Re: [Kresy-Siberia] Amnesty-Richard P.
Thanks for this Richard. I am not sure who the original source or author is, but this article can be found at
It is Part 2 of "THE SOVIET ETHNIC CLEANSING CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE POLES DURING WORLD WAR II"
Here is Part 1:
I will contact the Videofact folks to see what other documentary material they may have.
From: "Richard P." <richardp@...>
Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2003 07:39:11 +1100
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Amnesty-Richard P.
Hi All, I don't recall anyone mentioning the article that I found in the Canadian press so I am including it here for those who are interested in the extended version of events regarding the AMNESTY.
Amnesty-escape from Russia
The amnesty for the Polish people in Russia came about as a consequence of an agreement between Stalin, Churchill, Anthony Eden and the Polish government in exile in London. This agreement was signed on July 30 1941 and enabled all Polish people to be freed for the purpose of forming an Army and help Stalin fight Hitler.
This is the short version of the amnesty but by good fortune I found an article in the Canadian press about the amnesty which I am including here so that the reader can have a better understanding of the actual situation and how it changed the lives of Polish deportees. :
Such was the lot of the deportees until the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany on June 22, 1941. A protocol of the Polish-Soviet (Sikorski-Maisky) agreement of July 30, 1941, provided for the release of all Poles in Soviet exile as well as for the formation of a Polish army on Soviet soil. The document, signed in the presence of Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, used the unfortunate term "amnesty" (the word should have been "manumission" or "emancipation") to characterize the release of the exiles; they were Stalin's bargaining chip in the contest for the status quo ante borders of Poland. According to a January 15, 1943, note from Beria to Stalin, 389,041 Polish citizens were freed as a result of that "amnesty." These included 200,828 ethnic Poles, 90,662 Jews, 31,392 Ukrainians, 27,418 Belorussians, 3,421 Russians, and 2,291 persons of other nationalities. There was no need to inform Stalin of the fact that the Soviet authorities often impeded the release of the deportees from their various places of confinement and absolved themselves from assisting them in any way whatsoever upon their release. This utter lack of concern brought about a crisis of unimaginable proportions.
Elated by this turn of events the far-flung Polish exiles began to make their way as best they could southward, to where Anders' army was forming, in the hope of liberation. These journeys, often several weeks long, brought new suffering and tens of thousands died from hunger, cold, heat, disease and exhaustion on that trip to freedom. For many, the help provided by the United States and Great Britain was too little and too late.
During the two great evacuations (the first, between March 24 and the beginning of April 1942; the second, between August 10 and September 1, 1942), from Krasnovodsk across the Caspian Sea to Pahlavi (Iran), and the smaller overland evacuations from Ashkhabad to Mashhad (in March and September 1942), about 115,000 people (including some 37,000 civilians, of whom about 18,300 were children) left the Soviet Union. The soldiers of Anders' army went on to fight in many battles, including the one at Monte Cassino; the civilians, because they could not be repatriated, were forced to remain in foreign lands for the remainder of the war.
The first stop of the refugees evacuated with Anders' army was Iran, where they found temporary quarters in large transit camps initially located in Pahlavi and Mashhad, and later in Tehran and Ahvaz. While Gen. Anders' troops were subsequently transferred to Palestine and from there to Iraq, the civilians remained in Iran. To accommodate the refugees, a sprawling stationary camp was established in Isfahan. Because it housed several camps for the thousands of orphaned Polish children, it came to be known as the "City of Polish Children." The relief assistance afforded by Polish, British, American, and Iranian authorities soon improved their living conditions and brought the devastating contagious diseases under control, diseases acquired in the Soviet Union which continued to rob the refugees of their lives even after liberation (over 2,000 refugees died in Iran alone). In time, various Polish institutions, including 24 schools serving some 3,000 students, were established in Iran and several. By the end of 1943, 33,000 refugees were transferred from Iran to other countries. By the end of 1945, another 4,300 were evacuated to Lebanon; by 1946, that number rose to 6,000. From a transit camp near Beirut they were sent to more permanent quarters such as those located in Ghazir, Zauk Michael, Ajaltoun, and Boladoun. Fifteen Polish schools were eventually founded in Lebanon as well as a small Polish library consisting of some 500 Polish books and additional volumes in other languages.
In Palestine, the camps for the over 5,000 refugees transferred there were located in Nazareth, Rehovot, Ain-Karem, and Barbara. Several scout groups, schools, training centers, a Women's Auxiliary Service, and an Officers' Legion were established. A Polish press, located in Palestine and Iran, printed the much-needed educational materials used in refugee schools throughout the Middle East.
Some exiles also found asylum in India in transit camps set up in Quetta, Mount Abu, Panchgani, Bandra, and in and near Karachi (such as the Country Club Camp, Haji Pilgrims Camp, and the Malir Camp). But more stable settlements also emerged such as those in Balachadi, near the city of Jamnagar, and in Valivade, near Kolhapur. Balachadi became a refuge for some 1,000 Polish children. Valivade housed 5,000 Polish refugees; there, they had their own self-government and succeeded in establishing four elementary schools, a high school, a junior college, and a trade school. In all, 16 Polish schools were attended by some 2,300 Polish children in India. Moreover, several Polish periodicals were published, Polish amateur theaters were founded, and Polish business enterprises flourished.
