Stanley Rozycki was 17 and serving in the Polish Underground State when the Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944. The goal of the uprising was to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany occupation. Rozycki’s focus was on sabotage and diversionary tactics. He worked to knock down buildings and destroy transportation lines in order to interfere with German military operations.
Two days before the Uprising began, his platoon met and was attacked by the Germans. Rozycki is certain someone betrayed them because they were attacked on the day before the Uprising.
The platoon was meeting on the first floor of a five-story building and the Germans were firing from all directions. There was no way out on the ground, so Rozycki headed for the roof. On the way up, a grenade landed on a window sill and the explosion sent a piece of the frame into his leg.
He pushed ahead, realizing the Germans would kill him if he didn’t keep moving. He busted through a locked door into the attic, and then leaped to the chimney of the building next door. He jumped through a window and asked the bewildered resident how to get to the street.
When he got to the street, there were seven or eight Germans there. He knew they’d shoot him if he ran, so he pretended to be drunk. They hit him with the butt of a rifle and laughed at him as he fell down. A passing bus driver noticed his trouble and slowed to help him onto the bus. He drove Rozycki to where he could meet up with the commander of the city’s mounted police. It would have raised suspicion if the bus made an unplanned stop, so the driver slowed to allow Rozycki to jump out.
He quickly learned where tanks were shooting and how to avoid their gunfire.
On one mission, his platoon had information that a German shooter was on the roof of a palace and they maneuvered to sneak up behind him. That information turned out to be wrong and Rozycki was shot in the leg as soon as he stepped into the street.
Rozycki thought he would die from that wound. Being injured greatly reduced your expected life expectancy during those days.
His friends helped him get to the basement where women and children were taking shelter. For the next several days, they moved from basement to basement. It was decided that the only way Rozycki could be saved was to move him through the sewers to the other side of Warsaw where medical aid would be available to him.
A Polish major guarded the entrance to the sewer. He would not allow injured people into the sewer because, if they died before they got out, they would clog the sewer for others.
Rozycki’s friends insisted on doing all they could to save his life. When the Germans began bombing a nearby square, they used the distraction to sneak Rozycki into the sewer. For four and a half hours they moved through the slime and stench of the sewers.
When he got out of the sewers, nurses helped him to a makeshift hospital. A doctor inspected his wound and pulled a nurse aside to speak to her. Rozycki could still hear what he said. “He will be dead.”
Someone pulled a sheet over his head, and he didn’t have the strength to pull it off. Three hours later, someone pulled the sheet off of him and he asked for a glass of water. The nurse began to cry and knelt to apologize.
The next day, he was taken to the basement so they could operate to find the bullet in his leg. The only tools they had were a pair of scissors and a kitchen knife and they were not enough to find the bullet.
Soon after, the hospital was set on fire.
He spent time in two more hospitals. One was bombed and the other was also set on fire.
As gangrene set in, the people helping Rozycki realized he needed to surrender to the Germans or he would die, so he was handed over to the Nazis.
At the prison of war camp, the commandant liked him because he resembled the commandant’s son who had been killed by the Russians. He took care of Rozycki, getting the appropriate medical supplies and making sure Rozycki got medical attention for his wound.
In May of 1945, the camp was liberated and Rozycki was released.
Now living in Jacksonville, Florida, Rozycki received the Warsaw Uprising Cross in 1998 to recognize his participation in that struggle. In February, he received the Polish Army Medal given to foreign civilians or military members for their service to Poland.