The disarming and annihilation of the Home Army units is an act of military aggression against us – Allies of the Great Allies. There exists no legal basis that would give Soviet Russia the right to conduct destructive policies against a sovereign nation, which Poland is. We have shown them through our actions and with our blood spilled around Vilno that we are ready to fight against the common enemy. The terror and annihilation of all that is Polish was the payment received for the heroism of our soldiers. I believe that the governments of the Allied Nations don’t know about it. It is necessary, and at all cost, to inform them about the murderous actions of Kremlin.”

Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz" Polish Home Army Soldier  

Those who gathered there were certain that the Allies didn’t know about the “Operation Tempest”. They were also certain that the Allies didn't know about the treacherous liquidation of the Home Army by the Soviets in and around Wilno region. They believed that Allied communication officers were attached to the General Staff of the Belorussian Front, and that all that was needed was to let them know …

While, indeed, the Soviet General Staff didn’t have any Allied officers attached to it, of which “Kotwicz” didn’t know, the Allies were well informed about what was taking place. They chose to keep their lips sealed. The General Staff of the Allied forces was apprised about the conduct of the Operation “Tempest” via London; and so was the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in the West.

The Poles were continuously apprising the English about the situation. On July 20 General “Bor” Komorowski confirmed receiving via London information about arrests of the Command Staff of the Wilno and Nowogrodeg Districts of AK. This information was delivered via telegram through London. On 22 July, an additional report about destruction of the Home Army units was sent by “Bor” to the Commander-in-Chief of Polish Armed Forces.

Photo above: Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz". Photo taken during Nazi occupation.  

It is impossible that the English didn’t receive this information, in particular … since in order to be sure that they knew what was going on, they spied on the Poles. So, if the whole affair was to be met with the deafening silence, the directive to forbid any discussion about Operation “Tempest” had to originate from the very top, and most probably from the Churchill himself. It was assumed that in order to maintain cordial relationship with the Soviets, dislodging the Nazis from Wilno never took place, nor did the disarming of the Home Army units; and most of all, neither did the murders of perpetuated against the civilian Polish population.

It is difficult to say when “Kotwicz” had lost his optimism and his hopes. Perhaps, he had none to begin with, and only with Conrad’s faithfulness kept his soldiers’ spirit up, and continued on?

After receiving promotion to the rank of Commandant of the Nowogrodek Sub-District, “Kotwicz” began to reorganize the surviving units of the Home Army. He planned to create such partisan infrastructure that would allow protection of the civilian population and would give Home Army a chance to survive – at least until the end of war.

This infrastructure – as noted by “Jez” - was to consist of two groupings: Northern, lead by Lt. “Krysia”, Jan Borysewicz, and Southern, lead by Capt. “Licho”, Stanislaw Szabun."

“Kotwicz” took under consideration the fact that there was also a possibility of uprising – he sent two such reports to the General Command. He understood the nature of this insurrection to be a short mass demonstration, a proverbial scream that could bring world’s attention to their plight. In the wire sent on 21 August 1944 Kalenkiewicz wrote:

“I believe that under the pretext of conducting conscription, the Bolsheviks will attempt to remove all population from the Kresy [Eastern Borderlands] area. After this approach failed they undertook far more dangerous approach. Throughout the entire area they have been arresting a few dozen of the most active individuals [at a time]; there are common incidents of executions. I ordered to intensify our resistance […] Liquidate identified Soviet agents and spies. I report once again, we are capable of starting a mass, alas, short, uprising. Isolated from the world under Soviet occupation, and systematically exterminated by them, we are all as good as dead anyhow. An immediate intervention by the international community is imperative. Is it possible to establish American airbases in Vilnius, Lida, etc., and at least, use them to some extent."


Surkonty - August 21, 1944

From the time of the debriefing in Staje, “Kotwicz” and his unit didn’t conduct operations outside of his immediate area – or more conservatively – we don’t have specific information if he ventured away from his hiding place in Skierejki and Surkonty, both located at about 18-20 kilometers east of Dubicz. Naturally, the partisan warfare requires continuous movement and continuous change of location. But for reasons unknown to us (sickness, high fever, impairment), Major “Kotwicz” abandoned these tactics, lay low, and waited. After all, both villages - and to be more precise backwaters, or as they were called by the locals, the “environs” - were particularly well suited to be hiding places: they were inhabited by Poles, had few scattered buildings, and were located at the edge of the forests.

  Major Kalenkiewicz on his purebred mare "Extra" - 1938.
  Above: Major Kalenkiewicz on his purebred arabian mare named "Extra". Photo taken in 1938.

“Kotwicz” moved at night, avoiding the Latvian village Pielasa and other inhabited areas located in a natural sock of which the western boarder are swamps at Kamienny Most, and to the east nearly as muddy is Dzitwy valley, with small city Radun located at the top. The Kamienny Most basin is nearly 10 kilometers long and creates a natural physical barrier. It is crossed by only one road leading towards Wawiorka. While this topography can help in case of defensive operations, it can also be a detriment. In order to secure other ways of retreat, if necessary, the VII battalion 77 built 4 hidden passages.

