A barge with sugar

Autor: Kmdr por.rez., kap.ż.ś. Adam W. Reszka    

A barge with sugar

In mid-August 1939, a 300-ton barge with sugar was hauled to the Warsaw Trading Port in Praga. The sugar plant in Borowiczki near Płock was emptying its warehouses before the onset of the sugar campaign. The barge was moored to be unloaded at the very end of no. 2 wet dock just next to the gate from Zamoyskiego Street. It had about 6,000- 50kg sacks with sugar in its storage. After the outbreak of World War II on 1 September, the unloading was speeded up, but without the help of a steam crane, which was being used to unload flour, coffee, tea and raisins. Just before capitulation of besieged Warsaw the sudden raid by Ju-87 “Stuka” dive-bombers made a lot of damage in the port. The barge with sugar was sunk.

The winter of 1939/40 under German occupation was exceptionally snowy and freezing. Food shortages were unimaginable. There was no bread in shops, and one could only dream about sugar. That which hadn’t been removed from the barges and storage areas before the Germans invaded, was straight away appropriated by them. Only the sugar in the storage of the sunken barge remained. Those port workers in the know and the masters on 120 barges in the port made air-holes in the hold and firstly unloaded nearly empty sacks from the top, and then with buckets on rods removed the thick water with melted sugar from the bottom. This went on till spring, when high floodwaters sunk the barge completely.

The extracted raw sugar was made into edible sugar or alcohol. The bucket with wet sugar was brought into a warm area and was strained through a sack hanging over a basin, into which the water saturated with sugar dripped down and was only suitable for the production of hooch. The rest of the sack’s thick contents was poured into a big saucepan, which was put on a stove in order to slowly evaporate the water. The well-dried mass turned into a hard sugar block, which had to be cut up into small lumps suitable to sweeten beverages and food.

That is how ship’s masters and port workers managed in hard times in winter, who in the nick of time had managed to procure flour, coffee, tea and raisins before the Germans entered Warsaw. Nobody saw those goods throughout the entire war.

The project ‘Protecting the habitats of priority bird species of the Vistula Valley under conditions of intensive pressure of the Warsaw agglomeration’ (wislawarszawska.pl) has received a grant from the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+) and from the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.