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Chicos de Varsovia (“Warsaw’s Children”)

Inspiration for the book title came from the 1944 Insurgents’s song: “Warsaw’s Children” - ("Warszawskie Dzieci" - see below)

Ana Wajszczuk

“Warszawskie Dzieci …” - 1944 Warsaw Uprising song


Warszawskie dzieci, pójdziemy w bój,
Za każdy kamień Twój, Stolico, damy krew!
Warszawskie dzieci, pójdziemy w bój,
Gdy padnie rozkaz Twój, poniesiem wrogom gniew!”


Warsaw's children, we go into battle,
For every your stone , Capital, we'll give our blood!
Warsaw's children, we go into battle,
When you give your order, the wrath of enemies!

Text: Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski, music: Andrzej Panufnik; composed - July 4, 1944, recorded August 1,1944 for the radio station Błyskawica, first broadcast – August 8, 1944; http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,zolnierska,warszawskie_dzieci.html

A Concept (”Myth”) of the “People/Children of Warsaw”

From the book: THE JEWS IN THE LITERARY LEGEND OF THE JANUARY UPRISING OF 1863. A CASE STUDY IN JEWISH STEREOTYPES IN POLISH LITERATURE by Magdalena M. Opalski - https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/21177

Cyprian K. Norwid – 1861, while abroad, responding to the news from WARSAW about unrest and patriotic demonstrations, which followed a “miraculous apparition” – prior to the 1863 National Uprising against the Russians:

/You ask: what do I say when a Warsaw’s (little) child
rises backed-up by (in response to) a miracle?/ (14)

(14) C.K. Norwid, " Improwizacja na zapytane o wieści z Warszawy”,
(1861) in Pisma wszystkie I, Wiersze I, Warszawa, 1971, p.383

Page 69 … the idea of Polish-Jewish brotherhood. As the single most prominent episode in current Polish-Jewish relations, it etched itself strongly in the collective memory of the Poles. The Jewish presence in the demonstrating Warsaw crowds not only gave the events a unique colour, but also played a crucial role in creating the myth of the "people of Warsaw". This new category born of the upheavals of 1861, was seen as the collective incarnation of the national aspirations of the Poles. The concept of "the people of Warsaw", a category which included Jews and other strata of the urban population, was to open a new chapter in Polish history. From the ideological point of view the appearance of Norwid's rebellious "Warsaw child" (====) pointed to important (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprian_Norwid) changes in the Poles’ self-image as a nation. (The idea, and manifestations, of the Polish-Jewish “brotherhood “ did survive only for a few years!)

A daughter, a father - in the footsteps of the greatest insurrection against the Nazis
By Ana Wajszczuk

The cover of the book

This is the story of the Warsaw Uprising as well as the story of my family: the Wajszczuks. A real-life narrative where voices of the Uprising survivors who emigrated to Argentina and still live at present – or their children’s voices retelling those stories - melt together with my personal history and the search of my own origins.

As a nonfiction novel, this book intends through different voices to rescue the everyday life history which happened during the Warsaw Uprising, narrated from the journey to Poland I shared with my father in 2015 while the 71st anniversary celebration of that event was taking place. This is an episode that, – despite being the bravest, most important and tragic resistance movement of the Second World War – is virtually unknown to the general public or mistaken for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Upon the destruction of the city and the death of two hundred thousand Warsovians throughout 63 days of battle, nearly 150 Armia Krajowa (AK, the “National Army” or “Patriotic Army”) veterans arrived in Argentina by the end of the 1940’s. The purpose of this book is to raise visibility to some of these stories which were never told before.

The book tells the story of Jorge Łagocki, who was a child when the Uprising broke out (and through his testimony also come out stories of civilians); of Hanna Baranowska, who took part in a battalion (and shared stories of women belonging to the AK); of Susana Grinspan and her father’s story about the Jews who battled in the Uprising. Furthermore, Juan Ricardo and Jorge Białous also reveal their father’s story – a famous scoutmaster captain and the highest-ranking insurgent who came to Argentina. 95-year-old Feliks Lech recalls what it was like being part of another battalion hemmed into the south of Warsaw, and Andrés Chowanczak recounts his father’s experiences in that same battalion.

There is a connection between these stories of insurgents who came to Argentina and a branch of my family: four siblings, residents in Warsaw – cousins of my grandfather, Zbigniew Wajszczuk, who at that time served in battle for Commander Anders’s Second Corps Polish Army in the East - fought during those days. Danuta, the oldest sister, was the only survivor among them. She continued living in Poland and died in the 70’s.

