"THE LAST SOLDIER OF SOVEREIGN POLAND - SERGEANT JÓZEF FRANCZAK, nom de guerre 'LALEK' (1918-1963)"
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Józef Franczak died in combat in the fall of 1963 in a small village in Lubuskie Voivodeship. He was wanted for being an Anti-Communist, and a member of Polish Armia Krajowa (abbr. AK - Home Army). He was also the last soldier of the Polish Anti-Communist Underground. Holding a gun in his hand, Franczak managed to evade the secret police for 24 years.
Sergeant Józef Franczak, nom de guerre “Lalek” (pre-World War II photograph).
The year of 1963 was incredible. John F. Kennedy dies in Dallas, Texas. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly into space, waves her hand to mankind - sticking it to the “imperialists”. The Beatles release their “She Loves you”. But, what’s new in Poland? The so-called “little stabilization” is in full swing. Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, a sensational Polish boxer wins the European Amateur Boxing Championship for the fourth time. Roman Zambrowski gets kicked out of the Central Committee (of the Communist Polish United Workers' Party), signaling to the Poles, that the period of distortions and terror is behind them. The real excitement however, awaits them on the cultural front. Accompanied by salvos of spontaneous laughter, the drama directed by Wojciech Has “How to Be Loved” (Pol. “Jak być kochaną”) premieres. Bohdan Łazuka is shooting the movie “Beata”, and the sensational actor Zbigniew Maklakiewicz stars in four movies.
But, there is also one more thing … In a small village near Piaski, a town in the Lubuskie Voivodeship, Józef Franczak, 45, dies during a secret police operation. He was wanted for being a member of the Armia Krajowa.
After a recent study of the SB [Pol. abbr. Służba Bezpieczeństwa – Polish secret police] operations' reports from 40-years ago, it became clear that Józef was the last of the Doomed Soldiers of post-World War II Poland. Holding his weapon ‘at ready’ at all times, but unlike countless of other Polish partisans, he managed to survive for 24 years, since the outbreak of WWII..
With Tommy Guns In Their Hands …
Franczak’s sister, Czeslawa Kasprzak, who is now 80 years old, doesn’t have much to do in her empty house in Kolonia Kębłów. This lively older lady talks about her battles with aphids, and how these little creatures tried to eat the ferns in her garden, but in the end, lost. All of the sudden, her blue eyes sparkle - “No, it was not my brother, but God who made him like that” - she sighs. - “He was so handsome, so elegant, totally him”… Elegant, you say? Several photos of Józef Fronczak survive at the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). It is difficult to recognize him on one of them. On this old, worn-out picture, one can only notice his sharp, focused eyes. There is a stylish haircut above these eyes. It is because of this trendy hairdo, and his sophisticated manners, that he was called “Laluś” (or, in English, “Guido”). This nickname stuck to him for years, even though there were other nicknames as well. Zygmunt Libera, nom de guerre “Babinicz”, a partisan from the Lubelskie Voivodeship, called him “Laleczka” [an equivalent of a “dolly” which is the way a small child would call a doll]. In some reports he was called “Guściowa” [this nickname was most likely derived from the Polish word “gust”, which means “tasteful”]. After the war, when he moved to Sopot in order to start a new life, Zygmunt changed his name to Józef Babiński.
