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Karol Chmiel (1911–1951) was born on April 17, 1911 in the village of Zagorzyce (now in Ropczyce-Sędziszów County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship) to a peasant family of Antoni and Katarzyna née Charchut. He graduated from high school in Dębica, then joined the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where he studied law. After graduation, in 1935, Chmiel settled in Wojslaw, a village near Mielec, his wife Irena Suchodolska was a school principal, and he worked for the Town Hall in Mielec.
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World War II
At the beginning of the Polish September Campaign, Chmiel tried to escape east, to the area of Lwów, where his wife's family owned an estate. Unable to do so, they returned to the village of Zagorzyce, with a three-year old son Jerzy. On January 6, 1940, Chmiel's wife died, after delivering their second son Zbigniew. After this, the boys were looked after by Irena's mother and her sisters.
As early as January 1940, Chmiel became a member of Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej, with nom de guerre "Los". Since January 1941 he was commandant of a platoon in Zagorzyce, which was part of Dębica's District of ZWZ (later: Polish Home Army). Nominated to colonel, in 1943 he decided to move to Bataliony Chłopskie (BCh), becoming in early 1944 commandant of BCh's Dębica District. He participated in Operation Tempest activities in the area of Dębica, being member of local headquarters of the anti-German resistance.
Some time in 1944, Chmiel drove a captured German car, but he forgot to display a Polish flag on it, and was peppered with bullets by the Home Army soldiers. Shot 13 times, he was severely wounded, but managed to survive. Nevertheless, he became partly disabled.
After the war
After 1945, Chmiel settled in Kraków, where he opened a grocery store and bought a house in Swoszowice, a village in the suburbs. He was an active member of Polish People's Party (PSL), and secretly a member of the anti-Communist organization Wolnosc i Niezawislosc (WiN). In 1947 he became a member of WiN's headquarters and political advisor of Łukasz Ciepliński as well as a liaison between Cieplinski and PSL's Stanislaw Mikolajczyk.
Asked by Ciepliski, Chmiel, together with Stefan Rostworowski created a "Memorial to the United Nations". This document presented crimes committed by Soviet and Polish secret services on members of the disbanded Home Army and anti-Communist activists. Reportedly, WiN was planning to move him to the West, but these plans were nipped in the bud.
Arrest and incarceration
Karol Chmiel was arrested by the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa agents on December 12, 1947. Together with other members of WiN, he was moved to the infamous Mokotów Prison in Warsaw. For three years he was tortured, and his family did not know about his whereabouts, as contact with the outside world was strictly prohibited.
The trial began on October 5, 1950 and it lasted for five days. Chmiel's family was allowed to enter the courtroom, so he had a chance to see his sons and hand them letters. One of these letters is now displayed in a museum in Jasna Góra.
On October 14, 1950, by the order of the Warsaw Area Court, Chmiel was sentenced to two deaths. President Bolesław Bierut did not pardon him, and together with Chmiel, other members of WiN were sentenced (see: 1951 Mokotów Prison execution).
All sentenced persons spent their final night in separate cells. On March 1, 1951, all their private belongings were taken away, hands were tied, mouths taped. Then they were taken to an old boiler room and shot in the back of the head, while walking down the stairs. Chmiel was murdered at 8:15 pm, his body was buried in unknown location.
On September 17, 1992, Karol Chmiel was cleared of all charges by the Warsaw Military Court.
- GIMNAZJUM W ZAGORZYCACH GÓRNYCH (Polish)
Notes and references
- (English) Polish secret police torture methods
- (English) WiN | Freedom and Independence - A Historical Brief by Dr. Janusz Marek Kurtyka, Ph.D., Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN, Poland.