Introductory Note by J. B. Morton
This pamphlet arrives at an opportune moment. So much has happened, and upon such a gigantic scale, since
the invasion of Poland, that there is a tendency to forget that Soviet Russia is holding down by force half the territory
and one-third of the population of our ally. When M. August Zaleski told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Polish Council
that Poland considers herself to be at war with Soviet Russia, surprise was expressed, and even disapproval in those quarters
where Marxist aggression is excused or called by another name. But this is an idea to which we must become accustomed. Poland,
like the rest of Europe has two enemies.
We in Britain have been told a great deal about the Germans in Poland, but very little about the Russians.
The scarcity of news has led many to imagine that conditions under Russia are not as bad as they might have been. The information
supplied by the present publication will enable the reader to form his own conclusions on this matter.
The account given in these pages of what is occurring in Poland's Eastern provinces is extremely
valuable for two other reasons. It is authentic, and it is restrained. It is more concerned with facts and figures than with
the rhetoric of indignation. The historical sketch of the Eastern provinces will be particularly useful for English readers,
many of whom have been told (and have believed it) that most of the territory seized by the Russians was really Russian territory,
and that the Red armies were merely taking back what belonged to them, and perhaps a little bit more. The author of this pamphlet
answers that blatant lie very effectively.
It is of the utmost importance for British people to understand something of the past history
and present agony of Poland, not merely because that country is our ally but also because posterity will, to a great extent,
judge our contribution to the reconstruction of Europe by our attitude to Poland. History and geography have made Poland an
outpost of Christendom, and when she once more has been liberated, her task will be what it has ever been: to stand as the
warden of the marches.
The Soviet Occupation of Poland
On September 17, 1939, at 2:15 a.m. the Polish Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., M. Waclaw Grzybowski, was summoned
to the Soviet Foreign Office. On arriving at the Kremlin, he was received by M. Potemkin, who read him a Note to
the effect that the Soviets regarded the Polish Government as disintegrated, and the Polish State as having in fact ceased
to exist. All agreements concluded between the U.S.S.R. and Poland were in consequence declared to have ceased to operate.
Poland bereft of leadership had become a suitable field for all manner of hazards and surprises constituting a threat to the
U.S.S.R. Furthermore, the Soviet Government could not view with indifference the fate of the kindred Ukrainian and White Russian
people living on Polish territory, and, in existing circumstances, left defenceless.
Accordingly, the Soviet Government had ordered its troops to cross the Polish border and take under their
protection the life and property of the population of Western Ukraine and Western White Russia. At the same time, the Soviet
Government proposed to extricate the Polish people from the unfortunate war into which they were dragged by their unwise leaders,
and enable them to live a peaceful life. (* This passage has been taken from the Polish White Book, pp. 189-190.)
There existed between Poland and the Soviet Republic a pact of non-aggression dated July
25,1932, which on May 5, 1934, was extended until December 31, 1945.
Notwithstanding the strong misgivings aroused in all quarters by the new pact concluded on August
23, 1939, between the Soviets and Germany, in the first days of the war between Poland and Germany a general impression prevailed
of a certain good will on the part of the Soviets towards Poland. On August 27 Izvestia published an interview with
Marshal Vorosilov who stated that the new understanding with Germany would not prevent Russia from supplying raw materials
and even war materials to Poland (* Ibid., p 187.)
Along the entire Russian border it had been noticed that the tone of Russian broadcasts
was not at all unfriendly towards Poland, and on certain frontier stations - much to the amazement of those who were informed
- special arrangements were being made in great haste in order to facilitate the transport of goods into Poland. At Molodeczno,
it was rumoured, a large convoy of lorries had been rushed over the frontier by night in early September. The Polish Government
certainly had difficulties in keeping in touch with its local representatives. Since September 5 it was constantly moving
owing to German bombing. But complete tranquillity reigned in the Eastern Provinces of Poland. Mobilisation had taken place
under normal conditions and perfectly smoothly; all public authorities were functioning without interruption.
In the light of events it is unnecessary to stress the evident bad faith of the Soviets.
The perfidy of Moscow's diplomatic language was vividly reminiscent of many similar documents of the 18th century, when Russia,
with Berlin as chief accomplice, undermined the old monarchic Commonwealth of Poland.
In any event, the entrance of the Russian troops was such a surprise, not only to the population
but also to the civil and military authorities, that in many places it was thought that the Bolsheviks had entered Poland
as allies against Nazi Germany. These doubts were, of course, very soon dispelled. In many places communist "fifth columns"
made their appearance with accompanying incidents of violence and plunder. The more determined Polish commanders swerved eastwards,
and a new phase of warfare began between the Carpathians and the Dzwina, which lasted another three weeks.
The northern provinces involved in the invasion knew the Russians well. The provinces of
Volhynia (Wolyn), Polesie, Nowogrodek, and Wilno as well as Bialystok had been subjected to the Russian Empire for more than
a century. But Lwow, Stanislawow and Tarnopol had seen the Russians only once, in 1914, and had never been under Russian rule:
they had been annexed by Austria in the first partition of Poland in 1772.
The territory invaded, and later incorporated by Russia with the so-called Soviet Ukraine
and Soviet White Russian Republics, after a farcical election on October 29, 1939, was the poorer and more backward part of
Poland. For this there are many reasons. The mineral resources of the Eastern Carpathians are smaller than those of the Western
district of Silesia. The immense marshes of the Prypec exclude the possibility of cultivation of large tracts of land, also
consist of very poor soil.
To the north of them the climate is very severe, and the soil is in general not very fertile.
But, above all things, the former Eastern Galicia, wedged in between the Carpathians and the Russian border (with an economic
outlet only towards the West at a distance of more than 250 miles of hilly and difficult country), had always been the
most neglected and poverty-stricken of the provinces of the Austrian Empire.
As for the western confines of Russia, until 1914, they were certainly the most abandoned
and underdeveloped part of Europe. After the Polish risings of 1830 and 1863, these lands were deliberately neglected and
wasted by the Tsarist Governments, and the building of a few railways late in the 19th century was quite insufficient to raise
the standard of living and economic activity in such vast regions. Even the much more densely populated "Kingdom of Poland,"
with its large centres like Warsaw and Lodz, with its coal mines of Dabrowa with its numerous and enterprising population,
had experienced the extreme difficulty of improving conditions under Russian rule.
After the re-establishment of Poland in 1918, conditions in the Eastern Provinces had improved
in many respects. Artificial frontiers were set aside, and a natural exchange of goods between neighbouring territories developed.
The first roads were built, railway lines improved and transport greatly accelerated. Many towns, now administrative centres
(such as Brzesc, Baranowicze, Pinsk, etc) were developed to a remarkable degree. Many large estates laid waste by the war were
parcelled out, and the intricate system of peasant land tenure was converted into separate holdings. Education was promoted,
about eleven thousand schools were opened (* Of these 4,800 elementary schools were situated in territory formerly under Austrian
rule. The odd 6,000 in the northern voivodships were completely new foundations.): the University of Wilno was reinstated
and recovered some of its former lustre; so did the "Lyceum" of Krzemieniec. Churches were erected or restored, and religious
orders took up their beneficent activities.
Owing to the new outlet on the Baltic, there was a remarkable development of the timber
industry, the exploitation of forests being subjected to strict governmental control. Considerable tracts of marshland and
pasture were drained and reconditioned fisheries established.
In the northern regions, the production of flax and the manufacture of yarn and linen were
Industry, so far as conditions permitted, began to thrive.
The oil-fields of Boryslaw were developed: oil refineries were built and mineral gases
rationally exploited. The large centre of textile industry in Bialystok underwent a considerable revival.
Agriculture in general made visible progress, and the development of dairy produce was
remarkable. A wide system of co-operative organisations, both Polish and Ukrainian, was established, and the standard of living
of the population was rising slowly but steadily.
In short, the Eastern Provinces of Poland, when war broke out on September 1, 1939, represented
a vast agricultural area, dotted here and there with industrial centres, not devoid of a decided elementary prosperity, although
awaiting many necessary developments, and hampered - as was the whole of Poland - by an eveident lack of capital.
The present condition of these provinces cannot be understood or equitably judged without
reference to their political history. It is all the more necessary to keep the historical past in mind when considering the
ethnographical aspect as well as the psychology of the population.
Of the territory at present occupied by the Bolsheviks every square mile had belonged to
the Polish Commonwealth ever since the 14th century. The southern part was conquered from the Hungarians (1340-1352) by Casimir
the Great. The northern part was included in the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1386.
The two countries after a period of purely personal union became a homogenous State in
1569. For centuries the whole political and cultural life of these countries has theretofore been Polish. It is an anachronism
to speak of nationalist movements when referring to bygone centuries, and Poland always was a country of outstanding tolerance.
Whereas the religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th centuries led to bloody wars in the whole of Western Europe, in Poland
they remained entirely within the spiritual sphere. It is largely to be attributed to this tolerance that in the south-eastern
provinces of Poland, which stretched in those days beyond the Dnieper, the adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church remained
very numerous. When the power of the Polish state declined, this religious minority became a tool in the hands of the rulers
of Moscow, who planned its disintegration.
Later violent social upheavals and military revolts of the Cossacks
foreshadowed the appearance of modern Ukrainian aspirations. Nevertheless it must be borne in mind that from the 14th century
an uninterrupted flow of Polish colonists made its way towards the East, very strongly affecting the ethnographical aspect
of these regions.
The Polish territory at present under Soviet occupation represents
some 74,700 square miles, with about 12,000,000 inhabitants, that is to say, almost exactly one-half of the area and roughly
one-third of the population of the entire country. According to the census of 1931, of the inhabitants 4.5 million were Poles,
over 4 million Ruthenians (or Ukrainians), over 1 million White Russians, over 1 million Jews, about 150,000 Russians, 90,000
Germans, about 40,000 Czechs and about 40,000 Lithuanians.
The entire Ukrainian or Ruthenian population is grouped in the
four provinces of the South-East, whereas the largest grouping of White Russians is to be found in the province of Polesie
- containing the marshes of the Prypec - in the province of Nowogrodek and the Eastern part of the province of Bialystok.
The northern territories adjoining the district of Wilno, handed over to the Lithuanians, though eccentrically situated, contain
a very high percentage of Polish population, reaching 90% in some parishes.
The whole Polish population is Roman Catholic. Those who claim
to be White Russians are most frequently followers of the Orthodox church, if they do not belong to numerous sects which still
continue to develop in certain parts. The Ukrainian population of Volhynia is on the whole Orthodox, whereas in the former
Austrian territories, it belongs almost exclusively to the Greek Uniate Church. (* In 1594 a Church Union was brought about
in Poland. At that time a considerable part of the Greek Orthodox Church in Poland submitted to Rome, but retained oriental
ritual and ancient Slavonic liturgy. Known as the Uniate Church, it was wide-spread in eastern Poland. Ruthlessly suppressed
by the Tsarist Government and Orthodox Russia, it remained a characteristic feature of "Eastern Galicia" under Austrian rule
and was claimed as a national religion by the Ruthenians, especially since the Ukrainian movement has become conspicuous.)
It is, therefore, an outstanding feature of the situation that no less than 8 million Catholics of the two rites have been
subjected to Bolshevik domination, even if we do not take into account that hundreds of thousands of refugees, who found themselves
in the occupied area, profess the same faith. Jews are fairly uniformly scattered over the whole territory, but mostly grouped
in the cities and small towns.
First days of Occupation
The first contacts between the population of Poland and the Bolsheviks - who for twenty
years had been kept beyond a fortified border - aroused profound astonishment on both sides. All witnesses are unanimous in
stating that the Bolshevik troops on entering this part of Poland (which was generally regarded as a poor and backward region)
were seized with admiration for the extraordinary wealth and abundance of the country into which they marched.
On the other hand, even the poorest (Polish) peasants were startled by the appearance of
extreme misery of the invading troops. It is true that they possessed tanks and long columns of lorries, but the soldiers
themselves were in rags, they looked underfed and were generally low-spirited. Shrewd observers soon discovered that demonstrations
of motorised forces often consisted in a circular movement intended to make their number appear more formidable. The machines
broke down frequently, and Bolshevik vehicles towed by Polish cars became a familiar sight.
The Bolshevik troops were generally well disciplined and evidently provided with ample
money to buy any goods which seemed to them specially attractive. The shops in Eastern towns of Poland - three weeks
after the mobilisation and diverse passages of troops and refugees - were certainly not well supplied, but watches, sweets,
and various trifling objects of doubtful value, such as fly-paper, seemed to delight the invaders particularly.
In one case known to the author a Russian non-commissioned officer in Wilno hesitated in
exchanging a barrel of petroleum for a watch, but showed joyful surprise on ascertaining that the watch actually worked and
surrendered his barrel without any further delay. A commissar found such delight in a hat adorned with a red feather that
he purchased half a dozen on the spot. In Wilno two "comrades" of the fair sex created a sensation on appearing in the theatre
in dainty nightgowns, which they had purchased and mistaken for gorgeous evening dresses.
Unfortunatley, these comic incidents were only a prelude to tragic happenings which were
to follow. Even so, they contributed towards the complete exhaustion of the small reserves of many goods which still existed
in the occupied areas.
The first impression which the Russian invasion produced seemed to indicate that it might
be limited to a military occupation, leaving country and people more or less in the situation which had previously existed.
Business was allowed to be carried on, and employees in private and public undertakings were ordered to remain at their posts.
The practice of religion was not visibly interfered with. Soon, however, the country, already flooded with immense crowds
of refugees from the West of Poland retreating before the German invasion, witnessed a new tide of emigration from the
East. Officers' families, civil administrators, commissars of different ranks made their appearance and above all the O.G.P.U.,
the dreaded political police, undertook its familiar tasks, and it became evident that the new rulers were bent
upon reducing the seized provinces radically and mercilessly to the state and conditions prevailing in Soviet Russia.
Trouble started when accomodations for the newcomers had to be found. For the use of the
Muscovite bureaucracy lodgings were seized in the towns, often crowded and with limited housing, as a result of damage done
during the war. At the same time, the Bolshevik doctrine was applied that every room should accomodate no fewer than two persons.
The inhabitants' belongings were also subjected to strict regulations, inspired by the
high principle that one change of clothes and underwear satisfies all legitimate aspirations of the individual. Everything
in excess of this was liable to be confiscated. Numerous roving gangs, often consisting of the very scum of society, offered
their services and undertook the task of searching apartments by day and night, laying hands on anything of value. Goods assembled
in this way were exported into Russia, notwithstanding the recurrent assurance: "We have everything, and you shall also have
The Soviet officials and their families produced an impression similar to that which accompanied
the military invasion. "The women," writes an eye-witness, " wore rags wrapped round their feet or felt slippers, instead
of shoes: they brought all their family belongings in one battered suitcase, and sometimes even an iron bedstead. Bedding
was not known to them and the luxury of fresh linen was never dreamed of in the Soviet Republic, even by dignitaries and important
women commissars. The pick of the Soviets sent out for display to this bourgeois country were ignorant of the simplest arrangements
of everyday life. Accustomed to being herded together, they did not understand the superfluous habit of enjoying individual
lodgings: bathrooms and kitchens they considered as uncanny inventions, and their way of feeding and housekeeping could -
by its extreme misery and primitivity - only make one think of the simplicity of requirements attributed to cave-dwellers."
But personal belongings were in no way the sole object of measures amounting to seizure
and spoliation. Under one pretext or another, be it reorganisation, nationalisation, or any other formula in which the Bolshevik
terminology abounds, the whole country, as time went on, was subjected to the most ruthless plunder. It must be observed,
however, that the invaders acted step by step and with a great deal of cunning. They did not take extreme measures at once,
but availed themselves of all the possibilities which every phase of their proceedings afforded them.
Most Polish officials and employees had received three months' salary in advance before
the withdrawl of the Polish forces. Here then the Soviets considered themselves as having simply taken the place of the former
authorities and institutions and made these people work without pay for three months, at the expiration of which most of them
Trade was allowed to be carried on as long as the stocks of goods lasted, and Polish currency
was maintained as legal tender. The value of the Polish zloty was fixed as equal to that of the rouble. As the current
rate was 12 to 1, all transactions were carried on in zloty and the merchants came into possession of considerable sums in
cash received for their stocks - which they sold out. The whole life of the population continued to be relatively normal.
Then, suddenly, on December 21, 1939, the zloty was declared as withdrawn from circulation - no equivalent whatever being
provided for the unfortunate possessors, only a few insignificant exceptions were made in favour of certain public institutions.
Simultaneously, all bank deposits above 300 zloty were seized, and the amount thus wantonly
suppressed amounted to 1,500 million zloty, or 60,000,000 British pounds sterling. (* The zloty, still in circulation
within the German occupation, preserved a certain value, but it fell in relation to the rouble to between 25 per cent and
50 per cent of its former rate of exchange, and became an object of every kind of unscrupulous transaction on the "black
bourse," with all the misery and hardship, which is the lot of the public under such circumstances.)
The sudden abolition of the zloty meant the destruction of such humble remnants of well-being
as still existed in the country.
