A Polish Academic Information Center Exhibit         
The 1994 Warsaw Uprising - An assertion of sovereignty and hope.

The Recollections of Krystyna Fundalifiska
as told to Peter and Teresa Gessner


At the time the Uprising started, I was 23 years old, and on that memorable day, I had gone to work as usual. After work I had to see to some matters on Marszalkowska Street, one of Warsaw's main thoroughfares. As I was walking along, I suddenly heard some shooting in the distance. That, in itself, was not unusual and, at first, no one paid much attention to it. The shooting did not cease, but got nearer. People started running into the portals and the courtyards of the apartment blocks that lined the street and so did I. There, people were asking each other what was going on but no one knew. Then a group of young men wearing white and red armbands, ran in. One of them spoke in a loud voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Uprising has started." There was a monent of silence and then pandemonium broke out. Everyone started running, who knows where. But I stood still. I could not move, it was as if my feet had grown roots. "Oh my God, an uprising," I kept repeating to myself, "an uprising, the Uprising." The I thought: "After four long years finally we will no longer be like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery."

A Patriotic Heritage

My heritage was a patriotic one. My great grandfather had taken part in the January Uprising of 1863, had been cuptured by the Russians and deported by them to Siberia. There he perished. His wife, son and daughter would have also been deported as the family of an insurgent, had they not fled from Warsaw. They tried to hide in the Podolian countryside but the Russian police got on their trail. To escape from them,, my grandfather emigrated at the age of 16 to the United States. He returned some years later and started a family. Later, when in an effort to russify Poland, the Russians made speaking Polish illegal, my mother, then a young woman, ran clandestine classes teaching Polish to children, a criminal activity. Then, in 1920, when the Bolsheviks invaded Poland and got within 20 miles of Warsaw, the man who was to become my father was among those who fought to stem that tide. In a word, I had grown up imbued with the spirit of patriotism, and had at various times imagined how it would be to take part in an uprising. And now it had become a reality.

What to do?

The shooting was getting more and more intense. I could not remain where I was standing. I had to move, had to go, but where to? The Street, with the trams, empty and abandoned, standing in the middle, was deserted. I lived in a far suburb. Going home was out of the question. I decided to go back to the factory on Grzybowska Street where I worked. With the streets full of shooting, I had to make my way laboriously from courtyard to courtyard along Marszafkowska and then Grzybowska Street. The factory was not really far but it took me three hours to get there. Its courtyard was full of people milling around. I rushed to the room in which I worked and from a drawer I took my nurse's armband, white with a red cross prominently on It. I placed it on my left arm and walked downstairs. I felt strangely calm, but my heart beat very fast.

It was beginning to get dark. We heard knocking on the factory's doors. When we opened the doors, a detachment of young men walked into the courtyard. They were led by an individual, who, I later found out, was a captain bearing the cryptonym "Lech Grzybowski". His real name was Waclaw Zagórski, but that was revealed only after the war. He told us, "This will be my battalion's headquarters."

A Polish flag

As the Captain started issuing orders to his troops, the sister of the factory's director came up to me and said, "Come, we have to give some thought to the feeding of all these people, and most important, we have to sew a Polish flag." I got hold of some of the women who were on the cleaning staff and gave them instructions how to make some soup for everyone. Then, I went up with the factory director's sister to her apartment and she took me to a small room with a sewing machine where she gave me two lengths of cloth, one white, the other red. In a matter of minutes, the flag was ready. I went downstairs and the young men grabbed it and soon it was unfurled over the factory's tower. This was the first Polish flag to fly over Warsaw in over four years. As Captain Lech Grzybowski stood at attention and saluted the flag everyone followed the example. We were on Polish soil under a Polish flag and it felt incredibly good! But, Oh my God, how distant true liberty remained.

Becoming involved in the Underground

I had been working at the Jarnuszkiewicz factory on Grzybowska Street in Warsaw for a couple of years. The factory made metallic hospital equipment: operating tables, beds etc. I was the only woman on the production line. I got the job because the production manager realized that without it I was in danger, as an unemployed able bodied person, of being deported as a slave laborer to Germany.

The factory had organized some of its workers into a volunteer fire brigade and I was to be the brigade's nurse. I was sent to the Ujazdowski Hospital to take a first aid course. After that, I had to remain overnight at the factory two or three times a week so as to be on call in the event of some emergency. This resulted in my receiving an additional weekly allotment of food, additional, that is, to that which I was receiving as a factory worker. This was important because my mother had died in 1940 and I had to care for my siblings, the youngest of whom was five years old.

Clandestinely some of the men on the night shift made parts for light machine guns. Removal of these parts from the premises presented a problem, because the German guard would search each one of the workers as they left the factory. However, as the only woman on the shift, I didn't get searched. So, I was approached and asked to carry a package out of the factory. I was to take the pagage to a particular tram stop. There, a man holding a flower would seemingly be waiting for another tram. I was to go up to him and simply hand him the package. I did as instructed. This was the first of many such trips. Thus without having formally joined the Home Army, I had become involved in the Underground struggle!


Info-Poland a clearinghouse of information about Poland, Polish Universities, Polish Studies, etc.
© 2000 Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. All rights reserved.
Info-Poland   |    art and culture   |    history   |    universities   |    studies   |    scholars   |    classroom   |    book chapters   |    sitemaps   |    users' comments