Songs of the Underground Struggle for voice and piano, 1943-44

Warsaw Children

Performers: Male Choir of the Wacław Lachman Singing Society HARFA in Warsaw, Lech Zadrożny - conductor, Jacek Weiss - piano; 1994 Polish Radio SA

Warsaw ChildrenWarsaw Children

One of the clandestine activities of Polish composers during the Nazi occupation consisted in composing military songs for the Polish underground. In addition to Panufnik, such songs were written by e.g. Witold Lutosławski, Roman Palester and Jan Ekier. This type of creative activity was supervised by the musical repertoire committee for partisan ensembles, affiliated to the Underground Musicians’ Union. The songs written at the time were collected after the war and published by the PWM Edition as Songs of the Underground Struggle.

Andrzej Panufnik wrote four of these songs: Niech się podniesie lud [Let the People Rise] (lyrics by Zofia Zawadzka), Warszawskie dzieci [Warsaw Children] (lyrics by Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski), Pieśń żołnierska [Soldiers’ Song] (lyrics by Lebedev-Kumacz, transl. St .R. Dobrowolski) and Żegnaj! [Farewell!] (lyrics by Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski). 

This is how the composer remembered his work on the songs:

Another of my Underground activity was to meet secretly with a poet to plan a series of patriotic songs to help bolster the spirit of resistance . These encounters were organised by the AK, the Home Army, the largest and most effective of the Polish Underground movements (...).

For strict security reasons, the poet and I were not allowed to know each other’s real names – only pseudonyms. In our clandestine encounters, in a tiny flat in central Warsaw, we would discuss themes that would convey the emotions we felt people needed to express as they sang together to build up their courage and defiance. Then I would sketch rhythms which musically could bring out the intended spirit and subject-matter. The poet would return with fiery texts for which I provided the melodies. Our songs were then printed on hidden presses, and widely distributed by the Home Army, to be sung at illicit meetings and at home amongst the family (...).

That poet was Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski. By far the most popular of the songs was Warsaw Children, which, thanks to its simple, stanzaic melody and march-like character, combined with moving lyrics, still remains a symbol of the Warsaw Uprising (despite the fact that the song was written before the Uprising broke out) and, like the Little Insurgent Monument, reminds us of the sacrifice of the youngest Warsaw residents defending their city.