Prices soared and the markets showed a sudden lack of many commodities, as the country
people would not sell their produce for a currency which they distrusted. It was then that a system of barter began to develop
on a large scale, and the standard of living experienced a violent depression.
"Nationalism" Of Property
More or less simultaneously the process of nationalisation of commerce was put into practice.
In reality it amounted to the seizure of all available stocks of goods, especially in the wholesale stores where some quantities
still existed. All these supplies were carried off to Russia. The value of goods thus seized in the city of Lwow alone is
estimated at about 400,000,000 pre-war zloty or 15,000,000 British pounds sterling - and at about 80,000,000 British pounds
sterling in the whole occupied area. Of the 8,500 shops existing in Lwow, 6,500 were in consequence closed, and of the rest,
only 500 remained in the hands of their proprietors; 1,500 were transformed into co-operative societies of different kinds,
subject to incessant inroads by the Soviet authorities, and carrying on in a most precarious way.
At the same time all buildings were declared to be the property of the people, and it is
only with the greatest effort that the proprietors of small houses (used as their personal residence) succeeded in preserving
the use of them. But this was in the larger centres; in the provincial towns the arbitrary decisions of local officials
were in no way restrained.
Industrial establishments met with a similar fate, but were subjected to special proceeedings
in which the old nomadic instinct of carrying off loot seemed to be uppermost. Thus in Wilno during the first Bolshevik occupation
the workmen employed in a well-known factory of wireless receivers, Electrit, were induced to carry unanimously a
resolution that the whole establishment be transferred to Smolensk. The same thing happened to the Courland Oil Factory. The
plant was actually removed to Russia, the workmen and a good many others volunteered for work in the new locality. Some 1,000
persons, families included, decided to move. They, however, soon returned to Wilno, where in the meantime they had lost their
livelihood. They were utterly disgusted with the conditions of life in Russia.
In accordance with a motion passed by the "National Assembly of Western Ukraine and White
Russia," a similar fate was in store for many of the 9,000 factories of different kinds and sizes in the occupied area. Naturally
the largest and best-equipped establishments were first to attract the attention of the ingenious reorganizers. The plant
of the up-to-date and important sugar factories of Chodorow and Horodenka, south-east of Lwow, those of the electric works
of Czortkow, Kolomyja and Stanislawow in the same region, the fine spinning jennies and looms of many firms in Bialystok have
disappeared, to supplement the flourishing industry of Soviet Russia. The railway workshops in Lwow, Stanislawow and Przemysl
were emptied, and even the equipment and furniture of the Agrarian Bank in Lwow and of many other public institutions was
not allowed to remain. Movable goods were taken away, wherever they could be found, such as timber from the Polish State forests,
hay and straw from the big estates, reserves of grain, sugar, tobacco, of spirits owned by the State Monopoly, cement, hides
and textiles, iron ore, coal, wrought iron and pig-iron, also medical supplies, such as cotton wool, bandages, iodine.
In this respect the treatment which the country received at the hands of its invaders,
who claimed to have come to protect it against possible hazards, bears a close resemblance to the Tatar invasions of these
parts in former centuries.
The fate of owners of industrial establishments as well as of the directing staffs was
that meted out to all persons tarnished with the sin of possessing property. In the country most of the mansions were plundered
or burnt down in the first days of the invasions, valuable collections were destroyed, libraries were scattered and dumped
into rivers. The landowners fled, frequently taking with them only the clothes in which they stood. Much less seemed to threaten
the independant craftsmen of different trades who possessed 67,000 workshops in the occupied provinces, with an annual output
estimated at 1,200 million zloty. But the men of this class also were ruined, for they sold out in the first months of the
occupation such stocks of ready articles as they possessed. The money they held was suddenly abolished, and they ended by
being thrown out of work because of the total lack of raw materials, which had completely disappeared from the markets. In
exchange for all the goods carried away, the much-vaunted national stores introduced by the Bolsheviks contrived, after
four months' intense efforts, to offer the public some very inferior matches, dirty salt, and soap and herrings, the latter
remarkable for their reek of cod-liver oil. Stationary stores in some places only contain portraits of Lenin and Stalin beside
gramophone records of the "International."
The Position of the Workers
The 120,000 workmen employed in the few industrial centres of the occupied provinces may
have expected that they would be a favoured group of society, since a "Government of peasants and workmen" had taken over
control. But even this minority met with nothing but bitter disappointment. The Bolsheviks boasted that they were going to
suppress unemployment and raise output. As a rule workmen were not dismissed unless they happened to displease their new masters.
On the contrary, the hours of labour were reduced to six or seven and considerable numbers of new hands were taken on. To
have been imprisoned on the charge of Communist propaganda was a first-class qualification, regardless of technical ability.
Soon it became evident that the much-advertised achievements of "shock workers," "order-wearers," and other "heroes of labour"
in Soviet Russia were considerably inferior to the normal output obtained by less pretentious workmen in other countries.
In any case the general collapse of trade could scarcely result in any benefit to the working
class. What happened in reality was a precipitate decline in the standard of living to a level which people in Western Europe
can scarcely imagine. As a result of the substitution of the rouble for the zloty, the monthly earnings of workmen in
Eastern Poland amount to 100-150 roubles, whereas prices have reached an unprecedentedly high level.
In February, 1940, the free market price in Lwow of one kilogram of potatoes was 5-6 roubles,
that of bread 5 roubles, of meat 30-50 roubles, of butter and lard 70 roubles. In Bialystok fifty kilograms of Rye cost 700
roubles; one kilogram of sugar, 50-75 roubles; one kilogram of tea, 700 roubles. In Luck the price of butter was 30 roubles,
in Bialystok 75 roubles. A pair of shoes in Lwow could easily be sold for 500 roubles. Of course, the official prices in the
"national" stores are considerably lower, but there the supplies are so insufficient hat they never satisfy the demand.
Nothing can be purchased without the drudgery of standing endlessly in queues and obtaining ration cards - which are refused
to many people. The life of a working-man's family can be easily imagined, seeing that he is obliged to live on 150 roubles
a month. Women have to secure jobs at all costs - an additional hardship which the Soviet regime brings with it.
The Position of the Peasants
According to current ideas, after the workmen, the peasants should have drawn some benefit
from the Soviet occupation. In the opinion of an important London periodical the peasants are for the time being pleased with
the change, having at last received the land for which they longed. (* The Economist of May 25, 1940, p. 931. The
Economist has since repeated the same assertions concerning the Soviet "agrarian reform' in Eastern Poland. The issue
of October 5 contains a survey of conditions in that part of the country which, on the whole, bears out the picture drawn
in this pamphlet. We feel bound, however, to question the allegation that the "Soviets won the political support of the peasantry."
We maintain that even the material conditions for this did not exist. What great acheivements can have been attained considering
that eight years before the Bolshevik invasion, large estates represented the following percentage of the total area under
cultivation: 13.5 in the voivodship of Lwow, 15.5 in Stanislawow, 19.3 in Tarnopol, 11.1 in Volhynia, 16.5 in Nowogrodek,
19.1 in Wilno, 9.7 in Bialystok and 22 in Polesie.; these figures have very considerably declined since. In speaking of the
"obsolete semi-fuedal structure with its overgrown and backward landlord class" as being characteristic of agriculture in
Eastern Poland, The Economist's contributor is merely repeating the hackneyed slogans of Soviet propaganda. Furthermore
he states that 400 collective farms were established in Western Ukraine and 650 in Western White Russia. This only confirms
our information, according to which a considerable proportion of estates were not distributed to the peasants, but maintained
as large enterprises, working under Soviet control instead of being managed by their owners.) It is a great mistake to over-estimate
the area of agricultural land existing as large estates in Poland. In reality, in 1939 it averaged at about 16 per cent
of the entire cultivable area, including meadows and pastureland, and was still being parcelled out rapidly. Even the complete
distribution of this land could not have had a decisive influence on the state of the peasant community as a whole, which
in Poland represented well over three million holdings, one-half of which is under Bolshevik occupation. The sudden destruction
of large agricultural enterprises was an additional blow to the welfare of the countryside. Not only did many lanourers lose
their work, but tremendous waste occurred - as is always the case in situations of this kind. Horses are scarce where
armies have passed, the harvest was destroyed or removed by Bolshevik requisitions - if by no other means - livestock was
actually distributed among the peasants, but was killed by them before winter set in, partly owing to lack of fodder, and
partly to forestall Bolshevik regulations - which were very soon enforced. All livestock was registered and the sale of it
prohibited without the consent of the local committee, which was in turn subjected to the control of many other authorities.
It was also soon clear that the distribution of land was in fact illusory, as the greatest pressure was being exercised on
the peasants to pool their allotments and to go in for collective farming on kolkhoz lines. All reports
also agree that many estates have remained in the hands of the authorities and become State enterprises.
But the actual condition of the country people was influenced for the worse by the ruin
of the natural and necessary exchange between town and country, even more than by the effect of these chaotic measures. The
country folk have little enough to sell, and now there is nothing to buy. Clothes, shoes, underwear have become an unattainable
luxury, ironware a precious and uncommon thing. Sheepskin coats - a necessity in that climate and the cherished belongings
of every family - have frequently been requisitioned. In Lida, soon after the occupation, the sight of a wagon-load of primitive
moccasins - the footgear of the poor - produced a painful sensation. It was, no doubt, intended to be an imposing contribution
towards the well-being of the newly aquired province.
Apart from purely material wants and deficiencies, the life of the Polish country population
under Soviet rule has been profoundly troubled and depressed by many other causes. Lavish words and fine promises have not
prevented the Soviets from imposing enormous taxes exceeding the boldest estimate of the taxpayers' possibilities, taxes which
sometimes amount to 230 roubles per hectare (about 2 acres). Also, from the first, Muscovite policy, running true to type,
has not been satisfied with the ruin of the landlords and the intellectual classes, and has made the extermination of the
richer peasants, or kulaks, one of its aims - in the prosecution of which it does not recoil from the most drastic
These men, wantonly accused of sabotaging the Government plans for the formation of large
collective farms, were seized and deported to distant districts in Russia. The practice is well known from extensive application
in the U.S.S.R.
The area under Soviet occupation is too vast to have anything like a homogenous distribution
of property. In the south, in better conditions of climate and soil, small and very small holdings are the rule. In the north,
larger peasant farms are very frequent. They were regarded in Poland, as in other countries, as a particularly valuable class
of property both economically and socially. New holdings were not allowed to be formed below a certain size. In the east,
the owners were often new settlers from the western provinces, sometimes ex-servicemen who had obtained land under a special
law. The soulless mechanism of Bolshevik "reform" has struck these men with customary cruelty. And here we come to another
and more tragic subject.
Forced Labour and Political Persecution
It was generally remarked that on first entering Poland the Bolsheviks proceeded with relative
gentleness and moderation. The army was not used for measures of political repression. It was only when they had a strong
grip on everything, when the entire personnel of their administrative offices had arrived, when local elements, well adapted
to the job they were to carry out, were sufficiently organized and above all, when the dreaded political police was well in
control, that the full blessings of the new order began to be showered on the population. The first step was the arrest of
many persons active in public life. In Lwow the mayor, the deputy mayor (a Jew), two other members of the municipality, three
members of the Polish Diet (one Jew and two Ukrainians), and two old professors who had been leaders of the Polish National
Party were among the first to be arrested - and in some cases have died in prison since. In Wilno the proceedings were similar.
A former rector of the university, a director of the Agrarian Bank, the president of the Court of Appeal, a well-known member
of agricultural organisations, a barrister of repute and the director of a large fishery concern were among the first victims.
After that in many places (as for instance in Wilno, during its first occupation) strong
pressure equivalent to constraint was brought to bear on specialists of all kinds, doctors and nurses, engineers and fitters,
university professors and assistants, to prevail upon them to offer their services to the Soviet Government. At the same time
certain categories of people were singled out for special reprisals. In this way the remnants of the Polish police were exterminated,
while the whole personnel of the administration of justice - judges, public prosecutors and prison inspectors - were carried
off to unknown places. The same fate overtook the entire forestry service, whether private or State-owned, although at first
these men had been encouraged to remain at their posts. Soon it was known in all quarters remaining in contact with the occupied
provinces through the refugees that any person suspected by the Bolsheviks would disappear in this way. To be suspected it
was sufficient to be prominent in any sphere. To understand the frequency of these cases, it must be borne in mind that under
Soviet rule the whole population is spied upon through an elaborate system of organizations, "cells," committees, etc., so
that even those in the humblest position are apt to fall victim of denunciation. And this appears to be a method which Bolsheviks
and Nazis have in common - to paralyse the community they wish to enslave by striking at the nerve centres even of a local
and subordinate type.
Immediately after the abolition of the zloty, which deliberately deprived great numbers
of people of their means of subsistence, special delegates made their appearance in Poland to engage workers for various enterprises
in Russia. In fact, in Lwow, several thousand people registered for the coal mines of the Don, eight thousand for the forests
of Samara and Kazan, but in other places the results were much more meagre. Consequently, compulsory registration was ordered,
the pressure became direct and the ways of securing the necessary labour more and more brutal. That the inexhaustible
reserve of man-power in Russia should be unable to supply workmen to the relatively modest industry it possesses may
well be an object of wonder. It would appear that the conditions of work are such as to be exceedingly unattractive to men
able to live otherwise. However that may be, the barbarous practice of deportation, a revival of the darkest ages of mankind,
increased rapidly within a few weeks, and whole villages were carried off.
First applied to provide forced labour, it was practised more and more as a wholesale reprisal.
In the province of Polesie it was used against villages in arrear with tax payment and grain deliveries, but it occurred in
the East Carpathians no less than in the neighbourhood of Bialystok, where the village of Zacisze was doomed to destruction
in the same way. Another excuse for the atrocious proceedings appeared when train-loads of Poles were dumped into the German
occupation, as caravans of Jews were being dumped on the Bolshevik border. To be carried on in a humane way, such operations
would have demanded thorough and elaborate preparation. In reality they were put into effect under the most appalling conditions,
the exceptionally heavy winter adding to the unutterable sufferings of the victims. Unheated cattle trains were the general
mode of conveyance and a very high mortality resulted, especially among the children. Not the slightest regard was ever paid
to the most elementary human feelings or necessities. Illness, childbirth, the absence of the nearest members of the family
were no hindrance to the relentless execution of cruel orders. As a rule raids of the doomed houses or villages were made
suddenly and at night, much in the style of slave hunting of former times. It was useless to ask for reasons, and any mode
of appeal was unknown. In general, the dealings of the Bolsheviks are not marked by consistency and clear principles of action.
The chaos produced by contradictory measures and arbitrary orders is one of the additional plagues attendant on their rule,
and the unhappy population is always the sufferer.
The night of February 8 to 9, 1940, was a memorable date in the development of this hideous
system. Hundreds of villages were surrounded by the O.G.P.U. and militia, and whole families were seized. Neither were old
people, women in childbed or new-born children spared. But worse was to come. Between the 4th and 6th of March, ten trains
passed into Russia through the station of Baranowicze, each carrying separate loads of men, women and children, which showed
that here unfortunate families had been torn asunder.
And then this wholesale transfer of vast groups of the population became an outstanding feature in
Bolshevik policy in Poland. Certainly it serves some large scheme. And in this character it is not new. It was first put into
practice in Russia in 1929 and continued in 1936 and 1937. In the Polish frontier regions, on the river Zbrucz and further
north, it was well known that the population of the adjoining Soviet territories had completely changed twice in the period
of eight years. There was the question of establishing a defensive belt 50 kilometres wide, and also of removing Polish and
Ukrainian elements suspected of disloyal tendencies. This appeared to be the chief aim. Now the same plan was to be realised
along the new border on the Carpathians, which afforded the Poles certain facilities for reaching neutral countries. Something
similar, on a smaller scale, was carried out on the new Lithuanian frontier.
Under this plan 5,000 persons were deported from the districts of Kuty (on the Rumanian
frontier) and Kolomyja, 1,000 families from Podhajce, 1,400 persons from Drohobycz.
These figures show that a complete evacuation of these densely populated areas was not
acheived. But the sudden shifting of whole communities into the depths of Asia has taken the place of the old Tsarist practice
of sending individual convicts to Siberia - a practice which was so justly stigmatised in the 19th century.
It has not been abandoned by the successors of the Tsarist regime. Bolshevik justice, like
Nazi justice, is not over-scrupulous. Regular sentences are reserved for a small minority. Suspects are deported to concentration
camps or places of hard labour. The choice in Polish territory is wide.
At one time the prisons in Lwow held 20,000 people. On January 29 and 31, 1940, 850 arrests
were made in that city. Two thousand persons were in gaol in the small town of Czortkow. So in one form or another, these
ghastly practices continue under various pretexts. First it is the removal of refractory peasants, then it is the forcing
of labour, the transportation of refugees, the relief of unemployment, or simply the exile of political prisoners. The Soviet
government is shifting the population of the country it has seized in accordance with its own motives and plans, and in a
matter that has not been practised since the days of the Assyrian despots. The aim is clear: all people capable of independant
judgement, the educated classes, and all those accustomed to a certain measure of independence, such as the peasant farmers
- if they cannot be starved out rapidly enough - must be removed lest they should hinder the introduction of Communist institutions.
