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Stefan Bałuk „Kubuś” „Starba”

Lieutenant Stefan Bałuk “Kubuś”, “Starba”, also went by the names Michal Bałucki and Michał Zawistowski during the occupation in Warsaw. He was born 15 August 1914 in Warsaw. In 1933, he graduated from the Stanisław Konarski High School (Piarist College) in Rakowice near Krakow. In that same year, he undertook military training at the Cavalry Reserve Cadet School in Grudziądz. Until 1939 he graduated from Financial-Economic Faculty at School of Politic Science in Warsaw and was third year student of Law Faculty at Warsaw University.On 6 September 1939, he volunteered to the 9th Armoured Battalion in Lublin. He withdrew with the unit to the east. During an trial of evacuation to Hungary, he was seized by the Soviets, after which he was released. Seized once more, escaped through Hungary, Rumania and Lebanon to France, where he arrived on 20 December 1939. In France he joined General Stanisław  Maczek’s Polish 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, and subsequently the 10th Mounted Riflemen Regiment. Following France’s capitulation in 1940 he was evacuated to the UK, where he served in the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, which trained in Scotland. In May 1942, he enrolled for underground intelligence and sabotage training of the “Cichociemni” (“Silent and Unseen”), elite special-operation paratroops of the Polish Army in exile, at the intelligence school in Glasgow, which he finished with the rank of Second Lieutenant. On the night of 9 April 1944, he parachuted in the area of Tłuszcz, near Warsaw. There He was assigned to the photographic laboratory of Legalisation and Technology Department in the 2nd Unit of the Home Army Headquarters, commanded by Lt. Stanisław Jankowski “Agaton”. The department was in charge of the production of false documents for the pursposes of the conspiracy. Bałuk began his fight in the Warsaw Uprising in the “Agaton” Platoon, “Pięść” Battalion, “Radoslaw” Group, as deputy of Jankowski “Agaton”. From 8 September, he served as the platoon officer in the Home Army Headquarters shield platoon “Łącz 59” in the City Centre. He took part in several actions, in order to make contact with areas cut-off from one another – amongst others, he went from the City Center to Żoliborz district, and from there to the Kampinos Forest; he also travelled through the sewers between City Center and Old Town. He fought in Wola district, City Center, Old Town, Żoliborz district, and the Kampinos Forest. After the capitulation, Bałuk was interned in Oflag II D Gross-Born, from where he escaped on 27 January 1945. In February 1945, he returned to Warsaw. He continued his underground activity leading Legalisation Section “Agaton 2”, in which, just as during the German occupation, he continued the production of false documents for the soldiers taking part in the anticommunist “second conspiracy”. Bałuk was arrested by the UB (Department of Security) on 1 November 1945, and imprisoned in Mokotów, Warsaw. He was released after 2.5 years under amnesty in 1947. He worked as a taxi driver, then from 1950, as an art photographer. In 1952, he was hired in the Service Department of the Central Photography Agency. In later years, he remained active in veteran activities and received a number of decorations, amongst them, the Silver Cross of War Order of Virtuti Militari. He was the co-author of the first Uprising photographic album entitled “Miasto nieujarzmione (“Unvanquished City”), released in 1957. In 2007, he published “Byłem cichociemnym” (“I was the Silent and Unseen”), a collection of his memories from 1939-1947. Stefan Bałuk died on 30 January 2014 in Warsaw.

 
  • Stefan Bałuk photographed Warsaw before the Uprising and during the fights. In June 1944 he documented the German fortifications in Warsaw, working for the Legalisation and Technology Department in the 2nd Unit of the Home Army Headquarters. Besides taking shots in hiding of bunkers, sentry boxes, and barriers, and chevaux de frise,in his photos Bałuk captured the everyday life of occupied Warsaw: crowded trams, small traders and their customers, boys swimming in water reservoir on Napoleon Square. The quality of these photographs is testament to the high technical standard of the photographer, developed (among other things) during a photographic course he undertook during his intelligence training in Glasgow. During the Uprising, Stefan Bałuk was inseparable from his camera. He developed his rolls of film in his lab in his apartment at 20 Chłodna Street. During the “W-Hour”, the outbreak of the Uprising, he documented the gathering of “Agaton” platoon of “Pięść” Battalion at the  Evangelical-Augsburg Cemetery in Wola district. The following photographs show insurgents, barricades and destruction in Wola and northern City Centre.
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