We go check out the situation in Grabowiec.
Everything has been sold. On the square in front of the cooperative, for the first time since the beginning of the war, we see two staff colonels with maps in cellophane covers sitting on a bench near the pharmacy, close by a military gendarme is pacing. It is the first time we see a gendarme during this war. We go back to Grabowczyk for dinner. We learn that in Hrubieszów there is a town official who ordered local leaders to organize a security militia in the villages. In the evening we see how one of the relatives of the village leader is refusing to join the militia, saying he has no time. We are impressed by the calm with which the village leader rejects all his arguments. At the same time, we feel that there has been a change in morale, that the first panic has been overcome and that resistance has finally begun, especially since a battalion of soldiers demobilized beyond the Bug has come to sleep here. They have food, money, etc. See more
There is a rumor that an officer stole a coat, two children’s sweaters and some feminine items from Mrs. Bieńkowska, heiress in Grabowczyk. We meet a retired captain of the Polish Army, who comes from Krasnystaw and says that he ran into his friend [Tadeusz] Stanisz beyond the river Bug, but he does not know where he is now.
We arrive to Grabowiec, where we indeed see troops from the Polish army. At the same time, locals say that a fierce battle is taking place between Zamość and the German division posted nearby. We hear artillery fire. A moment of reflection. Our demobilized soldiers leave by cart. We stay in Grabowiec. We feel joy in our hearts . Maybe all is not lost, since the battle continues. We go to a local restaurant, where excellent tea with sugar is still to be had.
We stop in a Jewish house belonging to a certain Uszer. They welcome us in a very hospitable manner. They prepare tea from our supplies, provide milk, bread and eggs. We order milk for the next day, Eichhorn buys a kilogram of honey from the youngest Uszer girl and hands her a silver powder-box as a souvenir. We go to sleep in the barn, happy to have had a warm dinner for the first time in several days. Our sleep was slightly disturbed by a pram left on the straw, but in the end, the night was bearable. We were only worried about the – rather close – gunshots.
We are finally walking forward, but slowly, because Zarębski is "in pain" due to his heavy luggage. In exchange for his suitcase, he tries to get a backpack. Just after Wojsławice, he finally succeeds. He exchanges the suitcase for a backpack from a local boy scout. We are waiting with Eichhorn for him to repack in a roadside cottage and we eat sour milk with potatoes. Some villager from the neighbouring hut describes the war situation, saying that things will be bad for us if the president does not ask Stalin for help. Zarębski comes around and we move forward. We reach Huta. It's hot. We rest a bit in the shade of the trees. We continue to walk onwards. Zarębski buys some great sausage in a village shop. We walk further through Turowiec. We rest in the woods again. We walk. At the end of Turowiec, we have a chat with local villagers who show us a cross-country path towards Białopol. Finally, we pass, by crossing it, the road from Hrubieszów to Chełm and we reach Białopol at dusk.
We hadn't even walked a few steps when machine gun shots and cannons rumbled close by. You could hear it from Tomaszów. We stop for a moment and listen. The rumble is getting closer, it seems like some battle. It is therefore impossible to go towards Tomaszów. We have to change direction whether we like it or not, we go towards Zamość through the fields. We speed up the pace, go out to the hill, from where the burning Łabuń and Łabuńki can be seen. Probably many streets, because you can see two lines of fire, one closer, the other farther and a little higher. We do not know yet who is approaching, but the shooting becomes denser, the cannons go silent, only machine guns are heard and what seems like single grenade explosions. We assume it's Germans, though we didn't expect them here anymore. We start running. I am last because the condition of my chafed feet does not allow me to hurry. See more
We wonder about our being permanent fugitives, especially given that we are on a journey absolutely without any news whatsoever about the state of war. We do not know if there are front lines, and where they could be. We run away from the Germans instinctively rather than as a result of some planned action. We put our last hope in the Bug. We decide to go towards Chełm, and then beyond the Bug.
While on our way, still in Zwierzyniec, we meet several German prisoners of war, guarded by our soldiers. It gives us some comfort. Still, we want to get behind the Bug river in the hope that this wave of retreat will finally stop. We are marching along a forest road and reach Kossobudach around noon. We stop at the forester's lodge of the Zamoyski District in Kossobudach. I lose my bottle of castor oil, bought at a pharmacy in Biłgoraj. Zarębski rushes ahead to explore. He returns soon and informs us that he found a friend there, the wife of a gymnasium director, and that we can get some boar soup.
We meet a man from Zamość who informs that the explosion noises and the glow in the sky are from the bombing of the junction station in Zawada, located a few kilometres north of our route. He also says that today and yesterday there were air raids on Zamość, which was cruelly bombed. Residents are leaving the city during the day and only return in the evening. There were many civilians among the victims of the bombing. See more
Despite this, we left for Zamość, discussing whether to go through Zamość or towards Lwów. Zarębski opted for Zamość, and so did I. Eichhorn was hysterically afraid of Zamość. A heated discussion ensued. To be nice, we agreed to go to Lwów instead. It should be noted that, during our travels, Zarębski shows extreme optimism, whilst Eichhorn shows extreme pessimism. I am trying to reconcile both positions. I sometimes berate Zarębski, who keeps telling very comforting tales of success right and left, but with nothing to support their veracity except his conviction. I point out to him that such stories can do more harm than good. It doesn't help much. I also sometimes scold Eichhorn, who at every opportunity curses the superiors who told him, a 52-year-old man, to walk to Lwów.
