Although Poland regained independence in 1989 the battle of memory continues, and when it comes to the memory of modern history – the battle is just beginning. The Communist period in the history of our country blasted the national identity and consciousness of Polish people. Long years of political propaganda turned the order of things upside down. A victim has become an executioner, a hero has become a forest bandit, and a Stalinist torturer, a hero.
A very similar thing happened in the case of Major Zygmunt Szendzielarz Łupaszka. Even today the name cannot be spoken by some, as he is still being regarded as a reactionary bandit, who ruthlessly murdered officials of the Ministry of Public Security (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) and Communist activists. Why were the regime authorities were so afraid of him?Why did they decide to erase his name from Polish history? I will try to answer these questions based on information provided by Marian Kacprzak, a former guerrilla commander and a close observer of the events in the Masurian Lake District – and his diaries.
Zygmunt Edward Szendzielarz Łupaszka was born on 12 March 1910 in Stryj, into the family of a railway worker. He took over his pseudonym from Calvary Captain – Jerzy Dąbrowski, who during the Polish-Bolshie War in 1920 was a guerrilla commander leading anti-Soviet actions behind their front line.
After graduating from Cavalry NCO School in Grudziądz he was assigned to the 4th Uhlan Regiment. On the day World War II broke out, Lieutenant Szndzielarz was in charge of the Second Squadron of the regiment. After the defeat of the September Campaign he was offered a chance of escaping from the country and joining regenerated Polish Armed Forces in the West. But he decided against the idea.
In September 1943 Szendzielarz took charge of the V Vilnian Home Army Brigade, called The Brigade of Death, the biggest and the strongest of all the units in the area of Wilno Voivodeship and frightening two forces of occupation – the Germans and the Soviets in 1943-44. So, in July 1944 when the Reds were crossing the Eastern Polish border, the V Brigade was marching towards the West, and on 21 July it got to the Augustów Primeval Forest.
It was when Łupaszko heard of the arrest of the Commander of All Home Army Units in the Wilno area, General Aleksander “Wilk” Krzyżanowski, and his comrades, Łupaszko’s concerns about the dishonest intentions of the Russians came true. He stated his belief as follows: “I might be judged by history, but I do not want our soldiers to be hung on the walls and gates of Wilno.” By this time he knew that the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKWD) was trying to find and catch his brigade. He re-named it the “Warsaw Brigade” and ordered his soldiers to change their pseudonyms in order to confuse the Soviets. He changed his own pseudonym to “Żelazny” (“Ironman”) as well.
In spite of all the actions taken, the Soviets managed to find them on 23August. Łupaszka, despite all the reassurance of the Soviets that the forces would be incorporated into the Berling Army, decided to disband the unit. He did not give up, though. He knew that he had to keep on harassing the enemy, and so he formed a unit with partisans after the long journey in the Wołkowsk Region in August 1944. He contacted the Commander of the Bialystok Home Army Area, Colonel Wladysław Liniarski “Mścisław”, and had him take charge of Łupaszko’s unit. In 1945 Szendzielarz reactivated the V Brigade within the Białystok Home Army Area, taking actions as a discretionary unit of the Army Area. On 7 September 1945 he was told to disband the brigade by the Commander of the Bialystok Home Army Area himself.
In mid-September 1945 Łupaszka became an active member of the conspiratorial operations at the Polish coast. He once again reactivated the V Brigade in mid-April 1946, which was suppose to operate within Pomerania and the Masurian Lake District. In September 1946 he managed to contact the VI Vilnian Home Army Brigade under the command of “Wiktor”, and later on “Młot”. The name “brigade” had more of a symbolic meaning and was meant to hark back to the tradition of Vilnian forces. The brigade was divided into three squadrons and a unit of Military Police. The main aim was to undertake all kinds of disruptive action against the emerging Communist government. All the actions taken by Łupaszka and his comrades were deeply rooted in the belief in the forthcoming victory and equity of the fight.
Photos: Historical collection