Guest-blogger Tomasz Glinski shares a remembrance of his grandfather and his family’s history.
I remember vividly what it was like to play war as a ten-year-old Polish boy in the mid-90s, not that long after the fall of communism in Poland. I also remember that my grandma always asked me to hide all my plastic weapon toys because my grandad did not consider ‘war play’ as fun. Back then I did not know that my grandad was involved in the resistance movement against the Third Reich and then Soviet occupation of Poland. I barely even heard about those groups.
Every year since 2011, Poles celebrate the National Day of Remembrance of ‘Accursed Soldiers’ on 1st March. The term ‘Accursed Soldiers’ was first used in 1993 to describe the soldiers of the armed democratic resistance who fought the Communist regime from the mid-1940’s to the 1950’s.
It is also a special day for our family. This day we remember a teenager called ‘Czarny’ (‘Black’) who supplied and supported the anti-communist movement – my grandad who passed away in 2002.
My grandad was just 17 when communists imprisoned him. He was caught on the main street of my hometown carrying ‘as many guns as he could’ – he mentioned one day. After the arrest came the never-ending hearings and tortures with electroshocks and water. He found himself in prison with three of his friends. One, an 18 year-old received a death sentence, and was soon executed. My granddad and his best friend, Henryk were sentenced for life, but they were finally released after Stalin died.
One year after his release, my mother was born. She was the first one, who told me my grandad’s story, but only recently mentioned that she found out about it accidentally searching old family documents and photos as a teenager. At that time, and even years after the fall of communism in Poland, no one even thought about mentioning what happened. People were afraid. Some even called my grandad a terrorist, she said.
The story of my grandad comes alive every 1st of March. I am sharing this every year with my friends. It makes special meaning here in the UK, where most of my friends are non-Polish. It’s not only a story about Polish history but more about the person who I remember as a kind-hearted and good grandfather.
Tomasz Glinski is a community worker working with migrants and refugees communities in Hull. He’s a Polish expat living in the UK since 2015.