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Blood dripped onto the cold, concrete floor. Being interrogated by Soviet secret police was no laughing matter. Marcin Kowalczyk had been an officer in the Polish Army before the war as well as a member of a Polish partisan group. But it wasn’t a communist partisan group which the Soviet occupiers that were beating him to death did not appreciate. The pain kept him awake. But all he wanted to do was to go to sleep. Lie down in a verdant meadow somewhere, close his eyes and fall asleep while listening to the sounds of larks flying over the countryside.

He would probably never experience that again. His life was slowly flowing from his body as if his life force was unwilling to undergo more torture. A heavy set Russian entered the room. It wasn’t the same man as before. This one looked more dangerous. He looked as if he wanted to torture Marcin to death just for the fun of it.
A crackling punch hit Marcin right in the face, breaking his nose. The little blood he had left poured out of his nostrils. The former soldier felt like he was going to black out soon. His vision was blurred, his ears were ringing. And then the memories came…

Marcin Kowalczyk was born in 1916, during the First World War. Growing up in the small village of Sułów, in central Poland, he spent his childhood and teens working on his father’s farm. As tensions rose in the Europe of the 1930s, Kowalczyk joined the Polish Army. He worked his way up to the rank of corporal before the war broke out and was stationed near the German border. When the war eventually did break out, the young, 23-year old Corporal Kowalczyk was in the thick of it. This period of his life he remembered the most vividly.

One by one, the countries around Germany had fallen. In 1938 it was Austria. A year later, Czechoslovakia was split up and absorbed into the Hitler’s Germany. Poland would be next, no-one doubted that. It was not a question of if, but when.
Great Britain and France had promised to come to Poland’s aid but in the end they would not. The Polish were left on their own against the Germans. They would be the first to fight, but they would pay a high price.

“WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!” Corporal Kowalczyck screamed into the ear of his sergeant. “WE HAVE TO STAND FAST!” the sergeant replied. “WE HAVE TO PULL BACK OTHERWISE WE’RE DEAD,” Marcin screamed once more. The sergeant, a grizzled man in his thirties, looked around at the utter devastation around him. The small town they were defending had been almost completely leveled by German shells. Polish cavalry units were retreating through the shot up streets. Germans could be seen advancing on their position from all sides. The sergeant looked at Kowalczyck and nodded. They got up and ran out of the building, weaving in and out of cover. They eventually reached the safety of a nearby alleyway were they caught up with the rest of the unit. “Germans!” one of the soldiers whispered sharply. They quickly took cover as German soldiers passed the alleyway. Marcin’s popped his head around the corner. Everything was clear. “Let’s go!” ordered the sergeant.

Marcin and his unit eventually made it back to their lines and joined the slow defeat across the Polish countryside. The German were attacking from all sides and nowhere was the Polish army holding. All they could do was to retreat as slowly as possible.

More than two weeks later, the Polish were once again stabbed in the back, this time by the Soviets. In a daring diplomatic move they had made a secret alliance with the Germans to divide Poland. Not having expected such a maneuver, the Polish Army now had to fight a two-front war they were not prepared for. Before the eyes of the world the army collapsed and started retreating to the Romanian border to reorganize. Isolated pockets kept fighting on until early October while the rest of the country was swiftly taken by German and Soviet troops.

After five weeks the curtain finally fell for Poland in a speedy war that shocked the world. Germany and the Soviet Union divided the spoils of war. Western Poland became subject to cruel German occupation while the same happened with the Soviets in Eastern Poland. Marcin and his fellow soldiers joined the partisans that operated from the forests and towns of central Poland. They often had to watch as the Germans raped their land. Too few and with little equipment they were forced to stand by and watch. Afterwards they helped all they could but often there was very little they could do.