Poles and Ukrainians must disappear in order to make room for the Russian element. Russians are favoured everywhere because
they are already cowed into submission, and are therefore more reliable. The Russian language is encouraged everywhere.
Revolution in Russia to-day seems to be advancing hand in hand with imperialism, to which
the Poles have fallen victims. In February it was estimated that 100,000 people had been removed from their native country
in one week, as about 100 trains with deportees are known to have passed through the station of Podwoloczyska during that
time. Between the 12th and the 15th of April about 25,000 people were arrested in the city of Lwow alone, and taken to some
unknown destination. The figures, as given here, do not seem to be exaggerated, if we recall Russian practices in the
past years. The victims of these measures are chiefly the Polish educated class, officers' families being picked out for specially
In Western "White Russia" wholesale arrests and deportations were made on the 25th and
26th of April. The first to be rounded up were the families of military men, policemen, foresters, railway employees and political
prisoners, then also people prominent in any sphere. Thus in Lida some 700 families were affected. The prisoners were herded
in railway trucks, which remained at the station for several days, waiting for new contingents from other districts to join
On the 28th, permission having been granted for the relatives to visit those in the train,
practically the whole population of the town, without distinction of language and religion, flocked to the railway station
carrying parcels with food. This invasion of the station alarmed the military guard. Quickly a locomotive was put before the
train and the signal for departure given. At that moment some 200 persons advanced and threw themselves down across the
rails to prevent the train from passing. Strong detachments of infantry were sent for to clear the line and another 100 arrests
were made. As the train moved out of the station the deportees and the crowd on the platform joined in singing the national
The atmosphere attending these proceedings is not merely one of revolutionary commotion,
but also one of national oppression. At the outset the Ukrainians were played off against the Poles. Old grievances were encouraged
and led to many cruel outrages against Polish neighbours. The wholesale release of convicts often gave the first impulse.
Later, however, the common suffering at the hands of the invader made them forget old injuries and brought them together.
"An incredible force," wrote a correspondent recently, "has been developed: both sides have striven to forget the past
, to understand each other and to form a joint Polish and Ukrainian 'peasant' front."
Similar feelings have been roused in other parts of the country. Men speaking the White
Russian dialect were heard saying "For twenty years the Polish Government failed to teach us who we are. But now we know."
There are on record numerous instances of Ukrainian families protecting Polish families against assaults.
Propaganda, Education and Religion
This widespread revulsion of feeling has produced results which were quite contrary to
those sought by the Bosheviks. It was a reaction not only against material wrong, but also against moral pressure and debasement
which human beings who have known better things could not bear. Moral torture is one of the features of Bolshevik rule; it
is not unknown to men familiar with conditions in the U.S.S.R., and at present frequently witnessed by innumerable involuntary
observers in Poland. Ostensibly the whole administration of the Soviets is based on local and professional autonomy, on the
initiative of groups and "cells" of different rank and order. In reality all the subordinate bodies are simply instruments
in the hands of those in power.
In a recent letter from Soviet occupied Poland we read: "In the initial stage, local factory
committees were formed in the occupied area to win the workers over and the workers themselves assumed control. But very soon,
after a short period of demonstrations, they were assigned to their real task of keeping the zeal and the state of mind of
their comrades under observation. Actual control was taken over by Party commissars sent from distant parts, men who never
work themselves and form a sort of privileged upper class in the Soviets. Lavish of attractive sounding catchwords, they were
in unrestrained control of the toil and way of thinking of the workers and could even interfere with their outward appearance.
It was highly characteristic that in one of the factories in Lwow, the first order of the commissar was that all men had to
shave their moustaches."
In a short time people came to see that although under the Soviets the working classes
are declared to occupy a privileged position, their privileges in reality are limited to forming delegations to various unions
and councils, where they are called upon noisily to approve the decisions of the governing group and to give them wide publicity
as truly revolutionary measures. Labour meetings have no other choice than to express opinions in strict keeping with
the course steered by those in power, and to carry motions for raising the output of work for the benefit of "socialist
construction." Any attempt at true independence of judgement and genuine criticism is soon stifled. In reality, therefore,
the ordinary workman is less important than in any country governed by the"middle classes."
The peasant is even worse off and is given every opportnity to feel it in occupied Poland.
There is no question of any peasant self-government. The collective farms are made to work for the delivery of assigned quotas,
and the country committees take orders from the bureaucrats without having the slightest chance of discussing them beforehand.
As the intellectual worker does not belong to a privileged group, his lot is, if possible,
even harder and the claims on the complete surrender of his critical faculties more absolute. Flattery and servility are prevalent
everywhere, and anybody wishing to succeed and secure any position has to resort to them. "Our life is happy and joyful,"
"Our army is heroic and invincible," "Comrade Stalin is the leader of the international proletariat, the sun of humanity," "Nothing
can be happier than to live under the Stalin constitution, the most democratic in the world" - these phrases have to be repeated
on every occasion. Otherwise one is immediately suspected of being a "Trotskyist dog," or "an agent of the criminal West European
capitalists." To secure or retain a job, one must submit to the ordeal of being schooled in Communist doctrines, generally
in the form of special evening classes. These are mainly concerned with the defilement of everything Polish, everything
connected with democratic culture or the Christian faith, as well as blasphemy and atheism.
In a general way it must be stated that there is no education under the Soviets which is
not reduced to propaganda. A person who recently managed to send a letter abroad says: "The Red circles and clubs, the news
posters, the debating societies for promoting education, the workmen's universities, the different ways of raising and developing
the masses intellectually lead in reality to nothing more than the obliteration of truth and a distorted picture of reality
by putting it into the frame of officially organised opinion. As a result of this kind of education the Bolsheviks strike
one as being like big children, monkeys or parrots, who have aquired mechanically the art of reading and certain strangely
contorted pieces of knowledge. They give the impression of being absolutely incapable of reasoning in the simplest way, of
criticising intelligently, of drawing a logical conclusion or of associating ideas in a way familiar to any brain which functions
A prodigious proficiency in expounding the Communist dogma is combined with the most shocking
ignorance and the complete absence of rudimentary education in every other department of knowledge. It is well known that
industry in Russia, highly developed in certain directions, is greatly hampered by its incapacity to overcome elementary difficulties
which demand independent judgement and rapid application. It can also easily be imagined to what level medical science has
sunk, considering that the term of study has been reduced to three years, and may be taken on the strength of an elementary
The prevailing atmosphere is obvious from one striking event which took place in the University
of Lwow. Here a statue of the Blessed Virgin was removed and replaced by a kind of altar in honour of Stalin, in front of
which the red lamp continues to burn. Threatening as these symptoms of triumphant obscurantism are for the future, they are
not the most painful point of Poland's contact with Bolshevik educational methods.
Seeing their incapacity of making headway in their endeavour to win over the population,
the Bolsheviks at present direct all their efforts towards inculcating their principles in the young generation. As they have
absolute power and no scruples, their methods can easily be imagined. After having done away with most of the former teachers,
they replace them by their own men, without the slightest regard to qualification. Besides, four or five commissars are attached
to every school in order to supervise the methods of teaching, and to spy on the teachers. Religion, Polish History and Literature,
Latin and Greek, were immediately removed from the curriculum, but the doctrines of Marx and the principles of the Stalin
constitution - "the most magnificent in the world" - are driven home to the unfortunate children, even in the elementary
classes. All librairies and bookshops have, of course, been methodically purged, and the schools submerged with worthless
propagandist literature. Then the children are forced to take part in meetings, lectures and debates in which the Soviet officers
and specialised propagandists direct their criticism against the bourgeois regime, and against Poland as a country controlled
by "landlords." This teaching is intended to destroy their hearers' faith in everything they had hitherto been taught to love
and respect. Immediate impressions and recent experiences did not appeal very strongly to the children's minds in favour of
Bolshevism as the shortest cut to happiness, and they often gave spirited answers or put embarrasing questions to their teachers.
But fair play is something which is not to be expected under a totalitarian government. It is not uncommon for schoolchildren
to disappear like any adult suspected of political heterodoxy. Not only is every imaginable method of spying and trapping
applied to the children themselves, but the greatest efforts are made to induce them to spy and denounce each other or members
of their families. Apart from more drastic methods employed , this is represented to the children as "heroism in the
service of the working class."
Atheism is of great importance in the Bolshevik system of education. Even children in nurseries
are subjected to special training in this branch of wisdom. Everything that we heard about the U.S.S.R. in this respect
has been verified in Poland. Even the crude experiment of a prayer to God remaining vain and the invocation of Stalin ending
in the distribution of rolls to the hungry children, has been applied. But practices no less despicable and even more loathsome
are in use. A sort of maniacal stress is laid on the dissolution of morals. Soviet officers have been called upon to make
disclosures concerning sexual life in classrooms attended by little girls, and to explain that chastity was a prejudice of
the decayed bougeoisie. The helpless indignation of parents forced to put up with these shameless inroads on everything they
hold sacred can be imagined. Their helplessness and misery are callously discounted by those in power. Many a starving mother
has consented to send her child to a Bolshevik boarding school simply to save it from starvation. Children without parents
are of course subjected to Communist education. Religious orders concerning themselves with the care of destitute children
have been evicted and replaced by Bolshevik educationists, trained in all the devices of propaganda.
It is in keeping with this that every effort is made to undermine all feelings of respect
and trust of child towards their parents. Religious practices are not directly forbidden, but are hindered and hampered by
every possible means. Sunday mornings or Feast days are picked out for meetings, demonstrations or additional occupation in
the schools. The same method of unrelenting, though somewhat disguised, destruction is put into practice against the religious
communities throughout the country. Their property is not confiscated, but burdened with enormous taxes and seized under the
pretext of their being in arrears. In this way the important educational establishment for poor boys directed by the Salesians
in Bialystok was suppressed, as was the convent of the Capuchines in Lwow and the well known Jesuit college in Chyrow. The
Soviet Atheist League was also let loose on the country and its president Jaroslawski recently boasted of having had 4,000
Polish priests sent to Siberia. Whether some of them were of the Greek Rite, we do not know, but it is a notorious fact
that every effort is made to starve the Ukrainian clergy, even their children being excluded from receiving any employment.
(* In the Greek Catholic or "Uniate" Church celibacy is not obligatory for priests, and until quite recently the vast majority
of them were married.) That all Ukrainian organisations, which were very numerous, such as educational societies, private
schools, reading circles, sport clubs, co-operative societies - have been suppressed need scarcely be mentioned.
The state of utter destitution to which all people dependent on the Polish State have been
reduced is also evident. The whole population of the country is now beggared. And still it is a fact that of those who - with
their consent or without - have found themselves in Russia, great numbers have used every possible device to return, preferring
a shattered existence at home to life in a country laid waste by twenty years of Bolshevik sway. A letter recently received
throws light on the conditions and moral atmosphere in which people in Eastern Poland are compelled to live. A journalist
writes from Wilno to a friend who had left the country earlier:
"Despite all my great efforts, and as I was several times arrested, I have not succeeded
in getting across to Hungary or to Rumania. Lithuania remained as a last resort, and that is the way I chose. A man accustomed
to a certain measure of liberty cannot endure existence in a totalitarian country. You have passed too short a time on Soviet
territory to be able to judge how burdensome life is there. And I do not speak of the most primitive comforts of life such
as lodging and food. You most likely know from the Press how things stand; one has to queue up from 8 to 10 hours to secure
a piece of bread; a kilogram of butter costs 50 roubles, a dinner 15, boots are unobtainable. In Warsaw we had no adequate
idea of the horror of life in a totalitarian State. We wrote about it, we talked about it, but we were far from understanding
the real state of things. We did not know how totalitarianism can debase a human being.
"Spies at every corner, arrests, the everlasting threat of being sent into the depths of
Russia, being searched in the streets, endlessley standing in queues to get bread, sugar, bootlaces - that was a normal working
day of our 'happy and joyous life.' And what is worse, the everlasting declarations, the applause, the greetings, the carrying
of motions. When certain words were pronounced one had to rise and applaud. And then the Press wrote of frantic applause.
Under these conditions, there is not a sound instinct in human nature which is not made to suffer, not a nerve which is not
put to special agony."
The plight of Poland, as all available information shows, is pathetic beyond expression.
Not only has she again been torn in two by hostile and aggressive neighbours. But she exemplifies before the world the effect
of the gigantic but soulless machinery contrived by totalitarian states, when directed against the body and the soul of a
living people. On the German side there is the monstrous conception of national interest which has turned the German nation
into a savage horde, coveting the spoils of an enslaved world. On the Russian side a relentless system built up on ruins and
blood for the alleged happiness of mankind is blindly crushing all human happiness, and waging a fierce war on those very
things which heretofore have been looked upon as the honour and nobility of man.
There is something fatal - or providential - in the history of nations. Long ago, the great
poets of Poland announced that she would have to suffer cruelly for a better future of the world. Generations of Poles have
striven to convince Western statesmen that her cause and the cause of European freedom were one. This point at least seems
to be clearly established by now.
Teresa Oszurko, Buffalo, New York.
(The continuation of a story begun on the home page at https://felsztyn.tripod.com/germaninvasion)
The Russians closed the border (to German occupied Poland) and a few months later
deported us to Siberia with other war "criminals" like intellectuals, land owners and officers of the Polish Armed Forces,
of whom thousands were murdered at Katyn and other yet to be discovered places. In many cases, when the man of the family
was in hiding, the women and children were arrested. One woman in our group was seized from a hospital bed with her newborn
The arrests always took place in the dark of night. At the time of our arrest, I was almost
twelve and quite cognizant of the Siberian climate, so my first conscious act, after being awakened in the middle of the night,
was to run to the cellar, followed by an armed guard, for our winter shoes.
Subconsciously, I must have expected our arrest. My parents told me that a few nights before,
I woke up and told them that we should run because we were going to be deported to Russia, after which I went promptly back
to sleep, with no memory of the incident next morning.
Father did go into hiding, but as soon as he heard that we were arrested, he gave himself up and joined us.
The amount of luggage we were allowed to take with us was very limited, so each of us put on as many items of clothing
as was possible to lessen the bulk of our baggage. At the last moment, mother grabbed our photo album and her hat. Grandma,
who refused to wear scarves in normal circumstances, tied one on her head instead of a hat, which was her normal headgear.
At the railroad station we were loaded on a cattle train. The cars were equipped with makeshift bunks for bigger capacity.
The toilet was a hole in the floor. Even with a screen made of a blanket, it was very embarrassing. No wonder everybody suffered
from an upset stomach. It wasn't until we passed the border that the doors were unlocked and we were allowed to go out to
use the very primitive toilet facilities.
When the train started to move again, we noticed that an elderly Jewish woman was missing. Her much older husband jumped
off the moving train and grabbed the bumper trying to stop it, and all the time he was yelling, Ho Maydaly! Ho Maydaly! But
Maydaly didn't show up. Much later we learned that she returned to Poland. Her poor husband climbed back onto the train resigned
to his fate. At that time the whole incident seemed hilariously funny to us kids, but for the poor man it was a tragedy.
After we passed Kharkov, a guard brought a pail of some concoction that was supposed to pass for food. Before anyone
dared to taste it, the train moved and a small boy sitting on a potty fell off the upper bunk right into the pail of food.
We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Talk about mixed emotions! Thank God we still had some provisions smuggled to us before
the train left the station in Poland.
We traveled on and on. At one of the small stations, my sister was almost left behind. She left the train to get some
bread from a store near the station. She had to wait in a line and prevent others from pushing in front of her, so she didn't
notice when the train started to move, without warning as usual. Mother ran after her, and both of them were pulled in while
the train was gathering speed. We knew that if she was left behind, we would never see her again.
In Kuybishev, we were loaded on trucks. Before we left on the next leg of the journey, we received a small portion of
bread. It looked like clay, and our parents worried that it may have an adverse effect on our already upset stomachs, but
the drivers - mostly women - declared that it was delicious. So it is true that hunger is the best cook.
The open trucks were powered by steam generated by a wood fire. (It was one of our jobs in the winter to supply the fuel
for them). The drivers maneuvered these trucks with unbelievable ease along narrow twisting roads cutting through the forest.
After some trepidation while crossing a small river on a man-powered ferry and pushing through miles and miles of woods, we
reached our destination - Altaysky Kray - or the province of Altay.
Our housing consisted of a couple of barracks, on a few acres of clearing, in the middle of nowhere. Before another barrack
was built and we moved to a room of our own, two families - ten people - occupied one room with two beds taking up most of
Early next morning everyone was sent to work in the woods. While the men cut grooves in the trees with special tools
to make the sap flow into small pots, the women scooped it into buckets and carried the sap to big vats placed centrally in
specific work stations.
The pay was laughable, but there was nothing to buy, except a small ration of bread that varied from dark and heavy to
darker and heavier. To add insult to injury, the Russian government deducted part of our earnings to pay for our transportation
Most of the children worked to get extra rations of bread, which otherwise were very small. At the end of the day's work,
it was hard to open the hand which had been holding the sap scoop.
