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“Unlike that of the Ukrainians, our fight was lost in advance”: Maria Devrim, the eternal figure of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis


She never would have imagined “live it again”. Seeing Ukrainian civilians making their Molotov cocktails to block the Russian army, she sees herself again in Warsaw with her old pistol and her hundred cartridges, trying to dislodge the Germans from their strategic districts. She remembers the extraordinary mobilization of the Poles who welcomed the clandestine fighters. She remembers the corpses among the rubble and the crowd fleeing the capital, “inhabited by an unfathomable despair”. She rediscovers this feeling of loneliness in the face of the Nazi occupier, waiting for the reinforcements which did not come, nor the Polish planes supposed to arrive from London nor the Russian army of Stalin who preferred to let it go. “Like the Ukrainians, we were asking for air protection. Unlike theirs, our fight was lost in advance. »

She talks, she talks. Maria Devrim, born Maria-Sabina Tarlowska, is cheerful and often laughs. She rolls her “r”s the Polish way, in perfect French. She remembers the exchanges of fire and the zigzags she had to make while crossing the street to look for an injured person on the other side. Of his comrade Slawek, who died at his side in their hiding place hit by a shell fire. From the stench of the sewers that you had to walk through in the dark, your feet in the dejecta, to reach a surrounded resistant district. From the grenade she had thrown at Germans from a window, while her comrades held her suspended by the feet. “I was small and light, it was easier for me”, she said without adding to it. Well, it’s true: she’s very small. We hadn’t even noticed it, so much his gaze gives him authority, with his frowning eyebrows and his piercing gray eyes.

“Unlike that of the Ukrainians, our fight was lost in advance”: Maria Devrim, the eternal figure of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis

Maria Devrim is arguably the oldest survivor of the Warsaw Uprising. One of the last to bear the memory of this armed uprising against the Germans, as brief as it was desperate, from 1er August to October 2, 1944, and which succeeded the insurrection of the Jewish ghetto in the capital, a year earlier. “I think there’s one who died in Warsaw recently, so chances are I’m the oldest nowshe notes in her toned voice. Not long ago, there were four of us in Paris. One has just died, one has lost her mind, the third is not in good shape… And there is me. »

Liaison officer at 19

Observing her figure in her Parisian apartment, straight as an “i”, with her curly chestnut hair, listening to her unfold her feats of arms with the vivacity of a child, seeing her trotting from a café to a restaurant in the streets of his neighborhood, between Montparnasse and Alésia, something is not right. Warrior in 1944… How old can she be? “98”, she replies curtly. 98 years old? She must be off by a dozen or two. We look at her with suspicion. She gets angry. “Well yes, what! I was born on August 19, 1923, and I’m 98 years old. It ends up being annoying that people are surprised. » Maria therefore only has a short century behind her, but she could say, like Baudelaire: “I have more memories than if I were a thousand years old. »

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