August Agboola Browne - The Yoruba man who participated in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Germans.

August Agboola O'Browne was born on 22 July 1895 in Lagos to Yoruba parents.

O'Browne immigrated to Britain and then joined a travelling theatre group and ended up in Poland in 1922. He lived at Złota Street in Warsaw. He was a professional musician, a drummer who worked in clubs in Warsaw.

His first album, recorded in 1928, made history, for he was the first West African jazzman to achieve this. He married a Polish woman, Zofia Pykowna; they had two children – Ryszard (Richard) in 1928 and Aleksander (Alexander) in 1929. Although this marriage ended, his family travelled to the UK when war broke out. He later married Olga Miechowicz and they had more children together. His friends and neighbours remembered him as a very intelligent, courteous person, and a polyglot (he spoke six languages)

In 1949, he joined the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland with Warsaw, the capital as prime target, marking the beginning of the Second World War. This was one week after Hitler signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland, with Agboola as the only black face on the battle, put up stiff resistance. Some 133,700 Polish died while Germany lost 3,500 with some 30,300 missing. Hitler felt the invasion of Poland would offer Lebenstraum or ‘living space,’ opening the way to the conquest of Poland. The invasion lasted one month. Hitler captured the country but not the will of Polish people, who formed a government in exile made of armed forces and intelligence section which launched a blitzkrieg of underground resistance involving Agboola as a key actor.

Poland became first victim of Nazi belligerents. Germans occupied Warsaw after a siege. During occupation, he worked as an electrical appliance salesman and quickly joined the ranks of resistance Polish Home Army, the biggest partisan forces in World War II. He toiled in secret work against the Nazis and distributed underground press, which was punishable by death if caught by Gestapo – Nazi police. Every resistance soldier had alias, and he chose “Ali” as his nickname.

When Warsaw Uprising broke in 1944 he took arms in face of impossible odds and fought in the unit from Śródmieście Południowe district. He also served in communication center and as phone operator.

Resistant soldiers fought valiantly and with great skill for 100 days. As SS Chief Heinrich Himmler said,

“This is the fiercest of our battles since the start of the war. It compares to the street battles of Stalingrad.”

However, partisans couldn’t defeat organized frontline armed forces that included tanks, heavy artillery and aircraft. Germans also resorted to using civilians as shields and brought Kaminski’s penal battalions consisted of criminals to rape, murder and pillage as a way of war.

Germans brutally crushed Warsaw Uprising, killing 200 000 people in total. Hitler was furious and ordered Warsaw to be turned into dust. Germans leveled the city block by block. In aftermath, over 85% of the city was destroyed and Warsaw became most devastated capital in World War II. Fortunately, O’Brown survived the war.

Finally, when Stalin died, Polish borders were at least slightly opened and he was allowed to migrate to United Kingdom in 1956 with his family. He remained silent about his war experiences, didn’t publish any memoirs, and passed away in 1976 in London.

The Nation - Adewale Adeoye
Battle Leader

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