There had been one day that they had been able to do something. Marcin and his band of partisans were trekking through the forest, dressed in peasants clothes when they saw smoke billowing up. As quickly as they could they made their way to the scene. It was an isolated farm, situated in an otherwise idyllic surrounding. The barn was on fire and Marcin could see two German half tracks unloading troops. A Polish family was kneeling in front of their house, surrounded by German soldiers. Marcin recognized the family. The farmer was an old friend of his father's. He felt he could not just abandon them.

He turned to his fellow partisans and said: "We've got to do something!" "Are you crazy," another replied. "There's almost two dozen soldiers and only five of us." Their attention was drawn back to the direction of the farm when they heard a German officer shouting at the farmer and his family. "They're going to kill them," said Marcin. "We have to do something!"
When the other partisans saw the look in his eyes they saw a man determined to follow through no matter what. They could not let him go at the Germans alone. "Alright then," said Marcin. "We have the element of surprise and we have our machine gun," he continued while pointing at the Browning Automatic Rifle. "We need to make them think there are more of us. Stanislaw, Oskar, circle around. It's your job to take out the Germans around the family. We'll fire the first shot." The two scurried off into the forest while Marcin continued: "The machine gun needs to take out the group of soldiers at the halftracks. I'll take out the officer."

Everyone got into position. Marcin looked along the sights until he had the officer in his sights. He fired, the officers head exploded in a orgy of blood. Milliseconds later the rest of the group opened fire on the Germans. Within a second or two half the soldiers had already fallen. The peasant family quickly ran inside away from all the bloodshed. The Germans took cover behind the halftracks and started returning fire. Although they had taken out a lot of them the Germans still outnumbered them. Marcin took out his only grenade and threw it in the direction of the halftrack. A few seconds later the explosion tossed several Germans into the air.

"MOVE IN!" yelled Marcin while he got up. They all ran as quickly across the open terrain. Marcin shot another German but not before he could shoot Adam, the machine gunner. The partisans encircled the halftracks and the two remaining Germans suddenly came out with their hands up. Without pardon Marcin shot them both in the chest...

The memories were getting fainter. His eyes got darker. His face was on the cold, concrete floor. Yet he could feel the warmth of the sun and the tickle of the grass on his skin. He was lieing in a verdant meadow. He could hear the larks flying above.

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What I Did On My Holidays
- by A. Hitler, 50 years of age -

On the first day of my vacation, I told my secretaries to hold all calls for the foreseeable future. I do not get that many holidays due to the demands of my job, so the few days I manage to snatch away from the cares of the world are days to be treasured! As a thought experiment, I began planning a rather unrealistic statue of majestic proportions. I am going to show Speer the plans. Will he a) praise its genius or b) denounce its madness? I can hardly wait.

On the second day of my vacation, a travelling doctor with a sonic screwdriver showed up at the door, but I told him I wasn't buying anything and referred him to Bormann. What is it with these itinerant merchants hawking their shoddy wares at the very doorsteps of one's secret retreats. Have they no shame?

On the third day of my vacation, just as I was having my lunch served, a ball of lightning blasted through a window, narrowly missing me before it grounded itself in the table. Scorched into the tabletop was the legend “We know what your are doing (cont. on ball #2)” but there was no follow up lightning ball, which was a bit of a downer. Göring managed to intimidate my secretaries enough for him to get an open line and we talked a bit about the annual duck hunt.

On the fourth day of my vacation, I was visited by an unearthly vision as a golden light rose from my bathtub and a hollow voice proclaimed that, unless I were to change my plans, the world would be plunged into chaos. Naturally, I made sure to clean the tub very carefully after that. Who knows what germs the golden light might have carried. I think.... that my statue shall be gold plated.

On the fifth day of my vacation, while adjusting the plans for the statue's movement – I wanted it to turn to face the rising dawn with a heil Hitler each day – an explosive shark was delivered at the door “on behalf of the Polish victims of the first of September”. I need somebody to vet my mail better. Perhaps Bormann knows somebody, it is intolerable that this should scare my secretaries. Now, let it not be said that I cannot read a hint when destiny comes knocking. I reclined in my comfortable chair, assembled the known facts, and I acted.

