Escape From Stalag VIIIB

The Safehouse

3/11 August 1943

Whether the Polish Resistance has several safehouses in the area for Witold to choose from or that the party just got lucky will never be known, but the route out avoids the necessity of either crossing over the River Vistula or going back into the Old Town. Instead it takes them East-South-East through an area which is industrial with some lower class housing.

Knowing that they are nearly at the city limits where there will inevitably be a checkpoint, Piotr tells Terry to slow down and look for somewhere to dump the prisoners. There proves to be plenty of options as there is no one around at this time in middle of the night. While Piotr and Terry remain in the cab, Lodd and Taffy together drag each of the three prisoners out of the back of the half-track and leave them around the back of a factory. They will get found here sooner or later, but hopefully not any time soon.

Everyone returns to the truck and they carry on. As expected, just a couple of hundred metres later and they see the checkpoint ahead of them. Everyone grips their guns nervously and tries to act like SS. They know that if is all goes wrong, they are in no condition to fight their way through.

Piotr repeats his “SS-Hauptsturmführer in a hurry” routine and the barrier opens as he exchanges a salute and a “Heil Hitler” with the guards.

“Witold said that the place is only 10km from the city centre and so it can’t be more than five or ten minutes away now,” Piotr says.

Five minutes later and they are well outside Krakow now, driving through an area of summer houses – simple wooden houses that were retreats for wealthier citizens in better times. They pass a sign saying Hotelik U Niny Noclegi with an arrow pointing north.

“That’s it,” Piotr says with relief.

“However, we can’t go barging in their with guns dressed like Nazis or we will probably give the owner a heart attack and/or blow his cover. Drive on and let’s try and find somewhere where we can hide Betty and most of the weapons.”

Terry nods and continues. Half a mile later and the gardens of the summer house areas gives way to a scruffy copse of woods just off the road to the north. Terry pulls in and takes Betty as far inside the copse as it will go, which fortunately is more than far enough to ensure that it can’t be seen from the road.

Everyone changes out of their SS uniforms into their civvies. Everyone takes a pistol and a knife with them, but leave the heavy artillery behind.

“It’s going to be safer to stay here a few hours,” says Piotr. “We don’t want to risk being caught out after curfew and don’t want to drag the owner out of bed either.”

They spend half an hour camouflaging the half-track and then take a nap for a couple of hours until they are awoken by the rising sun.

They give it another hour and then cautiously emerge from the trees, watching carefully to make sure that no one sees them. They then walk towards the guesthouse.

The Hotelik U Niny Noclegi proves to be a large wooden villa set among the smaller houses surrounding it. Piotr knocks on the door and it is answered by an elderly man.

“Dzień dobry, jak mogę pomóc?” the man asks.

“We have a reservation in the name of Stanislaw Burzynski,” Piotr replies.

The man shows no reaction. He looks around to make sure that no one is watching and then nods for the seven of them to come in.

Once the door is closed, he breaks into a smile and welcomes everyone warmly.

“Good morning to you all,” he says in heavily accented English. “My name is Maciej Cegłowski, but most of my English-speaking friends call me ‘Magic’ – I know it’s a lot easier to pronounce.”

“Please, make yourself at home. You are free to stay as long as you need to.”

“Now let me show you to your rooms.”

The rooms of the guesthouse are simple and spartan but, compared to the bunks of the Stalag, forest, barn and warehouse floors that are all they group has seen for months or years, it could just as well be the Waldorf Astoria.

“Witold said that it could be a while before we hear from the Resistance so we might as well get some rest and try and heal up for a while. None of us are in a good shape at the moment.”

The others don’t need to be asked twice and all are soon soundly asleep. They sleep right through until dinner time when they get up to find that Magic and his wife have prepared an almighty meal for them. It’s the best food they’ve tasted for as long as they can remember.

