This is an abridged version, edited exclusively for the Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum, of London-based Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszynska’s breakthrough film, ‘A Forgotten Odyssey’. It tells the story – in the words of the Survivors – of what happened after the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939 under the Nazi-Soviet Friendship Treaty.
These are the stories of the survivors of the forced Soviet annexation of eastern Poland, when entire towns and communities were brutally deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan to Soviet forced labour camps. By the time the Nazis attacked their Soviet allies in 1941, perhaps half of the labour camp inmates had died from disease, starvation, and the harsh labour conditions. Because the Soviets were brought into the anti-Nazi Alliance, the remaining survivors were given an amnesty and many made their way across the vast and foreboding Soviet landscape to join the freed Polish Army being formed in the south. This army became a key element of the Allied forces in the European South-East, and was evacuated though Iran to join the battle with the Nazis in Africa and Italy.
Despite the defeat of the Nazis, Poland’s Soviet enemies ended the war on the side of the victors. The 110,000 citizens and soldiers who had escaped from Soviet Russia went on to be refugees from a pre-war Poland who could never return to their former homeland, which was left in Soviet Communist hands after the war. Their Forgotten Odyssey never reached its destination, and they remained a people in exile throughout the world.