Summers were not so bad, for we could supplement the lack of food with berries and other edible forest growth. Otherwise,
we exchanged clothes for potatoes and other vegetables in a nearby village. Most in demand were silk nightgowns, which the
wives of the local dignitaries sported as evening wear.
Shortly before winter, as an incentive to increase production, the fastest workers were offered permits to buy a cow
from the government on an easy payment plan. My father wasn't one of the fastest, but our foreman, who was a very decent guy,
convinced the officials that we deserved to be included in the lucky group. I can safely say that our cow kept us and others
less fortunate alive. We shared milk with the most needy. Among these was an old rabbi with a very frail daughter and a very
young son who were unable to fend for themselves.
Before the snow fell our Piastra - the cow - found her own fodder in the woods, while we tried to gather as much hay
for the winter as possible. But in spite of our efforts, the hay didn't last through the long winter months, so we were forced
to supply the need by stealing hay from sleds of visiting dignitaries. That was my first act of pilfering, but it kept Piastra
alive and the officials didn't miss it. We never stole anything from other people no matter how hungry we were, only from
the government that placed us in this desperate position.
Before Easter, a couple of Russian women came over the frozen river to exchange two chickens (probably stolen from a
collective farm) for bread, something of which they hadn't had any since the fall. They did not have any footwear either.
Their feet were wrapped in old rags. Mother, who always thought ahead, swapped our day's ration of bread for a chicken that
proved to be a very good layer. An egg almost every day meant a lot.
Every ten days we had a day off. That was the time we went to the village to get food in exchange for clothes. The nearest
one was several miles away. Walking there was nothing, but coming back with a heavy load of potatoes on one's back was no
picnic. Nevertheless, we were glad to have something to carry, for it meant a few days less of nagging hunger.
Otherwise, we spent our free time de-bugging our living quarters, which was really an exercise in futility, but one had
It may seem unbelievable that we were allowed to move so freely in the district, but actually there was no fear of anyone
trying to escape. There was no where to run to.
One day, Mrs. R., a widow with two young sons, went to the village on a working day and was unlucky enough to meet our
commandant, a member of the NKVD. The man grabbed the potatoes she carried on her back, threw them to the ground and stomped
on them as hard as he could. Well, Hanna wasn't going to let him get away with ruining her hard earned food supply. She grabbed
a heavy branch and clobbered him several times over the head. He was a bully, but unable to defend himself against Hanna's
fury. He would have liked to kill her, but his gun holster was just for show.
A few days after that incident, Hanna was charged with absence from work. (He wouldn't dare admit to the bite he
suffered at her hands). The case was tried in a small laundry room. After a few questions and some deliberation, she was fined
ten percent of her earnings. Before the court adjourned, Hanna dug out a tick, full of blood, from the front of her body and
dropping it on the judge's papers proclaimed loudly: "This is your livestock!" Everybody burst out laughing and Hanna's penalty
was doubled, but being a shrewd woman, she put most of her production on her son's worksheet, so twenty percent of almost
nothing wasn't much. And our foreman wasn't about to keep a check on her.
Our living conditions were below the poverty level. As finicky about food as I had been before the war, in Russia I learned
to eat everything edible and not so edible. Food parcels from Poland, though not numerous, were an enormous help. Alas, not
all of them reached the adressees. Such was the case of a parcel sent by the Red Cross to a Jewish family. Mr. M. walked several
miles to the post office only to find that the food had been substituted by bricks. Devastated, he swore to tell the world
about the thieves in Russia. He was arrested the same night and never heard from again.
So when we received notice from Inya's post office to pick up a parcel, my mother and sister set out without delay, on
a cold day, through deep snow, with the hope that our parcel wasn't tampered with. In those days, hope was the only emotion
that kept us going under the most trying conditions.
After several miles of trudging through the snow, a sled pulled by an old nag, stopped and offered my sister a lift.
With two people already occupying the sled, there was no room for two more. Mother was in a dilemma whether to keep my sister
with her and risk the cold weather, or let her travel with complete strangers. Mother noted that one of them was a woman,
and the second option won.
As it happened the driver was a young man of honorable intentions, or should I say that it was his aunt who had the intention
of marrying my sister to the young man. Playing the matchmaker, she listed her nephew's assets, which comprised a sled and
a horse and two sacks of potatoes, which made him a relatively rich man. On top of that, he happened to be very generous,
as he presented every member of the family they had just visited with a carrot. As hard as it is to believe, the gifts were
My sister declined the kind offer of marriage, which I thought was very selfish of her. After all, two sacks of potatoes
for the winter constituted a cornucopia. Anyway, she got safely to the post office, where she met mother and they rushed home
with the parcel.
Right away, grandma used some of the lard from the parcel as a base for an ointment we could use for the open sores caused
by the lack of vitamins. Before that, the only remedy was one's urine, which, while beneficial to some extent, was rather
It fell to mother to take care of our meager rations and divide them among us. Today, as an adult and a mother, I realize
what mother must have gone through, watching us tired and hungry all the time, unable to do anything about it. Father tried
to keep our minds off food by inventing droll stories at bedtime. It was very hard to fall asleep on an empty stomach. In
the evenings, whenever possible, father tried to continue our education. His knowledge was extensive, and his presentation
of different subjects, especially music which he truly loved, was never boring.
One day a welfare committee - they had committees for everything though never effective - came to inquire about our living
conditions. Mother, regardless of the possible adverse consequences of her action, didn't mince words and told them exactly
what she thought of our living conditions. Naturally, they had no answer to her furious tirade, so to change the subject they
urged us to buy some cologne to improve our hygiene. Ha! They were just trying to get rid of a misdirected transport of inferior
product. In answer to that, someone brought in a kerosene lamp without the glass chimney ( a non-existent commodity) with
the wick turned so high that it produced a ribbon of filthy smoke, to show them what we thought of their hygiene. Somebody
else asked whether they would like to meet the bugs infesting our living quarters. That brought the meeting to a fast conclusion
and the commissars departed in a hurry.
In June of 1941 Hitler invaded Russia, which was to be expected. Father kept telling them that it would happen sooner
or later. Apparently this statement was reported to the NKVD, for they came to search our quarters in the belief that father
must have had a secret source of information. The only thing they found was the plan of our property in Poland, so it
Russia was rife with informers. Brother would betray brother and children their parents. This deplorable state of mistrust
was cultivated by the government to prevent any organized rebellion.
In late October, a group of government officials arrived and announced that since we had become their allies we
were free to leave, but to do so within twenty-four hours, or our traveling passes would be rescinded forever. We had no resources
for traveling, just a desperate determination to leave. So, mother invited our Russian friends to come and choose whatever
they liked from what was left of our belongings, and pay what they could afford.
Early next morning, we hired a sled, which we shared with our adopted aunt and her small son, and set on a long journey
to the southern part of Russia where according to our information, the Polish army was in the process of mobilization.
Our future was uncertain to say the least, and hope was the only stimulus that pushed us forward over the snow covered,
unknown expanse of that God-forsaken country.
It was too cold to ride in an open sled, even if there was enough space for our luggage and the rest of us. So, except
for grandma and the youngest children wrapped up as warmly as possible, we walked or ran all the way, till we reached the
river Ob. We crossed the river on a man-powered ferry and then waited all night in a small building by the jetty for a riverboat to
take us to Barnaul - the nearest railroad station. The building was packed with people. There was no place to rest one's
head, and I was so tired and sleepy at the time, that I was willing to give up ten years of my life for a few hours of
Next morning, October 20th, 1941, which happened to be mother's name day, we traveled to Barnaul, joining other families
with the same destination. We chartered a cattle car on the train, the only transportation available to carry us to the point
of army mobilization. We were forced to wait several days by the railway tracks.
The first night, a good soul locked our grandma and us children in the station's waiting room, albeit against the rules.
Our parents spent the night outside huddling together to keep from freezing. Next night, we were lucky to meet a sympathetic
Russian family who put us up in their small apartment. Our parents took turns every few hours to keep watch over our depleted
belongings. On the third day, we finally boarded the train and travelled past Semipalatinsk and stopped at Alma-Alta, where
we picked up one lost and starving Pole who was also trying to get to the mobilization point. He was half starved, for
the men released from lagers - war prisons - walked out with just the shirts on their backs. So, we shared a little of the
dry bread we had, as the Russian soldiers going to the front shared their bread with us, as they asked for our prayers. At
the end of our journey, we lived on sugar beets that we managed to sneak from a passing freight train.
On entering Tashkent, someone noticed a small market. So as soon as the train stopped, father ran to buy whatever was
available. He was coming back with his cap full of tomatoes, but before he reached our train it had left the station. We went
to Samarkand, our destination point, but it was already so crowded with Polish exiles that the railroad officials forbade
anyone to leave the train. We couldn't travel on or father would never find us. So, we jumped the train on the wrong
side of the tracks and hoped to sneak into the city unnoticed. I must say that luck was with us. Grandma said it was a reward
for sharing our food with a stranger.
As it happened, a young Pole who had resided in Samarkand for some time came to look for his friends. He noticed our
dilemma, and not only helped us to get into the city, but brought a pitcher of hot soup from the kitchen he worked in.
Father found us the very same night, among hundreds of people sleeping on the street. There we stayed for a few days.
Before we left for the collective farm, mother managed to sell her rings to the government agency for packaged tea. Money
had no value, but tea was a very valuable commodity to the native Uzbeks. When we reached the collective farm, again we were
forced to live in one room with another family until we found a one-room adobe that was slowly crumbling. But it was our own,
and father's ears didn't have to suffer listening to our co-tenant's unceasing off-key singing. The first thing on the agenda
was to get rid of the lice that we had acquired on the train. They were in our hair, underwear, clothes and blankets - in
other words - everywhere. As soon as we got more detailed information about the Polish army, father left to enlist while the
rest of us stayed behind.
Working on the collective farm in springtime wasn't too bad, for we spread manure in the fields with pitchforks. Cotton
picking in the summer was a different story. Our fingers were a bloody mass, cut to the raw by the extremely sharp points
of the dry pods, until our foreman, a young Uzbek slightly more civilized than most of them, took pity on us and showed us
the ropes. But there was no remedy for our aching backs at the end of each day.
It was from our foreman, or rather his mother, that my sister received her second marriage proposal. The bride price
this time was to be a goat and a sewing machine. It was the type you had to crank, but still a sewing machine was a very rare
commodity in that part of the world. My mother refused the offer politely, for it was important not to offend the natives,
and explained that European women don't marry at the tender age of thirteen.
We thought that Siberia was bad, but it was paradise in comparison with our situation in Uzbekistan. At least in
Siberia we had water from a well. Here, the only supply of water was a dirty ditch full of living creatures. It had to
be strained through a cloth and boiled to be drinkable. The food rations were negligible and erratic. So, in the beginning
we first used the tea as a premium of exchange for food, and then the rest of our clothes. Surprisingly, mother's Japanese
dressing gown fetched more on the black market than father's woolen army cape that we used for a blanket. We were left with
just the clothes on our backs, which we had to adapt to the native style. Under one's dress, one wore pyjama pants with leggings
tied at the ankles to keep the cold and gnats out, and the village girls from lifting our dresses to see what we had underneath,
We would have had a few more items of clothing, if some of them weren't stolen on one of the stops when we spent the
night sleeping on the street. One of the items was my first pair of strapless, made to order pigskin shoes. I really missed
them, although they were too small for me at the time, but I guess they had the same sentimental value as mother's hat.
Another way to supplement our food was by wailing at funerals. Respect for the deceased was measured by the number of
mourners, so the families hired wailers to upgrade the importance of the dead.
As time went by, the lack of food increased. Even dogs became the victims of starving men, who dared to catch them. The
poor animals were trained to kill, and their owners would not hesitate to let them if they caught the culprits. In that land
of abject misery, I learned that a starving person will eat anything, including tidbits found in garbage.
The sharp, cold weather and malnutrition caused a strange disorder in our system. A feather touch to the skin generated
a knife-like pain. On top of that, our rations were stopped for three days, so we lived on a diet of wild, bitter sorrel and
potato peels - and not a pinch of salt to blunt the bitter taste. When we finally received a few pounds of wild millet, we
had to stand in line for hours to have it ground. The mill was very primitive, like everything else in that country. While
my sister and I waited our turn, getting hungrier by the hour, an old Uzbek invited us to his house for a meal, using sign
language, for we didn't speak Uzbeki and he didn't know Russian. Two Poles waiting in line with us didn't trust that guy's
hospitality, and insisted on going with us. Our host brought a bowl of watery soup for the three of us and a smaller one for
our sister which seemed strange. But we were too hungry to question it. And all the time, as he talked pointing to my sister
and the soup we would say yakshy - good - as it was one of the few words we knew. We thought that he was asking whether
we liked the soup, but we were wrong! When it came time to leave, our host grabbed my sister and made us understand that he
had bought her for a bowl of soup. Luckily, our countrymen, in spite of near starvation, proved stronger than the old guy,
and we managed to escape. After that incident, we were afraid to go out for some time.
The deplorable conditions brought typhoid fever, and grandma was the first to succumb. In her delirium, she kept asking
for bread, which we didn't have. But we learned that a temporary Polish outpost had food supplied by the Red Cross to help
out people in our situation. So, I decided to walk the seven miles to Krasnodieysk, with the hope of obtaining some bread
for grandma. I got there hungry and tired, and all I got for my efforts was an end piece that wouldn't make two slices.
A Polish woman from a nearby farm, who went with me, left empty-handed. On the way back, she begged me for a bite of
my bread, and while I had no heart to refuse her the first time, I prayed that she wouldn't ask me again so I could carry
that piece of bread to my grandmother.
It was hard to believe that things could get any worse, but they did. So, my mother decided to move us to the outpost,
from which it would be easier to contact father. The deciding moment came when an old Uzbek tried to pull our only
glass window out of its frame. Mother went after him with an ax and he ran away, but we knew that he would return with reinforcements.
So, with the help of our neighbour who loaned us an arba - a two wheeled cart - to transport our grandma, we
left as fast as we could.
When we reached the outpost, the representative refused us accomodation, but mother, fraught with desperation, threatened
to throw us under a train and jump herself. After that acrimony, a place was found for grandma in the infirmary. My sister
was put on the hospital staff such as it was, and mother in the management. Of course, they expected mother to be grateful
and overlook their corruption and stealing of the funds and food that were intended for the starving civilians whose men were
in the army, but mother refused to co-operate. It is sad but true, that it's always the worst element of any society that
manages to obtain positions of trust.
After being bombarded by frantic letters from us, father managed to get a few days leave and came to take us to the army
base. At the time, grandma was unconscious but holding tenaciously to life. We could neither take her with us nor leave her
behind. The situation was heartbreaking. Mother refused to leave as long as grandma was alive, but insisted that we go with
father. It was the first and only time that I prayed for someone's death. Grandma did die a few days later, and we buried
her in the cold, unfriendly earth.
At the railroad station we were refused tickets without a government pass, which we had no hope of obtaining. At the
time, a train with a few cars carrying armed forces personnel stopped at the station. So, father gave his ticket to mother
and joined the troops, while my sister, brother and I hid behind the luggage. Somehow, we managed to reach our destination
- Kermine - without major disaster. Father's leave was ending so he had to rush back to his base. He begged a ride on an army
lorry, and took with him my brother, who was youngest and running a temperature, and placed him in the local hospital. The
rest of us stayed behind awaiting some kind of transportation. In the meantime, the army base in Kermine fed us and hundreds
of others in the same situation. The food, like all the equipment, was supplied by the British, but most of it was stolen
by the Russian government before it reached the Polish army and with more and more civilians gathering around the army posts,
the soup became more watery with every passing day.
After days of futile waiting for transportation, we decided to walk to Kenimech, where father was stationed. By the time
we reached the "Valley of Death," which is what Kenimech means, mother was in a high fever and joined my brother in hospital.
It is surprising how they survived the typhoid fever in the deplorable conditions of that hospital.
I was next to succumb, but father managed to place me in the army hospital where I was assured of proper care and the
right diet. I had a high fever and was unconscious for days. My head was shaved to prevent my hair from falling out. When
I finally left that hospital I looked like a very skinny boy. But, at least I was alive, while thousands around us were dying
because they didn't have any physical strength left to fight the sickness. And the heat, you could see the hot air shimmering
before your eyes. Also, the place was full of scorpions, and every morning we had to check our clothes and shoes
before we put them on. However, we did have a roof over our heads, and food that the army shared with us.
Our days were spent in a provisional school, and our evenings filled with singing by a campfire, or enjoying amateur
entertainment. We were happy for the first time since the war started, but we still couldn't wait to get out of Russia. Finally,
thanks to General Anders' unwavering endeavors, the happy day came.
