WHERE IS BURIED MAJOR JOZEF KURAS nom de guerre "OGIEN"? (pol. "Gdzie Pochowano Ognia")
The two-hundred-men strong expedition of soldiers from the KBW (Internal Security Corps - pol. Korpus Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego) reinforced by the UB (pol. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa) functionaries was lead by the traitor himself. Their goal was to annihilate “Fire’s” camp.
Beloved by his troops, revered by his countrymen, respected by ideological foes, and hated by the communist regime, Jozef Kuras “Ogien”(Engl. "Fire") , commanding officer of one of the most famous post Home Army partisan’s detachments evoked strong emotions during his life and after his death. It is evident even today through the streak of publications dealing with life of this legendary man. In each one of them one can find multitude of details about his life – with an expeption of one detail: Where he is buried.
Kazimierz Paulo, company commander in “Fire’s” detachment states that this may be the last opportunity to find resting place of Jozef Kuras, heralded the “King of the Podhale Region”; simply, witnesses of those events are dying away.
The question of who Jozef Kuras “Ogien” was appears to be inappropriate; most certainly inappropriate in the Podhale region of Poland where he lived and fought. Countless volumes have been written about his legendary life. He was a hero of books, scholarly articles, and investigative reports published both openly and through underground publications. The motivations guiding the authors of these publications varied depending on whom they were themselves.
Maciej Korkuc, the author of book about underground partisan movement in the Krakow region during 1944-1947 recently published through IPN notes, that the great majority of official publications on this subject were marked by one-sidedness apparent not only in selection of materials and subject matter, but also by their interpretation and conclusions offered. It is characteristic however, that despite the crawling pace of democratization of the political system ongoing until the end of the 1980’s [in Poland], the use of the term “armed gang” (pol. “banda zbrojna”), “reactionary gang” (pol. “banda reakcyjna”) used to describe “Ogien’s” formations, were still required by the officially sanctioned historiography – he further notes.
To the historians interested in seeking truth about the first years after WW II, the opening of the UB and SB archives in the 1990’s brought marginal improvement. Maciej Koruc, who during the last decade collected information as a part of his doctoral studies at the Jagiellonian University states, that he was uncertain at best, weather he was receiving all materials sitting on the shelves of the archives that were related to the subject of his research. Only now, as an employee of the IPN, he can without difficulties probe through the content of the archives. He has no absolute certainty however, that he will be able to locate all that he seeks, nor that what he locates is a complete record.
- Evidence? Let’s take a look at the file (pol. “teczka”) of the individual who, as indicated by all available evidence betrayed the hiding place of Maj. “Ogien”. The secret collaborator given operational code “Smialy” (Engl. “Brave”) was a trusted member in the “Fire’s” detachment. He was a courier. – His personal dossier found in the UB archives should be abundant with information; his file is however, very thin. It is clear that the materials pertaining to the involvement of this individual in the liquidation of Jozef Kuras’s group were sanitized [by the secret police] – says Maciej Korkuc.
- He was an extraordinary man, very intelligent, honest; a true patriot from a well respected patriotic family. For me, for us, his soldiers, he was a hero in the same league as those found in Sienkiewicz’s “Trilogy” – reminisces Kazimierz Pluto, the last surviving commanding officers in the Jozef Kuras “Ogien” unit. Despite the passage of time, Pluto remembers precisely some of the situations that attest to an extraordinary respect that “Ogien” held in the Podhale region. He reminisces about people, and about reasons for which they would come to see “Ogien” and ask him for advise and help with resolving disputes – and not only those friendly disputes to boot.
- He was a true “King of Podhale”. He was a “Janosik” who wanted freedom and justice for his people. He was very charismatic and very brave. He was capable of making fun even of [the First Secretary of Polish Communist Party, Boleslaw] Bierut himself, to whom he sent an invitation to his wedding – Pluto continues his story.
There is an ample evidence of “Ogien’s” reputation among local populous that reverberates even in memoirs of “Ogien’s” adversaries - the former functionaries of [the Polish secret police], the Bezpieka. One such document published by a former director of WUBP [pol. Wojewodzki Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego - Voivode Office for State Security - Polish secret police], Stanislaw Walach contains for example, a sworn statement of a local village head who states that such and such man who was sentenced by “Ogien” appealed this decision and was ultimately found by Kuras to be an honest man. Such statement speaks more about the caliber of the Democratic underground units, and about values to which “Ogien” himself espoused to, than mountains of other documents – states Korkuc.
|Above: Jozef Kuras, nom de guerre "Ogien" (wearing white shirt in the middle) among his supporters, soldiers, and collaborators