JULIUS PRZESMYCKI, POLISH HOME ARMY MUSEUM, FEBRUARY 4, 2007
“More luck that brains,” is how freedom fighter Julius Przesmycki describes his life. Add in an almost unfathomably huge dose of courage, and we are inclined to agree.
Creator, curator and extraordinary tour guide of the Polish Home Army museum in the Ark building at Orchard Lake St. Mary, Przesmycki donated his personal collection of artifacts collected during his years as a soldier for the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), then the largest underground army in the world. 400,000 strong, the AK's primary activity was sabotage of German transports headed for the eastern front in the Soviet Union. AK also fought some full-scale battles against the Germans, particularly in 1943 and 1944 during Operation Tempest, thereby tying down a number of German Army divisions.
The Museum, which is open to the public, is generally considered to be the most complete historical overview of the Polish Home army in the world. When the Visionalist team filmed there on February 4th, interviewing Przesmycki amid mementos of his finest hours, we were awed by the undaunted spirit of freedom and the unity that drew he and hundreds of thousands of individual-minded Poles together to fight against a common enemy—and against uncommon odds.
Przesmycki was in the thick of the worst and the best of World War II, up to, including, and after his capture by the Nazis. Having joined the AK at the age of fifteen, he was able to parlay his intense Boy Scout training into an amazing set of experiences—many dangerous beyond comprehension, all of them the stuff of Hollywood screenplays, seemingly too fortuitous to believe—but all absolutely true. The Polish Scouts, it is interesting to note, were an organization of near-military intensity, far more difficult that American scouting. Again and again Przesmycki credits this training, which began in his early childhood and extended right up until his joining the underground, with his ability to track, to throw hand grenades, to find his way through the wilderness, and which many times saved his life.
Tales of buying freedom for himself and his family from a concentration camp with five liters of vodka (which he effected by breaking out of the prison camp, fetching the vodka and actually breaking back in…) and of his many near-death experiences at the hands of Nazi torturers can be read in detail throughout his fascinating memoirs, The Sold Out Dream 1939-1945, (Point Publications, 1991)
Inspiring? Too mild a term. Men like Przesmycki, and the untold thousands of women who fought with equal valor, are now in the later stages of life, and such stories must be heard now. ‘Our Polish Story’ will accept as our mission the task of recording those stories that we are able to uncover in the Detroit area, for historians and for posterity. It is the least we can due in homage to their unparalleled patriotism and sacrifice.