By Jane Ryan
Kazimierz ‘Kazik’ Piechowski with singer Katy Carr
Kazimierz ‘Kazik’ Piechowski is the rarest of human beings. The 91-year-old Auschwitz escapee has been subject to years of imprisonment and political persecution in his lifetime, but he has survived the brutal regimes that have governed Poland in the past century with a youthful vivacity. Now free to pursue his interest in travel, Kazik takes his astonishing story to audiences around the world.
A fortnight ago, on 31st March, Polish and British girl guides and scouts, as well as representatives from Australia, Canada and USA, gathered at Baden Powell House in London to meet Kazik and a new generation heard this story. The Polish scout visited Britain for the first time at the invitation of Katy Carr, a singer-songwriter who has captured Kazik’s story in her new single ‘Kommander’s Car’.
Katy Carr sought out Kazik to play him ‘Kommander’s Car’…
Kazik was imprisoned as a young man in Auschwitz for being a Polish Eagle Scout on 20th June 1940. Exactly two years later, on 20thJune 1942, upon discovering a friend’s name was on the list to be killed, he decided they had to escape. Kazik and three fellow prisoners made their daring escape, driving the Kommander’s car to freedom. Stealing SS uniforms and guns, they vowed they would shoot themselves rather than fail in the attempt as the ramifications to their fellow prisoners for attacking the guards would be unthinkable.
Just metres from the last of four barriers, the gate had still not opened. One of Kazik’s fellow escapees grabbed his shoulder and said “Do something.” Kazik got out of the car in the SS uniform and yelled in German at the solider “Wake up you bugger. Get this gate open before I open you!” The guard swung open the gate, thinking Kazik was the Kommander and the four men drove away to freedom.
Songwriter Katy Carr has captured those crucial seconds in her new single ‘Kommander’s Car’, which she performed during the evening to honour Kazik. Inspired by the last moments of his escape, the singer wrote the song and took the brave decision to seek out Kazik to play him her interpretation of his story. Her journey to meet Kazik and his reaction to her song is captured in Hannah Lovell’s documentary ‘Kazik and the Kommander’s Car’, screened to the audience at the event.
Katy Carr welcomed Kazk to Britain for the first time…
The documentary shows Kazik in tears as he hears Katy’s song for the first time, saying: “This is the first time I have experienced this in my life. I am shocked that people are inspired by my life…I am there, not here, there in Auschwitz. I hear the priest behind me…there could be no fear. This is such a piece of art, it’s beautiful.”
Kazik, who speaks only Polish, explained through the aid of a translator that many people had tried to document Auschwitz but this song was different as it captured the feelings of the escapees. He revealed that to this day he still does not know if anyone died because of their escape. The camp policy was if one man escaped 10 would be shot from the same work area, but as the four escapees made up their own work area, they had hoped to avoid any repercussions to fellow prisoners.
At the end of the evening, all the scouts assembled on stage to sing with Katy Carr. Kazik was then presented with a letter of commendation by Chief Scout Bear Grylls. At 91, Kazik was still able to join in the scout songs sung by the Polish boys and girls and appeared truly humbled by the occasion. The Polish Eagle Scout, upon receiving the honour, said: “The scout motto ‘tczew’ is not just a greeting it is a reminder of the pledge to be a brother to all, a friend to the weak and those in need and to help everybody. It is hope and inspiration. In the twists and turns of war, a scout always does the right thing.”