This exhibition presents photographs taken by Press War Correspondents of the Home Army Head Quarters (PSW) during the Warsaw Rising. PSWs were photojournalists who were secretly trained during the occupation by organs of the Polish Underground State. We get to know some of them: Stanisław Bala (code name “Giza”), photographer and insurgent cameraman; his sister Małgorzata Balówna (code name “Małgorzatka”), photojournalist and courier; Eugeniusz Lokajski (code name “Brok”), Olympic champion and photojournalist; Sylwester Braun (code name “Kris”), photographer who documented Warsaw from the beginning of the war; and Władysław Chrzanowski (code name “Wiesław”), though not formally a PSW, nonetheless a soldier who recorded the activities of his unit. They all met in Warsaw in August and September 1944 during the Rising, as did fifty other insurgent photographers. It is thanks to them that we are able to see these events today. They have left behind a great archive that recreates the atmosphere of those days. The life of each photographer is fascinating and multifaceted, and as laudable and dramatic as the Rising itself – one of the largest urban battles of World War II. It was also tragic, because despite two months of heavy fighting – with insufficient support from either the West or the Soviet allies, the latter having already stood on the banks of the Vistula – the Rising ended in the city’s capitulation. The fates of the photographers were similar to those of hundreds of thousands of Warsaw residents, whose lives marked the tragedy of their city. “Brok” died, like thousands of others, under the ruins of Warsaw while the others were sent to POW camps. “Kris” escaped deportation and returned to Warsaw, but emigrated soon after. “Giza” and “Małgorzatka” emigrated to England and then to the United States. “Wiesław” returned to Poland, but only disclosed his photographs after 1956. “Kris” came back to Poland in 1983 and held a large exhibition.
The end of the war did not bring liberation to Warsaw and Poland, but marked a new occupation. Even though honouring the heroism of the insurgents was forbidden, the memory of the Rising survived. Finally, 2004 saw the opening of the new Warsaw Rising Museum, which until today has welcomed nearly three million people.
These photos have been selected in order to paint as realistic and representative a picture as possible of the Warsaw Rising.
Sylwester Braun (“Kris”) was born on 1 January 1909 in Warsaw. A surveyor by profession, he has worked in the Office for Town Planning on Future of Warsaw projects. As soon as the war starts, he begins documenting the destruction of Warsaw and manifestations of Nazi terror. He joins the underground in 1940. In the Rising he is a photojournalist for the Information and Propaganda Bureau of Home Army HQ. As a Press War Correspondent (code name “Kris”), he makes photographs with a Leica camera. After capitulation of Warsaw, he leaves the capital with civilians and escapes transportation to Germany. In 1945 he returns to Warsaw and finds his negatives. About half of the approx. 3 000 uprising photographs have survived. He emigrates to Sweden and then to the United States. In the 1980s he returns to Poland. He is the author of the Polish-language Reports from the Warsaw Rising. Braun died on 9 February 1996 in Warsaw.
2nd Lt Stanisław Bala (“Giza”) was born on 10 November 1922 in Starowiskitki near Warsaw. In 1940–42, he studies at the Wawelberg Higher School of Machine Construction where he obtains a technician’s diploma. In February 1940 he joins the underground Section VI of the Information and Propaganda Bureau of Home Army HQ. He completes a course in photojournalism as well as one for cameramen. His Home Army identity card number is 120026. During the Warsaw Rising, with his 16mm camera, he documents the struggle for Wola and the capture of both the Holy Cross Church and the Police Headquarters. After the end of the Rising, imprisoned in German POW camps: Lamsdorf, Gross-Born, Sandbostel, and finally Lübeck. His prisoner number is 101779. After the war he remains abroad, living in France and Great Britain, where he pursues technical studies. In the early 1950s he settles in the United States and lives in San Rafael until his death on 19 September 2013.
Platoon Comd. Halina Bala-Rueger was born on 13 May 1921 in Starowiskitki near Warsaw. The Bala family was Polish-Hungarian. Halina Bala, possessing a Hungarian passport, is able to travel on German trains. In 1940-41, after receiving Polish Red Cross training, she works as a nurse. As a courier for the Home Army HQ Information and Propaganda Bureau, she distributes underground press. Together with her brothers, Władysław and Stanisław, she completes a clandestine course in photojournalism. During the Rising she serves as liaison (code name “Małgosia”) to reporters and filmmakers as well as a photojournalist. She makes photographs with a Leica camera from Allied air drops. In 1944 she is appointed to the rank of platoon commander and awarded the Silver Cross of Merit with Swords. After the capitulation of Warsaw she is held captive in the German camps of Lamsdorf, Mülhberg and Altenburg. Bala later joins the Women's Army Auxiliary Service in France. After the war she emigrates to Great Britain and then to the United States. She married Press War Correspondent, Leszek Rueger, and settles in California.