The small river Przwoza begins its path in the Kamienny Most and ends in the Pielas Lake which is overlooked by a church in Dubicze. After reaching the lake, the same river begins anew as Kotry river, this time flowing through the entire Puszcza Ruska and ultimately joins the Niemen river. At its mouth, located is “Swiete Bloto” where 1863 fought and died Polish patriot Ludwik Narbutt.

To the east the sock is surrounded by backwaters of the slow flowing and winding river Dzitwa. There aren’t that many roads there, only small paths, footbridges, and narrow crossings through marshes that can be blocked by a single RMK machine gun. There are more fields and meadows there, and more small settlements owned by hard-working and patriotic petty nobility in Dowgieliszki, Raczkiewicze, Burymy, Kierbedzie, Hancewicze, Wilibki, Giesztowaty, Janowicze, Bienkowicze, etc. In village Zaleskie, the Nowogrodek District of Home Army operated hidden radio transmitter code named “Wanda 20” which also covered the Wilno. This transmitter fell into Soviet hands on September 8, 1944.

After convalescing “Kotwicz” made plans to have two briefings. The first one was to take place on August 20, and was to be spent on analysis of the Operation “Ostra Brama”. The briefing that was to take place the following day was to be dedicated to the issues of provisioning, winter clothing, etc. Both of these briefings were to take place in Skierejki. But, the enemy also had plans, and it had good intelligence. Apparently the prolonged stay of the AK units in “Swite Bloto” didn’t escape attention of their agents.

The unit “Jeremy” was attacked on Saturday, 19 August, in the Borowe located 3 kilometers from Dubicz. Because Lt. Adam Boryczko, nom de guerre “Tonko” left with two platoons form the “Solcze” unit into the Puszcza Rudnicka forests to gather scattered AK units, only a meager remnants of the former concentration of partisan units remained there. The remaining partisan form the “Jeremy” unit, that is 3 platoons of about 100 soldiers were lead by his second in command Capt. Edmund Banasikowski, nom de guerre “Jez”. Edmund Banasikowski, “Jez” remember that day as follow:

“The Soviets [pol. sowieciarz] attacked us at daybreak. A thick fog impeded our visibility. We were completely taken by surprise. Neither civilian population nor our patrols signaled Soviet presence in the forest; most likely they moved into our area during the night. The fight was short. I immediately realized that we can survive only by piercing through the Soviet ring. We attacked the Soviet line-formation approaching from the north. Our strong fire and quick attack created panic among the Bolsheviks. We pierced through. I threw one team to cover Major “Jeremy” who after exhausting march through the forest (having injured feet and groin) was laying in a nearby farmstead [pol. chutor]. “Jeremy” managed to escape from the hunt, but while traveling towards Wilno by horse and cart wearing peasant’s clothes, he was arrested. Lead by my instinct I tried to get as deep into the forest as I could. I didn’t have either compass, or a map. I lost my map pouch when I got hit with a burst from the PP machine gun [rus. “Pepesha”, PPSh-41 7.62x25mm] on the yard of a farmhouse were I was spending the night. At the distance of several kilometers from Borow we run into unprotected Soviet supply vehicles which indicated to us that this was one of their routes of retreat. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet patrols lost our trail and were shooting blindly. After 2-3 hours we found ourselves at Nacza river. I counted my men. I had two lightly wounded and several missing men. I don’t know what happened to them: they either died, got captured, or got lost in the forest. After an all-day march through scrub and mud we spent the night in a small village near road to Kolesniki-Ejszyszki. While there, I decided on my own to disband the unit, because I realized the hopelessness of our situation. I knew that the Soviet forces were combing through the forests."

On the same morning, the NKVD units attacked 80-men strong Home Army unit lead by Captain Boleslaw Wasilewski, nom de guere “Bustromiak”. His loses were 7 dead and 4 wounded, who were taken away by their colleagues. This unit was located in the forests near Poddubicz, that is several kilometers from the unit of “Jeremy”. Neither one knew the location of their neighbor. One would think that it is difficult to believe and that the commandant of the district should be informed about presence and movement of the Wilno unit in his area, but during those times nothing was either simple, or obvious. After all reminisces “Jez” we didn’t have radio transmitters or telephones. Our communication was via foot or via horse. Orders would arrive from Wilno through contact point located at rectory in Dubicze. You have to remember that it was only about a month between the arrest of [General] “Wilk” and the battle at Borowo."

There were only two weeks, or little longer, since “Kotwicz” took command of the Nowogrodek district of Home Army. After the events at Bogusze and Miedniki, the underground conspiratorial net was smashed into smithereens; the key people were missing, communication links were broken, contacts had to be re-developed, and the unit movement techniques had to be taught again. Their activity was hampered by the conspiratorial cautiousness and the fear of betrayal.

Thus, on 19 August 1944, two units of Home Army fought two separate engagements against the Soviet manhunt. The attack against Capt. “Bustromiak” also took place at daybreak. Few of the participants in this engagement were Capt. Franciszek Cieplak, nom de guerre “Hatrak”, and Cavalry Captain Kanty Skrochowski, nom de guerre “Ostroga”. The latter distinguished himself with “particular bravery” [quote from the battle report], and others. Because of better familiarity with the terrain, “Bustromiak” managed to disengage from the enemy and retreated towards Major “Kotwicz's” quarters in Surkonty.

Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz" Polish Home Army Soldier - London, England, 1940-1941  

But it was quiet in Surkonty. When on Friday, 18 August Helena Nicz, nom de guerre “Czarna Magda” [ “Black Magda”] returned there after few days absence, she found all there in great spirit: - I entered a room brightly lit by sun - writes Irena. - The Major was pacing across the room and greeted me happily: ' Miss Magda, I am finally healthy! My hand is completely healed. Henryk took part in an ambush, but returned the following morning.'" On Saturday night the three of us went to the briefing in Skierejki. We marched at night through dark forest. The Major said: "Henryk, hold your mom’s hand because she’ll hurt her feet on the stomps." In the morning Capt. “Bustromiak” along with his entire unit arrived at Skierejki and told us what was happening in Poddubicze. This briefing took all day on Sunday. In the mean time, bad news began to arrive. Some woman holding a child in her arms warned us that there were Soviet vehicles in Pielasa. The Major didn’t interrupt the briefing. At nightfall the group left the forester’s house in Skierejki and moved towards Surkonty. It also made a stop at its outskirts where encamped was security detail of about 60 men. The briefing continued there.

Photo above: Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz in London. 1940-1941.

Officer Cadet Henryk Nikicicz, nom de guerre “Orwid” read aloud “Kotwicz’s” case study of “Wyprawa wilenska i kryzys rudnicki” [eng. "The Wilno expedition and the Rudnik Crisis”]. While summarizing it, “Katowicz” reached the conclusion that if the AK communications were functioning better, and the commandants of all units followed orders, and reached Wilno on time, the Operation “Ostra Brama” would have been successful. “Kotwicz” couldn’t get over the fact that after the Soviet betrayal, some of the units faltered and allowed themselves to be disarmed with out firing a single shot. He couldn’t get over the fact that the 13 AK Brigade from Molodecz was captured by 20-men soviet reconnaissance patrol; he couldn’t get over the fact that the captured AK soldiers could not be freed from the Miedniki camp before they were deported deep into Russia.

The night was almost over when the briefing was moved to Surkonty. The security detail moved along with them. It was done carefully at dark in order not to alert civilian population to their presence. Kalenkiewicz ordered to place wounded in the house where he was quartered, while the rest of the men stayed in a barn next door. The security guards were placed by the commandant of the unit Capt. “Bustromiak”.

Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz" Polish Home Army Soldier  

Kalenkiewicz awaited for the arrival of Stanislaw Sedziak, nom de guerre “Warta” along with supply officers in the morning. They were to discuss the issue of supplies for the unit for the approaching winter. In the mean time, he dictated something to the “Orwid” in a small garden; their uniforms were drying on the fence.

As a result of information received from an informer, the commandant of the Regional Unit of the Narodnyi Komitet Vnutriennykh Del [NKVD - People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs - Soviet Communist: secret police] Tshykin dispatched his units to liquidate the “concentration of [the Polish] bandit gangs."

Photo above: Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz among his soldiers. 1944.

Under the command of Senior Lieutenant Korneyko, and Deputy Commandant of the Regional NKVD, Junior Lieutenant Bleskin, the first unit from the Intelligence-Search Unit 3, Battalion 32 of the Motorized Riflemen Regiment of the Internal Security [NKVD], left their garrison to engage the Poles.

It was Monday, 21 August, 1944. It was a beautiful, bright day. It was around 2:00 pm in the afternoon. The security detail and officers had potatoes with curd for dinner. The supply officers were not arriving. “Czarna Magda” took a cup of Gogel-Mogel for “Kotwicz” into the garden. Kolenkiewicz thanked her, and holding the cup between his knees stirred it with his left hand.

But he didn’t finish eating his desert. A young man ran towards them.


The “Black Magda” handed to him his uniform; he buttoned it up. Both “Kotwicz” and “Orwid” holding his PP machine gun, shoot out.


Map of Surkonty - Battle against NKVD by Polish Home Army Units

Above: Period Military Map of Surkonty and surrounding area. Click To Enlarge!

An intense exchange, of mostly, machine gun fire ensues. This is an unfavorable terrain for the Poles – somewhat wavy, with no scrubs, or trees. The Soviet attack is approaching from the direction of Kamienny Most, cutting off the partisan’s planned route of retreat. The Soviet line of attack spans around 500 meters. The right flank is defended by RKM machine gun – this is where “Kotwicz”, “Ostroga”, and “Orwid” are. The left flank is defended by “Bustromiak”, “Hatrak”, and “Bustromiak’s” brother, Lt. Walenty Wasilewski, nom de guerre “Jary”. Along with the officers who arrived earlier for the briefing, the Home Army unit consists of 72 people, among them, 4 women.

The three or four of arriving NKVD trucks are noticed only when they came to a stop and the Soviet storm troopers began to jump off the trucks. An earlier, quiet alarm among “Kotwicz’s” boys scattered through some distance from one another's farm-houses, allowed their RKM [7,92 mm rkm Browning wz. 1928, 7.92x57mm] to take up good position. They calmly observe the Soviets sneaking into the direction of a swampy meadow ahead of them. This is where Kalenkiewicz’s forward posts chopped the neatly organized Soviet NKVD line into scattered disorganized groups of men. At that point, on the “Kotwicz’s” command, they all opened fire. It was very effective.

