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nom de guerre
Józef Franczak as corporal of Military Police before 1939
17 March 1919|
Kozice Górne, Second Polish Republic
|Died||21 October 1963
Majdan Kozic Górnych, Polish People's Republic
|Occupation||sergeant, Military Police, partisan|
Józef Franczak (17 March 1918 – 21 October 1963) was a soldier of the Polish Army, Armia Krajowa World War II resistance, and last of the cursed soldiers – members of the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland. He used codenames Lalek (best known), Laluś, Laleczka, Guściowa, and fake name Józef Babiński. He was a resistance fighter for 24 out of 45 years of his life.
Józef Franczak was born in the Polish village of Kozice Górne, some 30 kilometers from Lublin. After attending a school for the gendarmerie in Grudziądz, he was stationed as a soldier of the Polish Army in Równe (then in Poland, now Rivne, Ukraine). He was captured during the Soviet invasion of Poland, but escaped and joined one of the first Polish resistance organizations, the Związek Walki Zbrojnej, which later became the Armia Krajowa.
In August 1944 he was conscripted into the Polish Second Army. In 1945, having witnessed some of his Home Army colleagues being executed by the communist Polish government, he left the Second Army and hid for a few months in different locations, such as Sopot and Łódź, using the alias of Józef Baginski. Subsequently he returned to the area of Lublin, and joined the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland, colloquially known as the cursed soldiers. His first unit was led by Hieronim Dekutowski (nom de guerre "Zapora"). Captured and arrested by the security forces (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) in June 1946, he managed to kill four guards and make his escape along with some others.
At the beginning of 1947, he took part in actions against the law enforcement agencies and the military of the communist authorities, particularly the milicja, and the functionaries of the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa and their informers. Later in 1947 he joined a unit led by a Wolność i Niezawisłość officer, Zdzisław Broński (nom de guerre "Uskok"), which operated northeast of Lublin. In 1949 he personally executed a former resistance member who had betrayed Broński. Then for several years he led a group bent on executing traitors and informers, who had joined with those he perceived to be the enemies of Poland.
In 1948, during a botched bank robbery, his cadre was intercepted by government forces and destroyed; from that time Franczak worked alone, as more and more of his former colleagues were killed, arrested, or simply gave up – especially after the amnesty of April 27, 1956. For the next few years he would be one of the most wanted people in the People's Republic of Poland. He hid near the village of Piaski, and in the area of Krasnystaw, Chełm and the area surrounding Lublin. It has been estimated that some 200 people were involved in giving him various type of aid. Those supporting Franczak exposed themselves to great risk and retribution, since he was regarded as a 'dangerous criminal', by the government. They threatened to punish anyone who helped him with several years of imprisonment.
The Lublin field office of the Polish secret police, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, had already begun a plan to capture or kill him as early as November 1951, under the codename "Pożar" ("Fire"). In time over 100 different people were involved in the effort to locate and eliminate him. Agents of the SB installed bugs in several houses in the villages around Lublin. In May 1957, the first such device was implanted in the house that belonged to Czeslawa Franczak, Jozef's sister. Soon afterwards, bugs were installed in the house of another sister, Celina Mazur, as well as elsewhere.
Finally, in 1963, he was betrayed by a relative of his mistress, Danuta Mazur. Stanisław Mazur informed the secret police of Franczak's whereabouts and his planned meeting with Danuta, who was also the mother of his child. On 21 October 1963, 35 functionaries of a ZOMO (paramilitary riot police) unit surrounded a barn in Majdan Kozic Górnych, the village where Franczak was in hiding. They demanded his surrender; Franczak presented himself as a local peasant, but after having been asked about identity documents, he opened fire and was mortally wounded in the ensuing firefight. After an autopsy, Franczak's body (without its head), was returned to his family. He was buried in the cemetery in Piaski Wielkie.
In modern Poland, Franczak is considered a hero of the anti-communist resistance. On 17 March 2006, a special event was organized in his honor, with a mass led by the bishop of Lublin, Józef Życiński, and a memorial ceremony attended by the last president of the Polish government-in-exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, the director of the Institute of National Remembrance, Janusz Kurtyka, and several members of the Polish parliament (Sejm). The Institute also organized a conference about Franczak and anti-communist resistance movements, and the local TV station Telewizja Lublin made a film dedicated to him. All of the events were sponsored by TV Polonia.
- Gazeta Wyborcza, 2006-03-17
- (Polish) Józef Franczak „Lalek” w TVP
- (Polish) Ostatni z Wyklętych, Andrzej Solak
- (Polish) Oddano hołd ostatniemu żołnierzowi podziemia niepodległościowego, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2006-03-17
- (Polish) "Podziemie zbrojne na Lubelszczyźnie w latach 1939–1956 wobec dwóch totalitaryzmów"
- (Polish) „Lalek” ostatni partyzant Rzeczypospolitej
- (Polish) Ostatni niezłomny – Józef Franczak ps. "Lalek" w 3 częściach: 1, 2, 3