We Lose A Genuine Hero
We mourn the loss of Mieczyslaw Madejski who died on December 16, 2020 at the age of 97. He was a genuine hero of the Polish Resistance Home Army and of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. He was a very talented man who used his ingenuity to help Poland in her greatest hour of need through conspiratorial work and armed struggle against German occupiers during World War II. He spent the war as a member of the famous Zoska Battalion, which was the assault unit of the Home Army, including blowing up German trains, carrying soldiers and supplies to the Eastern Front.
During the Uprising, his well-armed group began its odyssey at the Pfeiffer tannery on Okopowa Street from where it attacked the prison Gesiowka and liberated Jews awaiting Nazi execution. He was wounded several times but fought throughout the Uprising, following the itinerary imposed by relentless German attacks that pushed insurgents out from the Wola district to the Centrum of Warsaw and down Ksiazeca Street toward the Vistula River bank.
Interestingly, his Uprising itinerary was almost the same as my mother’s but in reverse. She started on Ksiazeca Street at a gathering point for Girl Scout couriers but lost touch with her unit and ended up at the Pfeiffer tannery where Germans used Polish teenage prisoners to steal its machinery and supplies and afterwards executed boys on the other side of the Okopowa Street.
Briefly, they were at the same time at the same place on Krolewska Street on the edge of the Saxon Gardens. My mother found shelter at Krolewska 6 apartment building, but the German Army occupied it the next day and executed all the men. German snipers took positions in all windows and a tank was positioned at the entrance to shoot at the Home Army insurgents on the other side of the street. She could see young insurgents running in the burned out windows of buildings across the street. She was forced to walk there as a living shield in front of German soldiers with machine guns ready to shoot.
Madejski was a few houses down trying to join the battle but unable to do so in face of murderous German assaults and had to descend into underground sewers under Warsaw to get through to the center of town. At the end, they were again on similar trains to the Pruszkow transit camp, which distributed the whole population of Warsaw into German concentration and labor camps. They both managed to escape and lived in Warsaw after the war but only met fifty years later in New York.
Mieczyslaw Madejski, as the most prominent of Warsaw insurgents living in New York with numerous medals for bravery, organized a Warsaw Uprising Anniversary Mass every year at the oldest Polish Catholic church of Saint Stanislaw Bishop and Martyr, which used to be in the heart of a Polish neighborhood in New York City. This tradition held until his death last year though the neighborhood became the East Village, home of hippies, and the Polish National Home there became Andy Warhol’s Factory film studio. Now it is gentrified. Even though the world changed so much, we will never forget Mieczyslaw Madejski and his spirit of resistance to evil and his love of freedom and of Poland.