It has already been written a lot about the fight of Poles in the conspiratorial country. However, there is still a lot to remind.

Poles were fighting for their independence in the country and outside it on many fronts, where they could organize themselves: in Poland and outside it, in Europe and Africa. We were the biggest conspiratorial armed force and respectable front’s army. Soldiers and civilians were fighting, men and women of various ages. Also children were fighting. Women and girls took part in many actions, in which men could not participate. We faced the German and Soviet genocide. The days 1 and 17 September 1939 were a big shock for us, Poles, but also the beginning of the whole loss of elementary respect for the man from the German and Soviet invaders.

Her name was Irena Bobowska. She was born before the war and lived in Poznań. She came from a patriotic Polish family, was a girl scout and a modest student of the Gymnasium and Secondary School under the name of Dąbrówka, and she was paralyzed after the illness of Hein-Medin.

Secretly from her parents Irena expressed her willingness to be ‘a live torpedo’, just before the war. She justified it in the following way: ‘I cannot serve to my homeland with my disability in any other way, so I undertook a commitment known to my parents, from which nothing will dissuade me’ *

Irena Bobowska was artistically talented (poetry, drawings). Her lyric works are characterized by the depth of feelings and subtlety of expression. I enclose, among the others, a poem written by a 12-year-old Irena for her mother (15 May 1932).

After the invasion of the Germans into Poznań (the beginning of September 1939) Irena Bobowska joined a secret organization. Working in the underground and distributing a secret newspaper ‘Reveille’, she was doing a lot for the oppressed homeland as much as she could. In the beginning of the year 1940 she joined an conspiratorial armed organization of the later name - the Western Volunteer Army (8 December 1939)after the union, whose commander was the captain Leon Komorowski (‘Szeliga’), taking on the nickname ‘an otter’.

Irena Bobowska was arrested by Gestapo on 20 June 1940. She was imprisoned in Fort VII in Poznań, in a prison in Wronki, in Berlin (Alt-Moabit, a prison for women - Ploetzensee). She was sentenced to death penalty on 24 August 1942, the execution was done on 27 September the same year. She was guillotined in the prison Ploetzensee. In justification of the verdict it was written that ‘from January till May 1940 Irena Bobowska was writing articles about political and military situation, expressed her opinions that the bad situation of Poland would get better when England and France overcame Germany, that Poland would gain a victory at that time and would be even bigger than it had been decided in the Treaty of Versailles, that Poland would be resurrected again’.

At the time of being in Fort VII in Poznań (1940) Irena Bobowska wrote a poem full of hope and faith in the successful future of Homeland and Family under God’s care.

In the prison in Wronki she was enduring her sufferings heroically. ‘The Germans did not want to believe her (Irena Bobowska) that she could not walk and for this reason they were bullying her. She was beaten and starved. Her wheelchair and apparatuses (rails) were requisitioned, which had held her paralyzed legs, so she was crawling on hands, dragging along her legs on dirty, cold, concrete floor’.

There is a significant fragment of the letter of Irena Boboska to her mother of 22 July 1942 from the prison for women in Berlin. She writes in it, among the others: ‘I have had a luck in my whole life that all people were good for me and I received much more than I could give by myself. I think that the whole evil in the world and all wars are caused by the fact that people have not learnt to understand one another yet. Whereas, I can die peacefully, because I know that this time will come’.

In the year 1942 Irena Bobowska gave her life for the holiest matter. Here are fragments of the last letter of Irena Bobowska to her mother (Berlin – Ploetzensee – 26 September 1942): ‘My dear Mum! (…) Today, and rather tomorrow in the early morning I am going for death. It is 10pm. I am sitting in the same cell as any cell in another prison. A priest has already visited me with confession and is coming with the holy communion (…). I am in a good mood and I hope that courage will not leave me till the end. You will not be ashamed of me. In fact I thought that I could also write to you in Polish, but I am not allowed to.

I should thank to you, mum and dad and others for all good things. I cannot find proper words for it (…). The purpose of our life is proper development of strength concealed in ourselves. (…) It is not important what we achieved, but how we have been fighting. (…). What else shall I write? Maybe what I have experienced – the good and the bad and I am going away without grief or hatred. People are good everywhere. (…) And it would be all. Stay with God: I am going to Him and I believe that He will accept me. Your Nenia’.

Irena Bobowska was an unusual personality. Her excellent person was focused on a great love to God, Homeland and Family. She also loved her neighbors very much (‘I am going away – she writes in her last letter – without grief or hatred. People are good everywhere’).

Irena Bobowska was a martyr for the matter, one of the most beautiful flowers which blossomed under the Polish sky, on the oppressed, bloody Polish land at the times of contempt for the man. A powerful spirit lived in her delicate, physically fragile person. She was a national heroine of strong will, deep reflection and faith in good, of an immaculate character and courage. She distinguished with an unusual bravery. She was a great woman. Faithful to her rules and the motto: God, Honour, Homeland till the end, in the toughest conditions of a prison. She was going for the martyr death with dignity. She was going with a deep faith that God would take her into Heaven. I believe it happened so.

Prof. Zygmunt Zagórski is a retired Professor at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, a former soldier of District of Wilno of the National Army, a prisoner of NKWD.

* The author used much valuable information included in an interesting mono-graphy of the author Stafania Tokarska-Kaszubowa entitled ‘Nenia’, Poznań 1999. All quotations come from this book.


To my beloved mum on her name-day 15.5.32
How much I would like to throw swarms of dreams, thousands of wishes beneath your feet today,
Like fragrant flowers.
But there are moments when one cannot beleaguer feelings into words, which are hidden in a beating heart…
But there are moments when great emotions are changed into silence by rushing cry and voice is stifled….
Mum, you know well, that Your dear daughter
Loves You with all her heart.
You know what I feel…

Nienia for Mother
(Fort VII, Poznań)

* * *

Everything will be all right,
Bright days will come.
The sun will shine,
The door of Fort will be open.
Happiness and freedom
Are dreams of lots of prisoners.
Everything will be all right,
Day of freedom will shine,
Walls of the prison will disappear.
The shadow of the fortress will disappear.
And joy will appear again
Among laughs of bright dreams.
Everything will be all right,
Day of freedom will shine.
Everything will be all right
We will return home.
Our motto will be:
Family, country and God.
We will grab bravely
A hard hammer, sword and plough.
Everything will be all right
We will return home.

(Fort VII, Poznań)

* * *

…Because I am learning the biggest skill of life:
How to smile every day and everywhere
And to endure pains without distress
And not to regret what passed,
And not to be afraid of what will be!
I got to know the taste of hunger
And sleepless nights (it was long time ago),
And I know how the cold pricks,
When being curled up into a ball
You wanted to protect yourself from the cold.
And I know what it means to shed tears of violence
On many bright days,
At many nights.
And I learnt to rush time with my thoughts,
Which likes being relentlessly long,
And I know how one must fight with oneself
Not to fall or not to get fed up
With the endless road…
And I keep learning the biggest skill of life:
How to smile every day and everywhere,
And to endure pains without distress
And not to regret what passed,
And not to be afraid of what will be!

(Fort VII, Poznań)


"Niedziela" 10/2013

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