Less We Forget Poppy


The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.
A Canadian Hero

Less We Forget Poppy


Chapter 3: ESCAPE TO DANGER – Fighting with the POLISH UNDERGROUND ARMY – The A.K.

Section 3.11: Epilog, Some Reflections and Aide Memoire

Epilog

Photo John Duncan and his wife on their Wedding Day
Photo Adam in B.C. May 1949

Upon returning to Scotland, my good friend John Duncan was married and found happiness. I was able to visit him in Scotland when I was again in Europe with the MRES. Thereafter I stayed in contact with him with yearly Xmas cards and notes.

I was never able to return to the scenes of my partisan day in southern Poland but I was able to help some of my A.K. comrades–in–arms find a safe home in Canada.

I was always careful not to reveal the location of my partisan friends in Canada as the Polish communist government and their agents were constantly looking for leverage with relatives back home. Later, with time, various Polish publications celebrating the exploits of these heroes published the general locations as to where these partsians lived.

Major Borowy and his three brothers, who were among the original 40 partisans at the time I joined the A.K., immigrated to Canada.

Image 1 of Letter from Hubert Brooks supporting Borowy immigration to Canada
                 Image 2 of Letter from Hubert Brooks supporting Borowy immigration to Canada

Lt. Col. Adam Stabrawa aka "Borowy" or "Boric" – Knight Virtuti Military Cross – died on 22 April 1991 in Vancouver, Canada. Most of his time in Canada was spent in central British Columbia running a mink farm. His ashes were buried in his native Polish soil, in the family tomb – in the local cemetery in Myślenice. I was proud to call him my friend and cherished the visits to his farm.

Two brothers who operated in my platoon were among the original 40 partisans at the time I joined the AK moved to Alberta. They were "Iglica" and "Trezebina". Yet another of the Podpolesk partisans went to Hamilton but I lost contact with him over time. There are others in the United Kingdom and in the US.

Here are the names of the partisans who fought in the Podhale Region of the Carpathian Mountains and who resided in Canada just after the war: (as originally published in the "Polish Bulletin" Calgary and re–printed in the Polonia Voice article "CANADIAN HERO IN POLAND : STORY OF HUBERT BROOKS, Wing Commander".)

 

 

My friend Abbot Hubert Franciszek Kostrzański "Mirt" died in Chicago on January 5th 2002 at the age of 83.

He had been captured by the secret police in 1944 at the end of World War II and sentenced to death for his guerilla activities. He managed to escape from a Krakow prison. He was smuggled out of the country and found himself in Italy, where he served as chaplain in the Polish Army of General Anders.

He later immigrated to the United States in 1946 and did work in dozens of Catholic churches in the Chicago area.

Abbot Kostrzański served as an abbot at the Cistercian Fathers Chapel in Willow Springs (Chicago area).

 

Pope with Hubert Kostrzański "Mirt" (Chaplain of 2nd Battalion 1 psp AK)

Photo Courtesy of: Hubert Brooks Private Collection - Xmas Card sent to Hubert Brooks
Xmas Photo sent to Hubert Brooks from Abbot Hubert Kostrzański
My Friend Lieutenant Commander Gustaw Górecki ps. "Gustaw", Commander 2nd Company, I Battalion under "Andrzej"
In London After The War July 31, 1947

Photo Courtesy of: Hubert Brooks Private Collection
Image of Lieutenant Commander Gustaw Górecki ps. Gustaw, Commander 2<sup>nd</sup> Company, I Battalion  In London After The War July 31, 1947 Photo Inscription from Lieutenant Commander Gustaw Górecki ps. Gustaw, Commander 2<sup>nd</sup> Company, I Battalion  In London After The War July 31, 1947

 

PHOTO of Plaque Commemerating Julian Krzewicki Military Achievements During WW II

  

The Biography of Julian Krzewicki as released by his son Dr. Jerzy Krzewicki in 1996 details the troubling times that this Polish Hero who decided to remain behind in his beloved country had under Soviet backed rule.
Unfortunately this sort of treatment was the norm for a great number of the members of the war time AK. This included a number of my close friends such as Julian.

From the Biography:

Julian Krzewicki maintained his command of 2nd Battalion 1 psp AK and Head of Limanowa Region until January 16, 1945, then hid until October 1, 1945 before coming out into the open.

In early January 1948, he was arrested by the secret police in Gorlice. Reason for the arrest was allegedly distribution of an anti-communist leaflet.
Julian Krzewicki was released after a few weeks in mid February 1948.

Street in Gorlice Named In Honor Of Julian Krzewicki
Street in Gorlice Named In Honor OF Julian Krzewicki

Feb 7, 1950 Julian Krzewicki was arrested again and sent to Gorlice PUBP prison – leaving behind a wife and 2 young children without means of support.
For 14 days and nights he was constantly tortured. The interrogators wanted him to admit to the allegations: belonging to WiN, cooperation with Germany, the killing of Jews and Soviet prisoners and hiding weapons and ammunition from three air drops.
A steady rotating round of interviewers aka torturers ensured that Julian was without sleep and almost entirely without food. Often times several torturers beat him at the same time. They beat him in the face, kicked him in the kidneys and so forth. Despite having swollen legs, feet covered with blisters, difficulty breathing because of chest pain, they continued interrogating him for several days and nights without allowing him any sleep.
Those responsible for the torture included: Head PUBP Bronisław Kruczek, investigator Edward Zygler, Bronisław Jagiełło and many others.
After 14 days of such torture Julian had hallucinations and impaired consciousness. Some 3 days later, the prison doctor, Dr. Zdzislaw Pyszyński took him in, cut the blisters from his feet, made dressings for his wounds and ordered medications.

After three months of detention in Gorlice May 18, 1950 he was transported by rail to WUBP in Krakow – where the same allegations were made as in Gorlice.
The investigation started from the beginning with the same methods, sometimes adding pulling out of handfuls of hair, spitting in the face, and knocking out teeth.

Julian Krzewicki was released from detention due to lack of guilt on April 29, 1951. He and his family continued to be harassed by police – losing jobs as well as his family apartment.

By 1956 the harassment stopped and he found a job at the Gorlice Food Wholesale Market – retiring as head of sales.

Julian Krzewicki (“Filip”), commander of 2nd Battalion 1 psp AK and Head of Limanowa Region, Polish Hero, died on 11th August 1987 in Gorlice. In 1988 Gorlice was to honor its home town hero by naming a street after him.

Julian's wonderful wife Barabra (Stormke) Krzewicki (“Wieslawa”) passed away in 2003.

 

On a negative note, subsequent to the war “Ogień” Józef Kuraś remained a very controversial figure. Immediately after the war Kuraś was an officer of the secret communist police (PUBP) in Nowy Targ. However Kuraś quickly fell out of favor with the communists and once again went into the mountains to hide and fight - this time against the communists. In the fall of 1946 the communist authorities began a major offensive against Kuraś' partisans. On January 21, 1947, finding himseld surrounded Kuraś gave his second wife Hanka an order to surrender herself and after she did so, shot himself in the head. He did not die immediately and as a result was taken, unconscious to the hospital in Nowy Targ where he died the following day.

Since his death, some of the people associated with him during the war have tried to now portray him as a "hero". Perhaps remarkedly, perhaps under the thought process of the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" school of logic, Kuraś was officially rehabilitated in 2006 (after the fall of communism in Europe) when the Polish President Kaczynski opened an official memorial in Zakopane, "in recognition of his resistance efforts".

In my opinion and that of most AK officers, and a number of historians and witnesses - he was just a thug.

In particular, the Slovaks and the inhabitants of the Podhale region have protested against this "hero" categorization because many people from these regions were murdered by him for no reason both during the war and immediately after when Kuraś co-operated with the communists. The Slovaks living on both sides of the border were incensed and could not understand why a man (Kuraś) who;

  1. during the war was a supporter of ethnic cleansing, who wanted the elimination of Polish Slovaks, Ruthenians (the East Slavic people of Rus comprising parts of modern-day Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine) and Jews;
  2. during the war led the harassment, intimidation, looting, terrorization, and random killing of people in the Polish-Slovak border;
  3. after the war forged documents under the signature of Borowy to award himself the Bronze Cross of Merit with Swords and further provided certificates again under Borowy’s forged signature tried to rehabilitate his subordinates by providing fictious war time pseudonyms and achievements in "formal" (sic) certificates;
  4. after the war colluded and worked directly with the communist police in the prosecution and murder of war time partisans.

was somehow now suggested to be a national hero -- not only grossly falsifying history but adding insult to injury proposing that both a statue be erected and that a street be named after Kuraś.

Finally Private Frederick Selwyn Cole, the Kiwi who had exchanged identies with me back at Stalag VIII B (E478) in the May 1942 timeframe, stayed a P.O.W. for the duration of the war at STALAG VIII B -later named Stalag 344. Unfortunately while a P.O.W., Fred contracted a severe case of pulmonary tuburculosis. This was so severe that when he eventually got back to New Zealand he was judged to be 100% disabled. Cole arrived back in the U.K. on April 24, 1945 and arrived home in New Zealand on the hospital ship ORANJE August 10, 1945. Private Frederick Cole was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the War Medal 1939-45, and the New Zealand War Services Medal. Cole who had enlisted on October 3, 1939 was released from the military on November 14, 1946. He married Meg Florence Cole and the couple lived and retired in Whangarei, NZ (just north west of Aukland on the north island).

Some PHOTOS of the B17 American eveaders back at their home base in Italy right after the war.

