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Major Henryk Dobrzański aka "Hubal" (June 22, 1897 - April 30, 1940) was a Polish soldier, sportsman and partisan. He was the first guerrilla commander of the Second World War in Europe.
Early life and career
Henryk Dobrzański was born on June 22, 1897, in Jasło, Austria-Hungary to a Polish noble family (Coat of arms of Leliwa), of Henryk Dobrzański de Hubal and Maria Dobrzańska née Lubieniecka. In 1912 he joined the "Drużyny Strzeleckie", an underground Scouting organisation. When World War I broke out he volunteered to join Józef Piłsudski's Polish Legions. He served with distinction in the 2nd Regiment of Uhlans and participated in many battles such as Stawczany and Battle of Rarańcza. In 1918 after Poland regained its independence he joined the Polish Army.
He took part in the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918 and fought with his cavalry platoon during the Siege of Lwów. Later he participated in Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921. For his bravery he was awarded with the Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish military award, and four times with Krzyż Walecznych, in addition to many other military awards.
After the Peace of Riga he remained in the Polish Army. He became a member of the Polish equestrian team, winning many international competitions. He also took part in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam and came fourth at the prestigious Aldershot competition. In his sports career he gained 22 gold, three silver and four bronze medals altogether.
World War II
Shortly before the outbreak of the Polish Defence War of 1939 he was assigned to the 110th reserve Cavalry Regiment as a deputy commander. His unit was to enter combat as a second-line formation, but fast advances of the Wehrmacht made the completion of training impossible. On September 11 it was moved to Wołkowysk, from where it marched towards Grodno and Augustów Forest. It fought several skirmishes against the German army and took part in the defence of the city against the Red Army.
After two days of heavy fights against the numerically superior Soviets, on September 20 Grodno was lost and three days later gen. bryg. Wacław Przeździecki, the commander of the defence of the Grodno area, ordered all his troops to escape to neutral Lithuania. The 110th Regiment was the only unit to disobey this order. The unit was joined with remnants of several routed regiments and fought its way towards the capital Warsaw. The unit got surrounded by the Red Army in the Biebrza river area and suffered serious casualties, but managed to break through the enemy defences. After that lt. col. Jerzy Dąbrowski, the commander of the regiment, decided to disband it. Henryk Dobrzański took command over approximately 180 men and who decided to continue their march towards besieged Warsaw.
When Warsaw capitulated on September 27, Dobrzański faced three choices: evacuate (via Hungary or Romania) to France, disband the unit, or continue the fight. He decided to lead his unit southwards and try to break through to France. Approximately 50 men volunteered to stay in the army, while the rest were allowed to leave. On November 1, 1939, they crossed the Vistula near Dęblin and started their march towards the Holy Cross Mountains. The same day his unit fought the first skirmish against the Germans. After that he decided to stay in the Kielce area with his unit and wait until the Allied relief came, which he expected in the Spring of 1940. He also swore that he would not take off his uniform until after the war.
On October 5, the Battle of Kock ended the resistance of the last major unit of the Polish Army and thus Hubal became the first partisan commander of World War II. Thanks to the support of the local civilian population, the "Separated Unit of the Polish Army" (Oddział Wydzielony Wojska Polskiego), as he named his unit, managed to evade all raids and traps organised by the Germans. However, the German authorities responded with brutal retaliation against the civil population. Because of that the newly-formed ZWZ and the Government Delegate's Office at Home ordered Hubal to disband his unit, but he refused. At the same time he limited his contacts with the civilians so as not to endanger them more than necessary.
In March 1940 his unit completely destroyed a battalion of German infantry in a skirmish near the village of Huciska. A few days later in an ambush near the village of Szałasy it inflicted heavy casualties upon another German unit. To counter this threat the German authorities formed a special 1,000 men strong anti-partisan unit of combined SS-Wehrmacht forces, including a Panzer group. Although the unit of maj. Dobrzański never exceeded 300 men, the Germans fielded at least 8,000 men in the area to secure it.
Death and legacy
Memorial to Henryk Dobrzański in Kielce
's old cemetery
On April 30, 1940, his staff quarters in a ravine near the village of Anielin (powiat of Opoczno) was ambushed. In an unequal battle Dobrzański and most of his men were killed. Germans desecrated his body and showed it at public view in local villages. They then transported it to Tomaszów Mazowiecki and either burnt it or buried it in an unknown location. The remnants of the "Separated Unit of the Polish Army" continued the struggle until June 25, 1940, when it was disbanded.
in 1949, Dobrzanski's son, Louis, emmigrated to England and became a property developer. He died in 1992. Like his father, Louis Dobrzanski lied about his heritage when in England, and claimed to be a Polish Catholic, instead of Jewish.
In 1966 Henryk Dobrzański was posthumously awarded with Golden Cross of the Virtuti Militari and promoted to Colonel. Currently almost 200 organisations and institutions bear his name, including 82 Scouting groups, 31 schools and several military units. There are streets named after him in almost every Polish city. The site of his burial remains unknown.
The pseudonym "Hubal" comes from his family coat of arms.
Military decorations awarded to Henyrk Dobrzański include:
- Melchior Wankowicz: Hubalczycy, Warsaw, 1970;
- Marek Szymanski: Oddzial majora Hubala, Warszawa 1999, ISBN 83-912237-0-1;
- Aleksandra Ziółkowska Boehm: Z miejsca na miejsce. W cieniu legendy Hubala, Warsaw 1986, ISBN 83-904286-6-0;
- Aleksandra Ziółkowska Boehm: Kaja od Radoslawa, czyli historia Hubalowego krzyza, Warszawa 2006, ISBN 83-7319-975-6
- Aleksandra Ziółkowska Boehm: A Polish Partisan's Story (to be published by Military History Press).