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    Remembering Janusz Kusociński: An Olympic Champion and Hero of Resistance

    On June 21, 1940, Janusz Kusociński, a soldier, Olympic gold medalist, and underground activist, was brutally murdered by the Germans. Kusociński’s life and achievements symbolize the indomitable spirit of the Polish people during a time of great adversity.

    Born on January 15, 1907, in Warsaw, Janusz Kusociński grew up in a family that instilled in him a sense of determination and resilience. With a father who was a railroad clerk and also ran a farm, Kusociński learned the value of hard work and discipline from an early age. Tragically, he experienced the loss of two brothers, Zygmunt and Tadeusz, who perished during times of conflict.

    From his youth, Kusociński displayed a keen interest in sports. Initially drawn to football, he played for several amateur teams, eventually joining the Workers’ Sports Club “Sarmata.” It was within this club that he earned his famous nickname, “Kusy,” from his comrades. However, fate had a different path in store for him.

    By chance, Kusociński was offered the opportunity to compete in a relay race due to a shortage of participants. Surprisingly, his team emerged victorious. This initial taste of success, coupled with subsequent victories and his participation in the Workers’ Games in Prague in 1927, propelled him to pursue a career in running sports. He later joined KS “Warszawianka” and achieved remarkable feats, breaking Polish records multiple times and becoming a champion in medium and long distances. The pinnacle of his career came in 1932 when he won the gold medal in the 10 km run at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, solidifying his status as one of Poland’s favorite athletes.

    However, the outbreak of World War II disrupted Kusociński’s athletic aspirations. Undeterred, he volunteered for the Polish army, serving as a corporal in the machine gun company of the 360th Infantry Regiment. Kusociński demonstrated unwavering bravery and was awarded the Cross of the Brave for his heroic actions during the defense of Warsaw, despite being wounded twice.

    Following the capitulation, Kusociński remained in Warsaw, where he found work as a waiter at the “Pod kogutem” bar on Jasna Street. This establishment served as a gathering place for Warsaw’s sports community. True to his resilient character, Kusociński immediately became involved in underground activities, distributing clandestine and illegal publications in his workplace. Adopting the pseudonym “Prawdzic,” he fearlessly continued his resistance work. However, on March 28, 1940, the Gestapo arrested him at the gate of his residence on Nowakowskiego Street.

    Subjected to unimaginable torture during interrogations, Janusz Kusociński valiantly endured. Tragically, a few months later, on June 20 or 21, 1940, he and other prisoners were transported from Warsaw to the Kampinos Forest near Palmiry. There, he fell victim to one of the mass executions carried out under Operation AB, which targeted the Polish intelligentsia. It is a solemn reminder that, during the period from December 1939 to July 1941, over 1,700 Polish citizens, including Jews, were ruthlessly murdered in Palmiry.

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