Klimek and Teresa

They met in Warsaw, almost by accident; quickly fell in love, and were married.  Klimek Mielczarek was raised in poverty and learned at an early age how to survive using his good looks, charm, and ready wit.  Teresa Zbijewska was an intelligent and beautiful young woman born into an aristocratic family, and raised on a large estate, surrounded by the finer things in life. Both possessed a secret that they could not, and dare not, tell the other.  Both were members of the Polish Home Resistance Army. In ordinary times it is doubtful that Klimek and Teresa would ever have met , much less married.  But these were not ordinary times.  The German occupation of Poland had turned the lives of all Poles upside down, regardless of class or wealth.

On August 1, 1944, the Polish resistance Home Army launched a sudden and well coordinated attack against  the German occupiers of Warsaw.  Taken by surprise, the Germans initially fell back; and at one point, the Home Army gained control of most of Central Warsaw. Success of this audacious campaign was dependent on two important premises: 1) That the Allied Nations would support their efforts with air and ground forces; and 2) That the Soviet Army, which was rapidly approaching the outskirts of Warsaw, would join the fight, thus overwhelming the defending German forces.  Unfortunately, neither occurred, and the Poles were left to fight alone.  Out manned and outgunned, the Home Army fought on for 63 days with little or no outside help before surrendering to the German forces.

No one knows for sure how many lives were lost during the Warsaw uprising of 1944.  Some estimates say that 16,000 resistance fighters were killed and over 200,000 civilians lost their lives during the conflict.  Additionally, 85% of Warsaw was razed to the ground by the time the German Army withdrew.  (To fully appreciate the damage to the city, you should watch this short documentary:  WARSAW 1947 )

Klimek was captured and spent the remainder of the war in a German prison camp.  Teresa managed to escape and fled to the country side carrying their unborn child.  Klimek went on to be a popular star in Polish films; while Teresa became a well-known and much admired stage director in Polish theater.  Together, they raised two beautiful children, one of whom is my wife Marzenna.

November 11 is Veterans Day, and like most Americans, I will be honoring those who took up arms to defend our country and the principles upon which it was founded.  But I will also take a few moments to honor Klimek and Teresa; two veterans from another country and another time.  I am proud of them and am honored to have been part of their family when they were alive.

Happy Veterans Day!

Ron Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and amateur photographer whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today,and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA) and American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in the Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight, chronicles the life of a an Air Force fighter pilot during The Cold War and Vietnam years. (www.eagleslastflight.com).  His blog (www.ronspostcards.blogspot.com) regular provides photo essays on travel and leisure activities.

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