On the sixth day of my vacation, I cancelled the annual duck hunt, ordered Göring to protect the ducks of Germany, informed Himmler that I wanted all future time travellers shot on sight, and told von Rundstedt to invade Poland.

And on the seventh day, September 1, 1939, I went surfing.

All taken together, my vacation was not quite as peaceful as I had hoped for, but, in all fairness, it could have been worse. Life is never truly peaceful when you are a man who, like I am, is constantly bothered by a future that just cannot leave its own past well enough alone. I wonder how Speer will like my statue.
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OUR LADY of SORROWS - The Seven Tragedies of Poland



18 July 1924 - The Prophecy

Mein Kampf , originally published in July 1925, Adolf Hitler predicts the stages of Germany’s political emergence on the world scene: in the first stage, Germany would, through a program of massive re-armament, overthrow the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles and form alliances with the British Empire and Fascist Italy. The second stage would feature wars against France and her allies in Eastern Europe by the combined forces of Germany, Britain and Italy. The third and final stage would be a war to destroy what Hitler saw as the "Judeo-Bolshevik" regime in the Soviet Union that would give Germany the necessary Lebensraum (literally "living space"). Hitler's rise to power in 1933 affords him the opportunity to realize the prophesies of his book.


* * * * * *


1 September 1939 - The Flight

The unprovoked invasion of Poland began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and ended 6 October 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland. While Poland put up a brief and spirited resitance to the German onslaught, they were quickly overwhelmed and finally utterly defeated when the Soviet Union invaded Poland's barely defended frontier in the East.


* * * * * *


September-October 1939 - The Crucifixion

With ruthless efficiency, the German Army swept through Poland leaving a wake of destruction and suffering behind them. Death from the sky was metted out to soldier and civilian alike in a campaign to stamp out the Polish way of life.


* * * * * *


6 October 1939 - The Removal

Poland is betrayed by Brtain and France in spite of their having promoted democracy and self-determination, signing pacts and forming military alliances prior and during World War II—yet betraying their Central European allies by abandoning these pacts, for example by not preventing Nazi Germany from invading and occupying Czechoslovakia (Munich Betrayal) or abandoning its Polish ally during 1939 Polish September Campaign. This calamity is further exacerbated when the hidden agreement of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact is revealed with the Soviet Union seizing the eastern half of Poland with a barely tenable veil of protecting the White Russian minority in the eastern provinces. To conceal their deceipt, the Soviets secretly murder over 12,000 captured Polish officers at Katyn.


* * * * * *


1 August 1944 - The Receipt

In the latter stages of the war with German forces in full retreat in the face of the Soviet juggernaut, Polish resistance fighters mount an uprising in Warsaw anticipating assistance from the Russians who were a mere 30 miles east of Warsaw. Upon learning of the uprising, and fearing that pro-democratic politics would prevail in a liberated Poland, Stalin held back his advance effectively allowing the Germans to brutally supress the uprising. Even meager supply assistance to the beleaguered resistance from the West was refused by Stlain and in a vicious 63 day battle, the resistance was crushed and Warsaw completely leveled.


* * * * * *


4 February 1945 - The Burial

In a final act of collective betrayal, a weakened and war-weary President Roosevelt cedes Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference despite the enormous sacrifices made by the exiled Polish military in the Battle of Britain, the North African campaign, the Italian campaign and the invasion of France. Poland would live under the heel of Soviet oppression and domination for another 45 years.


# # #

"The loss of over six million Polish citizens from a total population in 1939 of thirty-five million represented a casualty rate of 18 percent, compared with 0.2 percent in the USA, 0.9 percent in Great Britain, 2.5 percent in Japan, 7.4 per percent in Germany, 11.1 percent in Yugoslavia and 11.2 percent in the USSR. Poland became the killing-ground of Europe, the new Golgotha. Yet even in 1945 peace was not fully restored. Fighting in the backwoods continued for a further two years. The final shot of the aftermath of war was not fired in Poland until the summer of 1947.

