The American airport grating, used in the years 1944-45 by the Red Army to build runways, until recently covered the mill window near Kraśnik (Lublin Province). Now the donors handed it over to the social guardian of monuments. The exhibit ended up in the memorial room. Some of these bars also served as fences for roadside shrines after the war.
Airport grates (sometimes called eco-grids today) are used on grass runways. They are placed on the grass and connected to each other, thanks to which the runway is paved and planes can land on it. This method was also used during World War II. We will tell about the post-war fate of one of such bars.
Soviet field airfields near Kraśnik
– In order to understand the history of this exhibit well, one has to go back to the end of July 1944, when the Soviet troops were moving westward and reached the line of the Vistula. However, after the uprising broke out in Warsaw on August 1, Joseph Stalin ordered the offensive to be suspended. This state of affairs lasted until mid-January 1945, says Dr. Dominik Szulc, the social guardian of monuments in the Kraśnik poviat.
It was during this period – from the end of July 1944 to mid-January 1945 – two Soviet field airfields were built near Kraśnik. One in Studzianki in the Zakrzówek commune, and the other in Dzierzkowice-Zastaw, in the Dzierzkowice commune.
– The place is not accidental, because on the one hand these areas were quite close to the then front line, but at the same time far enough to be beyond the reach of German artillery – noted the historian.
Runway built on grass with bars
The technique of building the runways was to put meter by meter grates connected to each other on the grass, which the Russians received from the Americans as part of the lend-lease program.
– So the technical thought came from the USA. On the one hand, thanks to such bars, the runway was hardened, and on the other hand, as grass was overgrown between the bars, it was hardly visible from above to the German pilots sent across the Vistula line, explains Dr. Szulc.
Lots of air crates
The historian found information in the sources that the runways were stolen by the local population even during the war. – There are reports of the County Public Security Office in Kraśnik from the fall of 1944, which show that the Red Army asked this office for help in preventing the theft of bars. And they were used by local farmers for very different purposes. For example, for hardening the ground or sharpening scythes – explains our interlocutor.
There were many such requests to the UB, which proves that the army apparently did not guard the airports sufficiently, and the UB either did not take any action or – consciously or unconsciously – undertook them ineffectively.
The fence of the shrine is made of American bars, the pavement is made of German tiles
– The grating that was handed over to me was put in the window of the mill located near Kraśnik. The grates were also used, for example, as fences for roadside shrines. I know three such examples – two in Kraśnik at Jagiellońska Street and Narutowicza Street, and one in Podlesie near Kraśnik. Of course, the fences were repainted over the years, but this does not change the fact that American bars were used for their construction, says Dr. Szulc.
By the way, he tells that there is another interesting story connected with the chapel at Jagiellońska Street.
– Well, during the German occupation, a pavement was laid on one of the streets in Kraśnik, which the Germans called Victoriastrasse. Paving slabs made in Germany were used as a building material. After the war – probably so that the inscriptions with the name of the German producer would not be visible in a public place – the pavement was dismantled and the slabs somehow found their way to civilians. Maybe they were abandoned somewhere and they took them, maybe they bought them from the city’s national council. Anyway, the slabs were used to build the sidewalk leading to the chapel. So we had a Catholic chapel on Jagiellońska Street from 1951, the fence of which was made of American bars taken from the Soviet runway, and the access to the chapel was built of German paving slabs – our interlocutor smiles.
The exhibits went to the memorial room
The German records, which have recently been replaced with new ones, found their way to the memorial chamber in the basement of the historic tenement house at ul. Kościuszki 26. There, Dominik Szulc, as the coordinator of the exhibition under preparation, transported the donated grate from the mill.
– The tenement house was built at the beginning of the 20th century. During the Second World War, it housed the seat of the Reichsführer of the SS and the Gestapo, and after the war, the aforementioned County Office of Public Security. First, there was a Gestapo detention center in the basement, and then a detention center of the Security Office – says the historian.
The airport grating fits perfectly into the exhibition being prepared, because the memorial room already has a cylinder from a Soviet plane, pulled from the river at the former airport in the Dzierzkowice commune.
Interwar souvenirs and ceramics from the 16th-18th centuries
– We also managed to obtain fragments of the German Panzerkampfwagen III medium tank. Particularly noteworthy are the pre-war rails from the infrastructure of the Central Industrial District, which have the inscription: “Józef Piłsudski Steelworks, 1938” – enumerates Dominik Szulc.
– We also have about 18,500 monuments from archaeological research. These include pottery and metal objects mainly from the period from the 16th to the 18th century – emphasizes our interlocutor.
The design of the room is to be ready in the year. It can initially be assumed that the exhibition will be ready next spring.
The lattice went to the memorial room, which is being built in Kraśnik at 26 Kościuszki Street
Main photo source: Dominik Szulc