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Alarm for the City of Warsaw
German Invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

The thundering and crashing of unimaginable force cuts through the air

An old owl is about to go to sleep. Its neighbors, pelicans, eagles and herons slowly wake up. From its favorite branch near the top of the cage, the owl overlooks the Vistula River. The first sunrays shine through the morning mist.

On the opposite bank of the river, the ancient city is asleep. The daylight slowly unveils the contours of the Old Town, the Cathedral, King’s Palace, King Zygmunt’s Column, Saint Ann’s Church, Kierbedzia Bridge, and Danusia’s house. The current in the wide bed of the Vistula River is as serene as the city above. Only in the background of this leisurely silence a deadly sound grows. No one has ever heard such a mysterious sound.

As the owl is about to close its goggle eyes, something inconceivable happens. The thundering and crashing of unimaginable force cuts through the air and a fountain of water splashes and shoots high into the sky. Another fountain goes into the air before the first one reaches the water, and another one, and another one. Ferocious noise hundreds of times louder than a thunderstorm strikes the resting town. Danusia jumps out of bed. Mama and Dad and Zbyszek are already up. In the fierce stream of thunders, something crashes over their heads. The window glass quivers and trembles.

“To the basement! Run!” Dad shouts.

Still half asleep, they rush out the door and down to the basement.

“Germans! German bombers! They hit the bridge!” Someone shouts behind them.

The staircase is jammed. People run, push, scream, and shout in panic, children cry and scream. Danusia is among the first to reach the basement and the incoming crowd pushes her further to the wall. She realizes she is just in pajamas but it doesn’t matter. Others are in pajamas too. In the rumbling background of the warm morning, immense bomb blasts, explosions, and blows, one by one and several at a time, pierce the air around them. The basement is full.

Most of the people freeze and stare speechlessly at the ceiling. Some cry, some can’t stop wailing. “They are going after the bridges,” a young voice resounds in the crowd. “And after the airport, I think,” someone else comments. “Sons of a bitch!” another voice shouts with fury.

War, war… Danusia feverishly turns this strange thought over and over in her mind.

Dad embraces her with his muscular arm.

“Thank God we are on the first floor. It’s closer to the basement and a little safer.”

“Shh! Did you hear that distinct series of blasts?” Mr. Tolloczko yells. “That’s our anti-aircraft defense! Our boys are getting at them!”

To??oczko oversees the security unit at the State Mint. By training, he is a professional soldier, the Captain, as they call him here. His beautiful daughter, Wanda, is Danusia’s age.

“All right! Good job!” the business manager, Falski, enthusiastically welcomes the news.

“Our artillery is stationed near us at Cytadela,” Falski adds. His son, Bruno, is one of Zbyszek’s best friends. Bruno is best prepared for this emergency holding his dog under one arm and his precious collection of post stamps in the other hand.

“Alek, we need to know what’s going on.” Mr. Owczarek turns to Dad with urgency in his voice. “Is there any way you can get your radio here?” Owczarek is the technical director and Dad’s immediate boss at the State Mint.

The blasts slowly ease up. It seems as if the cannonade of bombardments is no longer over their heads. Despite Mama’s protests, Dad jumps out of the basement and with lightning speed returns with a small strange object. It’s a special emergency radio. As the blare of bombardment fades away, the basement fugitives surround Dad tightly.

“As we speak, the German Luftwaffe is attacking strategic Warsaw locations,” the radio reports.

“Ok?cie Airport and Warsaw bridges have been the primary targets as of this hour. Our anti- aircraft defense forces supported by brilliant air fighters from the Warsaw Pursuit Brigade stage a formidable defense. Already several German airplanes have been brought down. Stefan Starzynski, President of Warsaw, has been appointed the Commissar for Civil Defense of the City of Warsaw. Please stay tuned. In five minutes President Starzy?ski will be addressing the people of Warsaw.”

Powerful and deeply treasured piano tones replace the speaker’s distant voice. Dramatic cords of Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude arouse listeners’ burning fury.

“Let’s man our posts!” young Sylvek Kotecki yells.

“God give us strength!” Mrs. Kotecka cries.

“We’ll show them!” Bruno supports Sylvek.

“Shut up!” Captain Tolloczko silences them fiercely.

“Listen now!” he orders. The powerful music slowly fades away.

Dear Compatriots!

This is President of Warsaw speaking. This morning German Armed Forces unleashed a vicious attack on our country, invaded our territory from the north, south and west, and dropped bombs on Warsaw.

The whole nation is rising to fight! Together we shall stand to defend our country and our capital! Together we shall succeed! I call upon all the citizens of Warsaw to join me in defending our beloved city. Warsaw needs each and every one of us. Today Warsaw needs our courage, our commitment, and our sacrifice!

God bless you in this yet another call for sacrifice to defend Warsaw and protect Poland.




Excerpt from “Between Katyn and Auschwitz” by M. B. Szonert.

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