Hieronim Dekutowski (noms de guerre "Zapora", "Odra", "Rezu", "Stary", "Henryk Zagon") was a Polish boyscout and soldier, who fought in Polish September Campaign, was a member of the elite forces Cichociemni, fought in the Home Army and after World War II, fought the communist regime as one of commanders of Wolnosc i Niezawislosc.
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Dekutowski was born September 24, 1918 in Dzików (now a part of Tarnobrzeg). He was the youngest of nine kids of Jan Dekutowski, patriotic member of Polish Socialist Party and follower of Józef Piłsudski. His mother Maria (née Sudacka), did not work and stayed at home, taking care of the kids. The family was very patriotic, Hieronim's older brother died in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920.
Young Dekutowski between 1930 and 1938 attended Middle School and High School of Hetman Jan Tarnowski in Tarnobrzeg. At the same time, he was a member of local branch of Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego, where he was a leader of a group of teenagers, as well as Catholic organization Marian Sodality. After graduation and failing final exams (May 1938), Dekutowski worked for Count Artur Tarnowski, one of the biggest landowners in the 1930s Poland. In May 1939 Dekutowski finally completed his high school education, passing all final exams. He wanted to study at the University of Jan Kazimierz, but German and Soviet invasion on Poland made it impossible.
September 1939 and escape to the West
At the beginning of September 1939, Dekutowski together with a sister evacuated to Lwów. His exact role in the Polish September Campaign has not been established; he volunteered to the Polish Army and fought in the Battle of Lwów (1939). On September 17, 1939, finding out about Soviet aggression on Eastern Poland, he crossed the Hungarian border, together with a group of soldiers. After escaping from an internment camp, across Yugoslavia and Hungary, he got to France, where volunteered to the Polish Army in France (1940) and was assigned to the 2nd Division of Infantry Rifles.
In the spring of 1940, Dekutowski attended a military academy in Coetquidan, but he did not complete the course due to Battle of France. During this conflict, he fought near Swiss border, and after capitulation of France, he escaped to Switzerland, from where he reached Great Britain. There, in late 1941 he was promoted with distincions to the rank of officer and congratulated by Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk. At first Dekutowski served at a tank battalion, but later was transferred to the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. On April 24, 1942, he volunteered to go to Poland.
Back in Poland
On March 4, 1943, Dekutowski was sworn as a member of the Cichociemni by Colonel Michal Protasewicz. After a few more months, in the night of September 16/17, 1943, during "Operation Neon 1", he was dropped on a parachute, together with other Cichociemni - Bronislaw Rachwal and Kazimierz Smolak. They landed in the area of Wyszków, but Dekutowski was soon afterwards sent to Lublin, where he became member of Kedyw of Lublin's Home Army District.
Dekutowski distinguished himself during several successful skirmishes with German occupiers, who at that time were resettling Poles from the area of Zamość, replacing them with German settlers. He helped save a number of Jews, also liquidated pro-Nazi collaborators. His unit attacked German villages, fought Wehrmacht troops, but also punished ordinary criminals.
In January 1944, Dekutowski became commandant of Kedyw of the Lublin - Puławy area. He ordered six smaller Kedyw units to join forces, thus creating a strong, mobile regiment, capable of shock attacks on German outposts and troops. According to historians, his unit carried out more than 80 attacks on Germans in the first six months of 1944. The biggest skirmish took place on May 24, near the village of Kreznica Okragla. Dekutowski's unit attacked a German column, consisting of sixteen trucks filled with soldiers and SS. The Germans lost some 50 men and a lot of equipment. On July 17, 1944, Dekutowski was wounded in a hand, but managed to recover in time for Operation Tempest. He wanted to come to help fighting Warsaw, but did not succeed with crossing the Vistula.
In early 1945 Dekutowski decided to continue hiding and fight the Communists. One of main reasons for decision was an incident which took place in the village of Chodel, on the night of February 5/6, 1945. A communist commandant of precinct of Urząd Bezpieczeństwa in Chodel named Abram Tauber, who had been saved by Dekutowski and his men during the war, invited four members of the Home Army to his headquarters. They went there, confident that they would be safe given that they saved Tauber's life. Instead, Tauber tied their hands and shot all four.
As a reprisal, Dekutowski destroyed Tauber's headquarters, and soon afterward a local war began. "Zapora" was wounded in a leg in one skirmish, but managed to escape towards the area of Tarnobrzeg. In the spring of 1945 he organized several bold attacks on Communists, among them:
- on April 26, his unit seized the town of Janów Lubelski, liquidating several agents and releasing Home Army members from prison,
- in May he attacked Urząd Bezpieczeństwa office in Bełżyce Kazimierz Dolny, killing 5 agents and 2 Soviet officers.
In June, Dekutowski, promoted to major, retreated towards the Janowska Wilderness and put away weapons, telling soldiers to give up fighting and return to homes. However, without any guarantees of safety, he decided to escape to Western Europe with a small party of people. He managed to reach American Consulate in Prague, but had to return as the Americans refused to help.
In late 1945 and early 1946, Dekutowski organized several attacks on Communist outposts in southeastern Poland, during which up to 400 Communist soldiers and agents were killed. He would also attack villages which were sympathetic towards the Communists, such as Moniaki, where on September 24, 1946, he whipped 40 Communists. In early 1947, when the government declared amnesty, he planned to give up fighting, but found out that several of his men had been arrested and continued hiding in the woods until mid-1947.
Capture and death
In September 1947 "Zapora" once again tried to escape to the West, but was caught in Nysa. Taken to the infamous Mokotów Prison in Warsaw, he was tortured horribly and beaten during the investigation. The sham trial of Dekutowski and his soldiers took place on November 3, 1948. To humiliate the accused, they were dressed in Wehrmacht uniforms. On November 15, the court presided over by Judge Jozef Badecki (who had previously sentenced Witold Pilecki to death) sentenced Dekutowski to seven deaths. "Zapora", together with six other soldiers, was executed on March 7, 1949. According to witnesses, even though he was 30 at the moment of death, he looked like an elderly man, without teeth and nails, with grey hair, broken ribs, nose and hands. ‘We shall never surrender!’ he yelled sending his last message to his fellow prisoners.
Dekutowski, and his men, were buried in an unknown location. His symbolic tomb is located at the Military Cemetery in Lublin. His sentence was voided by District Court in Warsaw on May 23, 1994.
Awards, Decorations and Citations
Middle School number 9 in Lublin is named after him, in the same city there are 2 monuments of "Zapora" and his men. On November 15, 2007, President Lech Kaczyński posthumously awarded him with the Polonia Restituta.
- Cross of Valour, 1964 (posthumously)
- Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, 15 November 2007
- Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
- Marek Jan Chodakiewicz: The Dialectics of Pain. Part III. at www.projectinposterum.org
- GAZETA POLSKA at www.gazetapolska.pl
- Monument of Dekutowski and his men in Lublin
- Page of Lublin's Middle School number 9
- Urbankowski, Bohdan. "Czerwona Msza". Wydawna. 1995.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hieronim Dekutowski.|
- Official website
- Zaporczycy - Hieronim Dekutowski and his soldiers
- - "'Zapora' in the net of communist secret police agents" by Dr. Jarosław Kopiński, Ph.D., Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN, Lublin, Poland]