A Książyk House survived the War
Jadwiga and Tadeusz Książyk are two siblings who died during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. With their parents Józef and Stanisława, they were living at 12 Świętokrzyska Street. This downtown neighbourhood was one of the epicentres of the battles.
In 1939, the building of Świętokrzyska 12 (Holy Cross Street) was a property of the Ministry of Interior. During the early 1920s, the government had decided to extend the Ministry compound with a garden, new administration buildings and some housing kamienica. The bloc of Świętokrzyska 2 to 12 was transformed.
Walenty Książyk and his family was living in this block of ulica Świętokrzyska when the extension of the Ministry was decided. He is mentioned in a document that formalizes the government plan on this urban plot. This document specifies compensations for residents and private owners. We don't know when Walenty decided to relocate in Mokotów but he was living in this Southern area of Warsaw before leaving for France in May 1926.
Did Jozef Książyk settled at Świętokrzyska 12 when Walenty went to Mokotow? In Warsaw, families of siblings or cousins frequently lived in a same kamienica (building). We suspect that the two Książyk households who lived in ulica Świętokrzyska had strong connexions. Before the war, there was a serious housing crisis in Warsaw. Speculation locked the market and the city was overpopulated. Frequently, appartments were sold, leased or rented to members of the extended family.
A Quiet Street
Before the war, Świętokrzyska Street was a quiet street between the elegant Nowy Świat Street and the busy shopping avenue ul. Marszałkowska. This was a neighbourhood of offices, banks, bookstores and antique shops. Świętokrzyska Street was crossed by two bus lines (A and G) and 7 tramway lines. The bloc of the Książyk Families was located between ul. Mazowiecka and ul. Czaskiego, in the oldest part of the street that started from Nowy Świat. This block was an architectural mix with a magnificent building at the corner ul. Mazowiecka, some kamienica from the early 1920's and older buildings dating back the middle 19th c. The building at Świętokrzyska 12 was a kamienica built some 25 years ago with a narrow facade, a tiled roof, and several inner courtyards.
The Książyk Families were living some 300m (350 yards) away from Napoleon Square, a scenic green space. We do not know if the Książyk apartment was overlooking the street. Maybe from the windows, Jadwiga and Tadeusz could see the top of two mighty buildings facing each other on Napoleon Square: the Great Post Office and the Prudential Tower. From 1931 to 1933, the two siblings had experienced the construction of this first skyscraper in Warsaw. When it was inaugurated in 1933, the Prudential Tower was one of the highest building in Europe.
Before the outbreak of World War II, the building of Świętokrzyska 12 was the HQ of the Air and Gas Defence League Liga (LOPP - Obrony Powietrznej i Przeciwgazowej). With the support of the city authorities, the LOPP had selected this convenient location in the business centre. With the threat of an imminent war, the anxiety was palpable. People came there to get information and buy gas masks.
The two pictures above show the office of the LOPP at Świętokrzyska 12. As suggested by the flowers above the door, they were taken at different times, obviously a few years apart. The picture on the right shows people queuing on 24 August 1939. One month later, the building would be blown away.
In September 1939, half the building of Świętokrzyska 12 was destroyed a German air raid, probably the most deadly bombing of "Black Monday" (25 September). Obviously, the apartment of the Ksiazyk Family resisted the destruction. Living in unstable buildings was dangerous. After the defeat of Poland, the ruling authorities decided to forbid living in the most damaged houses. Wooden barriers and palisades were erected.
The Prudential Tower was a hot spot in the battle. The Polish Flag was raised on this iconc building the very first day of the Uprising (1st August 1944). This symbol of Freedom was removed by successful assault of the Germans. During the combats, the German fired more than 1000 shells, including a 2-ton / 600 mm against this building. The picture of its destruction is one of the most iconic of WWII. Interestingly, we can see the remaining part of the Książyk house on this picture. Our gallery (below) shows the magnitude of the destructions in Świętokrzyska Street. During WWII, Warsaw was destroyed by 80%, the highest rate in Europe. Poland never received financial compensation from Germany or support from the Allies.
After the war, the reconstruction of Warsaw slightly changed the map of the city. The new urban plan dramatically transformed Świętokrzyska Street. Today, this is an impressively larger and much longer avenue. Świętokrzyska 12 survived the war but the building was demolished in the early 1950s. This location is now the building of the Ministry of Finances. This building was erected in the years 1953-56, according to the architectural real-soc inspiration of the period.
Today, the Prudential Tower is the only reminiscence of the pre-war landscape. The former Napoleon Square is Warsaw Insurgents Square (Plac Powstańców Warszawy). In 2011, a bust of Napoleon was added. There is a rather discreet monument dedicated to the Heroes of 1944. The pretty flowerbeds of this square have disappeared but the street ends with a large and beautiful park on the Marszałkowska crossing. On 14 Świętokrzyska Street is located the best bookstore of Warsaw for history, arts and regional interests: Książnica Polska Księgarnia na Świętokrzyskiej.
There is no more Szpitalna 10 and this Street ends with number 8, the magnificent Wedel building. This is my favourite tea parlour in the city. Seven decades after the last Książyk Family has left Świętokrzyska 12, this neighbourhood remains the most attractive for me in Warsaw.