It wasn't all smooth sailing by any means. Our train to Krasnovodsk was delayed long enough to miss the boat father's
company boarded, and we were left behind. We were unable to board the next one because it was loaded to capacity with the
Since the Russian government supplied passage for the armed forces only, families had to be added to every consignment
of men, or stay behind. We waited for days in unbearably hot weather and short of drinking water, which you could only
obtain for food rations alloted us from army supplies. Finally, very angry and desperate women got together and demanded space
on the next boat. The only possibility was to divide our group into smaller sections and squeeze us in with the other transports.
We were lucky to be in the first group, and believe me, it was a tight squeeze. Everyone sat on the deck with their knees
under their chins, and if you went to the toilet and had no one watch your tiny space, it would promptly disappear.
As soon as we had disembarked in Persia (Iran) at the port of Pahlevi, all our clothes were confiscated and burned to
prevent any obscure disease that we might be carrying from spreading. In compensation, we received a headscarf, a cotton slip
or a flannel nightgown and a blanket. Not what you could call a sufficient wardrobe, but Polish women proved to be quite enterprising
and naturally handy with a needle. Soon, four scarves turned into a dress, as did the slip, adorned with ribbons purchased
from the natives who came to the camp with their wares.
The living accomodations were roofs set on wooden poles. We slept on blankets spread on the ground, with no protection
from the elements, but nobody complained. The sand was hot enough to boil an egg in it. We had to learn to walk by digging
our toes into the sand to reach a cooler layer. It required a long time to get from one point to another. We had plenty of
time on our hands, but the trouble started with the change of diet which caused diarrhea. One had to run to the public toilets
to save one's honor, and underwear, which was a scarce commodity.
In spite of the discomforts, we enjoyed our short stay on the shores of the Caspian Sea, with all that beautiful, cool
water to swim in.
From Pahlevi, we traveled to Teheran. The truck drivers were inebriated most of the time to boost their courage when
traveling the mountain road. It was narrow and lacked any safety measures, and one of the Russian lorries ahead of us fell
into the ravine. We almost followed it, but our guardian angel must have been watching over us. We skimmed the edge of the
road with one wheel hanging in the air, but our driver pulled sharply into the middle, and went ahead without looking back.
For us youngsters, it seemed like an adventure, but for the adults who had a better comprehension of danger, the trip was
nerve wracking. They didn't relax until we reached the refugee camp that was situated on the outskirts of Teheran. Huge tents
were set up in a beautiful, green orchard. The food was indifferent, but we hadn't learned to be finicky yet. Whenever possible,
we supplemented our diet with the figs and pomegranates that grew there in abundance.
We were on the transport list to Ahvaz, but mother's eyes became infected and our trip was delayed. There is something
to be said for communal living. Mother didn't have to worry about us while she was in the hospital, for there were plenty
of people to take care of us.
Mother's illness happened to be a blessing in disguise, for it brought us a letter from father, which otherwise would
have missed us. That was the first contact with him since Kenimeth.
From the greenery of Teheran, we went to the dusty plains near Ahvaz. At least we were lucky enough to be quartered in
a building, even though there were about twenty people in one room. The vast majority of refugees were housed in disused stables
with wooden berths as the only comfort.
The food was worse than in Teheran. While the private kitchen that provided meals for the administration had a choice
of provisions, the rest of us had a choice between noodles and noodles. So, to provide a more nutritional staple for us, mother
went to work as a waitress in the private dining room.
The people in the camp didn't tolerate the unjust division of food supplies for long. They sent letters of complaint
to army headquarters, until the head of the administration was replaced and things got better.
Our stay in Ahvaz lasted almost a year, so we were enrolled in school. Although there was a shortage of teachers, which
limited our curriculum, it was better than nothing. Not that I thought so at the time. For me, no school would have been better.
The only subject I enjoyed was physical education, which included Polish national dancing.
The next stop in our forced travels was Karachi. First, the Country Club and tents, then Malir, a transit camp for those
who were on the list for India. The contingent that stayed in Country Club traveled on to several refugee camps in Africa.
From Karachi, we sailed to Bombay and from there to Valivade by train. The train trip took twenty-four hours. We stopped
at every station to pick up passengers, although the train was already overcrowded. Not that we had anything to worry about,
since our compartments were reserved for white passengers only. We were beseiged by beggars at every stop, most of them small
children. Although we were warned not to give them anything, for they would multiply by the hundreds at the first sign of
any largesse, we could not ignore them. Not only did we remember our time of starvation in Russia, but also we had been taught
to share with the poor. There were so many starving children in India, next to riches beyond imagination enjoyed by the
Valivade with a population close to five thousand, was situated a few miles from Kolhapur. There were mostly
women and children. All capable men were in the army and teenage boys in the cadets. Boys our age were so scarce, that we
used to call them "raisins."
Our living quarters consisted of two rooms and a small kitchen, with primitive cooking utilities. The toilets were public
and placed at a strategic point in the camp, several hundred yards from the living quarters. The lower part of our houses
was a stone wall about three feet high, with the rest of the wall being a plaited mat with openings for doors and windows
made of the same material. It was all nice and breezy but didn't prevent the rains in the monsoon season from coming
Yet the monsoons did little harm to our mud floors. The more important problem that type of wall created was a complete
lack of privacy, unless you kept your voice real low. With several thousand women with a lot of time on their hands,
the camp was a cesspool of gossip, especially at those times that the Polish ship Batory was docked at Bombay and
the crew came to visit the camp. Every little tidbit was bruited about with relish.
Cooking was rather complicated. It was too hot in the small kitchen, but to cook outside presented difficulties. On windy
days, there was the danger of spreading fire and one also had to defend one's food from the vultures that would swoop down
and grab the meat from the pot.
The mosquito nets over our beds didn't make the sleeping quarters any cooler, but one got used to it after a while.
To prevent the floors from crumbling they had to be smeared with cow manure every so often. We didn't perform this "pleasant"
chore ourselves, for there was a big work force among the poor willing to do any heavy domestic jobs. Soon, they learned enough
Polish to advertise their wares. Every morning, you could hear the familiar chant: "Mamusia! Prac! Mazac! Takie swierze
krowie gowno!" (Mother, I'll do the laundry and smear the floors with fresh cows' shit!) It was obvious that their teachers
were our young teenagers.
Tutored by their teachers, they advertised socks in oil, hair accessories for the bald and other similar absurdities.
Although the labor was cheap, the poor working for us made more money than they could have dreamed of, and we treated them
like human beings, while the majority of the English and upper caste Hindus treated them like pariahs.
In no time at all, the camp boasted an open market, a small plaza that included a restaurant cafe and a movie-house run
by electricity produced by a portable generator. Needless to say, the rest of the camp used kerosene lamps, but this time
equipped with glass chimneys.
But, the most popular place was the post office. The postmaster not only spoke Polish as did all the natives around us,
but he had the ability to recognize people by their voices and put the right names to them. There was always a crowd of people
waiting for mail from their loved ones who were in the army. Anxiety grew after the battle of Monte Cassino, where a thousand
Poles died in the name of freedom. The fact that the Polish flag was the first to fly over the ruins of the monastery
didn't recompense those who lost their loved ones in that bloody battle. All we got in return from our allies were a lot of
unfulfilled promises. After Potsdam, we knew the bitter taste of betrayal. That was the day we buried our hopes for a
My sister and I enrolled in high school. Although we didn't wear uniforms like we would have had to in Poland, we
had a very strict dress code and had to observe a curfew, so it was always the early movie if we went to the theater. Our
social life, if not exactly nonexistent, was female oriented.
Since those were our formative years, it wasn't any wonder that our knowledge of sex was too naive for words, even for
those days of sexual reticence. Otherwise, you could say that our life was quite normal, with the natural jealousies and competition
for popularity in school cliques. You could say that I was a liaison for different groups. My extrovert personality made me
popular with almost everyone. Naturally, we looked down on the lower graders, but I had friends among them too.
For lack of boys, girls had to take the place of male partners. Our costumes were made to order and as authentic as it
was possible to acheive with the materials at hand, and the same applied to our high-laced shoes. One of our memorable experiences
was the international show held in Bombay in which we took part. We traveled under the chaperonage of our teacher, but managed
to have a good time in spite of the restrictions they put on our movements. We were entertained at receptions at the Polish
Embassy and the Yacht Club. Dining in elegant restaurants and visiting museums and theaters was an enormous treat in our limited
everyday social life in the camp.
One evening, we gave a performance for American soldiers recuperating from war wounds or battle fatigue. After the well-received
performance, we were allowed to mingle with the men, and that same evening I received my first marriage proposal from a young
officer through an interpreter, since my English at the time was negligible. Later that night, a group of guys came to serenade
us. We considered it the most romantic experience, but our chaperone's views were different and we were grounded for a couple
A few days later I met my future husband at the Polish-Czechoslovakian Club. It was a beautiful place over the sea, surrounded
by oleander trees in full bloom. I was on a swing and he offered to push me. He says that I never stopped swinging. After
each excursion to Bombay we were forced to come down to earth with a vengeance, for we had to make up for the lost time in
By the time my brother entered high school, my sister had changed her studies a couple of times, settling on nursing,
while I went to an English school run by nuns in Panchagani. Never before or since have I met with such idiotic school rules.
While we were allowed to invite boys from B.H.S. to our Saturday dances and other gatherings, we were forbidden to speak to
the same boys outside the convent, and I had known some of them for years.
Needless to say, I wasn't crazy about about that specific boarding school, but I must admit that my English improved
considerably. And I did like a couple of the nuns such as tiny sister Cecilia, who was very understanding and always kept
the side door open for the late comers from visits to friends. We were allowed to visit one Sunday every month. We used those
days to meet boys away from the convent. After all, I was seventeen years old and had never been kissed, or almost never,
for I was kissed once by my future husband when I was sweet sixteen. Mother Superior must have had some suspicions, for
one time she sent a kitchen boy to spy on us, but I gave him more money than he could make in a month and he kept mum about our
Another was sister Ludberga, an Austrian who joined the order after her fiance was killed by the Nazis. She
used to take us on bicycling excursions to various interesting places. I've learned from one of the girls, who kept in touch
with the nuns, that the convent was demolished in an earthquake.
But the most impressive moment of my sojourn in the convent was the day I met Ghandi.
In 1947 after India gained her independence, we sailed to England to join father, who went there with the Polish army
at the end of the war. We sailed on the Empire Brent. Most of the passengers succumbed to sea sickness.
Somehow, our family was immune to it, and with so many sick people aboard, the stewards needed all possible help. So, my mother
and brother did what they could, while my sister offered to work in the infirmary, while I acted as an interpreter to the
ship's doctor. He happened to be a very handsome man, so a lot of man-starved women came to him for unnecessary check-ups.
I didn't blame them for that, but some of the complaints that I had to translate were very embarrasing.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the trip very much. It was fascinating to watch as we passed through the Suez Canal, with the ship
passing so close to the shore. The Bay of Biscay was the most turbulent part of our crossing from Bombay to South Hampton.
From there, we traveled to a transit camp where we lived in corrugated huts. After our travel documents were processed, we
went to the army camp to join father.
I had a couple of weeks to adjust to the new environment, and after that, I was enrolled in a boarding school near Cheltenham,
while my sister went to work in a hospital. My brother made friends with local young people and elected to work on a
farm. It was a very smart move, as it gave him access to extra food to supplement our rations.
I came home for Easter vacations, and on the way back to school, I experienced one of the most embarrassing moments of
my life. At nineteen, I considered myself the epitome of sophistication. Dressed in the latest style - the so-called new look
- elegant hat with a veil to my chin, I traveled in a first class compartment.
As I very nonchalantly put a light to my cigarette, I set my veil on fire. At the time, I wished the earth would part
and swallow me up, but in retrospect, it was more funny than embarrassing.
Shortly before summer vacation, my future husband came to visit me at the school, and a few days later we became
engaged. He had his visa and passage on the Queen Elizabeth to the U.S.A. Before that happy event could take place,
we had to get married within a few weeks in order to give me priority to emigrate on the Polish quota, which was full. Otherwise,
I would have had to wait close to five years. Even so, I didn't join my husband as soon as I expected. I became pregnant right
away, and by the time I received my visa, my pregnancy was too far advanced for me to sail. In a way, it turned out to be
a blessing in disguise. Not only had I free hospital and medical care, but I had my family to help with the baby.
My daughter was born on May 15 in London's Paddington hospital at around 2:00 am. She was the first baby born in my social
circle, so everyone rushed to the hospital with flowers. We even received two bouquets of roses from out of town. We had so
many flowers, that I decided to send a few vases to the dining room so that other patients could enjoy them, especially since
no other ward patients received any flowers.
My daughter was about 2 or 3 months old when we sailed for New York aboard the Queen Mary. I had a letter of
introduction from my landlady to the chief engineer, so we received very good care all through the voyage. Besides that, my
daughter was the youngest passenger, so everyone made a lot of fuss over her. Between the stewardess and the passengers eager
to take care of the baby, I had plenty of free time to enjoy the trip. To tell the truth, I was sorry that it lasted only
five days, five days of complete leisure with evening entertainment thrown in.
In New York, we were met by my husband and his uncle, who carried a huge bunch of flowers. My first look at the skyscrapers
of New York left me with the impression of claustrophobia, and as much as I liked London, I disliked New York. I was happy
to leave it behind, when after two years we moved to Buffalo.
Part three contains the verbatim
transcript of the typed report Annexation of Eastern Poland by the U.S.S.R. compiled by the Polish government-in-exile
in London, England. Nowhere on the report is there any identification of author or date or publisher at all but
the vendor (Poliart, Poland) describes the report as the "Polish Ministry of Preparatory Work, 1944, Concerning the Peace
Conference, no.2." The report is 46 pages long with a two-page appendix (omitted here as it reports invalid "election"
results and is therefore of no value). This report may have been prepared for the Allied diplomats attending the Yalta Conference
in February, 1945. The language is awkward, repetitive and verbose and of a diplomatic character.
This copy, in light of its crude form, was most likely
a draft copy.
existence of the Secret Protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (of September 28, 1939) which divided Eastern Europe
between the Soviets and Germans was, of course, denied by the Soviets until 1989.
The most important point made in this document
was the fact that, in October, 1939, shortly after the invasion of Poland by Soviet troops (which began on September 17, 1939),
the Soviets forced upon the population a sham election in order to legitimize their occupation of eastern Poland and its subsequent
incorporation into the Soviet Union.
THERE WAS ONLY ONE NAME ON THE BALLOT!
And the name was that of a nominee chosen from among Soviets, rarely a Pole or local minority.
This is an echo of the recent behaviour of Putin and the Russians in Crimea when, shortly after hosting the Winter Olympics, towards
the end of the invasion of February 20 - March 20, 2014, the Russians held a sham referendum on March 16, which
resulted in apparently overwhelming support for the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
Annexation of Eastern Poland by the U.S.S.R.
I. Invasion of Polish Territories in the Light of Soviet Obligations and of the International
Measures in Occupied Polish Territories.
III. "Elections" to "National Assemblies" of "Western Ukraine" and of "Western White Ruthenia."
IV. Resolutions Passed by "National Assemblies"
of "Western Ukraine" and "Western White Ruthenia."
V. Attempts to Present the "Elections" as a "Plebiscite."
VI. The Present Legal Situation.
I. Invasion of Polish Territories in
the Light of Soviet Obligations and of the International Law
On the morning of September 17th, 1939, Soviet troops crossed the Soviet-Polish frontier at many
points, thus beginning the occupation of Poland's eastern territories. It was at the time when Poland was fighting against
the crushing might of the German invasion; the Soviet attack, stabbing Poland in the back, deprived her armed forces of any
chances of an effective resistance thus deciding the final outcome of the campaign.
By this action the Soviet Government encroached upon the
League of Nations Covenant and the Kellogg Pact as well as upon the Treaty of Riga of March 16, 1921 which regulated all doubtful
issues between the two countries, and the Pact of Non-Aggression concluded by Poland and the USSR on July 25th, 1932; the
latter's validity was subsequently prolonged by the Protocol of May 5th, 1934 until the end of 1945. Article I of the Pact
of Non-Aggression stated that: "the two Contracting Parties... reciprocally undertake to refrain from taking any aggressive
action against or invading the territory of the other Party, either alone or in conjunction with other Powers." "Any act of
violence" - the article went on to say - "attacking the integrity and inviolability of the territory of the political independence
of the other Contracting Party shall be regarded as contrary to the undertakings contained in the present Article, even if
such acts are committed without declaration of war and avoid all possible warlike manifestations."
Article 2 of the Pact contained provisions
equally clear: "Should one of the Contracting Powers (sic) be attacked by a third State or by a group of other
States, the other Contracting Party undertakes not to give aid or assistance, either directly or indirectly, to the aggressor
State during the whole period of the conflict."
The Polish-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was complemented July 3rd 1933 by the Convention for the
Definition of Aggression, signed at London by the Soviet Union, Poland and other neighbours of Russia. It contained provisions
in Article 2 that a State which committed any of the following actions should be regarded as aggressor:
1. Declaration of war upon another State;
2. Invasion by its armed forces with or without a declaration of war of the territory of another
3. Attack by its land, naval or air forces, with or without a declaration
of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State;
blockade of the coasts or ports of another State;
5. Provision or support
to armed bands formed in its territory which have invaded the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the
request of the invaded State, to take, in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance
next Article, 3, stated that "No political, military, economic or other considerations may serve as an excuse or justification
for the aggression referred to in Article 2."
