Edward SzukielEdward Szukiel was born in 1930 in Wozgielance, Wilno region. He has 4 siblings. His father was a blacksmith. He was raised in a strong patriotic tradition. Person who impacted him the most was Meszkian, who lived in a manor house where Edward often spend time. Also Braslaw region was known for its beautiful lakes, it was a place where elite was speding holiday. Edward had contact with some of those people. He got a military training and between 1944-1945 he served in Armia Krajowa as a messanger. After the war his parents moved to Riga. 16-year-old Edward revealed his participation in AK to the new rulers and he went to Warsaw, where he stayed in a Soldier House. He went to school. Then he moved to an orphanage in Zakopane for a children whose parents were fighting a war. Then he contacted his aunt who went back from forced labor in Germany and they met in Wroclaw. He started a military school. Later he worked as a civil engineer for army. He got married in 1955. In 70. he started ergonomy business in which he was a pioneer in Poland.
(…) My task was to deliver weapons.
You were 14 years old then…
Yes, adults could not [do it], only ones like me. The cart was prepared and loaded. It had two bottoms. First they put guns on it, then covered them with hay and they also gave me some geese.
On this cart? Living geese?
They gave me geese in cages in order to cover the weapons. And probably the cart was mined, because I had a detonator in my hand. I held it, and in case of revision, in order not to be examined and tortured, I was actually told to trigger it.
Were you conscious about it?
I think I assumed it, but I was not explicitly informed. The cages were attached on top of the cart. I passed Puszki and directed to Mejszty, where the manor of Mejsztowicz stood. Mejsztowicz used to be a minister before the war, I think he was Minister of Internal Affairs. On the way, on the road, there stood a column of more than ten German tanks. The troops were repairing something.
Were you alone on the cart? With one or two horses?
With one. I was not able to overtake them on the road, roads were not that wide. One German came up to me, sat on the cart and asked: „rus, rus…”. So I pointed my finger and told him that the Russian were there. I had to overtake the tanks somehow. There was a ditch, not big, but when the cart was passing it, a barrel moved slightly out. He didn’t notice it, I noticed it only later.
Do you mean the barrel of a gun?
Yes, in the back of the cart, which was open.
Did you remain calm?
I remained calm. The German left the cart, went back to the tanks and said something to his commander. I looked back and then I went on. A kilometre later I saw the patrol [from my unit] on horses.
Now we are in the forest in Mejszty. I brought weapons and some military equipment.
Was is in 1944? What season was it?
June. The end of June.
About four. Late afternoon. I came in the late afternoon and as I said, the patrol had already been informed, I mean the „observers”.
What was the weather like?
It was sunny, very hot. I was wearing a T-shirt and a straw cap. I had my hair cut to 1 cm length and I was wearing that cap and sandals without socks. That was how I entered the unit. They stopped me, unharnessed the horse, and an officer came with two gunsmiths to check the quality of the weapons and write down their numbers. And then Zakrzewski [the commander of the unit] and others decided that I had the right to choose a weapon. There was one machine gun and 4 or 5 Soviet guns for 10 shots.
No. But there was one MP, which means Maschinenpistole in German, a bit used but renovated by Zakrzewski. And they all laughed, because it was very funny, that I stood there without military uniform, only in this T-shirt, sandals and straw cap. This gun really fascinated me. So, Zakrzewski took the gun, hanged it on a belt on my neck and said „This will be your weapon”.
Had you had a shooting training before?
Partisans were all trained with weapons. We were asked to disassemble MPs into pieces and then assemble them back again.
I listen to this with terror, because I am aware that you were a child back then.
It was impossible to conduct an armed partisan fight without the help of children and women.
Did you ever use this MP?
No, never. But I really felt like a soldier. After just two hours the evening came, the temperature was around 25-30 degrees. I wore my T-shirt and the temperature and inappropriate clothes were the worst nightmare for me. For example, at night we had to prepare our place to sleep on our own. We usually cut pine branches and lay them in a way to be flat. I had a dried linen sheet, soaked with varnish.
The varnish was used for it not to became wet?
Yes. We put the sheets on the branches, we used our backpacks as pillows, and we covered ourselves with blankets, if we had any. I only had a coat. That way I slept through the night. I was so excited I could not sleep until the next morning, until I heard birds singing.
Was it too hot?
It was too hot. But there was no other way, all the other soldiers were used to it and slept like that, and one third of them were awake and watching. It felt dangerous, we felt that we were at war…
I slept two or three nights like that and on the fourth day of my stay I was enlisted. The others helped me a lot, they took care of me, but I did not complain about this hell. I was only afraid that I would not stand it. Around one o’clock we were told to march on, change the place of stay. Partisans could stay a maximum of three nights in one place and then they had to move to another place in the forest. We were about to eat. They brought an ox, killed it and made an amazing „bigos” [traditional Polish meat and cabbage stew], and while we were eating, we suddenly heard missiles.
We were on the edge of the forest, me and my Fourth Unit. We heard missiles and then nothing. Silence. Suddenly there came a patrol on horses with machine pistols. Imagine this, the forest, the soldiers eating, and one of the Soviets asking „where is your commander?” in Russian. There were no officers there, they were in a different place, in this forming unit there was only „Bem” who had already arrived. We assumed that that other groups had also been found by the Soviets. Then there was the first and the second wave of offensive.
Against us. And we heard an order again and again: „Do not shoot!”.
Our commander ordered us not to shoot. There is an instruction about how to behave towards the incoming Russians, how the Home Army [Polish underground army] should behave towards the Soviet army.
Were you under fire?
We saw Soviet skirmishers, 200 metres further was the second wave of offensive, and then the third…
Were your guns ready to use?
Of course. Then a Russian general came and greeted us. No one answered, but he was not bothered. He told us to put our guns down and form columns. Some [Russian] soldiers were already waiting to write down our weapons that we had to put down on a pile. I did not want to do it, but I had to, a soldier came and took my MP from me. All weapons were put in one place and a watch was placed so nobody could steal the weapons.
We formed columns of four people. The general gave a speech saying that we would be enlisted in an allied army [the Red Army], that a Polish army was being formed, that there were diplomatic talks and we would be enlisted in this army. However, until the end of those talks we were interned and we were supposed to march to the place of accommodation.