Africa provided another safe harbor for the Poles. In mid-1944, East Africa hosted over 13,000 Polish citizens. They settled in transit and permanent camps in the British colonies of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanganyika. In Uganda, the camps were located in Masindi and Koya on Lake Victoria. In Kenya, they were located in Rongai, Manira, Makindu, Nairobi, and Nyali near Mombasa. In Tanganyika, the largest settlement was Tengeru (4,000 refugees) and smaller camps were located in Kigoma, Kidugala, Ifunda, Kondoa, and Morogoro.
South Africa, South Rhodesia, and North Rhodesia also became the home of Poles. The largest of these settlements were: in the Union of South Africa Oudtshoorn; in North Rhodesia Abercorn, Bwana M'Kubwa, Fort Jameson, Livingstone, and Lusaka; in South Rhodesia Digglefold, Marandellas, Rusape, and Gatooma.
In Africa, Polish schools, churches, hospitals, civic centers, and manufacturing and service cooperatives were founded and Polish culture prospered. African radio stations ran programs in the Polish language and there was even a Polish press. In South Africa alone there were 18 Polish schools with about 1,800 students in attendance.
A large Polish settlement was also founded in Mexico. Although provisions were made to resettle several thousand Poles in that country, only two transports arrived in the summer and fall of 1943 with a total of 1,432 refugees. Their home became a deserted hacienda in Santa Rosa, near Leen. The settlement was financed by the Polish Government in London and by American institutions, including the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the Polish American Council.
Finally, 733 Polish children with their 105 caretakers arrived in New Zealand on November 1, 1944. They were housed in the Polish Children's Camp located in Pahiatua. As elsewhere, kindergartens and grammar schools provided for the educational needs of the youngsters. Unlike elsewhere, upon graduation the teens were placed either in schools operated by religious orders or in technical colleges. Two hostels were also established: one in Island Bay for girls, the other in Lyall Bay for boys.
Wherever they went the Polish refugees encountered effusive good will not only on the part of the respective governments that invited them but also on the part of the native populations. Welcoming signs with Polish flags, white eagles, and words of encouragement often greeted their arrival, high government officials paid them visits, and commemorative monuments were erected in their honor. Unlike the Soviet Union, these were, after all, ancient civilized cultures.
Why didn't America open its doors, and open them wide, to the Polish refugees? That the Western Allies knew all about the deportations is clear from their relief efforts in their behalf in the Soviet Union and the Middle East. Moreover, even while in Iran, although debriefed, the refugees were not encouraged to speak about their experiences in the Soviet Union with outsiders. In America, the date of the arrival of the first transport aboard the USS Hermitage (on June 25, 1943 consisting of 706 refugees, including 166 children) was a State secret. After disembarking at the San Pedro naval dock near Los Angeles, the women and children under 14 years of age were placed in the Griffith Park Internment Camp in Burbank and the men in the Alien Camp in Tuna Canyon.
When the Polish community found out about the arrival of the transport they rallied around the exiles and demanded "Why can't they stay here?" Father Waclaw Zajaczkowski even recruited families willing to take in a hundred orphans. But that was not in the plans, and two days later all of the refugees were shipped off to Mexico. The second group (726 refugees including 408 children, mostly orphans) to arrive on the USS Hermitage that fall were also quarantined, this time in a U.S. army camp near Los Angeles called Santa Anita. After a short stay, they too were dispatched across the border to Colonia Santa Rosa. The delicate balance between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies had to be maintained, it seems, at any cost.
Among the victims on this altar of silence were the 14,500 prisoners of war interned in Kozelsk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov and executed in cold blood in Katyn, Kharkov, and Kalinin in April and May 1940. The Allies never officially contradicted the Soviet line that the Germans, who dug up the graves in the Katyn forest, were responsible for the murders.
No doubt "Uncle Joe" homo sovieticus barbarosus incarnate must have been grateful to the Western Allies for their conspiracy of silence, for preserving the "good name" of his evil empire. He was even more grateful at Yalta, when the Western Allies granted him the right to enslave all of Eastern and half of Central Europe.
All the camps and settlements established in Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, India, Africa, Mexico, and New Zealand were meant to be temporary quarters for the Polish refugees until the end of the war and the expected liberation of their country. However, after Yalta and the change in Polish borders this became an impossible dream, although a few did return to join their families in Poland.
What became of the rest? Many of those who wound up in New Zealand and the Union of South Africa remained where they were brought. The Polish refugees housed in the various camps in Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, India, and Africa moved to Great Britain and its dominions, Canada and Australia, from where some of them later emigrated to the United States; some also settled in Argentina. And a few years ago, in 1996 in Chicago, the Poles of Santa Rosa celebrated the 50th anniversary of their arrival in the United States.
Thus ended the saga of the deportees from Eastern Poland who managed to get out of the Soviet Union under the provisions of that tenuous "amnesty" of 1941. But what happened to the rest of the hundreds of thousands of deportees who did not leave with Anders' army? For tens of thousands the Soviet Union became their final resting place before the war's end. Another quarter of a million were repatriated to the "recovered territories" of Western Poland during the massive population exchanges following World War II. As for what happened to those who never got out, God only knows. Some, no doubt, are still there.
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