- Antoni Heda
Infobox Military Person
October 11, 1916
date_of_death=Death date and age|2008|02|15|1916|10|11
World War II
Antoni Heda (
October 11, 1916- February 15, 2008) was a Polish military commander and a notable veteran of the Polish resistance movement in World War IIand later independence movement against Soviet occupation following the war. Among the best known of his partisan actions was the raid on Communist prison in Kielcein August of 1945, in which roughly 300 political prisoners were freed. His codenamewas "Szary" (Grey).
Early life and activities at the beginning of the Second World War
Antoni Heda was born in 1916 in the village of
Małomierzycenear Iłżato a local peasant family. After graduating from a local primary school he moved to Radom, where he finished a Technical School and started a job in StarachowiceArms Works. Drafted into the Polish Armyin 1937, he was dispatched to the Reserve Officer School (Szkoła Podchorążych Rezerwy). Shortly before the outbreak of World War II he was demobilized and started working for the State Arms Works at Starachowice.
Mobilized prior to the outbreak of the Polish Defensive War of 1939, Heda fought in the ranks of the
Polish 12th Infantry Divisionin the area of his home town of Iłża and then in the area of Lublin. After his division was disbanded he was trying to find his way to Hungary, but was arrested by the Soviet NKVDand imprisoned in the Brześć Fortress. After the outbreak of a Nazi-Soviet war when the prison was taken over by the Germans, he managed to escape from the prison camp.
Underground activities during the Second World War
Heda returned to his home area and joined the ranks of the Society of Armed Struggle (ZWZ), the first mass-scale resistance organization formed in Poland. Named the commander of the "Dolina" area (in the
Holy Cross Mountains), he became a notable resistance leader after his raid on the Gestapoprison in Starachowice. Out of 80 political prisoners liberated from there, 60 decided to join the resistance and thus Heda formed a permanent partisan unit stationed in the forests of the area. He then joined the partisan unit of Jan Piwnik"Ponury", one of the most successful partisan commanders of World War II. He took part in a variety of actions against the Germans in occupied Poland. Among the best known are:
* Raid on the German prison in Iłża on
August 6, 1943
* Disarming of a 45 men strong unit of the
Wehrmachtstationed in Pakosław near Iłża on September 15of that year
* Action against the village of Gozdawa near
Sienno, which had been cleansed of their Polish inhabitants and then settled with Germans; the action took place on September 23
* March 1944 assault on the Starachowice Arms Works, in which the partisans dressed in German uniforms secured the entire factory, seized its treasury and secured several hundred pieces of arms
* Battle of
Jeleniecof April 1, 1944, in which the partisans managed to defeat a considerable German force that was trying to ambush them
* Raid on
Końskieon June 5and June 6of 1944, in which the partisans secured the entire city and set free the prisoners of a local prison.
Operation TempestHeda's unit was attached to the 2nd battalion of the Polish 3rd Legions' Infantry Regimentunder Capt. Stanisław Poręba"Świątek" and took part in battles of Radoszyce, Trawnikiand Szewce.
After the Soviet-backed
Polish communisttakeover of Poland, Heda - as a former prisoner of the NKVD - had to remain in hiding and joined the Ruch Oporu Armii Krajowej, one of splinter organizations formed after the Home Armyhad been disbanded. Later on he joined NIE and then yet another resistance organization Freedom and Independence(WiN). As a leader of a separate unit, Heda led yet another assault on a prison, this time on a MBP and Smershprison in Kielceovernight of August 4, 1945. As a result, the partisans managed to liberate several hundred political prisoners, mostly former members of the Home Army.
Heda was using a false identity (Antoni Wiśniewski) but the UB security forces managed to discover Heda's identity and arrested his family. Soon afterwards two of his brothers and his brother-in-law were tortured to death. Heda planned to organize a similar assault on the infamous
Rakowieckaprison in Warsaw, but he was arrested by the forces of the Internal Security Corps in 1948 in Gdynia. Imprisoned at Rakowieckaand later in Rawiczand Wronki, Heda was sentenced to death on 7 consecutive charges, but his sentence was later changed to life imprisonment.
After the end of Stalinist period in 1956 he was pardoned and set free. He continued to collaborate with various groups opposed to the Communist regime in Poland and was also an active member of unofficial veterans associations. In 1980 he joined the
Solidarityand the following year he was chosen as the chairman of the Independent Veteran Associationof the Solidarity, the first veteran associationnot controlled by the Communist authorities. However, soon afterwards he had been interned after the 1981 imposition of martial Law in Poland.
After Poland managed to get back its independence from the
Eastern Bloc, in 1990 Heda returned to service as a leader of one of veteran associations uniting veterans of all fronts of the World War II. He also became the honorary commander of the Riflemen Union, a rightist paramilitary youth organization. On May 3, 2006he was promoted to the rank of generał brygady(he received the nomination in 2004 and accepted it in 2006). For his service he also received the highest of Polish military awards, Virtuti Militari(4th and 5th class), as well as Krzyż Walecznychand other decorations.
He described his life in two books: "Wspomnienia Szarego" (Szary's Memoires) and "Szary przeciw zdrajcom Polski" (Szary against traitors of Poland).
* [http://www.um.starachowice.pl/strona.php?st_id=93 Antoni Heda ps."Szary"] Short bio on Starachowice city page. Last accessed on 24 June 2006.
* [http://www.ilza.info/index.php?NR=94 Antoni Heda] Short bio on Iłża city page. Last accessed on 24 June 2006.
* Antoni Heda, "Wspomnienia Szarego" (Szary's Memoires), Warszawa 1991
* Antoni Heda, "Szary przeciw zdrajcom Polski" (Szary against traitors of Poland)
* [http://www.republika.pl/kanieforum/Heda.htm LEGENDA MIESZKA WŚRÓD NAS] (Legend lives among us)
* [http://polskiejutro.com/art/n.php?p=17095 Antoni Heda "Szary" otrzymał stopień generalski] (Antoni Heda promoted to general)
* [http://jozwa22.republika.pl/2/szary.htm PAN "SZARY" - ANTONI HEDA]
* [http://www.rodzinapolska.pl/prawdahistor/archiwum/xi2001/71_1.htm KOMENDANT "SZARY"] from newspaper
Nasz Dziennik, 13-14 October 2001
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