Two other surviving photos date back to the summer of 1947, when all ex-members of AK (Home Army) meant nothing more to the Communist government than cold-blooded killers, who had to be resolutely dealt with. Yet, when we look at these photos, we can draw just an opposite conclusion; as everyone is smiling, looks confident, and stands tall and proud. In one of the photos, “Lalek” exposes his bare chest, and even though, he stands tall, the grim on the face reveals that he is shy about this pose. In the next photograph, we can see four partisans re-enacting an arrest of a Communist spy. In this scene, “Lalek” plays the spy, who is being arrested. But, “Laluś” looks like a spy who smiles, despite of being surrounded by the three other soldiers pointing their guns at him. One of them is aiming his Tommy gun at the spy; Walenty Waskiewicz, nom de guerre “Strzała”, is trying to rob the spy of his documents. Stanisław Kuchcewicz, nom de guerre “Wiktor”, is about to rip the spy’s head off with his butt stock. All that were just silly games of the “zaplute karły reakcji” (Eng. “spit soaked reactionary dwarfs”) - as the Communists called them. In another photo “Laluś” is facing back: here, he is wearing an alpine hat that makes him look as if he was a gamekeeper in the “Little Red Riding Hood” story. As you look more carefully, his shirt is similar to the one worn by J. [Juliusz] Słowacki (a Polish Poet); it has a wing-tip collar shirt - a style that, with these tabs so large, made him look somewhat funny.
Above their heads you can see numbers that identify them. These photos come from the archives of Zdzisław Broński, nom de guerre “Uskok”. He killed himself with a grenade when surrounded in a bunker by the Internal Security Corps [abbr. KBW - Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego]. All that remains of him, were these archives including his personal diary and some photos. Only because of these documents, the hunt for the ex-members of the Polish Home Army (AK) was possible. Read more about Captain "Uskok" here ...
Photo above: The third one from left is Józef Franczak “Lalek”. The picture was presumably taken in 1948. From the left are: Walenty Waskowicz, nom de guerre “Strzala” - the patrol commander of Capt. Broński’s “Uskok” forces, who died fighting the communist terror apparatus in 1949. The second man is Stanisław Kuchewicz, nom de guerre “Wiktor” – a soldier in the Polish National Armed Forces (abbr. NSZ -Narodowe Siły Zbrojne) under the command of Major Pazderski, nom de guerre “Szary”, after NKVD attacks, he fought in forces commanded by Sergeant Walewski, nom de guerre “Zemsta” and Stefan Brzuszek, nom de guerre “Boruta”. Beginning in 1947 Kuchewicz “Wiktor” was the patrol commander in Capt. Broński’s unit; shot by an officer of the Communist People’s Militia (abbr. MO), he died in 1953. The third is Józef Franczak “Lalek”. The fourth man is Julian Kowalczyk, nom de guerre “Cichy”; he died in 1951 in combat with the Polish Communist secret police, the UB.
"Strzała", the one on the first picture, was captured as early as April 1949. “Wiktor”’s turn was a few years later, in 1953. The one who aimed his Tommy gun at the spy in the first picture, was most likely captured in one of the many skirmishes. Until 1953, one could often hear sounds of gunfire at night in the Lubelskie Voivodeship. But, as time went on, the sounds of gunfire would slowly die out, and then there was a silence. The hunt for the partisans never stopped, however. The “Department (Resort)” or UB (Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, or UBP) caught all the partisans, one by one, until they got the last Polish partisan in their cross hair. But, inexplicably, time and time again, he would escape like a ghost, to become a legend ...
Hope not to get into the Communist People's Army
The story of Józef Franczak’s life resembles one of a hunter, often hiding, fighting or running away. He had got in trouble as soon as the Germans invaded Poland, but was captured and imprisoned by the Soviets. [See: "Who were the enemies of Poland" here ...] Only after few days there, he fled. After the tragic occupation, an experience shared by so many Poles, he came back to his native village. Franczak was among the first men, to join the re-emerging Polish Democratic resistance. Women played a significant role here as well. Soon after, another partisan, Janusz Brochwicz-Lewiński, nom de guerre “Gryf” did the same. “Gryf”, who is now 85, reminisces: - “During the day, we worked as laborers, in the evenings we trained, and at night we fought. After one year of this kind of lifestyle, each of us lived a number of double-lives. I was a warehouseman, mechanic, and a coal trader. After work, I would go and fight Germans to get even with them. In the morning, I was a coal trader once again. After one set-back, I transferred to fight with the underground, where I met “Babinicz” and 'Laluś' ('Lalek')."
