The intricate process of coloring black and white photographs has been carried out by Mikołaj Kaczmarek. The photographs presented here come from collections of, among others, the Warsaw Rising Museum, the Polish Press Agency, the KARTA Center as well as private collections. They are part of an exhibition prepared by the IPN’s National Education Office entitled “Warsaw Uprising 1944. Battle for Poland”.
Artist Mikołaj Kaczmarek from Gostyń, Wielkopolska, has spent years painstakingly recreating some of the key moments of the Uprising. Now the breath-taking colorized images have earned his Facebook page, Mikołaj Kaczmarek – Kolor Historii, over 54K followers, who are drawn by the shocking immediacy that color brings to people and scenes that have been known only in black and white.
However, Kaczmarek admitted that his interest in history came as a surprise to him. “I was never particularly interested in history. In fact I nearly didn’t complete the year on two occasions.”
Kaczmarek first became interested in photo colorization when he saw the film Warsaw Rising, which told the story of the battle using colorized footage. “The film made a huge impact on me,” he told The First News. “They lived in a time of apocalypse and whether they wanted to or not they had to fight and they often died. The colorization made me realize that they were people just like us, they just happened to live at that time.”
“The first photo I tried was the girl next to a grave. When I finished, I was in shock – the past just came right out at me. You might see an image of a pretty girl that looks like it was taken a week ago, but she fought in the war and died,” he added.
The Warsaw uprising began on August 1, 1944 at 5 p.m. That moment is now named in the Polish history as “Godzina W” (the W hour) with W standing for Warsaw.
Approximately 45,000 members of the AK under commandment of general Antoni Chruściel “Monter” joined the combat. They were supported by 2,500 soldiers from other resistance movements, such as the National Armed Forces (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NSZ) and the communist People’s Army (Armia Ludowa, AL). Only a quarter of the partisans had access to weapons, fighting against 25,000 German soldiers equipped with artillery, tanks, and air forces.
Within the first few days of the uprising, Polish forces took over several districts of Warsaw, including downtown and the Old Town. After the initial success of the AK, German troops gradually recaptured the city. They surrounded the Old Town and other areas. On September 2, after more than two weeks of combat, the last Polish soldiers left the Old Town through the sewers. Warsaw’s historical district was turned into ruins. In mid-September, the Red Army took Praga, the district of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula River, but did not cross the river to intervene.
Towards the end of September 1944, German forces took control over further parts of Warsaw, systematically destroying most of the city to the ground. On October 2, 1944, the uprising ended. The number of victims exceeded 180,000 people. More than 11,000 AK soldiers were captured as prisoners of war, including “Bór” and “Monter.” Soviet troops resumed their offensive much later, liberating devastated Warsaw on January 17, 1945.