Most World War II accounts of Poland deal with the German invasion and horific NAZI occupation. In fact, Poland was invaded by two countries in 1939, NAZI GErmany and Soviet Russia. Although England and France decalred war on Germany, they did not declare war on the Soviet Union. For many Poles, the Soviet invasion and occupation was also disatrous as the Soviets had the same goal of wiping out Polish nationality. In fact the Soviets at this stage had more experience in repression than the NAZIs and set about repressing the Polish nation more forecfully at first than the NAZIs. [Davies] The murder on Stalin's orders by the Soviet NKVD of the Polish army officers in the Katyn forest was part of this process. The Soviets, however, did not have the added racial dimension that made the NAZI occupation so deadly. The Soviets sett about moving large numbers of Poles in an effort to Russify areas of eastern Poland. (This area had been a matter of a territorial disputeand war between Russia and Poland following World War I.) Many children were caught up into the mass relocations as the Soviets moved whole families into Central Asia and Siberia. Because of the primitive conditions and lack of preparations, many of those transported perished. There are many tragic accounts. One Polish boy, Stefan Wassilewski, remembers being dragged from his bed in the middle of the night by a Russian soldier, herded onto a crowded refugee train along with his mother and younger brother, and transported thousands of miles across Europe to Kazakhstan. He was separated from him family and never saw them again. [Hicyilmaz] Some of the children somehow made it to Allied occupied Iran where the Polish Government in Exile with Allied assistance were able to care for them. Stalin after the NAZI invasion (June 1941) decided to give the 0.5 million surviving Polish soldiers in POW camps the choice of fighting with the Red Army or joining the fight in the West. This was part of the Polish-Soviet Agreement signed with the London-based government in exile (July 1941). The 1.5 million Polish civilans deported by the Soviets were were also released, although we have fee details.
The men were released to travel to Iran and eventually joined the British 8th Army in the Western Desert campaign. Children also made theie way West.
Davies, Norman. Book TV, C-Span 2, October 20, 2004.
Hicyilmaz, Gaye. And The Stars Were Gold (1997).
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