When the war broke out, she was 16, had her secondary school leaving exam passed and lots of plans for the future. At the end of August she was returning home with a big jug of honey after her holiday spent at her friend’s parents’. She lived with her mother and grandparents in Skolimów near Warsaw.

From the first days of the war she was helping in hospital organized by the Main Guardianship Council in a Corso villa, to where the injured were brought from Warsaw. She was a volunteer in the simplest things. Soon she became a scholarship holder of the Nursing School of the Polish Red Cross in Warsaw. Next year she served in the Union of Armed Fight. – Although I attended the nursing school which I graduated from, I was not thinking why I had been allocated to a group of underground nurses. I thought that mu superiors knew better who was needed for a fight against the Germans – says Barbara Matys-Wysiadecka nicknamed Baśka. – I paid a vow to a lieutenant Zofia Franio. The girl who was very brave and was killed on the second day of the Uprising.

Cold blood of the underground nurse

Having paid the vow, ‘Baśka’ took part in regular nursing classes, mainly the theoretical ones. Although field training were not rare, the first practical actions took place only during the Warsaw Uprising. Whereas ‘Baśka’ matched her learning in a nursing school with the theory about explosion materials – their components and usage. And in free time she was carrying loads from ‘discharges’ for appointed meetings.

– After some time it did not make any impression on me. I had to be able to stay cold- blooded in every situation – says Mrs. Barbara. – Like when I was caught up red-handed during a round-up in Bonifraterska street. We were receiving explosion materials from our people from Ożarów near Warsaw. I was returning in the early afternoon when the Germans stopped a tram and a search-up began. I had a dozen bottles with potassium chlorate in a neatly wrapped package which I had to carry delicately. Its breaking would cause a sudden explosion. Luckily, a German only shook my package but when heard liquid splashing, he ordered me to untie it. I began to pretend to untie the string when a police officer accompanying the Germans, seeing my uncertain face expression, said that he would check the package. After that he said that it was…..”essing”, that is, vinegar. It made me a bit stressed but I brought our boys the material to a particular place and at particular time, as it had been arranged.

A backpack against tanks

After graduating from the nursing school in 1943 Barbara Matys began to work as a hygienist in one of Warsaw dormitories for girls. Soon also in the Health Inspectorate. Despite many work duties, she did not neglect her work in the underground. – When there was a command, it was necessary to complete it – she says. – After all people’s life could have depended on it. ‘Baśka’ was called up to join the uprising by a liaison officer who had brought the command to appear in the downtown. She was there before 5 p.m. with a dozen mates from the underground patrol. A dozen metres from the New World where German tanks had already been moving offensively.

– I passed by those tanks and perfectly armed German soldiers. I, a fragile girl with a heavy backpack, felt the power of that occupation army – says Mrs. Barbara. – I was not discouraged but it made an impression on me. I think that they had already known about the forthcoming outbreak of the uprising and were trying to act psychologically on civilians or us, insurgents. For a few hours, from the W hour, we were waiting in a flat for further commands. In the morning the liaison officer gave us a command about being allocated to a Shield Division of Military Publishing Plants which directly belonged to the commander of the Warsaw Uprising gen. Antoni Chruściellow ‘Monter’.

When we arrived, there was a lot of laughter as boys and the commandant had expected giant boys whereas ….there were five of us, not so big and not 20-year-old girls. Our leader was a 27-year-old instructor – the second lieutenant Irena Bredel nicknamed Alina – says Barbara Matys-Wysiadecka.- Unfortunately, our laughter did not last long –the commandant was killed on the same day during the first action on the Main Post Office. It happened so quickly that it seemed unreal. She ran out with a pistol against an attack, although she did not have to. Diswoven braid

For other several days ‘Baśka’ participated in hard fights for the downtown streets. She heard moaning of the dying and the wounded. The invisible uprising sky was covered by German bombers and dust of dying tenements. In the evening, on 19 August, the underground patrol was sent to fight for one of the most important uprising barricades which was a building of the Polish Joint-Stock Telephone Company (PASTA). Thanks to the telephone central situated there, the Germans could have a direct connection with the leadership in the Reich Office.

The first two underground nurses went on the fourth day of the Uprising with a task of blowing up the entrance gate. Being attacked with shots from upper floors of the building and also from the nearby Saxon Garden, the miraculously survived. Not earlier than after eighteen days of the fights, was the telephone fortress conquered. The mass several-hour attack lasted a day and a night. The underground nurses contributed to its success.

– We went out from a building far away by a few streets at about midnight, on 19 August. I, ‘Iza’, that is, Wanda Maciejewska and ‘Hanka’, that is, Irena Grabowska. There were also a few sappers with us. We had a few dozen kilos of explosion materials – says Mrs. Barbara. – We had not difficulty to get to a building next to the PASTA. It was necessary to assemble the explosion materials and in a coordinated action at 3 a.m. three various teams from a few sides were to attack. We did not completely know what loads to assemble as there was no exact knowledge how thick those walls were. Anyway we assembled them on the third floor and ‘Jotes’, that is, a captain Jerzy Skupieński was to set them on fire. We and a few dozen sappers went down to a cellar. At one moment there was such a terrible explosion that it looked as if it was the end that we were covered by rubbles forever. But despite our fears we managed to get out easily. We ran up to that ‘explosive’ floor and there had already been a big hole, leading to PASTA, made by our load. However, the Germans got organized quickly and began to shoot at us. Boys ran to attack with weapon. There was a terrible shooting. They were shooting, both the Germans and our boys. It was not known from whom one might be attacked with a bullet as our boys were also wearing German uniforms. Thanks to God, suddenly my braid unraveled and slipped out of my hat. Thanks to it others could see that I was not a German. As I got to know later, a Major Stefan Mich ‘Kmita’, seeing my hair, shouted: ‘Do not shoot, it’s ours!’.

After eighteen days the fight – on 20 August at about 1 p.m., the German fortress was conquered. On the side of the insurgents under the command of the Captain Henryk Leliwy-Roycewicz about three hundred soldiers from various groups took part. There were less Germans, armed in guns and pistols by a half. A few dozen soldiers were killed from every side.

Barbara Matys – Wysiadecka is 96 years old today. During the Warsaw Uprising she was a soldier of Women’s Underground Nurses of the Union of Retaliation of the Kedyw District Home Army Headquarters – the 6th Division of Information and Propaganda Office – Shield Division of Military Publishing Plants. After the Uprising with a degree of major sergeant, today a lieutenant. Awarded with the Cross of Valor of the Order of Poland Rebirth. As colleagues from the National Army say – she was calm and very brave. In the Uprising she was fighting till the end, later with a thousand others she was taken to German war prisoners camps. She returned to Poland in May 1945. Two years later she was persecuted by the Security Office. She was also deprived of a possibility to begin her medicine studies. She worked in a trained profession of a nurse till her retirement in 1981. She has been living in her family home Skolimów.


„Niedziela” 31/2019

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: