Lucky ship

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

Lucky ship

The GEN. SIKORSKI ship had an interesting history. It was built in 1888 in Bryansk on Desna, Dnieper’s left bank tributary. When under the ATAMAN banner it was captured in 1920 by the Polish Army from the Bolsheviks and was included into the Pińska Fleet as T-1. After the war it was renovated in the shipyards in Puławy, it sailed on the Vistula from Warsaw to Tczew under the KANIOWCZYK banner as a passenger ship, from which passengers alighted onto CARMEN in order to visit Gdynia and Hel. In 1934 on the occasion of the visit by the Belgian King Albert, as a sign of courtesy its name was changed to BELGIA, as the King’s program included looking at the panorama of Warsaw from the Vistula. In the last days of August 1939, while preparing for a voyage to Tczew, the ship coaled in the Trading Port in Praga high quality coal, while it was moored in the no.1 wet dock near MPS jetty. The outbreak of war on 1 September kept BELGIA in this place for longer. On the last day before capitulation of Warsaw, it was hit midship by a Ju-87 Stuka dive-bomber, which swept away its veranda, permanently damaged the engine and sunk it. During the severe winter of 1939/40 skippers, spending the winter in their 120 barges, pulled out the coal from the BELGIA bunkers which helped them to survive the severe winter. The vessel was lifted in spring and under the banner of BELLA was used for storage. That vessel was sunk during the Warsaw Uprising, lifted out of the river after the war and moved to Płock to be renovated to Czesław Śladkowski’s design. Under the GEN.SIKORSKI banner and with a new 230 KM engine (45 rev/min) it was included into the Warsaw-Gdańsk route, and was held in high esteem due to its high speed similar to the TRAUGUT express ship.

In 1952 during the communist imposed national day on 22 July, the Communist party authorities voted on a resolution to change its name to PSTROWSKI, and the captain ordered the crew to paint over the old name and paint the new. The defiant crew left the deck and en masse went to the “Portowa” restaurant on the corner of Jagiellońska and Okrzei Streets. But a great row ensured because at night someone had painted the new name vertically, clumsily with a stencil, while names painted on drums are traditionally semi-circular. The crew again left the ship. Attempts to fill the PSTROWKI with a different crew failed dismally. After many diplomatic approaches the crew somehow managed to be appeased. The ship was taken out of commission in 1964, and the dismantled engine was allocated to the BAŁTYK flagship. Until 1970 under the ALICJA banner it was moored in Nieporęcie as a houseboat for the ŻUBRY crews on the gravel bridge on the Gnojno on Narwia route to Warsaw, and in 24-hour navigation, up until it was written–off and cut up for scrap. This vessel was relatively long: L=62.52 m, B= 5.22/11.62 m, T= 0.77/0.97 m. On the way to Przegalina Lock Chamber in Gdańsk it went in carefully with a 40 cm clearance between the drums and walls of the lock chamber. SIKORSKI was recognizable from afar because of its silhouette with its elegant bow veranda, open long quaterdeck, often under a shade, and separated from the wheelhouse by a chimney. It didn’t have a piston engine.

Those who sailed on it and for whom it was home remember it with nostalgic sadness, as well as the times of intense navigation which will never return, and also incredible the events which will never be repeated.

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