The Soviet line of attack spans for nearly a kilometer. The Polish right flank was defended, among others, by “Kotwicz”, his adjutant, Officer Cadet Henryk Nikcicz, nom de guerre “Orwid”, and Cavalry Captain Jan Skrochowski, nom de guerre “Ostroga”. The left flank on the other hand, was defended, among others, by member of Cichociemny commando formation, ” Capt. Franciszek Cieplik, nom de guerre “Hatrak”, and Lt. Walenty Wasilewski, nom de guerre “Jary”.

The intensity of the fire-exchange varied as the engagement progressed. It went on for some time, but it is difficult to assess exactly for how long. What was known at that time was that 30 dead and about dozen wounded Soviets were laying on the battlefield. The Home Army losses were minimal, including several wounded; among them Capt. “Bustromiak” who was grazed by bullet near his eye and temple. After getting his wound dressed, he returned to his position. Another officer was shot in the thigh; he was bleeding heavily.

Taking advantage of this pause, Kalenkiewicz called for a meeting; “Bustromiak” suggested immediate retreat. While Kalenkiewicz agreed, he suggested that they wait little longer …

"If we hold up until evening [it was after 1500 hours] we will be able to take our wounded with us. We can’t carry them during the day. If we leave them here by themselves – they are done." Kalenkiewicz’s suggestion was supported by “Hatrak”. So, be it. They’ll hang on until evening! Shortly, after the meeting, “Orwid” who also takes part in it, gives unit’s gold to “Czarna Magda”.

- "Hide it mother."
- "Thank God, you are still alive child!"
- "It is not over yet …

During the first phase of the engagement between 16-30 Soviets, including their commanding officers, are dead. They have about dozen wounded. Polish loses are limited to several dead, among them Lt. Walenty Wasilewski, nom de guerre “Jary” and several wounded, among them Capt. “Bustromiak”. We know that a short meeting took place around 1500 hours. “Bustromiak” who suggested retreat is allowed to leave with several lightly wounded men. “Kotwicz” decides to wait until evening in order to evacuate those severely wounded. He will not survive that long …

During this time, the Soviets are reinforced by the second group from the NKVD Intelligence-Search Unit 3, Battalion 32, lead by NKVD's Captain Shulkha, and Capt. Tshikin of the Regional NKVD unit.

The Poles take up their positions. Another exchange of fire ensues, but this time it is more intense. The Soviet planes begin to circle above. The Soviets on the ground fire with incendiary ammunition – the barn where the wounded are kept catches on fire. The bullets whistle, the window glass is shuttered. It is an inferno of fire and death. The “Bustromiak” orders women to leave the buildings and to move wounded to the small alder forest down the small hill. It is below the line of fire, it will protect them. The captain has few soldiers around him.

- Listen boys: I don’t know what happened to “Kotwicz”. He was with “Ostroga” by the RKM manned by Kalecinski. The RKM is silent. Someone needs to go there and to see what is going on. Who wants to go?
- "I’ll go!"
- an attractive young medic named Teresa jumped forward.
- "I’ll go! - You have weapons, and I don’t. I know the Kalecinski’s family from Lida. What should I tell them?"
- "If you find “Kotwicz”, wave a handkerchief."

She didn’t have a handkerchief. She borrowed one. She bowed down and started to move through the meadow, and up a small hill. She is under fire. They shouted, “get down”, but how can she? She needs to get there. She finally made it: Gunner, Commandant, “Kotwicz”! Gunner, “Commandant, “Kotwicz”! - just as they told her. There is no response. Finally, she hears voice of sergeant from the “Bogdanka” company:

- "Why are you screaming! Where the hell are you going? Get out of here!"
- "I have an order. I have to find out what happened to “Kotwicz”."
- "He is dead. “Kotwicz” is dead, the RKM is dead, the commandant is dead. Now, get out of here, they are about beat the tar out of us. Look: “Bustromiak” is moving out."

She turned around and looked. Indeed – they were slowly creeping forward; “Bustromiak” with his head covered in dressings, and four, six, eight, eleven Home Army soldiers. Holding their guns they are moving in the direction of Wysoki Lubin. Past Lubin was the safety of the forest. "Teresa, you also go in that direction. Hurry up!" “Hatrak” was also trying to retreat into that direction, but they shot him up. He was laying down, the blood, like a fountain was shooting from his arm. Genia Myskowna is next to him, dressing his wounds.

What a mayhem. They are firing from all directions. "Hurry up!" She jumped into a deep ditch. The mud was up to her ankles, but at least this place was safe. But, she wasn’t safe. The Soviets found her there … They dragged her out of the ditch, gave her 4 metal cans with machine gun belts to carry, and she dragged them behind them.

They were taking the tour of the battlefield. All our wounded: those lightly wounded, severely wounded, those alive, and those dead, they bayoneted them. All of them!