From the above quoted paragraphs and from the actual circumstances accompanying the Soviet invasion
of Poland it is obvious that this invasion completely exhausted all the qualifications of an aggressor as defined by the treaty.
During the period preceding the invasion
of Poland by the armed forces of the Third Reich, independently of signing these Treaty obligations, the Soviet Government
emphasised on many occasions, through the mouth of its representatives, its peaceful intentions and friendly attitude towards
Poland. After Hitler's announcement of the Non-Aggression Pact with Poland, M. Potemkin, the Deputy Commissar for Foreign
Affairs, stated officially during his visit to Warsaw in May 1939, with reference to his instructions from Moscow, that the
Soviet Union was satisfied with its relations with Poland; that the Soviet Government was fully aware that Poland would not
enter into alliance with any of her great neighbours against the other; and finally that in the event of a Polish-German conflict
the Soviet Union would adopt a "friendly attitude (une attitude bienveillante)" towards Poland.
On the other hand, Poland's Ambassador to Moscow, M.
Grzybowski, stressed in a conversation which he had with Mr. Molotov, the new Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, on May
8th, 1939, that the Polish Government regarded the Franco-British-Soviet negotiations, in progress at that time, as of positive
value; that after they were concluded he would open, on behalf of Poland, negotiations with the Soviet Government in order
to establish cooperation; and that he was ready to declare on that occasion that in case of a German attack on Poland, she
would not decline to accept Soviet assistance. In July, 1939 the Soviet Government declared that in case of a war between
Poland and Germany, Poland would be granted immediate transit facilities. Even after the Soviet-German agreement was signed
on August 23rd, 1939, a week before the outbreak of war, Marshal Voroshilov declared that the agreement did not preclude supplies
of military and raw materials to be sent to Poland by the Soviet Union in case of a Polish-German war.
On September 3rd, 1939, the Soviet Government
was officially informed of the state of war existing between Poland and Germany. It accepted the Polish statement to the effect
that the German aggression was unprovoked and was not preceded by a formal declaration of war. On September 8th, 1939, the
Polish Ambassador (to Moscow), M. Grzybowski, approached the Commisar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, with a double
request: to increase the imports of various raw materials to Poland, within the framework of the existing trade agreement,
and to grant other military supplies and transit facilities, which again was in keeping with Soviet obligations. Molotov however,
refused to satisfy this request, declaring that the situation has changed owing to Britain's entry into the war. "La Pologne
c'est pour nous maintenant l'Angleterre" - he said, adding: "actuellementles Soviets sont obliges d'assurer avant tout leurs
interest en rostant on dehors du conflict." (Polish White Book, No. 172)
This attitude, however, by no means anticipated the
invasion of Polish territories by the Red Army. At the last moment the Soviet Government tried to find for their action at
least an appearance of justification. On the night preceding the invasion of the Polish territory, on September 17th, 1939,
the Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs handed to the Polish Ambassador a note, in which the Soviet Government declared that
Poland, after her Government had left Warsaw and due to that Government's alleged inactivity, ceased to exist as a State,
which fact consequently meant that all Soviet-Polish treaties lost henceforth their validity. Furthermore - the note continued
- the Ukrainian and White Ruthenian population on Polish territory, deprived of official protection, can be exposed to danger
of life and loss of property. Taking this into consideration the Soviet Government ordered its troops to enter Poland.
The Polish Ambassador rejected the note,
protesting against its contents, and declared that the Polish State had not ceased to exist, since its armies were continuing
their resistance against the German invader all along the front, and that the President of the Republic and the diplomatic
corps were still on Polish soil while not only Ukrainians and White Ruthenians but other minorities as well, manifested their
loyalty to the Polish State, continued to fight and were not exposed to any persecution.
It should be added here that even enunciations coming from official Soviet circles contradicted the Soviet Government's
thesis on the alleged disappearance of the Polish State. Contrary to that thesis was the very fact of attempting to hand a
Soviet note to the Polish Ambassador and the passage it contained on the "hitherto observed Soviet neutrality in the Polish-German
war." Furthermore 12 communiques on military operations issued by the Soviet General Staff between the 17th and 28th of September
clearly refuted the statement that the Polish State ceased to exist, by declaring that the Red Armies during at least 12 days
met everywhere with the organized resistance of the Polish troops - in fact that resistance lasted much longer. These communiques
were complemented by Stalin's telegram of congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the Red Cavalry, in which he wrote that
it "covered itself in glory in the Polish Campaign." - The text of the telegram was published by 'Pravda' November 19, 1939
- as well as by Marshal Voroshilov's orders No. 199 of Nov. 7th and No. 209 of Nov. 19th, 1939, praising the Soviet troops
for gallantry and initiative shown in operations against the Polish army - 'Pravda' Nov. 7th and 19th, 1939 - . Finally the
Peoples Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, speaking at the Vth extraordinary sitting of the Supreme Council of the USSR
declared that two blows were needed to defeat the Polish State: "the first dealt by the German Army, the second by the Red
Incidentally, the sudden statement asserting the non-existence
of a State recognized as a subject of International Law by all countries or, let us say, a considerable majority of them,
is obviously contrary to all accepted principles of international relations. The Soviet political literature and Soviet official
circles have always been of that opinion. The literature condemned any annexation of foreign territory, emphasizing at the
same time that national or racial affinity cannot justify acts of aggression. Among others it was the attitude of the "History
of the All-Union Communist Party - Bolsheviks -" to which Stalin had contributed and numerous translations of which were widely
circulated. The "tendencies of German fascists" to " annex the territories of neighbouring countries or at least to seize
parts of these territories which were inhabited by Germans" were energetically condemned. We read in the History that: "The
incorporation by force - underlined in the original text - of Austria into Germany means plainly that it is an imperialist
occupation of foreign territory. (Page 317-318 of the Russian edition, Moscow, 1942, of the "History of the
All-Union Communist Party - Bolsheviks.")
Thus the arguments put forward
in the Soviet Government's Note of September 17th are contrary to the legal and political attitude of the Soviet Union itself,
both as far as the alleged "non-existence of the Polish State" is concerned as in relation to the fate of White Ruthenian
and Ukrainian population.
II. Soviet Measures in Occupied Polish Territories
On September 28th agreement was concluded in Moscow between Germany and Russia which partitioned the whole territory
of Poland and divided it into Soviet and German "spheres of interests." As the result of that agreement Russia acquired an
area of 77,620 square miles - 201,015 sq. km. - that is, 51.6 per cent of the total area of Poland, with a population of 13,199,000
representing 38 per cent of the total Polish population.
Article 43 of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 regulating, among others, the rights and duties
of an occupying power, states: "The authority of the legitimate power having actually passed into the hands of the occupant,
the latter shall take all steps in his power to re-establish and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while
respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." Article 45 forbids compulsion being exerted in
extracting oaths of allegiance to a hostile power: "Any compulsion on the population of occupied territory to take oath to
the hostile power is forbidden." Article 46 ensures the preservation of civil rights of the population: "Family honour and
rights, the lives of individuals and private property, as well as religious convictions and liberty of worship, must be respected.
Private property cannot be confiscated."
Consequently the occupying power has no right to carry out any territorial changes or to annex
occupied territories; the occupation - according to Article 55 of the Fourth Hague Convention - means temporary administration
and use of territories but the occupant possesses no sovereign power over the country.
Such an attitude to the question of occupation was always
shown by all authorities on International Law including Soviet political circles. The Little Soviet Encyclopaedia - 1938 edition
- as well as the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia - 1939 edition - plainly define occupation as a "temporary administration" of
a foreign territory while the latter quotes the appropriate articles of the Fourth Hague Convention in a manner which condemns
cases of occupation ended by unlawful annexation, e.g. the Japanese action in China and the incorporation of Austria by "German
that, the Soviet authorities from the very outset behaved in Eastern Poland as if it were legally an integral part of the
USSR and introduced there, by force, the Soviet system of government and institutions.
Immediately after the entry of Soviet troops extensive
arrests were carried out embracing Polish State officials, judges, State prosecutors as well as members of the police force
of all ranks. They were imprisoned and charged with "counter-revolutionary activities" allegedly conducted before the war.
The mere fact that they were functionaries for the "Polish bourgeois State" was deemed to be sufficient for such indictment.
These charges were formulated on the basis of Article 58 and the following articles of the Penal Code of the RSFSR.
Arrests were not confined to State functionaries,
they included also members of local town and rural municipal authorities. According to the generally accepted international
customs and according to the provisions of the above quoted Hague Convention, the occupying power is bound to respect the
existing laws and customs of the territory under occupation, which naturally means, in the first place, the maintenance of
local administration and organs of justice. Having in mind the welfare of the local population the representatives of local
autonomies not only may, but should, to a certain extent, cooperate with the occupants in the interest of the re-establishment
of order and security broken by war operations. That was why representatives of the Polish administration approached the Soviet
authorities with proposals of such a cooperation.
Those offers were not only rejected outright but their bearers were immediately arrested. Members
of all political groups from the extreme Left to the extreme Right fell victims to arrests. Among them were: dr.
Witold Maliszewski, the distinguished President of the City of Wilno; Kazimierz Grodzicki, Vice-President of the same;
Franciszek Izyk, Vice-President of the City of Lwow; Seweryn Nowakowski, President of Bialystok; Stanislaw Widacki, President
of Tarnopol; and many other Mayors and Presidents of Polish cities and towns. Since their deportation no information as to
their whereabouts could be obtained. Frequent inquiries as to their fate made by the Polish Embassy in the USSR between August
1941 and May 1943 produced no satisfactory results.
A similar mystery surrounds the fate of thousands of Polish State functionaries, State prosecutors,
judges, university professors and school teachers arrested by Soviet authorities and subsequently deported to the interior
of Russia. As it was later found out, the majority were sentenced to long-term imprisonment or compulsory labour camps
in polar regions on the basis of the above quoted charge of "counter-revolutionary activity" conducted before the war.
Gradually as the occupation moved forward,
Polish administration was replaced by the Soviet so-called "Temporary Town Committees." Headed by officers or by political
agents - politrabotniki - of the Red Army, these bodies were composed of members of the political police - NKVD - of two or
three officers and of some "representatives of local inhabitants."
The latter were recruited from Soviet agents sent to Poland long before the war, from members of the rather
weak local Polish Communist Party, or, in some rare cases, from individuals who offered to cooperate with the occupants.
The "representatives of local inhabitants" to the "Temporary Town Committees" had to instruct the occupying authorities on
local conditions and to perform some executive functions where knowledge of local conditions was required. The entire administrative
power over the occupied territory rested with the military heads of "Temporary Town Committees," who used the title of "chairman"
of these bodies.
Army of occupation, the NKVD - former GPU - and the so-called "Workers' Guard," a kind of auxiliary militia recruited from
local Communist elements, represented the executive organs of these "Temporary Town Committees."
With the assistance of these organizations, shortly
after their establishment, "Temporary Town Committees" began the action of clearing the territory of the "enemies of the people."
To this category, apart from former State functionaries, judges and attorneys, members of the Polish police and representatives
of local governments belonged:
a) officers - professional
and of the reserve - and NCOs, of the Polish Armed Forces;
b) field gendarmerie;
c) all who have voluntarily
joined the Polish Army since 1918;
so-called military settlers, that is, former combatants of 1918-1920, who were granted land property on the basis of the Polish
e) persons suspected of collaboration
with Polish police;
f) owners of land property,
factories and large commercial enterprises;
all active members of Polish, Ukrainian, White Ruthenian, Jewish, and other non-Communist political parties; the Polish Socialist
Party, the Jewish "Bund," the Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Party and other left-wing workers' Parties were considered
to be particularly dangerous.
Leaders of the Polish, Ukrainian, White Ruthenian
and Jewish Socialist Parties were treated with particular brutality. Among socialists arrested in Wilno was Kazimierz Petrusewicz,
a venerable and prominent barrister and Dean of the Council of the Bar, living in Wilno for more than 30 years. He was one
of the seven founders of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party at the congress of Minsk in 1898. Some years later Lenin
joined the Party and caused the split which divided it into "Bolsheviks" and "Mensheviks." The fact that Petrusewicz's portrait
is displayed in the Museum of the Revoluution in Moscow did not prevent his arrest and imprisonment in the Lukiszki prison
h) social workers, leaders of Trade
Unions, of educational and cultural organizations, of cooperatives and of various organizations or religious associations,
and so on - in other words all the more active elements capable of helping to organise the local population.
Arrests carried out as a result of indications
and denunciations brought by "local inhabitants" and by "Workers' Guards" to the "Temporary Town Committees" embraced already
in the first few weeks of the occupation many thousands of people, and drastic abuse and settlement of personal accounts often
occurred. In fact, nobody felt safe. The population of the occupied territories was terrorised from the very beginning. Tens
of thousands of persons, who happily escaped the first wave of arrests, were leaving their residences thus increasing the
number of refugees who flocked into the Eastern territories fleeing from German occupied provinces. Crowds literally blocked
the roads in search of shelter and food.
The "temporary Town Committees" took over power in towns. Their rural counter-parts were the "Peasant Committees"
composed of certain local elements which acted under the general leadership and followed the instructions of the "Temporary
Town Committees" as well as those of other representatives of the Soviet army of occupation and of the NKVD. The task assigned
to the "Peasant Committees" consisted in the immediate confiscation of larger land estates and of Church and convents' property,
and the distribution of land and livestock as well as other belongings among small-holders and landless peasants. The Soviet
authorities expected thus to win the sympathy of peasant masses. It must be pointed out here that between 1920-1939 Polish
authorities carried out in Eastern Poland an agricultural reform on an even larger scale than in Central or Western Poland;
it consisted in the parcellation of larger land property and its redistribution among small-holders and landless peasants
regardless of their nationality. As a result of that the proportion of larger estates in Eastern Poland - that is, those over
50 hectares in size - did nowhere exceed in 1939 12-15 per cent of the total area under cultivation while in Volhynia, for
instance, that proportion was well under 8 per cent. A very small area, therefore, remained which could be distributed by
"Peasant Committees" and the whole campaign was aimed solely at winning over the rural population and rousing it against the
Polish State; these attempts have completely failed.
A widespread propaganda under the auspices of the Red Army, the "Temporary Town Committees" and
the "Peasant Committees" by means of posters, leaflets, wireless, theatres, cinemas, press and even concerts with free admission,
given by specially brought artistic casts, was conducted in the same direction. This propaganda tried to imbue the population
with hatred for everything Polish and lavished on it promises of the "new, happy life" under Soviet regime.
The intention of an immediate incorporation
of the newly seized territories was by no means concealed. Soviet journalists wrote in the first days of the occupation that
"the arrival of the Red Army is an event not only of a political nature, bringing about a change of nationality and
of the administrative system but an event, which should change the whole existence and direct social life towards new ways."
(Izviestia, Sept. 26, 1939). The Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Armies in the southern
sector, "Komandarm of the 1st rank," S. Timoshenko, in a message addressed to local Ukrainian organizations appealed to them
as well as to the whole of the local working population to work "for the cause of the Great Soviet Fatherland." (Izviestia,
Sept. 30, 1939).
III. "Elections" to "National Assemblies" of "Western
Ukraine" and of "Western White Ruthenia"
The later course of international developments, however, evoked some anxiety in the governing
circles of the Soviet Union regarding the fate of the Polish territories which were already considered to be component parts
of the Union.
agreement on "friendship and frontier relations," signed by the USSR and Germany on the 28th of September 1939 stipulated,
as stated above, the partition of the Polish State between those two powers: the agreement "excluded" the possibility of "interference
with this decision on the part of the other Powers." At the same time the Soviet and the German Governments directed an appeal
to France and Britain urging them to cease hostilities against Germany, to conclude peace and to accept the accomplished fact
of Poland's partition. It was believed not only in Berlin but in Moscow as well that the Western Powers would withdraw from
the war and that thus - the Polish State being erased from the map of Europe - the annexation of territories conquered by
the united forces of both powers would acquire a legal title. That appeal was very energetically supported by the Soviet press:
the Moscow "Pravda" of September 30th, 1939 wrote that "further bloodshed may only be desired by provocateurs and dishonest
politicians, who try to conceal their crimes from the nations by adding new crimes to their old ones" and that "there is no
justification whatever of a state of war existing between Germany on one side and Britain and France on the other."
France and Britain remained faithful to
their pledges to Poland and rejected proposals to recognize her new partition. The Polish State too, though prematurely buried,
showed then as it demonstrates now, and at every opportunity, that it lives and enjoys the full and devoted support of its
citizens who are ready to fight to the last for its freedom and independence.
In his message of September 30th, 1939, the new President of the Polish Republic, Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz,
proclaimed that "the Polish soldier will fight shoulder to shoulder with our Allies on the land, the sea and in the air" until
final victory over Germany is achieved. The re-organisation of the new Polish army begun by the Government of General Sikorski
on French territory plainly showed that these were not merely empty words.