During all this long agony, Poland's predicament was principally determined by the state of relations between her two mighty neighbors. When Germany held the upper hand over Russia, Poland fell under Nazi sway. When Russia held the upper hand over Germany, Poland fell under Soviet sway. When Germany and Russia agreed to collaborate, as happened during the first two years of the war, Poland fell under a double tyranny."

- Norman Davies, Heart of Europe
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September 1st, 1939 A.D.

“Are we supposed to take the blame?”

Janusz looked over to his friend and fellow soldier in arms. Janusz was a junior officer in the Polish Army, a lieutenant to be precise, and now held command over an entire platoon of Polish men. The man who spoke was a Polish-Czech half-breed from Krakow who he had come to befriend over the last few months. He was also the senior sergeant of his platoon; his second in command.

“I don’t understand, that's all…” he frowned.

The distant flashes, followed by thunderclaps, were growing closer. The storm was growing closer to Poznań by the hour and soon it would be upon them. This was no storm of lightning, rain or wind, but of fire, death and steel. This was the storm of the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. This was the final reckoning - the beginning of the end.

Or so it seemed. The invasion was nothing new or surprising – reports had been coming in from all over that the Germans had been attacking villages and towns all along the border for days before the actual declaration of war. Whether it was deliberate or a miscommunication in the obvious invasion plans, Janusz didn’t know.

What he did know is that the army had been mobilized and ready. Almost one million Polish men were ready to fight for the defense of their country; they were confident in success. The Wehrmacht was larger, better trained and better supplied, but Poland had the support of the French and the English. If they could slow the Wehrmacht down and hold them up at Warszaw and the river, the Allies would be able to relieve them and put an end to German ambition once again.


Poznań was the second major city to receive the brunt of Hitler’s wrath. German divisions were advancing on them, driving the Polish vanguard before them and forcing the Slavs to dig in and pray for safe deliverance. Janusz was afraid, very afraid. He was a Jew, you see, and a well-informed one. He knew what would happen if the National Socialists took them over, he knew it in his heart. Kristallnacht would only be the start; if Poland fell, countless Jews (as well as ‘inferior’ poles) would fall prey.

He had to escape.

His unit was not on the front lines, but close enough. At the rate the Wehrmacht was advancing, it was clear he would be overwhelmed sooner or later. As if on cue, the sound of a machine gun stuttering into the fog before him sounded out. All across the light trench fortifications, fire burped from the muzzles of hundreds of rifles and machine guns. The Germans had arrived.

Janusz’s platoon was now on the front lines.

Before he could even issue an order, he felt himself thrown to one side as an explosion rocked their trench. Screams of pain erupted through the trench as German artillery began to pound the fortifications. Janusz shook his head and looked around, hearing nothing but whistling. His vision slowly came back into focus but his ears were whining – through it, everything was muffled and faded. He saw the veteran sergeant yell something at him but he couldn’t quite make it out.

He blinked and shook his head, and then looked down the trench. He immediately regretted the sight, and turned from it, somewhat sick to his stomach. Five men, who he had known, lay dead or dying. He tried to pull himself up but was shaking heavily. Almost all at once, his hearing came back, and the sounds of the dying wracked him. He tried to collect himself and analyze the situation.

German artillery, nothing too big, probably mortars carried by the infantry. Shots echoed around them and a glance over the trench showed that the Germans were advancing still. An assault was inevitable.

“Get someone on that gun!” Sergeant Václav shouted at a pair of privates, hurrying them along. “Lieutenant, are you alright?”

Janusz shook his head. “I’m okay…I’m okay!”

He ducked in fear at the sound of a hiss – a bullet whipping past him.

