– Janek had one important quality: he knew how to combine military discipline with youthful appetite for adventure – remembers Anna Jakubowska “Paulinka”.
“Anoda” earned his first money in an electrotechnical workshop of Engineer Tadeusz Czarnecki, later he worked for Philips. In 1941 having passed the high school leaving examinations and having finished a private course in machine design and electrotechnics, he entered the State Electrical School (graduated in 1943 with grade B). But he never devoted all of his time to school or work, focusing mostly on his underground activities.
First he finished training at the Union of Armed Struggle Home Army Reserve Infantry Cadet School, later military combat and sabotage courses. After Storm Troops had formed he became deputy commander of Feliks Pendelski’s 2. Troop in the Centrum Group.
Storm Troops’ operations in which he participated went down in history. There were more than twenty of them, including blowing up two bridges and derailing eight trains. The most famous operation was called Arsenal (official codename „Mexico II”– 26 March 1943) during which cruelly beaten by the Gestapo secret police Janek Bytnar “Rudy” was rescued. In this operation “Anoda” commanded the “bottles" section, whose attack stopped the German security van. He carried away from the fighting his badly wounded friend, Alek Dawidowski, whom he had saved earlier with an accurate and timely shot. For this operation he received his first Cross of Valour as ordered by the Home Army Commander in Chief Gen. “Grot”.
Near Celestynów (on the night of 20/21 May, 1943) as member of the “prison van” section he seized a carriage with forty nine prisoners in transfer from Majdanek to Oświęcim.
During operation “Salt” (27 May, 1943) he and his friends took control of a chemical factory storehouse in the Praga District of Warsaw to capture potassium chlorate needed for underground manufacturing of explosive materials.
In Sieczychy (20 August, 1943) he was to eliminate a border military police post (Grenzschutz); in the “Pogorzel” operation he fired at a military train between Jaktorów and Celestynów (23/24 October, 1943); near Rogoźno (5/6 April, 1944) he was in charge of blowing up a railway crossing for which he was awarded the Cross of Valour for the second time.
After these combat successes in the spring of 1944 he took part in military training organized for future insurgents at a forest base in Biała Woods.
Because of his temperament, sense of humour, artistic and acting skills he became the most popular person in his battalion during the camp. He composed songs, made up rhymes, drew caricatures of his friends and commanders.
– He was a talented improviser. His acting skills, sarcastic sense of humour, his ability to ridicule the important and the great of this world soon produced an unlimited repertoire of jokes – recall training participants. With amusement they remember how he made the boys run through the forest in the morning in order to strengthen their characters.
– Remember how he made us run naked through a juniper thicket calling it Saint Stephen’s bath?
In the Warsaw Rising “Anoda” commanded a platoon in the “Felek” Company of “Zośka” Battalion – and their combat trail led from the Wola District, through the Old Town and Powiśle to Czerniaków.
In an account recorded by Barbara Wachowicz, “Anoda’s” mother Zofia Rodowicz remembers the day of August 1:
– Janek left at three in the afternoon. He kissed me, jumped onto his bike and dashed off. He was in a great mood, certain of victory. He put on whatever pieces of military clothing he had, later even got an uhlan’s hat from somewhere....
– Because of this hat, later in the Warsaw Rising Rodowicz was nicknamed: the uhlan of “Zośka” Battalion – explains Barbara Wachowicz in her essay.
In the summer following the war on a beach in Kazimierz some girls asked Janek why he wouldn’t take off his T-shirt. He said that if he had they could not touch meat for a long time – his chest was so badly slashed....
Most of his wounds “Anoda” suffered in the Rising.
On 2 August he was unharmed in a successful operation of driving the Germans from the evangelical cemetery, where he and fellow insurgents from his platoon captured weapons. But already on 5 August on Okopowa Street a German bullet shot through his left leg and on 9 August when fighting for a school at Spokojna Street he was seriously wounded on his left lung.
A friend and fellow insurgent Stanisław Sieradzki “Świst” took him to Jan Boży hospital at Bonifraterska Street in the New Town.
– Every few hours he would leave his straw mattress and float about the basement among the wounded. Slim and joking, he was one of the most characteristic figures of this underground hospital. He walked among people lying at right angles to the walls but was never cursed for stepping on them or jostling them – in his book “Zośka i Parasol” Aleksander Kamiński describes “Anoda’s” time at the hospital.
From Bonifraterska Street “Anoda” was transferred to a hospital at Miodowa. On 31 August during Old Town evacuation he went through the sewers to the City Center District to a hospital at Hoża 36. He did not stay there long – in spite of his wounds he joined his friends who fought in the Upper Czerniaków District. On 15 September he got wounded again on Wilanowska Street, this time on his left shoulder with the bullet shattering his bones.
– I saw “Anoda” getting badly hurt. His combat position was on the second floor. He lay on the balcony with a machine gun, watching the buildings on the even-numbered side of Wilanowska Street. A tank came exactly from that direction. A shell fired from the tank’s gun hit the balcony. With great difficulty we pulled wounded “Anoda” into the room and then down to the basement. His chest ripped by shrapnel was an awful sight. I was heartbroken, I cried... – remembers Stanisław Sieradzki many years later. After another assault during which he got wounded, Sieradzki joined “Anoda”.
– He greeted me as if he were healthy. I will never forget the empathy and care which Janek showed towards me in this gloomy cellar – said “Świst”.
– And the next day on the way to the hospital I was wounded by shrapnel from grenade launcher on my left elbow and when the stretcher fell I broke my left arm at the elbow – wrote “Anoda” himself after the war in a letter to the Department for War-Disabled Persons.
On the night of 17/18 September as one of the very few he was evacuated into the Praga bank of Wisła River by General Berling’s soldiers.
– I crossed myself when I saw him! Carried on a door to the bank of the river, with a rash all over (I was the same way) we waited for some kind of miracle – says “Świst”.
Both of them were successfully transported across the river in pontoons to the Praga District. In a hospital in Anin, Rodowicz underwent blood transfusion and a serious surgery. Only at the beginning of 1945 following long treatment he returned to his family in Milanówek.
After the war, even though doctors pronounced him incapacitated in 81%, “Anoda” never gave in to disability or unfavourable circumstances. He remained very active, contacted old friends from “Zośka” to jointly undertake the exhumations and funerals of their fallen friends. Thanks to their efforts a special area of the Powązki Military Cemetery was sectioned off adjacent to the graves of scout soldier who were buried there during German occupation for soldiers of the “Zośka” Battalion. Characteristic birch crosses mark this area.
He cooperated closely with Henryk Kozłowski “Kmita” in the so-called second underground, which organised propaganda actions directed against the communist regime. He also compiled lists of fallen and missing soldiers from the “Zośka” Battalion and contributed to starting an archive for the battalion.