Outbreak of War

Fleeing East

"Our lives changed completely."

"When the war broke out, I was... working in Krakow living with my aunt. And on September 1st, the German Stuka planes, the fighter planes, bombed a Polish barracks, army barracks, across the street from where I was staying with my aunt. That’s the first time I saw dead and wounded being carried out. And we realized that, you know, this was the end of a certain… chapter of our lives. And a new chapter was beginning. This happened on Friday. On Saturday night, my mother was able to get a bus from the city where my parents lived to come to Krakow. And they had a meeting with her three sisters and two brothers. And the decision was made that the young men, which was I and three of my cousins, should leave and go east in the hope that eventually the Polish Army, you know…and by Sunday France and England declared war on Germany already. And we just couldn’t believe that the army of those countries would not be able to, you know, overcome the 'madman with the mustache' as we called him. Okay?

So we left Krakow and we went east, and we marched about 400 kilometers before the Germans caught up with us. And they told us that the deal was made between Russia and Germany that Russia is gonna occupy the eastern part of Poland up to the Vistula River. And west of the Vistula River the Germans would occupy. So we…because the father of one of my cousins spent the World War I time in a Russian prison camp, and you know his experiences were not that, you know, encouraging, we made a decision to go back to our families.

And we walked back to Krakow. So in total we walked about 7-800 kilometers during the four weeks. When we came to Krakow, it was already occupied by the German forces because they marched in Krakow on September 6th. And already, there were atrocities and certain laws taking place and beatings, and people being taken away to labor camps from which they never returned, etc. So our lives changed completely."