Steadfast to the end

Interview with Tadeusz Płużański, historian and son of a Doomed Soldier, conducted by Jan Przemylski.

For the seventh year in a row on 1st March we celebrated National Doomed Soldiers Day. How has Poles' awareness of the freedom-fighters of the anti-communist underground changed over those years?

Literally everything has changed. We should bear in mind that the phenomenon of Doomed Soldiers was restored to national memory as a grass-roots initiative. The state became involved only later, largely thanks to the late President Lech Kaczyński and Janusz Kurtyka. Today we are witnessing the merger of those two trends – grass-roots celebrations and state commemorations. For that to occur we had to wait more than half a century. I am glad that even in the speeches of President Andrzej Duda there is a return of the idea of Doomed Soldiers and the values they espoused. I wish to emphasise that it is not a matter of restoring their honour and dignity, as they never lost them. The point is to restore honour to the Polish state that we might be able to distinguish between true heroes and traitors.

You said restoring remembrance of the Staunch and Steadfast Ones was launched as a grass-roots initiative? How did such a phenomenon emerge?

I believe one of the main reasons were decades of political mendacity.  They were to be doomed to oblivion and wiped off the pages of our history. It was young people seeking role models and idols that successively discovered representatives of one of the best generations of Poles in history. Moreover, we can see that the attitudes displayed by representatives of the anti-communist underground are desirable also today. People want to learn about the heroes who fought for our independence and want to be aware of their national identity. Recently it was my pleasure to chat with Major Weronika Sebastianowicz, a partisan and Home Army (AK) soldier sworn in at the age of 13. When I asked her where did she get the strength to fight from, she said the oath she took when joining the AK has bound her for life.

For that generation, it was something natural that first of all there is God and honour and only later all the rest. I have spoken with many former freedom-fighters, but when I said they were Polish heroes, they were outraged. They did not want to be called that. The fact that they went off to fight for their homeland and die for it was their duty. There was no time to ask whether or not it was worth it. They undertook a tragic, hopeless struggle for Poland. They took an oath and would rather lose their life than break it. My father was also a member of that generation.

Aside from armed struggle with the Doomed Soldiers, the communists also sought to bury all memory of them. Their corpses were buried in anonymous death holes, and to this day many families are still seeking the remains of their ancestors. Why did the communist authorities hate them so much?

It was because of fear. The communists feared the values espoused by the Steadfast Ones and their idealism. They knew that even if they murder, them they can return, and that is occurring at present. It is said that the underground army is returning, their idealism is enjoying a renaissance. Unfortunately, even today that is not to everyone's liking. That is why the education of Polish society in accordance with historical truth is so important.

Source: Gazeta Polska Codziennie