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British historian honours iconic WWII photo from Warsaw

14.09.2022 15:30
British historian Roger Moorhouse has taken to social media to post a 1939 photo from war-torn Warsaw, describing it as ”one of the most iconic images of World War II, reproduced in a thousand history books and documentaries.”
Kazimiera Kostewicz-Mika.
Kazimiera Kostewicz-Mika.PAP/Marcin Kaliński

In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Moorhouse wrote: “On this day - 1939 - one of the most iconic photographs of World War II was taken in Warsaw.  It was taken by American photojournalist Julien Bryan, and it shows a 10-year-old girl, Kazimiera Kostewicz, bending over the body of her sister, Anna, who had just been killed in a German air raid.’

The British historian added: “According to Bryan, Kazimiera cried: ‘What has happened?! What have they done to you?!,’ begging her sister to come to. "Please talk to me.  Please…’ Bryan comforted her as best he could but, he wrote, ‘What could we, or anyone else, say to this child?’"

Kazimiera Kostewicz-Mika survived the war and died in 2020 at the age of 93.

Roger Moorhouse included her story in his recent monograph on Poland’s war against the 1939 Nazi German invasion, First to Fight.

The book was also published in the United States under the title Poland 1939, and in Poland as Polska 1939

It won the Polish Foreign Ministry History Prize 2020, and was shortlisted for the Wellington History Medal.

Born in 1968, Moorhouse is an expert in modern German and Polish history, especially the World War II period.

Julien Bryan visited Warsaw for the first time in 1936. On September 4, 1939, he caught the last train to Warsaw. Twelve days later, his appeal to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt for assistance to the city’s civilian population was broadcast by Polish Radio. 

On September 21, Bryan left Warsaw, taking with him several thousand feet of motion pictures and some 700 photos of the besieged city. A selection of the photos was published in December 1939 on the covers of American Look and Life magazines, while a 10-minute film, entitled Siege, attracted an audience of 80 million.

After the war, during his visits to Poland in 1946, 1959 and 1974, Bryan made shots of the same places and of some of the people featured on his war-time photos.  He died in 1974, shortly after his last visit, at the age of seventy five.