2nd Lt Eugeniusz Zenon Lokajski (“Brok”) was born on 14 December 1908 in Warsaw. In 1934 he completes his studies at the Central Institute of Physical Education. Works as an athletics coach and PE teacher. In 1934-37 he is successful in a number of sporting endeavours including pentathlon runner-up in the Budapest World Athletics Championships (1935), competitor in the Berlin Olympic Games (1936), javelin record-breaker in Poznań (1936), and winner of the javelin event in Athens (1937). In the September Campaign of 1939 serves as platoon commander of the 35th Infantry Regiment. Subsequently taken prisoner near Brest on the River Bug. In October 1939 he makes his way to Warsaw. In the first few years of German occupation, he keeps a low profile, working as a labourer. In 1942 Lokajski opens a photographic workshop. He also teaches clandestine physical education classes. In January 1944 he is sworn in as Home Army soldier (code name “Brok”) and becomes platoon commander in the 3rd Praga Company, part of the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Region of Rembertów, within the Home Army’s 7th Area “Obroża” (Collar). During the Rising he serves as liaison officer for the “Koszta” Company and, as of 30 August, its commander. In addition to his combat role, he makes photographs with an appropriated Leica camera under the name of Press War Correspondent “Brok”. Eugeniusz Lokajski died on 25 September 1944, buried under the rubble of a bombed house at 129 Marszałkowska St.
Lieutenant Wiesław Chrzanowski “Wiesław” was born 4 December 1920 in Sosnowiec. He graduated from the Joachim Lelewel high school and Sapper Reserve Cadet School in Modlin with the rank of Second Lieutenant, Sapper. He fought in the defense of the Modlin Fortress in September 1939. From 1940, he was active in the National Military Organisation (NOW), and later from 1943, in the Home Army (AK) “Antoni” Battalion “Anna” Company. He conducted trainings in the underground Cadet School. During the occupation, he studies at the 2 year State Technical High School – occupied Warsaw University of Technology – completing the pre-war Technical University program through the underground education system. In the Uprising, he took on the responsibility of leading of the 2ndplatoon in company ‘Anna’, Battalion ‘Gustaw’ ‘Róg’ Group in Old Town, and after crossing the sewer canals, in City Centre North. After the capitulation, he was interned in the Fallingbostel Stalag XI B, Bergen-Belsen Oflag XI B/Z, Grossborn Oflag II D, Sandbostel Stalag X B and Lübeck Oflag X C. He returned to Poland in November 1947, after finishing his studies at Munich University of Technology. He worked for Silesian steel mills in Chorzow, Ursus Factory – producer of agricultural machinery, and gave lectures at the Warsaw University of Technology. He lived in Warsaw. Chrzanowski died Easter Sunday, 24th April 2011.
Insurgent reporters were equipped with modern miniature Leica cameras. Thanks to the size and portability of the equipment, which was produced in batches from 1925, the photojournalist could be at the centre of events.
The Warsaw Rising constitutes one of the most critical but at the same time tragic events in the history of 20th century Poland. Its purpose was to liberate the capital with own forces and welcome the entering Soviet army in the last attempt to escape enslavement. The Rising involved not only 63 days of heroic battles but also equally long efficient operation of various institutions in a free and democratic Republic covering a few square kilometres. The Poles paid an extremely high price for their decision to fight for freedom. Almost 150 thousand citizens were killed and the rest were expelled from the city. Hitler himself ordered the capital of Poland to be razed to the ground. Warsaw defied this attempt to wipe it off the face of the earth and already in January 1945 it was decided that the capital will be rebuilt. Soon the Red Army and the people’s Polish Army entered left-bank Warsaw. Returning residents began to organise their lives anew among the rubble. One the greatest achievements were reconstruction of the Old Town and the Royal Route and designing new routes of communication. Unfortunately, those buildings and architectural projects, which did not conform to the new socialist appearance of the city, have not been rebuilt after the war. Luckily present day Warsaw draws on its prewar traditions with greater confidence while carefully preserving the memory of soldiers of the Warsaw Rising who died for its freedom.
Kurator wystawy — Joanna Lang; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Współpraca — Aleksandra Trzeciecka, Aleksandra Duralska, Joanna Jastrzębska-Woźniak; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Koordynacja projektu — Matylda Piątkowska; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Edycja — Jakub Król; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Konsultacja historyczna — Katarzyna Utracka; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Redakcja — Agnieszka Panecka; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Tłumaczenia na język angielski — Monika Kowaleczko-Szumowska
Współpraca — Montaż i postprodukcja filmów: Jan Radziukiewicz; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, wybór filmów: Julia Sielicka-Jastrzębska; Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego
Muzyka — Bartosz Chajdecki