I remember the face of Captain “Hartak” … He had few gold teeth; he had an alerted look on his face. He looked at me as if he felt sorry for me. I saw that in his eyes. The “soldat” [rus. soldier] bayoneted his side. “Hartak” bore his teeth, and then he[the Soviet] stabbed his stomach, and then, several times, he stabbed his chest.

Gienka [Eugenia Myskowna, Polish Home Army Medic] was laying next to him with her face down. She was dead. He knocked her with his foot, turned her over, and wanted to bayonet her, but the officer shouted: “Ne trogay” [rus. "leave her alone"]. They moved on.

According to accounts given by the surviving Home Army officers, the underground units were attacked by an NKVD regiment transported there in 30 trucks. The ratio of combating forces was 30:1 in favor of the NKVD. During the second phase of the battle, at first, the Soviet units attacked the left Polish flank in order to pierce through, weaken their defenses, and to outflank them from the rear. The right Polish flank was attacked by a newly arrived second group of the NKVD. During this phase of the battle, the Soviets took over a hill on which they placed their heavy machine gun. At this time, Soviets also deployed several airplanes which strafed the Polish positions. The Soviet heavy machine gun position on the top of the hill destroyed Polish command post killing the RKM gunners, Major Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre “Kotwicz”, Captain “Ostroga”, and Kalenkiewicz’s adjutant, “Orwid”. This fact caused the retreat of the remaining partisans.

In the Soviet documents we read: "as a result of 5-hour battle, the gang was destroyed – killed were 53 bandits, among them 6 officers of the Polish “White” army. Captured were 4 [men]."

When on Tuesday bodies were collected and the battlefield was combed for the remains of Kalenkiewicz, one of the “soldat’s” noticed a blood trail on the grass covered with morning dew. The trail ended at a haycock. Four of them ran there and started to look through the hay. Inside lay hunched, wounded rifleman Czeslaw Marszalek, name de guerre “Zuraw”. They dragged him out – was it not for Teresa, another execution was about to begin. She became hysterical, began to stamp with her feet, tried to free herself, and stood in front of him to protect him. They didn’t bayonet him like the others right on the spot. He died in the jail in Lida. Teresa gave her friend three more days to live. By doing so however, she revealed her membership in the Home Army unit. The cover story about her accidental presence at Surkonty burst like the proverbial bubble. For this “crime” the Soviet “court” sentenced her to death. She was pardoned, but spent the next 10 years in the Soviet Gulag.

There are no witnesses of Kalenkiewicz’s death. But, for several dozen years the locals have been telling the story that from among those defending the right flank the first one to die was “Ostroga”. Next, was Kalenkiewicz, who got bullet through his forehead that exited in the back of his head. When at that moment “Orwid” tried to move him from under the line of fire, he fell dead on the legs of his commander. He got three bullets in his chest. This is the way the three of them were found … Many years after these events, Alfred Paczkowski, nom de guerre “Wania”, a Cichociemni member wrote: "Maciej [Kalenkiewicz] was like Poniatowski. His death was an example; it was a question of honor."

  Major Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz" Polish Home Army Soldier - London, England, 1940-1941

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

The Home Army and other units of Polish self-defense forces remained guarding Poland’s sovereignty in the Nowogrodek area until 1950’s. They continued their doomed fight against all adds, against the Soviet invasion, and against the Sovietization of this area.

During the battle at Surkonty, the Soviet losses amounted to 132 dead. The Home Army lost 39 of its soldiers. The Home Army Soldiers who died during the Battle at Surkonty were:

Major / Lt. Colonel Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre “Kotwicz”
Captain Michal Pekala, nom de guerre “Bosak”
Captain Franciszek Cieplik, nom de guerre “Hatrak”
Cavalry Captain Jan K. Skrochowski, nom de guerre “Ostroga”
2nd Lt. Stanislaw Dzwinel, nom de guere “Dzwon”
2nd Lt. Walenty Wasilewski, nom de guerre “Jary”
Officer Cadet Henryk Cywinski, nom de guerre “Wilk”
Officer Cadet Henryk Nikicicz , nom de guerre “Orwid”
Platoon Leader Franciszek Stankiewicz, nom de guerre “Mikado”
Corporal Kazimierz Ejsmont, nom de guerre “Irak”
Corporal (Platoon Leader?) Predon, nom de guerre “Kowal”
Corporal Bohdan Bednarczyk, nom de guerre “Dan”
Privates/ and Privates First Class:
Jan Caputa
Stanislaw Caputa
Jerzy Gryszel, nom de guerre “Jurek”
Jerzy Kalecinski, nom de guerre “Kosinus”
Zygmunt Kalecinski, nom de guerre “Sinus”
Jerzy Kleindienst, nom de guerre “Basia”
Bohdan Kaipowicz, nom de guerre “Sowa”
Stanislaw Krukowski, nom de guerre “Czarny”
Zygmunt Miac, nom de guerre “Szczerbiec”
Eugenia Myszkowna, nom de guerre “Gienka”, medic
Tadeusz Skobciko, nom de guerre “Blysk”
Wladyslaw Sperski, nom de guerre “Tolot”
Mieczyslaw Szeptunowski
Zygmunt Werkun, nom de guerre “Zima”
Henryk Zurawski, nom de guerre “Marabut”
Witold Zuk
And 10 other unknown and unidentified Home Army soldiers

Two women remained on the battlefield at Surkonty: they were the “Czarna Magda”, and the girl from Warsaw, Zosia – who was a coder. Whoever was alive and could move, escaped. The wounded, or those unable to move were finished off, or shot. There were more of those dead then alive in the village. Before the Soviet soldiers barged onto the property screaming Gde Belye [rus. where are the "white" Poles?] , Zosia hid the cipher keys, and “Kotwicz’s” papers, and “Czarna Magda” hid the unit’s gold.