After dinner, Magic leads everyone up to the attic. Hidden in the rafters is a crystal radio set. Magic tunes into the BBC and allows everyone to have a listen – the first news that they have heard in a long time. Magic sadly informs Piotr that their leader in exile, General Władysław Sikorski, died in an accident just a few weeks ago when the B-24 Liberator he was returning to England on from a trip to visit Polish troops in the Middle East crashed into the sea immediately after taking off from Gibraltar. The two Poles exchange commiserations with each other. Fortunately the latest news that they listen to is much happier. An almighty battle is going on around Kursk on the Eastern Front which seems to be going in the Russians’ favour. The invasion of Sicily by Allied forces seems to be going well and they are confident of having taken the island in just a few more days’ time. The recent firebombing of Hamburg left the city completely devastated.

Once they have caught up on the news, they head downstairs for drinks. Piotr asks Magic if it is OK that they bring some of their heavier weapons into the guesthouse. Magic agrees but tells them to be really, really careful.

Piotr promises him that this will be the case and so the party members steal out of the guesthouse in the middle of the night and head back to Betty. All are relieved to see that she is still there where they left her. Everyone takes their longarms and plenty of ammo and then return back to the guesthouse, fortunately remaining unseen in the process.

There is then nothing else to do apart from to hang around and to wait until they receive word from Witold.

Another 24 hours pass with no word. Then, the following morning, Magic comes to them with a small parcel addressed to Stanislaw Burzynski.

“This must be for you,” Magic says, handing the parcel to Piotr.

Everyone crowds around as Piotr opens the parcel. Upon opening it, his finds a packet of cigarettes and a handwritten note:

Dear Stanislaw,

I managed to find a packet of your favourite brand, as promised.

Kind regards,

Witold

Piotr carefully opens the packet. It just looks like a normal packet of cigarettes though. Piotr carefully takes the packet apart – still nothing out of the ordinary. It is only upon investigating each cigarette in turn that he discovers that one of the cigarettes feels less compact than the others. Breaking it open, he finds a tiny scrap of paper rolled up among the tobacco.

He reads it out:

Lake Arva. NE shore. Night of 12/13 August.

“That’s all that it says.”

Piotr asks Magic if he knows the lake and if he has a map.

“Yes, I know it,” Magic says. “Just on the other side of the Slovak border. It’s only around 80km from here as the crow flies. It will be a beautiful journey through the Tatras at this time of year. It’s a good place for a meeting too – not many folks around in that area – it’s in the middle of nowhere really.”

“So we have another six days to kill,” Piotr says. “We might as well stay here until a couple of days before the meet. It’s safe and comfortable here and we still need time to recover.”

The others agree, enjoying the comfort of the guesthouse. And so the group spends a little quality downtime together while The Padre sees to their wounds.

Lodd enjoys the time to heal, the bed and the food, but laments the loss of Agneta. Maybe after the war, he will find her and really apologize for giving her the smack-down. Right now he is kind of moping around and looking for some hard vodka to ease the sharp pain in his heart. Maybe at a nearby bar…

By the early morning of 1lth August, they are all feeling a lot better. Piotr goes over the route with Magic over an early breakfast, choosing the least traveled roads they can find which will take them to the pick up place.

They finish by thanking Magic for his hospitality. Piotr gives him nearly all of the Reichsmarks they have in payment for their lodging and then they shake hands and depart the guesthouse an hour before dawn breaks so that they can take their weapons back under the cover of darkness.

Once again, they are relieved to find Betty where they left her and, as dawn starts to break, they change back into their SS outfits as Terry reverses the half-track out of its hiding place. Piotr then directs Terry to follow the route that he and Magic plotted between them.

Comments

Excellent post, Nick. Nice historical touches!

The Safehouse
 

Lodd enjoys the time to heal, the bed and the food, but laments the loss of Agneta. Maybe after the war he will find her and really apologize for giving her the smack-down. Right now he is kind of moping around and looking for some hard vodka to ease the sharp pain in his heart. Maybe at a nearby bar…

The Safehouse
NickPendrell

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