Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 16, Issue 7/9, 2006

Europeization and Universalization of the Tragism and Meanings of the Warsaw Uprisings of 1943 and 1944

Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm
Pages 157-174

Kaja, a Stretscher-Barear from the Warsaw Uprising, Saviour of the Hubal Cross

This paper is a fragment of the book “Kaja od Radosława, czyli historia Hubalowego Krzyża”, which was published by Warszawskie Wydawnictwo Literackie Muza in 2006. It will be published by the American publisher The Military History Press under the title “Kaia Savior of the Hubal Cross”. Covering a century of Polish history, it is full of tragic and compelling events. Such historic events as Polish life in Siberia, Warsaw before the war, the German occupation, the Warsaw Uprising, life in Ostaszków, and the rebuilding of Warsaw are included. The hero Kaia is a woman, christened Cesaria, whose father was expelled to Siberia in 1905 for conspiring against the tsar. Kaia spent her early childhood there, and the family lived near the mountain Altaj. A chapter shows how the Polish community lived there, organized their daily lives, etc. In 1922, the family returned to free Poland, the train trip back taking almost a year. This ordeal is highlighted as a series of stops sometimes lasting for weeks because of heavy snow accumulation, the men shoveling a pathway for the train to pass through, many deaths occurring from the frigid cold with the “caboose” used as a mortuary for Poles to be returned to their homeland for burial. Kaia entered the school system, was eventually educated as an architect, and then World War II started. She lived under the German occupation for the first few years, and later became a conspirator by helping the underground movement. She joined the Armia Krajowa in 1942. At considerable risk, her apartment became a meeting place for the conspirators. After Hubal’s death, one of his couriers gave Kaia the Hubal Cross Virtuti Militari. The cross was with her for the ensuing 50 years. During the Warsaw Uprising, in which she was a courier, she carried the cross around her neck. Many times, she had to travel via the Warsaw underground sewer system. Twice, she was wounded. After the Warsaw Uprising collapsed, she went to the east territory to look for her mother. She was captured by the Russian NKVD in Białystok and sent to Ostaszków. An interesting scene describes one of many interrogations: the Russian interrogator asks if she knows about the cross. Her reply causes a puzzled look on his face. The cross was never discovered (she had hidden it in a specially made shoe). Protection of the Virtuti Militari Cross, which at first had been a challenge to Kaia to survive the Uprising and Russian imprisonment, later became a symbol of courage and determination of the Polish people. In 1946, Kaia returned to Poland very ill and weighing only 38 kg (83.6 pounds). Eventually recovering her health, she worked as an architect involved in the rebuilding of Warsaw totally decimated by the Germans. In the Warsaw Uprising chapter, Kaia’s diary is included, and the book relates the scenes and events that she described. One such experience is most moving. It was a quiet moment, i.e. the shooting had subsided. On a warm beautiful August night, she was sitting, enjoying the quiet alone when, a young man sat down next to her. He was a colleague from architectural school. Together, a few months earlier, they had attended a university ball, and Kaia remembered him as always being funny and amusing. Then, she noticed he was missing one eye and part of his chin. He returned her gaze and jokingly said, “I still have one eye left”. And then, he quietly sang a popular song that they had danced the waltz to… “Not to be in love on such a beautiful night is a sin”… Kaia had to be in the same mood as he was and smiled. A few days later, half of his body was covered in ruins…he could not be helped. His death lasted several days, and he is buried in Powązki Cemetery, like many soldiers of the Uprising.