OPINIONS

Date: 13 September 2022 Author: Adrian Kolano

The Indomitable: Colonel Łukasz Ciepliński’s Fight for Poland’s Freedom

Colonel Łukasz Ciepliński “Pług” (lit. Plough) was a cursed soldier, a great patriot with indomitable spirit. He was born on November 26, 1913, in the village of Kwilcz. As a soldier, he was a member of the White Eagle Organization, the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej), the Home Army and the anti-communist Armed Forces Delegation for Poland. In 1945, he assumed command of the Southern Poland District of Freedom and Independence (Wolność i Niezawisłość), a Polish anti-communist association. He is rightly considered one of the legendary leaders of the Polish Underground State and the Second Conspiracy. Eventually captured and tortured by the NKVD, he left behind secret messages written in his cell and intended for his wife and son. He wrote them in the final moments of his life, just before his execution in 1951. They represent the dream of a free and independent Poland, a testament to his love for his family, God, and Homeland.

SOURCE: Muzeum Okręgowe w Rzeszowie

Family

Łukasz Ciepliński grew up in a family of profound patriotic values. His two older brothers, Stanisław and Antoni, took part in the Greater Poland Uprising. Stanisław later participated in the Polish-Soviet war and Antoni in the September campaign. During its course, he was taken prisoner, after which he escaped from a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp and joined the army of General Władysław Anders, subsequently fighting in General Stanisław Maczek’s First Armored Division.

While still an adolescent, in 1929, Łukasz Ciepliński enlisted in the army and began his education in military schools. In 1936, after graduating from the Infantry Cadet School in Komorów/Ostrów Mazowiecka with the rank of sublieutenant, he went on to serve in the 62nd Infantry Division in Bydgoszcz. Over time, he was tasked with commanding an anti-tank company over there.

Then came World War II

In the 1939 September campaign, he made his mark in the Battle of the Bzura. In the course of the combat, he destroyed six German tanks. In recognition of this heroic achievement, he was awarded the War Order of Virtuti Militari (Class V) and promoted to the rank of lieutenant. With the remnants of his regiment, he forced his way through the Kampinos Forest to Warsaw, where he took part in the defense of the Polish capital city. After the surrender of Warsaw, he avoided being captured by the Germans and joined the underground.

As early as December of the same year, he made his way to Budapest. While there, he underwent training that prepared him for conspiratorial activities and was then sent back to Poland, where he was to organize underground resistance. On his way home, he was detained by Ukrainian police in Baligród, Subcarpathian region, and was sent to a prison in Sanok. He escaped in May 1940.

Ciepliński reached Rzeszów and became involved in the activities of this city’s Sub-District of the White Eagle Organization. After its merger with the Union of Armed Struggle, he became commander of the Rzeszów district of the Union of Armed Struggle. He was also promoted to the rank of captain. He held the position of commander until April 1941. In the years 1941–1945, he also served as district inspector of the Union of Armed Struggle – Home Army Rzeszów.

In the Rzeszów district, he excelled in organizing intelligence and counterintelligence structures. Units of “Pług” eliminated Polish traitors, German soldiers, as well as the Gestapo. His subordinates intercepted parts of the V1 and V2 missiles, which was of considerable importance for the cause of the allied powers. The soldiers within Ciepliński’s unit also uncovered Adolf Hitler’s secret quarters near Strzyżów. In 1944, Ciepliński carried out retaliatory action against Ukrainian troops.

Operation Tempest

In the summer of 1944, Soviet soldiers made preparations to continue pushing the Germans out of Polish territories. Moscow, however, was never interested in liberating Poland. In addition, in many cases, the brutality of the Soviets was no less than the one of the Nazis. The Soviet Army still tried to act as if it was cooperating with the Home Army, hiding their true intentions, and describing themselves as liberators. This was a treacherous, extremely bitter, and tragic move. However, Łukasz Ciepliński did not stop fighting for Poland’s freedom. As part of Operation Tempest on August 2, 1944, he commanded the 39th Infantry Regiment of the Lviv Riflemen (Pułk Piechoty Strzelców Lwowskich) of the Home Army in the operation to liberate Rzeszów. By then, it had already become clear that the condition for military cooperation with the Russians was that the soldiers of the underground would renounce obedience to the Polish government and submit to the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) – Stalin’s puppets sent to seize power in Poland. Commander Ciepliński decided to remain a member of the underground. The summer of 1944 was thus the time of transition for “Pług” from German occupation to the Soviet one. As he said at the time, “the worst was yet to come” (Łopuski 1990: 44-45).

The invasion of Poland by the Soviets brought a wave of NKVD terror, which was not better than that of the German Gestapo. About 300 Home Army soldiers were held in the Rzeszów Castle prison. Ciepliński embarked on the task of breaking it up – the action that he led himself. On the night of September 7/8, 1944, the attack was launched, but the imprisoned Home Army men were taken by the NKVD to a temporary camp near Przemyśl, from which they were sent to gulags in the Soviet Union. Ciepliński’s operation failed. On January 1, 1945, “Pług” was promoted to the rank of major. Around the same time, however, the Home Army was dissolved, putting his military service in that formation to an end.

References:

Jakimek-Zapart E. (2020). Sny wstaną. Grypsy Łukasza Cieplińskiego z celi śmierci. Warsaw.

Łopuski J. (1990). Losy Armii Krajowej na Rzeszowszczyźnie (sierpień – grudzień 1944). Wspomnienia i dokumenty. Warsaw.

Wójcik Z. K., Zagórski A. (1994). Na katorżniczym szlaku. Warsaw.

Zagórski A., Konspiracja w Sanoku w okresie okupacji. W latach II wojny światowej i konspiracji in: Sanok. Dzieje miasta, joint publication, ed. Feliks Kiryk.

The project was co-financed by the National Heritage Institute of Roman Dmowski and Ignacy Jan Paderewski as part of the Patriotic Fund – edition 2022 Freedom in Polish, run by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

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