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Augustow. On the walls of Dom Turka they discovered inscriptions made by the victims of communist terror

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At least several hundred people passed through the detention center of the Security Office in Augustów (Podlaskie Voivodeship) in 1945-56. Even in the 1990s, some people planned a walk around the city in such a way as to avoid this building. Now, in the “Dom Turka” in Augustów, the House of Remembrance of the Augustów Roundup is being built, and during the renovation, inscriptions made on the walls of former cells by the victims of communist terror were discovered.

– Most often these are inscriptions such as “I was here”, followed by the date and name. You can also read very dramatic words – “God, save me” or “We are dying here”. There are also inscriptions “Long live Poland” – says Bartosz Gralicki, head of the Augustów branch of the Pilecki Institute and plenipotentiary of the institute’s director for commemorating the Augustów Roundup.

These are the inscriptions that were discovered during the renovation of the so-called Turk’s House in Augustów, where the House of Remembrance of the Augustów Roundup is being built.

The “Turk House” is under renovation. The House of Remembrance of the Augustów Roundup is being built herePilecki Institute

The Augustów roundup. what was she?

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The operation called the Augustów Roundup is the greatest unexplained crime committed against Poles after World War II and was carried out by the forces of the 50th army of the 3rd Belorussian Front. It is often called “little Katyn”.

“Between July 12 and 19, 1945, Soviet troops carried out a number of local operations, during which people suspected of having contacts with the pro-independence guerrillas, as well as completely random people, staying only outside their place of residence, were detained” – we read on the website of the Institute of National Remembrance (which quotes a fragment of the text by Marcin Markiewicz “Liberation or Occupation?”, published in 2016 in the album “Nowe zniewolenie. Obława Augustowska. Lipiec 1945”).

On the wall we see the date 1949Pilecki Institute

During the manhunt, according to sources, 7,049 people were detained, of whom 5,115 were released after interrogation (so-called filtration). 592 Poles never returned home. It is not known where they were buried.

Read also: The remains of Wacław Sobolewski, the first found victim of the Augustów manhunt, were buried

Dates from the period 1946-1949 dominate. “Research continues”

– Perhaps the number of murdered people is higher and reaches a thousand or even one and a half thousand people. So far, there are no indications that the inscriptions discovered by us were created by the victims of the Augustów Roundup. Among the dates visible on the walls, dates from the period 1946-1949 dominate. There are also single inscriptions from 1950 and 1951. They were certainly made by the victims of communist terror. From 1945 to 1956, the building of the “Dom Turka” housed the District Office of Public Security – says Gralicki.

The inscription “Fight for Independence” has been preserved Pilecki Institute

He does not rule out that in the course of further work, inscriptions left by the victims of the Augustów Roundup will also be discovered.

– The Security Office began functioning here in January 1945, and the operation took place in July 1945. The “Turk’s House” was one of several places in the region where people were detained. For the time being, however, there is no evidence that any of these inscriptions were made by them. Nevertheless, research work is still ongoing – he emphasizes.

They would like to establish the identity of the prisoners and prepare an exhibition

Gralicki hopes that thanks to the discovered inscriptions, it will be possible to establish the identity of at least some of the people who were imprisoned there and tell about their fate as part of the exhibition being prepared.

– We still have a lot of research ahead of us. We have information that in the years 1945-56 at least several hundred people passed through the detention center of the Poviat Public Security Office in Augustów. Most often they were the inhabitants of Augustów and the Augustów poviat. In many cases, the trauma lasted for decades. We know from conversations with people who were imprisoned here in the 1940s that even in the 1990s some residents arranged their walks around Augustów in such a way as not to pass by this building – reports Gralicki.

The “Turk’s House” passed from hand to hand

From 1956, the building housed the headquarters of the Citizens’ Militia. It was then that the Poviat Public Security Offices were abolished throughout the country, and the officers of the Security Service, established soon after, began working at the militia headquarters.

Someone also carved a crossPilecki Institute

– In the early 1980s, the building passed into the hands of the Border Protection Forces. Later, for a short period, it housed the headquarters of the Border Guard. In 1999, after the administrative reform, the building was taken over by the authorities of the Podlaskie Voivodeship, which handed it over to the District Office in Augustów the following year. In 2006, it was recovered by the heirs of the rightful owners – the Jewish Rechtman family, and then sold to a private person – says our interlocutor.

He adds that after rumors emerged that a shopping mall could be built here, four local organizations (the Circle of the World Association of Home Army Soldiers, the Siberian Association, the Augustów Roundup Victims’ Remembrance Association and the Home Army Historical Club) turned to the Podlaskie Voivodship Monument Conservator for recognition of the object as a monument. In 2011, the provincial conservation services entered the building into the register of monuments.

The building took its name from a confectionery run by a Turk

– 10 years later, the property was bought by the Pilecki Institute from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage for the purpose of creating the House of Remembrance of the Augustów Roundup. Professor Magdalena Gawin, the later director of the institute, was striving for this. In mid-January we got a building permit. We hope that the facility will be open by the end of next year – says the manager.

Read also: The biggest unsolved crime after 1945. The IPN found the documents

The tenement house, later called “The Turk’s House”, was erected around 1900 by the Rechtman family, which also owned several other buildings in Augustów.

– The Rechtmans did not live there. The tenement house was used for service premises. Before World War II, there was a dentist’s office or a bank branch. The most famous was the patisserie run by Kiamil Takosz, operating in 1928-36. Formerly it was believed that he was a Bosniak who was only called a Turk. Our new findings, however, say that he was indeed a Turk – describes Gralicki.

Main photo source: Pilecki Institute

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