WHENEVER one reads the memoirs of a Pole who lived through the war one is struck afresh by the awareness of the cruel fate that heaped so much suffering upon these brave and patriotic people.
Jozef Garlinski, who has lived in England since 1945 and has written several other books, begins his story with his marriage on September 4, 1939, to an Irish girl who had come to Poland on a visit. Naither spoke the other's language, but the fact that they could only converse in a mixture of French and German was no impediment to their romance. And when Garlinski, mobilised in the reserve, got his orders to leave Warsaw with his regiment, they were hastily married. Ten hours later he departed, leaving his young bride alone in a foreign country. But they were not to be apart for long; he was badly
wounded in the leg, taken prisoner, sent to hospital and, after six weeks, discharged as unfit for active service and returned to civilian life in Warsaw.
Soon Garlinski became involved in the underground resistance the Home Army as it was called. He had a dangerous and difficult job running a secret network maintaining communicdons with political prisoners in Warsaw who were held by the Gestapo. But in April, 1943, he was arrested in the street, and taken to Gestapo HQ and interrogated. They were unable to pin anything on him, but, nevertheless, he was held for three weeks in the Pawiak prison in Warsaw and then sent to Auschwitz.
Garlinski reported in a matterof-fact way about life in the concentration camp, but such a tale needs no emphasis. The account of the daily life of men living side by side in such appalling conditions brings home to the reader both the brutality and the nobility of which a human being is capable. Because of the moves from camp to camp, the departures for unknown destinations, he often became for a while a close friend to some prisoner from whom he was then parted and of whose ultimate fate he never learned. He was liberated by the Americans and made contact with his wife, Eileen, through her mother in Ireland. Eileen had, during his captivity, worked as a nurse and, as a member of the Home Army, went through the agonising and ill-fated Warsaw uprising.
Mercifully, Josef and Eileen were re-united in London in November 1945.