In the post-September reality, starting from 1939, the people who were ”suspected of patriotism” were left with two ways of saving themselves from death or being taken prisoner: hiding themselves or setting off on the route towards the southern border and further to Hungary and France, where there was a hope to join the ranks of the Polish Army which was being recreated there.
In 1939, Poland ceased to be a safe place for all those who considered themselves patriots. The people who tried to get towards Hungary – officers who managed to hide themselves after the defeat of their units, or prisoners of war – escapees - landed in the borderland villages one by one. They were taken across the border by the local experts in the Beskidy Mountains, the Pieniny Mountain Range and the Tatra Mountains – couriers, who were doing this usually selflessly. The most popular points of departure were: Zakopane and the surrounding area, Szczawnica, Nowy Sącz and the towns in the southern Nowy Sącz Region. The Nowy Sącz region of transfer covered the routes code-named “Dunajec” and ”Poprad.” They had several options. The border was crossed near the Tylicka Pass, Muszyna, Piwniczna and Szczawnica. The couriers’ route led from Nowy Sącz along the bank of the River Poprad to Rytro, and further along the Wielka Roztoka Valley and slopes of the Radziejowa massif to Kosarzyska Mountain. The border was crossed near Eliaszówka Mountain. The route from Piwniczna to Koszyce was covered by couriers in about 48 hours. They would transfer military men, civilians, escapees from the ghettos, as well as mail, arms and money...
They also found their way across Przehyba Mountain, from which they descended to Szczawnica Wyżna, and further across the Jarmuta Mountain massif to Slovak Lesnica. This route was covered i.a. by Julian Zubek, the later leader of the guerrilla group operating in the Beskid Sądecki Mountains. The border between Slovakia and Hungary was crossed by couriers usually near Koszyce or Rożniawa.
Yet these couriers were not the only people avoiding the occupation army’s surveillance. At the same time, there were the guerrillas who chose to hide within mountain refuges in the Beskidy Mountains and the Gorce Mountains, in which they plotted the ways in which they could weaken the enemy, instead of escaping.
There is no way to describe all the places and recall all the people involved the activities of these couriers and guerrillas. The stops along the trail represent a small fragment of history with the points chosen in such a way that it is possible to mention stories which are less known or still mysterious, incomplete and tempting, as well as to carry out one’s own historical investigation when frequenting the realm of those who had gone before.
Stops along the trail: Stare Wierchy, Turbacz Mountain, Ochotnica Dolna, Ochotnica Górna, Hala Łabowska, Bącza Kunina, Groń Jana Pawła II, Lubań Mountain, Nowy Sącz, Piwniczna, the Przysłop Pass, Zakopane, Hala Krupowa, Polica Mountain