“Bayonets! The Germans are coming soon; fix bayonets!” He shouted at his platoon, trying to do the same. He knew it wouldn’t help much – the Germans were likely to send submachine guns on the assault and it was folly to bring a gun to a knife fight. Unfortunately, his unit was mostly armed with bolt-action battle rifles. They would not cope in close range.

He pulled away a bit, limping slightly on one leg. It hurt to put weight on it – he suspected it was a sprained ankle, but had little time to check. Above them, on the edge of the trench, there was a loud detonation as a mortar shell struck the ground before the trench. The barbed wire was virtually annihilated by the direct hit – the German artillery was weakening their defence.

There was silence.

Janusz could hear the guns firing, but there was no more artillery bursts. The mortars had stopped firing. He raised his rifle to aim at the edge of the Trench.

“Here they come, men! Show them Polish mettle!”

Of the thirty men left in fighting shape, his platoon had little experience. There was an MG firing over the edge of the trench, but its gunner suddenly collapsed and slumped into the trench, a victim of sniper fire. The Germans had accurate sharpshooters, it seemed, something Poland lacked in any real quantity.

Germans poured into the trench in a sudden wave. Janusz fired. Everyone fired. They were charging head on. The Polish position was outnumbered, its guns were knocked out and the Germans were determined. Janusz’s shot missed and hit the earthen wall, leaving his target unclaimed. The Germans came in firing, spraying bullets across the trenches with their submachine guns and supported by the battle rifles coming in the second line.

The Poles gave as well as they took, and Germans slid dead into the Trenches even as friendly troops died. Janusz knew what was coming and couldn’t stop it. A German grenade landed amongst their ranks, but a brave private picked it up and threw it back in the nick of time. It exploded in mid-air above the trench and left the troops shaken.

‘To hell with this’ Janusz thought. ‘I’m no hero.’

And so he ran. Janusz ran with all the fear and terror of a startled rabbit. Being near the back of his platoon’s position, few people noticed. Sergeant Vaclav did.

“Janusz, where the hell are you going?!” he shouted. “Get back here you son of a bitch!”

Janusz was too spooked to hear him. His morale had well and truly broken. He offered one glance behind and saw the shadowy frame of one of a Panzer IV appear at the edge of the Trench, rumbling along its edge. Its gun fired into the few surviving MG positions and silenced them for good. Their defences around Poznań were collapsing in on themselves.

“God damnit! Fall back! Everyone fall back!” the voice of Vaclav echoed behind him in the distance.

Janusz scrambled up out of the Trench and made a run for it. Bullets hissed and popped around the injured officer and, miraculously, left him mostly unharmed. He saw a friendly soldier stand up and try to yell something to him, only to be struck by one of the bullets which narrowly missed him.


He ran. He ran like his legs had never carried him before. Through the dead streets, past houses, past soldiers, he ran without any heed for those who tried to stop him. Finally he found his goal. A large, partially demolished structure, hauntingly familiar. The faded white door sat before him.

Lacking his key, he simply lowered his shoulder and barged into the door, splintering it and sending it crashing to the floor inside. He found his shaking wife holding a pistol, aiming it at the door. She stared for a moment, then dropped it and rushed to her.

“It’s okay…it’s okay, it’s going to be fine. Why are you here? Where are the children?” He raised her tearstained face and tried to comfort her. “Are they safe?”

“Warszaw…they went with their grandparents to Warszaw.”

He frowned. “Then we need to catch up, let’s go, quickly.”

He turned and found himself face to face with a German soldier of the Wehrmacht. The man held a rifle aimed at him with a stern, if noble, countenance upon his face. The man shouted something he could not understand, and then shouted it again, raising his rifle. It was clear what he wanted, even if he was not saying it. Janusz, however, chose the worst moment of his life to do something heroic:

He raised his pistol to try and stop the German from harming his wife.

A single shot rang out, all went silent; Janusz’s vision faded to black.
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