Narrator Henryk – Son of Katyń victim, deported to Siberia aged 17 years
Well, so much for the Soviets coming to save Poland from the Nazis. Just over 4 weeks after the Red Army arrived, there have been rigged elections. It is called the “People’s Assemblies of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus” but we were forced to vote by the NKVD and militiamen. There were mass arrests and terror. To our horror the new parliament has declared that from this moment forward our lands are part of the Soviet Union. That the Assemblies “voted” to become Soviet is a criminal and unjust act!
Gloom has settled over the town. Many of the men who are in the army have been taken prisoner and haven’t returned home. This includes our beloved Tata.
Our civil leaders, priests, policeman, judges have been arrested as enemies of the people – like my uncle Stanislaw, a forester and soltis, who was arrested in the middle of the night by the soviets and taken to local jail. The mass arrests started on the 18th September, just the day after the Red Army invaded. These are not random arrests. The NKVD know exactly who they are looking for and I suspect that this was pre-planned. Our own policemen are now held in the local jail and we hear this is happening all over the Eastern borderlands. How can law, order and justice prevail under the oppression of these Soviets?
Many of those who try to hide are informed on by the non-Polish neighbours and rounded up the NKVD, the Soviet secret police.
All over the Borderlands we hear that Polish Officials are being replaced by Communist Party of the Soviet Union committees. Polish property, both private and state, is being stolen by these committees and nationalised. Farms have been requisitioned. Not only that, but the Red Army soldiers are looting our houses and shops.
There are posters up in towns denouncing the Polish lords – “pany”. All the Polish eagles have been taken off the buildings and red flags are hanging everywhere.
There have been many other changes in the last few weeks since the Red Army invaded our homeland. There seems to be a lot of activity in Podwołoczyska. Grandpa Karol’s house has been commandeered by the local communist committee and he is now with us in Skałat. Uncle Marian is a member of the Underground Army so we pretend we don’t know him.
The civil administration has changed. We have a new police constable who is one of the Ukranian members of the Ukranian Rifleman’s Association. The new saltis and town counsellors are Jewish. Some are local and some are sent over from Eastern Ukraine by the Soviets. Even our schools have been re-opened but all the Polish books are being burnt and we must speak Ukrainian.
Meanwhile we are trying to manage – but we’ve had 4 soldiers move into our house. Mama has to go into town at 5am each morning to join the queues for food. Some days we take in turn to queue for 5 or 6 hours but still come home empty handed.
Day to day life is getting a harder for us. The local communist administration is closing shops and there are long queues for basic necessities such as bread and soap. We have lost access to medical supplies, clothing and knives! They have all been sent eastwards. Winter is fast approaching and the new laws make me fearful. There is not even enough fuel for heating.
Homes are packed with families and friends who have come as refugees from Western Poland now under German Nazi occupation. These people haven’t registered with the authorities for fear of being sent back, although everybody knows that they are there.
Because all of our zlotes were seized from our bank accounts, we’ve had to sell what we managed to rescue of the family jewellery that the Russian soldiers didn’t find.
So we are trying to return to normal, daily life. But what are our prospects? What will become of us and our beloved homeland, Poland?
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The Soviets invaded Poland on the 17th September and occupied the Eastern Borderlands with a population of over 13 million…
The Soviets invaded Poland on the 17th September and occupied the Eastern Borderlands with a population of over 13 million.
Sovietization was a policy to liquidate the Polish state.
Rigged elections were held and the Eastern Borderlands was annexed to the USSR.
Approximately 200,000 Polish POWs were captured by the Soviets. 21,857 were executed in the Katyn Massacres. Most were sent to the gulags.
Mass arrests of hundreds of thousands of civil leaders, priests, policeman and judges started on the 18th September until June 1941. The NKVD executed thousands of prisoners.
Between 1 and 2 million Polish citizens were deported to Siberia.
Polish institutions were dismantled. The civil administration and Polish officials were replaced by Communists. Polish property, both private and state, was stolen by these committees and nationalised. Farms were requisitioned and collectivized.
Education, media and all aspects of daily life was controlled by the Soviets. Religion was persecuted. Terror reigned.
Ethnic tensions between Poles and other ethnic groups were exploited by the Soviets.
For food and basic necessities became scarce as supplies were sent East by the Soviets.