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Escape from the Gestapo


Facing danger as a courier
Julia Hartwig Poet
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Throughout this time I can say that I attended university lectures as punctually and conscientiously as I could. I appreciated the fact that I could receive an education in such difficult conditions, while at the same time I was an active courier. I wasn't sent out too often although I was sent sometimes, which made it possible for me to become familiar with life in the provinces in Poland since the orders I was transporting were often for people who lived in the provinces or thereabouts. Well, I was in Kraków, on a mission in Lwów, and I was in small towns which had to be reached by train at a time when trains weren't very safe at all. Passengers were often ordered off the train and arrested or searched; they were checked and only then were they allowed to leave. I remember being in one of those carriages that was being emptied. We were waiting on the platform to see what would happen next, but they were checking something very thoroughly and then after about an hour of this waiting around, this uncertainty, they let us back onto the train. Obviously, the punctuality of the trains was irrelevant here as even that was governed by the Germans.

No więc w tym czasie, mogę powiedzieć, że chodziłam na wykłady uniwersyteckie możliwie... możliwie punktualnie i starannie, doceniając... doceniając możliwość nauki w tak trudnych warunkach, a równocześnie pełniłam obowiązki kuriera. Nie byłam tak bardzo często wysyłana w teren, ale... ale byłam i pozwoliło mi to także zapoznać się z życiem prowincji polskiej, ponieważ bardzo często te rozkazy, które przewoziłam, dotyczyły ludzi mieszkających oczywiście na prowincji, gdzieś nawet... gdzieś tam w okolicach; no byłam w Krakowie, byłam we Lwowie z taką misją i byłam w takich małych miasteczkach, gdzie trzeba było się dostać pociągiem, a pociągi też nie były bardzo wtedy bezpieczne. Mianowicie często wszystkich wyrzucano z wagonu i aresztowano albo też przeglądano, ich sprawdzano i dopiero wtedy ich puszczano. Pamiętam, że byłam w jednym z takich wagonów, których... który oczyszczono, no i tak czekaliśmy na peronie co będzie dalej, no ale oni tam dokładnie coś posprawdzali w tym i mniej więcej po godzinie tego wyczekiwania, takiego niepewnego, pozwolili się załadować do pociągu. Tu można zrozumieć, że wtedy w ogóle punktualność pociągów nie miała z tym nic wspólnego, była jak gdyby pod władzą niemiecką również.

Born to a Polish father and a Russian mother, Julia Hartwig (1921-2017) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and author of children's books. She studied at the University of Warsaw, the Catholic University in Lublin and the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Czesław Miłosz called her 'the grande dame of Polish poetry'. Julia Hartwig was one of the few poets in Poland who made masterly use of poetic prose. She translated poems by Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Cendrars and Supervielle, and published monographs on Apollinaire and Gerard de Nerval. She also translated from English, and published a large anthology of American poetry which she co-edited in 1992 with her late husband, the poet Artur Międzyrzecki.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Poland, Kraków, Lwów, Germans

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2010

Date story went live: 10 May 2011