The participation of Poland in the war effort of the Allies against Germany destroys the thesis
of the legal disappearance of Poland as a result of conquest.
In view of the changing situation the Soviet Government sought new arguments, which could convey
at least the appearance of legality to its activities on Polish territories. Only then, no doubt, was born the idea to obtain
"the expression of the will of the people" living on those territories - namely their will to be incorporated into the Soviet
Fearing the reaction of the local population in case
of any plain speaking on that subject, the occupying Soviet authorities had not dared bring forward the idea of a plebiscite
having to decide on allegiance of Eastern Poland, although the country was fully controlled by military occupation.
The authorities chose to "camouflage" the whole problem proclaiming "elections" to so-called "National Assemblies" of "Western
Ukraine" and "Western White Ruthenia." It must be emphasised here that both the terms "Western Ukraine" and "Western White
Ruthenia" were never used before nor were they known to the local population. They were freely introduced by the Soviet administration
which in the first days of the occupation divided the seized territories in two parts: the Northern - "Western White Ruthenia"
- and the Southern - "Western Ukraine -."
Several days after the publication of the above mentioned message by President Raczkiewicz and after the formation
of General Sikorski's Government in France, the Soviet central authorities ordered that "elections" should be carried out
with greatest possible speed in both parts of the occupied territory.
On October 6th, 1939 Soviet commanders and military councils of the Southern - "Ukrainian" - and
Northern - "White Ruthenian" - fronts published their "decisions" to hold elections on October 22nd and to summon the "Assemblies"
in Lwow and Bialystok some days after that date. Simultaneously the same Soviet military authorities of occupation issued
by-laws, modelled on Soviet laws, according to which "elections" were to be carried out by specially formed "Committees for
the Organization of Elections" in Lwow and Bialystok, largely composed of Soviet citizens and USSR officials with the official
participation of members of Supreme Councils of the White Ruthenian and Ukrainian Soviet Republics.
It was only later understood how clumsy
it was that "elections" supposed to represent "free expression" of the will of the population had been ordered by the highest
commanders of the army of occupation. Soviet propaganda decided, therefore, to conceal before world opinion the fact that
the above mentioned "decisions" issued on October 6, 1939 were taken by Soviet military councils and commanders-in-chief.
The whole electoral campaign was re-started
under a different name. Tass' official communiques of the 10th and 11th of October, 1939 reported from Lwow and Bialystok
that the "Temporary Town Committees" of these towns came forward with an initiative to proclaim elections to National Assemblies
of "Western Ukraine" and of "Western White Ruthenia." That was apparently calculated so as to make world opinion unaware of
the fact that the administrative bodies of these and other Polish towns were simply branches of Soviet administration, which
under the command of Soviet officers executed orders of superior authorities - and in no way represented the local inhabitants.
Both reports omitted to state the date when those administrative committees came forward with such an initiative and deliberately
let out certain details, not denying on the whole however, that "by-laws" were issued and "Committees for the Organization
of Elections" set up.
electoral campaign which began on the 6th-7th and lasted two weeks was extremely intense and carried out by "election experts"
brought from the USSR especially for the purpose - the so-called "experts brigades." - All those "specialists" had already
years of routine in this branch of activity. Incidentally, it may be worth reminding the reader that Stalin himself said in
1925 of the Soviet elections which he described as "a senseless official procedure calculated to smuggle in delegates by using
a number of tricks and pressure exerted by a handful of men who are afraid to lose power." (Stalin: Problems
of Leninism, translation into Polish from the IX edition, Moscow, 1933, page 164). Since that time the character
of Soviet elections has undergone no change, only their "technique" has been "perfected." In this respect a very significant
statement may be found in the paper published at Minsk and called "Zviazda," organ of the Central Committee of the White Ruthenian
Communist Party and of the Council of People's Commissars of Soviet White Ruthenia (see No 232/5065 of October
16th, 1934). The paper reported that during a session of secretaries of the regional executive committees for electoral
matters in 1934, the following was declared: "I do not know why we should take such great care; is it the first time that
we hold election to councils? We are certain that all our candidates will be elected and no complaints will ever be made."
Now those "experts" had, in the occupied
territories, an army of agitators at their disposal composed, in the first place, of troops and Soviet officials.
Nobody cared for the formal side of the
elections. The central "Committees for the Organisation of Elections," as aforesaid, were chiefly recruited from representatives
of the occupying authorities. Thus in the "Committees for the Organisation of Elections" in "Western Ukraine" for instance,
were to be found among others: M.S. Grechukha, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist
Republic and A.J. Korneichuk, the present deputy Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union; while in Western White Ruthenia" the
same Committee included: N.J. Natalowich, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the White Ruthenian Soviet Republic,
N.G. Grekova, chairman of the Supreme Council of the USSR, and A.T. Pankov. Furthermore 7 red Army officers or NKVD functionaries
were appointed to the "Western Ukraine's" Committee - Matsko, Yeremienko, Gorbatenko, Grulenko, Grishchuk, Bagna and Lukin
- and to the "Western White Ruthenian" at least three - Gaysin, Markieyev, Spasov (see "Izvietia" of October
11th and 12th, 1939). A similar situation prevailed in regional and provincial Election Committees of which within
a few days several thousands were set up in the entire occupied area. Numerically Red Army men and NKVD officials as well
as members of the afore-mentioned "experts brigades" sent from the Soviet Union for the purpose were well represented. Accounts
given by Polish citizens from 27 counties who took part in the elections corroborate the fact that Soviet citizens, civilians
and military - frequently in uniforms - sat in the Election Committees. Accounts from other counties state in general terms
that elections were organized by Soviet Representatives.
The Soviet competent authorities were particularly anxious to induce the local population to take
part in the elections. Various measures were applied for that purpose, above all an atmosphere of terror was created to carry
conviction that the new state of affairs was final and unchangeable. The population of occupied territories, regardless of
nationality, was deprived of their leaders from the highest to the lowest. The first wave of arrest and deportations which
took place immediately after the entrance of the Red Army and which we already indicated above, was followed by new similar
repressions. Hundreds of thousands of people were arrested and deported in the same way, and among them not only officials,
judges, soldiers, officers and policemen, but also regional leaders of political parties, of workers' trade unions, cooperatives,
cultural organizations, economic institutions, sport associations, doctors, lawyers, journalists, writers, teachers and clergy
of all denominations.
person attempting to carry out some activity not in keeping with the propaganda instructions issued by the Soviet occupant
was exposed to immediate arrest and sentence for "counter-revolutionary" activities. Soviet authorities dissolved all existing
organizations: cultural, religious, economic, social, sport, Trade Unions - both Polish and Ukrainian as well as White Ruthenian,
Jewish, Lithuanian, Russian and Czech. Their property was handed over to the newly created Communist organizations. Similarly,
the entire Press was stamped out. Its offices and printing installations were given to newly created Communist dailies and
Large masses of the population
in occupied territories were cut off from any news of the outside world. Soviet propaganda carried out by means of Press,
posters, leaflets, loudspeakers kept on telling people from morning to night that the Polish State ceased to exist
for ever, and that the peace treaty establishing firmly the existing state of affairs would be concluded, and that, in view
of the situation, the population should reconcile themselves to the newly created situation as soon as possible and subordinate
themselves to it accordingly.
The Soviet authorities, with an enormous effort, forced upon the population new slogans and a new outlook as
well as a new language. Despite the fact that Ukrainian and White Ruthenian were officially favoured, a large volume of propaganda
was actually carried out in Russian. Yiddish was tolerated whereas Polish, at the beginning in particular, was altogether
excluded completely both from propaganda and from public life. It was removed from offices and from official announcements;
road signs and Polish street names, shop signs, etc., were all taken down. This was done even in those parts of the country
and those towns and villages which had an overwhelming majority of Polish inhabitants.
As we have said before, the Soviet authorities had at
their disposal an army of agitators recruited mainly from Soviet officials and military men. The number of Soviet troops at
that time in Poland was estimated at 700,000 officers and men - thus there was on the average one Red Army agitator to every
18 inhabitants. Izvestia of November 2, 1939, writes: "In the period of preparation to the National Assembly of the
Western Ukraine thousands of warriors and commanders conducted an enormous political activity among the population."
Simultaneously attempts were made at winning
over at least a part of the population. The distribution of land and livestock served that purpose among peasants. During
the first period of the occupation and especially prior to the actual elections collectivisation was never mentioned in order
to avoid antagonising peasant masses whose deep attachment to individual property is widely known. When elections were proclaimed
for the 6th-10th October (1939) the Soviet authorities ordered some most necessary commodities to be imported from
Russia - salt, petroleum, matches and tobacco - to serve as "election bait" and to encourage people to vote.
The population looked upon these supplies with amazement as they had already learnt to expect something entirely different
from the Soviet authorities and the Red Army, namely, the campaign of denuding the country of all foodstuffs and all stocks
which the occupant happened to find in shops and warehouses. Very soon, however, the truth became apparent that the "pre-election"
supplies were the only ones which were ever to come from the Soviet Union, and as soon as the elections were over the authorities
reverted to their former ways of behaviour.
Where the terror and the "election bait" brought no satisfactory results more or less evident
pressure was exerted on those elements which showed themselves unwilling to vote. That pressure was applied "en masse" to
residents with permanent addresses were individually visited by electoral functionaries and agitators - mostly Red Army men
or "Workers' Guards" armed with rifles - who persuaded them and tried to "convince" them that it was in their own interest
to vote. It must be pointed out that refugees from Western and Central Poland who happened to find themselves under Soviet
occupation, as well as persons with no permanent address were also encouraged to vote. To that category as well the whole
machinery of pressure was applied.
The authorities fully realised the existing enmity of the local population towards them, despite extensive propaganda
campaigns, and that was the reason why it was not disclosed beforehand that the elections were meant as some sort of a "plebiscite"
for incorporation into Russia. The aim of the National Assemblies was described enigmatically as "creation of an authority
serving entirely the interests of the people, meant to be a people's government, a government of the working masses." (From an address issued by the "Temporary Committee" of the City of Bialystok, quoted by TASS.)
The Soviet occupants felt no apprehensions
that mass voting by hostile elements might effect the elections in a way disadvantageous to the Soviet because - independently
of terror - the electoral by-laws were so conceived that they precluded the standing of any opposition or independent candidates
and ensured the "election" of the representatives of an insignificant minority by an overwhelming majority of the population.
To obtain this end - apart from electoral by-laws - the afore mentioned Soviet "election experts" were of great assistance.
Electoral by-laws for "Western Ukraine"
and for "Western White Ruthenia" set up one-mandate electoral districts, and only those bodies which were controlled by Soviet
administration were allowed to nominate candidates to National Assemblies, namely: 1) "Temporary Town Committees," 2) "Peasant
Committees," 3) Assemblies of the so-called "Workers' Guard," 4) "Assemblies of Workers of Enterprises," and finally
5) "Intelligentsia Assemblies."
The first two of these institutions - as stated above - were in fact administrative bodies set by the occupation
authorities and directed exclusively by Red Army officers; the third was the Soviet auxiliary militia. Assemblies of "Workers
of Enterprises" and of the "Intelligentsia" were not clearly defined bodies and in practice, they could only be convoked and
directed by representatives of the occupying authorities. In any case their rights to present candidates were limited by a
special clause of the by-laws advising those assemblies to elect trustees who would "collectively nominate a candidate
for a given area" at their regional meetings.
At first the workers did not always understand the mechanism of Soviet "elections" and following
the Polish customs they were used to, they tried in some places to nominate candidates of their own choice, independently
of official nominations. But that also was promptly dealt with. Communist agents present at every meeting demanded that each
candidate should be "discussed" in a Soviet way, that is, he should step up on the platform, give his curriculum (i.e.
curriculum vitae - a list of a person's qualifications and career experience), relate his past, describe his political
views, etc. (for example, vide (i.e. see) the very interesting account reported in Pravda - No.
289, 1939 - by the paper's correspondent, W. Katayev, on the electoral meeting in the town of Smorgonie.) As a public
admission of any opposition - in the presence of NKVD men - would have been under the Soviet mono-party regime equivalent
to suicide, there could have been no question of any candidates unfavoured by the authorities of occupation.
According to the by-laws candidates nominated
by the above mentioned organisations were liable to "registration" with the regional Election Committees, which were set up
and controlled by "Temporary Committees" of respective towns. But as the by-laws made no mention of the obligation
of the Election Committees to carry out such a registration, that regulation added one more means of eliminating any eventual
undesirable opposition candidates thus ensuring the nomination only of candidates approved by the occupying authorities.
In practice, therefore, the number of
registered candidates proved to be smaller than the required number of delegates to "National Assemblies."
According to information published by
the Soviet Press, in the northern part of the occupied territory, in "Western White Ruthenia," 921 candidates were registered
(Pravda, No. 290 and 293 of October 19 and 20, 1939), whereas in the southern part in "Western
Ukraine" about 1500 (Pravda No 290 of October 19, 1939). Since the northern part had 929 mandates
and the southern 1495, it follows from the above figures that in each of the one-mandate electoral districts only one candidate
could be nominated and, at first, several districts of "Western White Ruthenia" registered none at all.
In such circumstances as described above
the "elections" had neither sense nor meaning, because only persons previously chosen by the authorities could become "representatives"
of the local population of "National Assemblies."
It should be added that Polish citizenship was not regarded as a necessary condition for nomination,
nor was a permanent place of residence required; therefore very frequently Soviet citizens were selected. In Krzemieniec,
for instance, among the candidates were the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, and Marshal Voroshilov (Pravda,
No 290 of October 19, 1939).
Elsewhere among the candidates the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army's White Ruthenian Front, the chairman
of the Supreme Council of the White Ruthenian SSR, the secretary of the Central Committee of the White Ruthenian Communist
Party and others were to be found.
Moreover the composition of the candidates with regard to their nationality did not in the least correspond
to the ethnic aspect of the occupied territories. Thus according to Soviet official sources, among the 921 candidates from
"Western White Ruthenia" there were 110 Poles, that is 11.9 per cent (Pravda No 293 of October
22, 1939) although in that territory they represented 49 per cent of the total population. In "Western Ukraine"
out of the total of 1495 candidates 402 were Poles, that is 27.1 per cent (Pravda No 293
of October 22, 1939), although the proportion of Poles in that part of the occupied territory amounted to 32.6 per
cent. That disproportion is even more accentuated when some of the "oblasti" - provinces - are taken into consideration. In
the Nowogrodek "oblast" there were only 5 Polish candidates that is 2.2 per cent of the total despite the fact that
the Polish population represented in that area 52.4 per cent of the total; in the Stanislawow "oblast" where the Poles represented
22.1 per cent, among 313 candidates only 4 were Poles.
To what degree Soviet "elections" were but a meaningless formality without any influence on the
actual final issue of the occupied territories is testified plainly by the example of Wilno and its district.
In that territory which initially was included into the so-called "Western White Ruthenia" similar policy was conducted
and a similar propaganda campaign carried out, in order to induce the population to vote for the "National Assembly" in Bialystok.
That campaign was, however, suddenly dropped at the time when Wilno with its district were ceded by the Soviet government
to Lithuania. The cession was done not only without consulting the local population but in fact contrary to their wishes and
tendencies. It was admitted by the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, himself, who declared at the V (fifth) meeting
of the Supreme Soviet Council on October 31st, 1939 that: "The Soviet Union decided to hand over Wilno to the Lithuanian Republic
not because the city had a Lithuanian majority. No, Wilno has a non-Lithuanian majority."
The period of preparations for the "elections" to the
"National Assemblies" was very short, it lasted in fact only 12 days. So short a time obviously could not permit even an approximately
correct carrying out of any pre-electoral functions such as dividing the territory into areas and electoral districts, setting
up of electoral boards, compiling lists of electors - especially when (the) non-resident population was to be granted the
right to vote -, nomination of candidates, etc.
The very "elections" themselves were equally far from serious. They took place throughout the
entire occupied territory on the same day, namely on October 22, 1939. On that day both the terror and the propaganda campaign
attained their peak. Electors were rounded up in their workshops or dragged out of their houses and marched off in columns
to where voting was in progress; there, each one of them was given a card bearing the printed name of the only candidate of
a given district and an envelope. The officials who handed the electors these papers "instructed" them, by putting the cards
into the envelopes and telling the electors to place them in the urns.
According to article 29 of the electoral by-laws the voter leaves the name of the candidate for
whom he votes and deletes others. That regulation, however, had no practical meaning as the authorities of occupation allowed
only one candidate to be nominated for each area. As a result - despite the alleged "secrecy" of "elections" - any elector,
who declined to place his envelope in the urn at once but wished to put the paper into it himself and to do so personally
in the isolation cell, revealed himself as voting "against." Theoretically it could have been done by deleting the only name
on the paper. But people leaving queues in order to go to the isolation cell were noted and registered either on electoral
lists or by the numerous NKVD agents present in all electoral premises.