In Warsaw, under the guidance of one of my uncles who lives in the United States and who has made an extraordinary work of reconstruction of our family history (available in www.wajszczuk.pl), my father and I interviewed relatives, friends and acquaintances of the Wajszczuk family, in an attempt to put the pieces together of the story of those siblings who died in battle for Poland: 20-year-old Antoni, 18-year-old Barbara, and 15-year-old Wojtek.

Historical research is sustained by diverse sources: books such as Warsaw1944 by Norman Davies as well as General Komorowski’s memories and the latest works by English researcher Alexandra Richie have been really helpful. Other testimonies and material from investigative journalism, documentaries and films from my previous visits to Poland in 2008 and 2009 are also included.

This book is a chronicle and an investigative journalism work, while at the same time narrates the story of a father-and-daughter journey. It is an expedition to find out who we really are and the comeback to our origins; a narrative of immigrant origins that most Argentinians take within us, and the story told from a daughter to her father – like a bedtime tale- about the Polish family he did not know.

The book on display in a bookstore window in Buenos Aires, Argentina


Introduction. Opening scene: a German (miniature) battle tank captured by the insurgents. The tank blows up amid sounds of jubilation and laughter. Barbara Wajszczuk gets injured.

Chapter 1. There is a city, where time stops for a minute every year. My father and I in Warsaw. It is August 1st, 2015 and celebrations to commemorate the beginning of the Uprising overflow the city. What are we doing there?

Chapter 2. August 1st, 1944, 17:00. Beginning of the Uprising. Introduction to the history of the Wajszczuk siblings, members of the AK, the clandestine resistance against the Nazi occupation.

Chapter 3. Siedlce Boys. How this story came to me. The email of uncle Waldemar about our family tree which unveils an unknown story in our family. My grandparents and the origins of the family in Poland.

Chapter 4. Krochmalna Street. First days of the Uprising: Wola massacre, Jorge Łagocki’s story –a 7-year-old boy at that time, who spend the entire Uprising hiding in a basement- and how the civilians lived during the first days of euphoria.

Chapter 5. Antoni, Basia and Wojtek. The death of the Wajszczuk siblings on the first days of the Uprising: our visit to the cemetery and their graves. Antoni – there is not much information about him; Wojtek - homage and mass at Pęcice town’s memorial site. We are hindered by “J” – Danuta’s son (Danuta was oldest sister of the three siblings who died in the Uprising) - to ask us to leave his family alone because he does not agree on the publication of this book.

Chapter 6. Warsaw Girls. The story of Hanna Baranowska, the last warrior alive in Buenos Aires. The role of women in the AK: messengers, nurses, liaisons.

Chapter 7. Siedlce-Krasnystaw-Lublin. Journey to Siedlce, the cradle of the family. I begin to feel disappointed, as no one knows much and everybody says my next interviewee will surely know more. Some traces about uncle Karol, who died in Dachau. Visit to Majdanek. Aunt Lilka and the homage to the insurgents of the family in the town of Krasnystaw. A visit to the family graves with my grandmother’s ashes.

Chapter 8. Surviving Twice. Susana Grinspan, of Jewish origins, tells me the story of her father, who managed to ran away from the Ghetto and subsequently battled in the Uprising. Tension between the AK and the Jews: the complex relationship between Polish Jews and Catholics before, during and after the war.

Chapter 9. Basia: sharing reflections through the hospital window. August 13th, 1944: Barbara Wajszczuk’s story - injured by the explosion of a miniature German battle tank-trap, which the insurgents unknowingly snuck in, like a “Trojan horse”. Dead two weeks later when the hospital where she was recovering was bombarded. In Warsaw we attend the homage to commemorate the victims of that day. An interview with Antoni Dobraczyński ,a blind, almost deaf man and the little pieces we managed to understand from his story: he was the last one who saw her alive. Other testimonies about what happened.

Chapter 10. Captain Jerzy. Journey to Neuquén (Argentine Patagonia) with my father to interview Jorge and Juan Ricardo Białous, Captain Jerzy’s sons. Captain Jerzy was one of the heroes of the Uprising, who was exiled to Argentina, on the Andean foothills, 300km away from Neuquén. The Uprising is being hemmed in. ???

Chapter 11. Mokotów Soldiers. End of the game. The last days of the Uprising. The story of Stanisław Chowańczak told by his son, and of Feliks Lech (who died shortly after I interviewed him), both of them soldiers of the Mokotów district, the last area which surrendered. The capitulation and Warsaw in ruins. Current debates on the Uprising. My efforts to make sense of it all, between some kind of overwhelming emotional attachment to their heroism and critical views. How can a person understand a story so distant in time and language?

