1944

A 1944 section of the album opens with a series of photos taken in the spring during a stroll with a friend from the office (the one in the white blouse) through the streets of Kolonia Staszica. 

As before, it is difficult to reconcile this smiling, exquisitely dressed young woman with an enormous danger confronting her on every step. Was she so sure of herself or was it only a pose to confuse her enemies?

And indeed, shortly afterwards one of Krysia’s female co-workers started to ask her a lot of questions about her life before the war, clearly doubting her invented CV according to which she came to Warsaw from Wilno. One morning on her way from the tram station to the office Krysia saw the Austrian officer running towards her. “Do not come to the office – he told her gasping for air – there are Gestapo agents waiting for you”. And again Krysia took her mother and they both disappeared from view.

 

And here I had a recollection from my childhood. It must have been during the late 1950s that one evening my parents went out nicely dressed leaving me in the care of a family friend. When they returned I was woken up by a laud outburst of laughter. Next morning I asked my mother what they were laughing about. “Oh” – she said in a most casual way – “we had a meeting with the Austrian ambassador to Poland and when we entered his office, before we even had a chance to say “Hello”, he said in a low voice: “Be careful what you say, we cannot guarantee that there are no eavesdropping devices inside the walls here”. It was so funny!” Intrigued I asked for more details and my mother said that the ambassador had a message for her from someone she knew during the war.

 

Now, putting two and two together it was not difficult to guess that the message was from the “good Austrian officer”. In 1995 I was able, with some help from a colleague in Vienna, to locate the  Austrian ambassador to Poland of the late 1950s who remembered my parents and his meeting with them very well. Asked about the Austrian officer, he said that his name was Karl Grimm and he used to work for the Vienna Municipality as an accountant. Unfortunately in 1995 he was no longer alive and had no close family.

The outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on the 1st of August 1944 caused a total disconnection between Krysia and Krzysztof and I lost an invaluable source of information. The number of photos in Krysia's album decreased drastically. Still, there are a few photos of her in an unrecognized office, most probably a third place of work during the occupation. The last item in the album is Krysia's passport photograph under which she wrote "Crossen, December 1944". Crossen was a German town on the river Oder which later, in 1945, was incorporated into Poland's new borders and renamed Krosno.  

In her 1951 CV (which is to be taken with a large grain of salt) Krysia wrote that after the Uprising she was sent on forced labor to Crossno, where she worked in a car repair shop. But the Crossen photograph of a well dressed and well groomed woman does not really match the image of a forced laborer. 

Krzysztof, who himself was evacuated to Neubrandenburg with the MWN,   believed it possible that Krysia decided to move to Crossen out of her own initiative. "It was much easier to survive the end of the war in Germany" - wrote Krzysztof to me - "She probably got work in some mechanical workshop showing the Germans her Kraftfahrpark Ausweis".

Be it as it may, after the Red Army liberated Crossen in February 1945,  she went back to Lodz.

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On Wawelska and Sedziowska streets.

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Karl Grimm, "the good Austrian officer", who took enormous personal risk in order to save Krysia.

On the Combat Engineers Monument (Pomnik Poleglym Saperom), which was destroyed a short while later by the Germans.

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Krysia with the female co-workers in the Kraftfahrpark office. Who was the one who asked too many questions?

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In the office again.

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The last photo in the first album: Crossen, December 1944

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