In such conditions there could be no question of any "secrecy"
of the elections. He, who wished to vote "against," knew that he thus exposed himself, his family and his friends to inevitable
imprisonment and deportation. As the result a large number of people who went with the firm resolution to vote "against" broke
their resolve on the actual spot when they saw for themselves what the situation really was. Deciding at the last moment to
throw in the paper with the name of the official candidate on it and thus concealing their real attitude to the regime of
occupation, they hoped to protect themselves and their families from the consequences of the struggle against the "enemies
of the people" which, according to reported announcements, was to be continued after the elections.
No better off were those who decided not to take part in the "elections" at all. In the afternoon, when the majority
of voters had already placed their votes, members and functionaries of Election Committees mostly recruited from the Red Army
or "Workers' Guards" visited the residences of the "reluctant" and "persuaded" them of their "duty as citizens" to take part
in voting, and in a more and more categorical manner "invited" them to make their way to the Election Committees. Excuses
of illness or fatigue were of no avail; the Committees had at their disposal all means of transport to bring the sick voters.
In isolated cases members of the Committees went to the apartments of sick electors carrying urns in order to receive their
If the first reminder of the "citizen's duty"
produced no effect there followed more "persuasion" in a much sharper tone.
Taking into account the systematic terrorising of the population by means of the campaign against "enemies of the
people" as well as public announcements on the continuation of the campaign as soon as the "elections" were over, it must
be realised that both absence at the "elections" and voting "against" by placing the paper with the candidate's name deleted
demanded extreme courage, even heroism or a feeling of utter despair.
To add to the characteristics of these "elections" it should be said that the Soviet authorities aimed at creating
in the electoral premises an atmosphere of popular festival; orchestras were playing, tables were heavy with specially prepared
food and dancing was organised. At the same time agitators pretending to be "voters" were arranging real public meetings openly
declaring why and how they would vote. All that "mise en scene" had one aim in view i.e. to create the desired psychological
effect, to maintain the atmosphere of excitement and to scare the arriving voters from showing any sign of "disloyalty" to
the Soviet regime.
But even taking all these circumstances
into account it must be stated that the results of these "elections" as published by the Soviet Press, inspire no confidence
whatever and they are obviously not based on any factual data. According to these reports, in the northern part of the occupation
- the so-called "Western White Ruthenia" - 96.71 per cent of the people entitled to vote allegedly took part in the "elections,"
out of which 90.67 per cent voted for official candidates and 9.3 per cent "against."
In the southern part - the so-called "Western Ukraine" - 92.83 per cent of those entitled took part in the "elections:"
90.93 per cent voted for official candidates while 9.07 per cent voted "against" including the votes which were declared
Independently of the political aspect of these
"elections," even from a purely practical view these figures cannot possibly be right even approximately. The last general
census of the population in Poland took place in 1931. The "elections" were held at the time of very intense - forcible or
voluntary - migration of the population. The territory in which elections were held was crowded with hundreds of thousands
if not millions of refugees from Western and Central Poland, who on the whole, although the practice varied in some districts,
were allowed to vote and great pressure was exerted on them in order to induce them to do so. On the other hand, from among
the permanent inhabitants of that territory, a considerable number were either away either in hospitals or in prisoner-of-war
camps both in Germany and in the U.S.S.R. The lists completed within a few days and the fact that votes were accepted from
people whose names were not on electoral lists and who happened to present themselves for the voting - the Soviet Press reported
cases where refugees or escaped prisoners had voted - renders still more doubtful the accuracy of the given percentages of
persons who allegedly took part in the "elections."
- what is even more important - confidence cannot be but denied to the officially stated data on the results of "elections"
for subjective reasons since there was no control over the polling of votes by some neutral and disinterested party.
In the counting of votes, by-laws admitted - apart from the members of
Election Committees - also the participation of specially authorised representatives of the "Temporary Town Committees" -
i.e. offices of occupying administration, responsible for the organisation of "elections" - and of the "Peasant Committees"
- institutions of a similar character -; further of the representatives of the afore-mentioned assemblies of "Workers
of Enterprises" and of the "Intelligentsia" as well as the representatives of the Soviet Press. The latter was a state monopoly
as all other newspapers and periodicals were liquidated by the Soviet authorities from the very beginning.
Since each district had only one official candidate there could be no clashes
of "controversial interests" between these afore-mentioned factors as all were equally interested in demonstrating that their
areas gave the largest amount of votes for the official candidate and were inclined to bring up the total result to 100 per
The fact that no neutral observers were allowed,
no neutral Press correspondents in particular, casts a specific light on the "trustworthiness" of the voting results as officially
published. The fact that the proportion of voters taking part in the "elections" as well as the proportion of those who voted
for the official candidates was practically the same everywhere regardless of differences in social and national structure
of the various areas - inspires further serious doubts.
of this statement, it must be added that the officially published numbers of those who declined to vote (in the northern
part 90,911 persons; in the southern 342,278) and of voters who declined to support official candidates (in the northern part
262,177; in the southern 401,843) were relatively very high. In spite of the general conditions in which the "elections" took
place and despite the pressure - at least a psychological one - exerted by the authorities, even according to Soviet official
statistics 1,097,209 people consciously decided to bring on themselves the eventuality of the most severe reprisals for having
failed to submit to the occupants at the time of the "elections."
IV Resolutions Passed by "National Assemblies" of "Western Ukraine" and "Western White
Soviet sources never published full lists of names of the 2,411 official candidates, "elected" on October 22, 1939,
to become delegates to "National Assemblies" in Lwow and Bialystok. That is why it is impossible, at present, to estimate
what proportion of persons convoked to those Assemblies were permanently resident in Polish Eastern territories and what was
the number of Soviet citizens who arrived there with the armies of occupation. From information given by the Soviet Press
on the nominated official candidates it became apparent that among them were such "local inhabitants" as e.g. the Russian
Commisar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, Marshal Voroshilov (Vide "Pravda" October 19th, 1939), the secretary
of the White Ruthenian Communist Party, Ponomarenko, the Commander-in-Chief of the White Ruthenian Front "Komandarm" Kovalev
(Vide "Pravda" October 15th, 1939), etc. Among the delegates to "National Assemblies" there were, no
doubt, also numerous Soviet officers as chairmen and members of the "Temporary Town Committees" of a number of occupied towns.
Five or Six days after the "voting" the so-called
"representatives of the local population" met in Lwow and Bialystok, summoned to attend the sessions of the "National Assemblies."
While this was in progress Soviet commanders ordered large scale military parades, no doubt to manifest that the wish for
"expression of the will of the people" to be incorporated into the Soviet Union could, if needed, be backed by real force.
after the motion regarding the introduction of a Soviet system in "Western Ukraine" and the incorporation of that province
into the USSR the chairman asked who was "against" it, the great hall of the Lwow Municipal Theatre was said by the Soviet
Press to have been shaken by the thunder of voices: "No, and none will ever be and if any one is we will wipe him out! - sotrem
-" (Vide "Pravda" October 29th, 1939) - coming from the throats of numerous delegates and equally numerous
"guests," i.e. chiefly of NKVD agents. Both resolutions passed in such circumstances were declared "unanimous."
It appeared later that among the assembled "delegates"
there was one, who "dared" to vote against the incorporation of "Western Ukraine" into the Soviet Union. He was a Ukrainian
lawyer, Vinnichenko, who, for that act, was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. Naturally, Soviet authorities were completely
silent on the subject.
Thus "passed" resolutions said that: "expressing the
unanimous will of the liberated Ukrainian nation and following the example of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian National Assembly
proclaim the establishment of the Soviet authority on the whole territory of Western Ukraine," and further requested "the
Supreme Council of the USSR to accept the incorporation of the Western Ukraine into the Ukrainian SSR."
Two days later
analogous "resolutions" to those in Lwow were passed by the meeting of the "National Assembly of White Ruthenia" in Bialystok.
Subsequently, both "Assemblies" passed further resolutions to sanction "ex post" the expropriation of private owners, already
carried out by the occupying authorities, and the nationalisation of banks and big industry. Moreover, they elected delegations
which were to submit a "request" to the previously summoned extraordinary session of the Supreme Council of the USSR in Moscow
asking for the incorporation of Eastern Poland into the Soviet Union.
On November 1st and 2nd, 1939, the Vth Extraordinary
Session of the Supreme Council of the USSR decided to consent to that "request" thereby "legalising" a state of affairs established
by Soviet authorities already six weeks previously. Further "proofs" of the "legal character" of the incorporation of Polish
Eastern territories into the Soviet Union were to be provided "ad hoc" by amendments to the Ukrainian, White Ruthenian and
the Union's Constitutions, as well as by the publications of new maps and atlasses of the USSR which included the occupied
Polish territories in these Soviet republics.
V. Attempts to Present the "Elections" as a "Plebiscite."
In some quarters it is claimed that the Soviet "elections" to the so-called National Assemblies of "Western Ukraine"
and "Western White Ruthenia" and the subsequent resolutions passed by them allegedly represent some sort of a plebiscite held
among the local population for the incorporation of those territories into the Soviet Union.
Such claims are so unfounded and absurd that they merit no serious
consideration. As was already emphasised, the authorities of a State occupying foreign territories have no right to carry
out any changes in both legal and political "status" of such territories; the occupying power is only the administrator and
temporary user of the occupied area and must not, by way of unilateral decision, accomplish legal and political acts, such
as plebiscites. This is made clear both in the articles of the Fourth Hague Convention and by customs generally accepted by
even independently of such a legal standpoint, which in this case is conclusive, there is no doubt, that the manner in which
the "elections" were held in Eastern Poland is in blatant contradiction to what is absolutely required for the free expression
of the will of the population.
problem of how to carry out a plebiscite was dealt with by many scholars and experts on International Law, as well as by statesmen
who drafted peace treaties, and their views were always in agreement. That agreement was the outcome of the accepted principle
of fair and equal opportunities for all interested parties. One of the best definitions of the conditions necessary to ensure
"free and honest" voting in a plebiscite is contained in a monograph by an English authoress, Sarah Wombough, "Plebiscites
since the World War," published in 1933 (see volume I). These are the conditions, she formulates:
"1. The plebiscite must be held under the formal agreement of both parties,
2. The area must be neutralised and the agreement must clearly provide this,
3. On the signing of the agreement the area must be put at once under international control,
4. All troops of both parties must be evacuated at once,
5. A plebiscite commission of unquestioned neutrals, acceptable to both States, must be set up,
6. This commission must be supported by a police force of its own, however small,
7. The commission must have complete power over the administration of the area, itself taking
the place of the highest officials,
8. It must have sufficient personnel
to exercise this power efficiently,
9. It must exercise this power
for a sufficient time in advance of the vote to establish confidence that a change of sovereignty is possible.
10. It must remove the local key officials and replace them with its own appointees approved by
11. It must set up an effective organization for supervision
of all officials, using the local administrative divisions as the bases,
It must immediately reorganize the police,
13. It must immediately reorganize
the judicial system, cutting off the local courts from the higher courts outside the area,
14. It must set up a plebiscite tribunal to have exclusive jurisdiction over all plebiscite offences,
15. The regulations for registration and voting must allow sufficient time for all processes of
16. They must provide adequate tests of identity of applicants
17. They must provide adequate penalties,
18. The suffrage must include women as well as men, it should also include illiterates and prisoners."
In comparison with the above conditions
we shall recapitulate briefly the circumstances in which the Soviet "elections" in Eastern Poland took place in October, 1939:
1. The "elections" were ordered
on the strength of a unilateral Soviet decision by the authorities of occupation without the consent of the other interested
party, indeed, against its will.
2. They were held during the war,
under both military and civilian occupation by one of the interested parties, namely that of the occupying power. That power
controlled the entire civil, military and judicial administration from the highest to the lowest spheres inclusive. No disinterested
neutral elements were allowed to supervise the voting and the preparations for the "elections."
3. The other interested party - namely Poland - not only had not been given a chance of exercising any
control over the course of the "elections" but was also completely unable to counteract the most extensive propaganda campaign
conducted by the authorities of the occupying power who used every possible means, even the most unfair ones. At the same
time by supressing the Press and by depriving the population of any but Soviet sources of information, they prevented the
population from forming any own objective opinion.
4. The "elections"
were held in an atmosphere of terror, created by the occupying authorities by means of imprisonment and deportation of thousands
of people from among the leaders of the local population, regardless of their nationality, and by way of threatening the continuation
of that oppression against those who would, in any way, try to oppose the regime of occupation.
5. The extremely short time, namely 12 days allowed for all preparatory functions, made impossible any
division into areas and electoral districts, any compilation of lists of electors, any setting up of commissions, any proper
nomination of candidates etc.
6. Numerous representatives of the
military and civil authorities of occupation participated in central and regional Election Committees; and in central Committees
even high State officials of neighbouring Soviet republics - Ukrainian and White Ruthenian - took part.
7. The occupying authorities permitted the nomination of only one candidate with official
support for each district; the nomination of any other candidates was made impossible; thus the voters did not have a choice
of at least two nominees, which is the essence of all voting. As matters stood, the occupying authorities appointed all candidates
and deprived the population of any influence on the result of the "elections."
Voters were not at all informed of the fact that the "elected" delegates were to decide on the incorporation of the occupied
territories into the Soviet Union. Pre-electoral propaganda carefully avoided the subject.
9. On the day of voting the terror reached its very peak; reluctant persons were threatened with painful
consequences for themselves and for their families.
10. The secrecy of
voting existed in name only, as each vote contained but one printed name of the official candidate. Persons who went to the
isolation cell in order to make some alterations on the card were in danger of being regarded as "enemies" of the regime with
all the consequences this entailed. Names of such persons were carefully noted by members of the commissions and by agents
of the political police, the NKVD.
11. The counting of votes was effected
in circumstances which made impossible any objective supervision. It was carried out by commissions composed exclusively of
persons interested in providing the largest possible number of votes for the official candidates. In such conditions the statistical
results of the elections must be regarded as completely misleading.
Assuming that the "elections" were to represent a plebiscite, then - against all accepted rules - that plebiscite was a four-degree
one: 1) Bodies entitled to designate candidates - ie chiefly administrative occupying authorities such as "Temporary Town
Committees" and "Peasant Committees" - agree upon common candidates, 2) they appoint candidates from among themselves, 3)
in every district the population is compelled to vote for the only official candidate, 4) the thus elected delegates "decide"
on the incorporation of the territory into the USSR.
view of such a "plebiscite" the Polish government on October 21st, 1939 handed a note to all governments of countries with
which Poland had diplomatic relations. The English text of that note was as follows:
"The Polish Government have just learned that on Polish territory temporarily occupied by the USSR, a plebiscite
is to be held to ascertain the will of the population on the question of the transfer of such territory to the USSR.
"The Polish Government hereby declare that the holding of such a plebiscite in areas under military
occupation is contrary to International Law. Therefore they will consider it as null and void, and in no case will they recognize
it as having legal force."
To conclude, it should be added that, in view
of the changes in the composition of the population, carried out by both German and Soviet occupying authorities on Polish
territory since September 1939; of the mass deportations of Polish citizens of all nationalities many of whom died in exile,
as well as mass murders committed particularly by the Germans - a plebiscite held in any part of the Polish territory, even
if all the necessary conditions were fulfilled, would be, without doubt, contrary to all accepted principles of justice and
VI. The Present Legal Situation.
The "incorporation" of the occupied Eastern territories of Poland into the Soviet Union had by no means ameliorated
the situation of the population; on the contrary, it only made it worse. Further arrests and persecutions were followed by
mass deportations to Russia of over 1,500,000 people i.e. over 10 per cent of the total population of the entire occupied
area. Poles, Ukrainians, White Ruthenians, Lithuanians and Jews alike were among the deportees. Men as well as women and children
transferred to polar regions or to Central Asia were forced to do work exceeding by far their physical ability and in an extremely
severe climate to which they were unaccustomed. The food they received was inadequate and as a result large numbers died and
continue to die of starvation, sickness and exposure.
The occupied Polish territories were placed under an extremely
rigid regime, which introduced Soviet institutions and destroyed age-long traditions and institutions of the local population
which for centuries have been bound to the Christian and Western civilisation. Shortly after the resolutions of "National
Assemblies" of "Western Ukraine" and "Western White Ruthenia" were passed, Soviet authorities embarked upon collectivisation
of agriculture which was executed with great speed in complete disregard to the desperate resistance of peasants deeply attached
to their land.
The country was rapidly impoverished and the standard of living fell catastrophically as compared to
what it used to be under Polish rule.
Just over a year and a half after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland, Germany
attacked Russia. This brought about a general change in the situation, including the amelioration in Russo-Polish relations.
On July 31st, 1941, an agreement was signed in London by Poland and the USSR, whereby the Soviet changed their previous attitude
of non-recognition of Poland, and declared null and void all treaties concluded with Germany in 1939 relating to territorial
changes in the Polish State.
By that act - as there was no state of war between the Soviet Union and Poland - all treaties
previously concluded by these countries regained their legal force, above all the Treaty of Riga. That is a further reason
why references to the so-called "plebiscite" of October 22nd, 1939, and to the act of incorporation of the Polish Eastern
provinces into the Soviet Union, i.e. a unilateral action by the occupying power, cannot and do not possess any legal standing.