Chapter 12. Warsaw passed through here. Maria and Danuta (mother and oldest sister respectively of the Wajszczuk siblings who died in the Uprising): what became of them? How did they escape from Warsaw? How did they hear of the death of the brothers? Correspondence with uncle Waldemar. Pruszków Transit Camp for civilians: a visit with my father. The camp’s inscription “Warsaw passed through here”: more than 600 thousand people walked through this camp, destined to slave labor in the Reich, concentration camps and deportation to inland Poland. Oberlangen Camp for female prisoners of war: final part to the story of insurgent Hanna. Epilogue of the journey and the book: our last day in Warsaw.

Praises for the book Chicos de Varsovia / Children of Warsaw in Argentina:

“Ana Wajszczuk is living a personal spring. Her brilliant historical memory Chicos de Varsovia (Sudamericana) is now in its third edition. It is a moving story, which clears a path between the course of WWII and the history of Polish resistance. This is a book where the author gets the pieces of her family tree, put them together and makes them flourish by dint of asking, searching, digging in family histories.”

(Susana Reinoso, Clarín newspaper)

"The family research and the tragic history of the Polish insurgence against the Nazi occupation perfectly matched with prodigal harmony in Chicos de Varsovia, A great chronicle written by Ana Wajszczuk"

(Alejandro Caravario, Brando magazine)

"Chicos de Varsovia (Sudamericana) is a multi-faceted, beautiful and heart-breaking book which reconstructs the Warsaw Uprising that began on August 1st 1944, a movement of resistance against the Nazis which lasted 63 days and mobilized 30,000 clandestine insurgents”

(Silvina Friera, Pagina/12 newspaper)

"As a writer and researcher, but also as the granddaughter of an insurgent, Wajszczuk reveals to us the extent to which crimes against humanity are, above all, a grievance to the future"

(Damian Tullio, Rolling Stone magazine)

"Chicos de Varsovia (Sudamericana) is one of the greatest books of the year. The texts is a reconstruction of many heroic deeds, but goes further and proves to be a learning novel. As the author moves forward in the historical events, she veers off to wonder about her place in the story, her relationship with the family that remained in Europe and with her father, as well as her struggle to embrace the unattainable past"

(Patricio Zunini, Infobae online newspaper)

"Through her book -which is a travel novel, and essay and historical and journalistic investigation simultaneously- the journalist and writer rescues a forgotten chapter of the Polish history and dives into her own family history. And moreover: she creates memory"

(Agustina Rabaini, Sophia magazine).

"Wajszczuk set out on a journey through time, space and language to come close to a story that was partly of her own but also was slipping permanently through her fingers. Wajszczuk explored it all in full detail, with thorough examination and pliant eyes. There are books quoted, heartbreaking testimonies, specialists, museums packed with memorabilia and a city rebuilt after its ruins. But the limits of the historical reconstruction –all that we will never know- is also present in this investigation"

(Natali Schejtman, Radar, cultural issue from Pagina/12 newspaper).

"The first nonfiction book by the editor and journalist born in Quilmes in 1975 is the promising surprise of the year. In a mixture of genres which includes the travel chronicle, the historical reconstruction and the poetic impulse, the author tells her father his family history during the Warsaw Uprising which took place in 1944."

(Daniel Gigena, La Nación newspaper)

Author’s Bio

Ana Wajszczuk was born in Quilmes in 1975. She studied Communication Studies in the University of Buenos Aires and works as an editor and journalist. Since 2001, her articles have appeared in Latin-American newspapers and magazines such as GQ, La Nación (Costa Rica), Travesías, Gatopardo and SoHo. In Argentina, she writes for media such as Radar (Página/12), Clarín, La Nación Revista, Sophia and Harper´s Bazaar. She was the editor of the section Sociedad of Los Inrockuptibles magazine. Furthermore, she is the author of the poetry books Trópico Trip (Ediciones del Diego, 1999) y El libro de los polacos [The book of the Polish] (Algaida, 2004, XXII Premio de Poesía Ciudad de Badajoz, España). She also wrote poems and short stories which are part of several anthologies and collaborated as an editor for the magazine of new Latin American poetry Los Amigos de lo Ajeno [The pilferers] (1999-2005). This is her first nonfiction book.



#Chicosdevarsovia was born, somehow, of the information that my paternal grandfather’s cousin, Waldemar Wajszczuk, as a Sherlock Holmes of our family history, was collecting and adding to the page www.wajszczuk.pl.
Waldemar, at his eighty and some years, is tireless. We met only once - he lives in Michigan, United States - but we communicate almost every week.
He just sent me the last item that was uploaded to our family website: the information about my book.
For those who read in English and/or Polish, here is the information:
http://www.wajszczuk.pl/english/drzewo/tekst/0064ana/Chicos-de-Varsovia.htm; http://www.wajszczuk.pl

Prepared by: Waldemar J Wajszczuk & Paweł Stefaniuk 2019