PHOTO of Evading B17G Crew Suhling, Kroschewsky,  Sternbeck, Beam March 1945 in Starpaone Italy
PHOTO of Evading B17G Crew Beam, Kroschewsky, Suhling, Sternbeck March 1945 in Starpaone Italy
Image of Sunday Dec 9 1945 News Article re POland Saying NO to British Search Teams Looking for missing POWs

Late 1945 the Soviet's kept their oppression ever present even after the end of war hostilities. To the profound annoyance of the British government, the Soviet friendly Polish Government refused to allow British Military search teams to enter Poland to round up remaining British missing airmen and former prisoners of war. This refusal was widely thought to be dicatated by the Soviet authorities desire that the British not have the on-site means of determining information regarding dispersal of their forces in Poland. This was in contrast to the full co-operation of other former enemy-oocupied Allied countries e.g. Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgiun and France.

Some Reflections

Sadly, those that got out were the fortunate ones. Many others remained behind in Poland. They were accustomed all of them by history to the invaders heel. I’m glad that for a while I fought beside them, and was able to help them in their cause.

But our victories in the Polish A.K. were costly at times. Invariably, German sadism and vengeance were wreaked upon the local civilian population.
There was not merely one Polish Lidice. The towns of Wiśniowa and Lipnik, for example, were burned to the ground, and many peasants were burned alive.
The entire village of Porąbka was wiped from the face of the earth, twenty–five of the villagers being locked in a barn and cremated alive; several children, two or three years old, were bayoneted and tossed into the flames.

But why do I single out these instances? They are merely typical of what happened all over Poland. Of all the countries involved in the war, Poland lost the highest percentage of its citizens: over six million perished, half of them Polish Jews.
(Editor's Note: See for example web account The Devil's Playground: Poland in World War II by Piotr Wrobel.)

Yet in spite of such terrorism, we still received every assistance and cooperation; precise information regarding the Germans' movements was cheerfully supplied.
Finally, the Huns became so apprehensive that they did not dare to appear on the streets at night.
After 10PM, the night belonged to us.

It is my firm belief that the A. K. was the strongest and most efficient organization of its kind in the whole of Europe. The A.K. Home Army had an estimated 350,000 soldiers under oath during World War II. As a member of the A. K., I received a cordial welcome from all of the Polish people, regardless of class; the same friendliness from peasants as from members of the intelligentsia. Polish hospitality was unbounded. Let a Pole learn that you were American, Canadian or British, and he would give you the very shirt from his back.

Hubert Brooks Aide Memoire on the Polish A.K. Underground Organization

Several years later I was asked to write a brief one page summary of the operation of the Polish Underground Organization during World War II.
The following AIDE MEMOIRE dated 23–Oct–70 on the POLISH UNDERGROUND ORGANIZATION is reproduced here.

POLISH UNDERGROUND ORGANIZATION

  1. The following resume of the Polish Underground Organization and activities is based on personal experiences during 1943–45.

  2. Command and Control. Command and control was exercised through a central authority in Warsaw and consisted of prominent political and military personnel. The central authority maintained contact with the Polish Government in exile and was responsible for developing aims and policies of the organization.

  3. Functional Organization. The country was divided into regional areas and if required could be broken down into smaller sectors. In general the regional and sector headquarters received broad guidance directives from the Central Authority and were responsible for the detail preparation and implementation of activities associated with:
    1. The recruiting of personnel;

    2. The infiltration of agents into various governmental and industrial positions;

    3. The collection of intelligence on the activities of the occupying power;

    4. Certain special operations e.g. – assassinations, liberating prisoners from German custody etc. etc;

    5. The militant or military section of the movement;

    6. The creation of secure communications methods between the various echelons of command (Courier System);

    7. The establishment of "safe residences" for underground authorities sought by the occupying power; and

    8. The preparation of plans for a popular revolution against the occupying power.

  4. Recruiting was accomplished through ex-servicemen, dissatisfied civilians and from personnel wanted by the occupying authority.

  5. Infiltration of agents or sympathizers was carried out at all levels and in particular in such organizations as local police, the Gestapo and the military. These infiltrators provided the underground with advance notice of planned raids, the location of arrested underground personnel movements of occupying forces and access to sources responsible for the dissemination of identification papers.

  6. Special operations consisted of a number of small cells that dealt with the liquidation of collaborators, Gestapo officials and certain government officials. In addition these cells were available for specialized sabotage activities in large cities and frequently conducted raids against prisons housing underground personnel. In the latter case the members were dressed as German or Gestapo officials, possessed all necessary identification papers and some cases they received internal assistance.

  7. Military Operations consisted of normal military field formations and were engaged in sabotage operations, field execution of informers, and general operations against the occupying forces. The units were mobile, and had no fixed headquarters. In other words field units were assigned geographical areas and harassed the Germans with hit and run tactics. These tactics caused the occupying powers to concentrate a large number of troops on fruitless "terrorist searches" through the area. As the underground grew in strength attacks were carried out against SS and other military formations. Those attacks compelled the occupying power to divert a large number of troops for the protection of their lines of communications between Germany and the Russian Front.

  8. Safe Residences. In the event that an influential member of the underground was suspected to be under surveillance new identification papers were issued and the individual was moved to a safe residence. A chain of "safe havens" existed throughout Poland.




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