Józef Franczak became a Squad Leader, and then commanded the 3rd Region of the Lublin Home Army District. He was a one, out of sixty thousand conspirators in this Voivodeship. When in 1944, the Red Army crossed the Bug River, the highly anticipated operation “Burza” (Storm) begun. The reason this operation arose was not only to rout the Germans, but also to show the Soviet Communist Government, that Poland regained its sovereignty, and Poles are its masters. The 27th Wołyńska Division of the Polish Home Army fought the fiercest battles. This particular group alone conquered a few towns including Lubartów, Kock, and Firlej. Moreover, this division offered the Home Army, as though on a silver platter, a few dozen towns and villages. It is at this time that the Home Army made its first contacts with the Communists, and with Soviet partisans. Here is how Zdzisław Broński, nom de guerre “Uskok” described a lieutenant of the Communist People’s Army, nom de guerre “Czarny Sęp":
“His boots were too big, which was not surprising: The boots, as many other things, were “confiscated”. From one, a foot wrap was hanging out and an old, rusty spur from the other. He wore a Polish uniform unbuttoned because it was too tight. His belt, heavy from the weight of his gun and grenades, fell below his belly. Hanged over his back, he carried a map case that was filled with lard, onion and bread. On his head, he wore this four-cornered, Polish officer’s cap, which the lieutenant adorned with a piece of red cloth and a miniature, rug hen.”
[Read more about "The Death of Captain 'Uskok'" Here ...] Soviets made their first arrests on July 25th. The 27th Division was disarmed first, followed 5 days later by the 9th Infantry Division. Slowly, day after day, week after week, the prison cells in the Lublin Castle, and barracks at the former Nazi Concentration Camp in Majdanek, that only recently were cleaned of the corpses (the leftover from the times under the German occupation), started to fill up again - but, this time, with Polish patriots. “Uskok” also wrote:
“It didn't even cross my mind that this [so-called] ‘democratic’ government will treat me like a common criminal, only because I was in charge of the partisan Division of the Home Army [fighting the Nazis]. I did not know that every non-communist organization would be regarded as ‘fascists’, ‘supportive of the Hitler’s ideology’, and will be a threat to freedom and democracy. I had never thought that my sacrifice and loyalty to my country would be seen as work for Hitler.”
In August 1944, Franczak was drafted into the Communist Polish People’s Army. While stationed in Kąkolewnica with his unit, he witnessed the massacre of his friends from the Home Army, who were sentenced to death by a kangaroo field military “court”. [See: “Kąkolewnica Forest Massacre” Here …] He deserted from the army in January 1945, and decided that he would escape to Sweden. Franczak apparently had a place secured on one of the ships, and supposedly knew a certain captain who would help him to get to Bornholm. A neighbor from his native village accidentally noticed him at the seaport station in Sopot. After she returned home, she told everyone about it, and soon after, the secret police was on his trail. At the turn of 1945/46 he returned to his hometown, and immediately joined a unit led Major Hieronim Dekutowski, nom de guerre “Zapora”. [See "'Zapora' In the Net of Secret Police Agents" Here ...] Lo and behold, he was a partisan again. Having been handsome and tall, the women would swarm around him. Even though he tried to hide from them, at this point, this is still a funny hide-and-seek game for him.
On June 17, 1946 Franczak attended a wedding in Chmielnik village. Unbeknown to all who attended, the guests of the newlyweds were sneakily surrounded by the Operations Group of the UB, and were arrested. There were many “enemies” of the Polish Communist People’s Republic among the guests. The skills they learned during the Nazi occupation, became handy once again - the partisans disarmed a few of the guards, and then escaped. This time, four of the secret policemen died. Two months later “Lalek” gets in trouble again, and when the police raids his place in Bojanica, he leaves two corpses of secret policemen behind.
When, at the beginning of 1947, the communist authorities announced the amnesty hoping that a few thousand people would out themselves, 53 thousands armed Polish partisans did - but, not “Lalek”.
But soon, however, there will be someone, who will begin to gently persuade him to do so.
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