We make our way through the forest. It is getting dark. We meet a suspicious rifleman who says he is from Kraków. Piotruś Ćwik believes he is a spy and tries to hand him over to a military unit. However, it turns out he’s not guilty of anything, only barely conscious because he is tired as hell. The questioning and confusion caused by this story delay our march, and it is already properly dark and and there is still a long way to Zwierzyniec. Eichhorn is so irritated by the delay caused by Ćwik that he loses all strength and tumbles down in a roadside ditch before we reach Zwierzyniec. He had fainted and it took fresh water to revive him.
A few kilometers after passing Biłgoraj, we rest in the forest. A pillar of smoke rises above Biłgoraj. Passers-by who left the town after us say that a fire broke out there. They make various guesses about the fire, they suspect spies, saboteurs, etc. They tell us about some spy named Müller who was shot, and who was supposed to be a forest ranger and had his own radio station. However, it appears the fire was an accident. There has been a drought for several weeks, the towns are mostly built out of wood and bakeries are running their ovens constantly so the risk of fire is high.
We enter Rudnik early in the morning. We ask if there is a train. We learn from the railwaymen that there are trains and locomotives, but no one to operate them.
We race to the market. There is nothing to buy. There are groups of soldiers wandering around the market, sometimes wearing only half a uniform, evacuees from Bielsko or other western cities, without assignment, without wages, without command. True castaways. It was sad to look at some of the so-called soldiers in a military cap and sweater, in civilian trousers with a rifle on the shoulder and barefoot. There is no field gendarmerie at all. The mood is panicky. There is talk of blowing up the bridge over the river San. The "organizer" bought me a flask of ricinus, which I drank straight from the bottle. He also managed to buy some lard. There isn't any bread at all.
We finally reach Mielec. Zarebski, Eichhorn, and Szlabak are bathing in the Wisłoka. I am weary and I don't feel like undressing to bathe. We walk towards the market square. On our way, we buy some biscuits in kermess packaging. In one of the eateries, we find beer from Okocim. We drink two big tankards each; we buy soap, tobacco, cigarettes etc.
We start out for Kolbuszowa. One girl fleeing from Cieszyn joins us. We drop by a confectioner's where we have a coffee and get back on the road. We pass the still standing State Aviation Works and, a few kilometers after Mielec, we stop for a break in a roadside forest. We have some bread and eggs, some of which crumbled in the pocket of my coat.
We keep walking through the forest along the beautiful highroad made of porphyry cobblestone. A few kilometers ahead of Kolbuszowa, a passing car takes our companion from Cieszyn. We ourselves stop for the night. It is harder and harder to get food. It is difficult to order morning milk. We are getting ready to sleep.
At night, we set off by moonlight towards the Dunajec. At dawn, we reach the Dunajec river. There is a line of various vehicles, including cars, leading to the ferry. All refugees. The vehicles make the crossing very slowly. A smaller boat takes the pedestrians across rather quickly. We are on the other side of the Dunajec.
We enter Wietrzychowice. Unfortunately, we bring fear and panic with us. No calming words help. Why are you fleeing — we are finally asked. It does no good to reassure them that we have left our families and that we are following the orders of our superiors.
There are bomber planes circling above us. We go to the right of the road. We spread out under the trees to rest. In Dąbrowa Tarnowska, the mood is the same as in Szczurowa. Fear and panic. Most stores are closed. There is nothing to eat. Only dirty soda water here and there. See more
There are no district administrators, no police, some soldiers but just here and there, some groups in relative order. I shook off “Lotnik” deliberately because his cowardice and complaining got on my nerves. I sat by the town marketplace, hoping that Zarębski and Eichhorn would walk by, but I waited in vain for about an hour. I can either spend the night here (it is already 6:45) or keep walking. I choose the latter, but I still have doubts. Go straight to Mielec or Radomyśl Wielki? Ultimately, I decide on Radomyśl. I am furiously weary. I drink a few glasses of soda water and dash to Radomyśl. My feet are bothering me. I wonder if I should go to Przecław and stay with my relatives near Dębica. Around me, I hear rumors that the Germans are close. I walk by refugee carts and a military hospital.
At noon the train station was bombed. Radio is broadcasting news about the declaration of war against Germany by France and England. From the speakers you can hear the sounds of La Marseillaise and God Save the King. The weather is splendid, sunny and warm. Polish troops recede towards the east. At 2 am doctor Budka called me to the office via the police station at Kosciuszki Street. Nearly all residents of 5, Dojazdowa Street sit in the laundry room, which was fitted to be gas- and bombproof. I worked in the office till 2:45 am. On Sunday there was already no phone connection with Warsaw.