The narrative of Helena Nikicicz, nom de guerre “Czarna Magda” was written down in 1944 by Major Kalenkiewicz’s sister, Anna Kalenkiewicz-Mirowicz. This is how she remembered her encounter with "Czarna Magda":

I remember with full clarity, the quiet, serene and full of colors evening in the Fall of 1944 when I was visited by 'Orwid’s' mother. I saw her approaching from the porch of our flat on the hill overlooking the Bernardyn Lake in Troki: tall, agile, with her black hair combed back and parted in the middle. She wore peasant’s clothes, and was barefoot. I thought that this must be one of the locals who wanted to buy from me whatever I had left of my wardrobe from before the war. My husband who was very sick was bedridden for several weeks. My young son and my husband and I didn’t have much of anything to survive. I am “Kotwicz’s” messanger – she said. I smiled cheerfully. I knew that he didn’t share the fate of the entire Polish partisan movement – I was awaiting news from him.

- "Don’t laugh Madam" – she said with a serious tone in her voice. She brought me [my brother's] hat with a bullet hole, a shirt, and suspenders – witnesses of the soldier’s duty carried faithfully to the end. She stayed with us for several days. She showed her pain with both surprising nobility and simplicity. She was overwhelmed by the blows that befell her, and was at times half-conscious. Her husband and two sons already died, and her youngest, a 15-year old boy from the training company of my brother was sent [by the Soviets] to Kaluga. She would wake up at night screaming and calling names of her husband and her boys. During the day, without sobbing, crying, or lamenting, and in an even voice, she would calmly tell me what happened. She would conscientiously tell me each and every detail she remembered; every detail that was important to this simple and heroic woman who in my eyes was my sister. She was unable to judge the political or military role played by “Kotwicz”, and some of his actions seemed peculiar to her. But, unlike others, her heart felt his importance. For her, telling this story to me was her last duty, the duty she had to fulfill...

Anna Kalenkiewicz remembers the “Czarna Magda’s” story:

Suddenly, I hear a rumor: the Major is dead.
"Mis Zosia, is this true?"
"Yes, a great affliction befell us" – she responds, barely alive. She doesn’t say anything about the death of her son [Officer Cadet “Orwid”]. I am persuading her to go to Skierejki during night. She says: “This is your place, Mis. Magda”. Only then she told me about Henryk.

But, we walk, because we will not be able to find any wounded or dead in the dark. We sneak out during night. Zosia says that both Major and Henryk thought they will die – she recognized that from the tone of their voices when they said goodbye to her. Henryk asked her to take care of me. I suspect that it was Henryk who gave me the gold for safekeeping.

There is no one in Skirejki aside from Capt “Sawa” [Wladyslaw Stawowski] and “Biala Magda [NN – unknown and unidentified] who brought the news from Vilno.

At dawn I am returning to the place of the battle. Zosia ran out even earlier to secure the papers that were burried. I didn’t see her ever again. I found out later that the Soviets caught her.

I see ours laying in the mud. The first one wearing the civilian clothes is one of the officers who was at the debriefing. The second one has a prayer book in the front pocket of his jacket; I am to give it to his brother Murek - but, I can see that he is laying dead nearby.

Little further away, I see the body of a young man to whom Major read excerpts from the “Mister Thaddeus” … “[...] on the banks of rivulet […]” [1] - he ate the last breakfast with us. I can’t reach the right flank where they attacked the Soviet heavy machine gun position – the Soviets are still there. At last, they leave. The Major is lying on the back, and Henryk with his face on his legs - his blood is dripping on the Major’s legs. I didn’t see anyone else. I lay next to them, and embraced them both. The sun was shining. Their bodies were still warm. I lay there for over an hour. I was afraid to leave them. The Major’s didn't have his uniform on, and they had no boots on their legs. I washed them both. With a help of one of the locals, I dug up a shallow grave, and covered it with my own coat, leafs, and turf. After that I went to see some locals and asked them to make coffins. Everyone was afraid. Finally , a man who lived 5 kilometers away agreed.

"Besrukhii Major"  Maciej Kalenkiewicz, nom de guerre "Kotwicz"


When Captain “Warta” found out about Zosia’s capture, he was devastated. In the wire to the District Command of Home Army from August 27, “Warta” reports: "[...] Because of her inexcusable recklessness, Zosia was captured, and along with her “Kotwicz’s” papers. Many people are endangered. We have to start from the beginning again […]" Despite the tortures, Zosia didn’t give up any secrets. She died in jail in Lida.

A newly created conspiratorial organization kept watch over Surkonty from some distance. During the day of the battle, “Zbigniew” [Unknown and Unidentified] reached Skirejki and brought along an officer from the Wilno District. This officer had orders to make contact with the commandant of the Nowogrodek District [Kalenkiewicz], but didn’t know his way around. In the forester’s house the hostess told him that Major “Kotwicz” went to Surkonty. Before leaving, Kalenkiewicz asked her to let him know that if there is no unusual traffic on the shortwave radio, to move the meeting to a later date. During his conversation with the hostess – it was around 1400 hours – they heard sounds of gun fire coming from the direction of Surkonty. They decided to wait in Skirejki. When it became quiet, they decided to go, but after 15 to 20 minutes the sounds of gun fire erupted again. For this reason they decided to turn around.

Capt. “Sawa” from the District Command came from Janowicze to Surkonty on the same day . Upon hearing the sounds of gun fire while traveling near village of Troczki, he returned to the Zaleskie settlement. This is where he found out about the bottle and about "Kotwicz's' death the following day. For security reasons, Capt. “Sawa” and the officer from Vilno carried a dispatch promoting “Kotwicz” to the rank of Lt. Colonel via two different routes. The same dispatch also promoted Kalenkiewicz to the position of commandant of the Nowogrodek’s Sub-District of Home Army. This is how Capt. “Warta” explains why he didn’t arrive for the debriefing at Surkonty on 21 August.

During the night of 20th and 21st August following officers from the District Command stayed overnight in his [“Warta’s”] safe house in Jewsiewicze, located at a distance of 10 kilometers from Surkonty: himself ["Warta"], adjutant Sec. Lt. “Orlik” [Wincenty Biruk], Quartermaster, Sec. Lt. “Kazik” [Unknown and Unidentified], and his second in command, Sec. Lt. “Woroszylow” [Karol Komorowski]. The four of them were to wake up at dawn and leave for the debriefing with “Kotwicz”. But … they didn't wake up on time. They simply slept in. Instead of waking up at 4 a.m., they woke up at 8 a.m. They walked towards the Dzitwa river where near a footbridge they run into a messanger returning from the west bank named Ewa. She stopped them. - "Don’t go! The whole place is surrounded by the NKVD."

Under these circumstances they returned to Mogol (located at a distance of about 3 km) where one of the auxiliary provisions depots was located. From the distance they saw smoke above Surkonty. They didn’t hear any gun fire – it was too far. They found out about the battle in the morning when two wounded men from “Kotwicz’s” unit dragged themselves there.

Thus, “Warta” was not present during the actual battle. According to the previously established plan, after Kalenkiewicz’s death, he took over command of the district. As the new district commandant, "Warta" sent two wires to the Home Army General Command:

Above: The "Besrukhii Major", Maciej Kalenkiewicz  
Soviet Red Army M43 NKVD TunicAbove: Soviet Red Army NKVD Tunic. Photo Curtesy of The History Bunker and Trident Military.  
“On 21 August, Lt. Col. ‘Kotwicz’ along with number of officers from the [district] command’s was ambushed and surrounded by Soviets. During the battle, Lt. Col. “Kotwicz’, number of officers, and members of his security unit died. [Previously] assigned by ‘Kotwicz’ to be his second in command, I took over command of the district. Despite this difficult situation, I will continue my work with unwavering energy, until the General assigns new district commander.”

Three days later “Warta” supplements his first report with the following details:

“Kotwicz”, “Ostroga”, “Hartak”, “Jary” and 32 soldiers died at Surkonty. Sov.[iets] finished off the wounded. The reasons for the tragedy were un-conspiratorial-like behavior of ‘Kotwicz’, bravado, stubbornness and desire to retaliate for the dishonor of [Home Army units being] disarm[ed] in the Puszcza Rudnicka [eng. "Rudniki Forest" or "Rudniki Forest"]. During the fight, ‘Kotwicz’ had two hours [to disengage] before the Soviet reinforcements arrived. Even though he had almost no casualties, he decided not to retreat. The Soviet loses are 132 dead."

In “Droga do Ostrej Bramy” [“The Road to Ostra Brama”] Jan Erdman wrote that until 1982 these two wires sent by "Warta" constituted the only available source of information about the Battle at Surkonty. Thus, they are cited in both primary compilations devoted to the history of Home Army, specifically: the volume from the series “Polskie Sily Zbrojne w drugiej wojnie swiatowej” [ Polish Armed Forces in Second World War”] and “AK w dokumentach” [“AK in documents”], volume 4.

While we will not analyze “Warta’s” opinions in detail, we will concentrate however, on the new fact that completes the initial repot. That is, we will take a closer look at the 2-hour period of time during the first phase of battle, when according to “Warta”, the intensity of the engagement subsided, it got quiet, the firing stopped, and the defenders didn’t return fire.

In 1975, “Bustromiak” stated that "This was one battle, and its intensity subsided only for a short period of time. The Soviet command didn’t summon additional forces because it had an overwhelming advantage [in manpower to begin with]."

In 1980, the second witness remembered the battle as follow: “The fight didn’t subside for long. At times the intensity of fire weakened, and at times stopped. Maybe Soviets were regrouping or were catching a second wind.”

