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“There were two strange and in some ways, pathetic figures at this conference; two AK officers, Colonel Rawicz and Colonel Tarnawa, who had left Warsaw on July 29, and who, on the initiative of a “strong minority” of AK officers inside Warsaw, had been sent to Lublin to get into contact with Mr Mikolajczk then in Moscow, in a last minute endeavour to persuade the London Government to use all their influence in calling off the rising that was being prepared for August 1; for on July 25, they had already received orders from General Bor-Komarowski to prepare and stand by. They claimed that it was clear that the insurgents could not possibly hold Warsaw unless they struck out at the very last moment, with the Russians practically inside the city. Unfortunately, it had taken the two colonels nearly a fortnight to reach Lublin, and it was too late.
Colonel Ravich, a smart dapper little man in a dazzling new uniform, but with a look of grief and bewilderment in his eyes, said that headquarters had given the order for a rising as soon as the Russians were 30 km away from Warsaw; he and many other officers felt it would be folly to do it until the Russians had reached the Vistula bridges.
“We did not think,” he said, “that the Russians could enter Warsaw before August 15. But the man-in-the-street (and you know how brave and romantic our Warsaw people are) was convinced the Russians would be there by August 2; and with tremendous enthusiasm they joined in ….. ,”
Rawicz was in a state of great emotion as he spoke about Warsaw and its destruction, and there were tears in his eyes as he mentioned his wife and daughter, who were “still there,” in that burning inferno. He reckoned that 200,000 people had already been killed and slaughtered.
It was all tragic, and a little mystifying. Had these two men really acted in good faith (and one had the impression that they had) in their attempt to avert a disaster? Were they, as London was later to call them, deserters from the AK cause?”
Taken from Russian Review 1946.
Does anyone have any information on Colonel Tarnawa and Colonel Rawicz. Were they AK officers who seemingly deserted the AK in Warsaw because “a strong minority” of officers could see that the uprising was poorly planed and would end in failure? What happened to them subsequent to their arriving in Lublin?
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There was a 'colonel' “Tarnawa” (Andrzej Petrykowski) in Lublin after it had been ‘liberated’. However, he was not an AK officer. Rather, without going into details, in 1944 he ran his own show (Korpus Bezpieczenstwa -Safety Corps) which he subordinated initially to the AK. Credit where credit is due, his various organisations did sterling work supporting Jews in the ghettos and facilitating Jewish escapes from them throughout the occupation. However, on 26 June 1944 he re-aligned himself with the ‘Polish People’s Army’ (LWP) and he and most of his staff (including possibly a staff officer with the pseudonym "Rawicz" - but I can't find reliable confirmation of this) removed themselves east out of Warsaw, crossed the front and reported to the LWP and the communist Polish Committee for National Liberation (the soviet-sponsored alternative communist government of Poland). He subordinated the KB to the Committee and ordered all KB troops to join the LWP. Subsequently he was made first military commandant of the Lublin Garrison and a general staff officer of the HQ LWP (although, oddly, he continued to send sitreps to the AK command in Warsaw). He re-appears in Warsaw in September 1944 to negotiate absorption of the AK units of the Right-bank area of Warsaw into the LWP after the right bank's capture by Soviet and LWP units on 13/14 September.
He was not one to suffer the perceived deficiencies of ‘them in charge’ in silence (he was arrested in March ’45 for mouthing off about various aspects of the LWP that displeased him and remained in prison until September 1947) and so may well have been the ‘Tarnawa’ of Werth’s account, albeit incorrectly identified as AK (the Committee trying to establish its legitimacy, liked to pretend that the AK was joyously joining its ranks en masse, so pretty much anyone remotely looking like a member of the resistance was labled 'AK'). The ‘strong minority’ may well have been ‘his’ KB though one has to question how much Petrykowski could have known about the plans Bor-Komorowski may have had leading up to the uprising.
Interestingly, the Committee's propaganda rag Rzeczpospolita (The Republic) names a 'colonel Rawicz' as "Tarnawa"s 'chief of staff'. He may have been col Leon Baczkowski, and active member of the AK who was called up to the 2nd Polish Army, but I can't find confirmation of this. If he is, then he is described as being called up for the 2nd Polish Army, which did not begin forming until 8 August '44. His uniform would have been very new indeed!
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Werth’s description of life in newly liberated Lublin is interesting. The rate of exchange was one rouble for one zloty and Red Army soldiers behaved very correctly towards the Poles. Werth interviewed Edward Morawski chairman of the communist dominated interim government and attended a meeting with Rola Zymierski head of the Armia Ludowa, “Zymierski indicated that the situation in Warsaw was hopeless, with two German tank divisions inside the city, about a dozen tank divisions along the Vistula generally, and the Russians hard pressed, and 100 km away.”
Zymierski is an interesting seemingly immoral character who rose to the rank of General in pre war Poland but then served five years in jail and was demoted to private first class. After his release he was recruited by Soviet intelligence and worked for the NKVD.
Werth also visited Maydanek at the end of August 44 and interviewed some of the people who had survived and others who had worked in the camp and been captured. It is quite horrific. One story he heard that sticks in the mind is of a group ten Polish men and women who were brought to a place out side the crematorium where they were going to be machine gunned. They were ordered to strip but one woman aged about 28 or 29 refused. Then Muhsfeld the head of the crematorium flew into a rage and ordered her to strip but again she refused. He had her tied to a metal stretcher and pushed alive into the crematorium. Muhsfeld was hanged in Poland in January 1948. There was a field outside the camp where remarkably large cabbages grew.