Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (Je ne regrette rien)

In July 2020, Krzysztof Schramm, a Polish historian and an honorary member of Poland’s French Foreign Legion Veterans and Friends’ Association released a second edition of memories of Zygmunt Jatczak, most likely the last-known surviving Polish veteran of the First Indochina War (1946-54).

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję
Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (2020)

 

Read the book’s description:

Zygmunt Jatczak can be easily called a living legend of both the Armia Krajowa (The Home Army, a resistance movement fighting in Poland against Germans during WWII) and the French Foreign Legion. He took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and served as a member of the Foreign Legion in Indochina in 1948-51. He was decorated several times, awarded among others, the Krzyż Walecznych (Cross of Valour) for the Warsaw Uprising and the Legion d’Honneur (2017) and Medaille Militaire for Indochina.

Zygmunt Jatczak was born in 1924 in Warsaw, and there he began his education before it was interrupted by the outbreak of the World War II. He lived with his mother and sisters, his father had passed away before the war. He was to witness the drama of the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Hitler‘s Germany. Existing in the besieged capital during the bombings and defeat. During the occupation he lived and worked in Warsaw and suffered life under the Nazi rule.

In January 1943 he was taken into captivity during a round-up on the Warsaw streets. He was sent to the concentration camp Majdanek, near Lublin. He spent a few weeks there, witnessing the extermination of Jews. Thanks to his mother’s efforts, he was miraculously released from the camp and returned to Warsaw. Shortly afterwards, in 1943, he became a member of the Armia Krajowa and adopted the nickname “Ryszard”. On the 1st of August 1944, with thousands of others in the underground army, Zygmunt Jatczak joined the Warsaw Uprising. He was 20 years old. His memories and thoughts of those days are dramatic, some moments sublime, some heroic but also dark, sad and tragic.

He was wounded during the fighting for which he was awarded. He took part in more dramatic battles, saw the death of his colleagues and also came within an inch of death himself. For some time he was one of the soldiers serving in a personal protection unit of Colonel Jan Mazurkiewicz, commanding the Radosław Group (part of the Armia). After the capitulation of the Uprising units, Zygmunt Jatczak was sent to a POW camp, along with a number of his colleagues.

He was liberated by the British Army in late April 1945 and joined the Polish auxiliary units. He served with them until 1947. It was during this time he made the decision to join the French Foreign Legion.

Zygmunt Jatczak joined the Legion in Strasbourg in mid-June 1947. He was sent to a transit center in Marseille and later to Sidi Bel Abbes, then the Legion’s HQ in Algeria, North Africa. From there, he was assigned to the training center at Saida. Basic training lasted for two months. The best description of it is given by Zygmunt Jatczak himself:

“That Sahara! Marches, marches and marches again! Legionnaire needs to be tough, it’s the old Legion saying – March or die!”

His memories of the five-year service in the Legion are colorful and vibrant. Zygmunt Jatczak tells his story about the legionnaire’s everyday life, military operations with many details referring to training, weapons and the units’ organisation.

After a short period of training in Algeria, Legionnaire Jatczak was sent to Indochina where he spent the next three years of his service. He was assigned to the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion (then led by Major Rossi) of the 13e DBLE. The company was based at a place called Ca Mau, in Cochinchina (Southern Vietnam now). A significant part of his memories is given to his French officers. As emphasized by Legionnaire Jatczak: each one of them was superb!

His stories describing the military operations against the Viet Minh, the battles and the prisoners are so vibrant that the reader can almost feel himself transferred to the rice fields of Indochina. Activity in the Ca Mau region and later on at Cu Chi, is a real story of the Indochina War. At the end of his service in Indochina, Zygmunt Jatczak was badly wounded and spent a few months of convalescence. He finished his five-year contract in the Foreign Legion in mid-1952. He returned to France where he lived and worked until the mid-1960s.

The best summary of his service in the French Foreign Legion is given by the author of his memories:

“Remembering the time of war and my time in the Foreign Legion I can say only one thing – I had a lot of luck, I experienced a lot, I escape death a few times and as it’s said in the Legion, I regret nothing.

Really! I REGRET NOTHING! JE NE REGRETTE RIEN!”

Having returned back to Poland, Zygmunt Jatczak (96 years old in 2020) now lives in its northern part. He is an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion Veterans and Friends’ Association of Poland (A.A.A.L.E. en Pologne).

The book is supplemented with more than 100 rare and unique pictures from operations, ordinary military life and parades:

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (Je ne regrette rien)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (Je ne regrette rien)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (Je ne regrette rien)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję (Je ne regrette rien)

Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję
Personal inscription to Zygmunt Jatczak from well-known General Bigeard (one of the paratrooper commanders in the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu)
Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję
Bottom left, Krzysztof Schramm and Zygmunt Jatczak
Zygmunt Jatczak
Zygmunt Jatczak with the second edition of his memories

 

Unfortunately, the book Niczego nie żałuję is available now only in Polish language. The English version is intended.

If you are still interested in the book, you can get it here:
Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję

If you are interested in the book signed by Zygmunt Jatczak himslef, you can get it here:
Zygmunt Jatczak & Krzysztof Schramm: Niczego nie żałuję – z autografem autora

Note that these links AREN’T affiliate links to receive money. Thank you.

 
 

Realated posts:
Knut Flovik Thoresen: Norwegians in the Foreign Legion from 1831 until 2017
Andrew J. Mitchell: The Tigers of Tonkin
Knut Flovik Thoresen: Narvik 1940