“Zbigniew”, at that time commandant of the Home Army Nowogrodek’s BIP (pol. abr. Bureau of Information And Propaganda), was faraway from the battlefield, but the sounds of battle did reach him. In his opinion that firing stopped for 15 to 20 minutes.

When Jan Erdman already completed his manuscript in 1981, he received an additional explanation of the pause in the battle from one of the inhabitants of Surkonty. While this witness wasn’t in the AK unit, he was nonetheless present on the property where Kalenkiewicz had his command post.

While, in his opinion there was indeed a two-hour break in the fighting, it is impossible nonetheless, to ascertain precisely how long this break was. However, the witness remembers – the break took place. When the firing stopped, Holeniewski (the owner of the property) asked “Kotwicz” for his permission to gather sheaf from a nearby field. Kalenkiewicz agreed, and the sheaf was collected. They worked hastily, and the witness doesn’t even recall if they managed to store the sheaf in the barn - shortly thereafter it burned to the ground. We can discern, that it was understood at the time, that the enemy either retreated, or decided not to continue attacking.

Because of the excitement of all combatants during the battle, establishing an exact chronology of events is impossible. On one hand, we can infer that the time necessary for one to form an opinion that the attack stopped, giving the farmer enough time to bring sheaf from the field onto his property would have been greater than 15 minutes. On the other hand, if in the recollections of the participants both phases of the battle are viewed as one continuous event, it had to less than 2 hours.

Was “Kotwicz’s” decision to remain at Surkonty correct? Remaining at Surkonty and facing the enemy at a time and place of his choosing was contrary to every principle of partisan tactics – these dictated an immediate retreat. The partisans were forced to remain because of their wounded. If left behind, those wounded were certain to die at the Soviet hands. The sense of camaraderie, and responsibility for the wounded prevailed. However, it remains an open question if common sense prevailed as well. We ought to dispel the fable of a maxim attributed to “Kotwicz” which says that “Polish soldier doesn’t retreat after victory”. “Bustromiak” is unequivocal in his opinion. Along with the wounded, Major “Kotwicz was to retreat under the cover of night.

Let us return to the battlefield after the fight was over. Both “Czarna Magda” and “Zbigniew” bustled about giving the dead last rites. Their bodies were put to rest by local farmers who covered graves with the remains of grave stones of 1863 insurgents. Not far from this battlefield, the Rusians destroyed unit of Ignacy Narbutt during the January Uprising.

“Zbigniew” narrates:

"We got to Surkonty on Wednesday at dawn. We brought two coffins with us. “Czarna Magda” managed to get two uniforms and two shirts. The same man who made the coffins helped us to dig up the bodies, and to wash them, put them in coffins, and cover their feet with flowers. The only bodies buried in coffins were thos of “Kotwicz” and “Orwid". I approached a local priest and asked if we could put them to rest at a cemetery next to the church. We were met with some opposition. It was probably understandable: he had to stay here and didn’t want to get in trouble with the government. Also, he was a Latvian priest, and we could understand his reservations. Because of this, I asked him only for the last funeral rites: the prayer for the dead, and blessing of coffins and bodies with Holy Water.

Mass Grave of Polish Home Army Soliders at Surkonty - 1980

Photo above: 1980 - The battlefield and mass grave of Polish Home Army soldiers at Surkonty - A grazing field of a local Kolhoz. Note the remains of grave stones of 1863 Insurgents in the lower right corner.

We decided to dig up a grave near a small forest cemetery where 1863 Insurgents were buried. The local people were very forthcoming. I would even say, they were surprisingly willing to take part in this mournful ceremony. It were these people who dug up this deep, and considerably long grave in order to place 36 bodies in it.

The dead were brought from various places, because the unit was dispersed. The locals guided us to them, because we couldn’t find them on our own. The bodies were place on a horse and cart and transported one after another to this mass grave. The last body was brought when the priest was already standing over the grave and was giving last rites to the dead.

This event took place very long ago, on 23 August 1944. Much had changed in Surkonty since that day. The families of Gienia Myszkowna and of another soldier exhumed their loved ones and moved them to the local cemetery. The Soviet government was interested in the coffins. They dug them up in 1945 and examined the bodies. But, after that, they allowed them to be buried again.

There is no longer a priest, or a church in Pielasa. The government transformed the church into a grain warehouse, and the bell tower was taken apart. This made locating the mass grave difficult - the tower was a familiar landmark.

The mass grave of Home Army soldiers is located on the south-eastern side of a country road connecting Pielasa with Surkonty. The grave's edge is located at a distance of 30 meters from the road, and perpendicular to it. The outer edges of this 15-meter long gravesite are barely visible, and its surface cannot be distinguished from the surrounding fallow land, called in Latvian, the “dyrwan”. The coffins with bodies of “Kotwicz” and “Orwid” are located closest to the road. There were two 2x2 meter stones placed over a small mound in September 1980, indicating that someone attempted to erect a makeshift memorial in this place.


Continue to the Part 2 of the Battle at Surkonty


[1] Adam Mickiewicz, "Pan Tadeusz" - “[...] nad brzegiem ruczaju […]”



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