for your timely reminder about the plight of Polish civilians in Russia.
General Anders was certainly a great man in the true sense of the word.
Many of the people he saved are living happy and peaceful lives here in
It is a memorable week.
It was 60 years
ago this week that the first evacuations occurred of the Polish exiles from
the Soviet Union to Persia, across the Caspian Sea. The British
supported this because they needed Polish soldiers to protect the Middle
Eastern oilfields from Nazi advances, while the Russians allowed it because
they could not continue supplying the growing Polish Army being formed by the
"amnestied" Polish deportees. However, apparently the British did not
want civilians included in the transports, just military men.
that, my father and his family were fortunate enough to join thousands of
other civilians on those transports (though my 16 year old aunt died of typhus
in a Teheran hospital just several weeks later).
Here is a glimpse of
the story why, in the words of the man that saved our family, General
Wladyslaw Anders, from his book "An Army in Exile":
"The blow fell at
the beginning of March 1942, when General Khurlov, the officer in charge of
Red Army supplies, advised me that after March 20 the number of rations issued
to Polish troops would be reduced to 26,000. That meant utter disaster.
I already had about 70,000 men in the ranks, and, as I have said before,
the soldiers were already going short so that they could keep the women and
children from starving to death.
... I flew at once to Moscow [to see
Stalin], for I felt certain that by doing so I would obtain some concession...
After considerable discussion he agreed that we should receive rations
for 44,000 troops and that the rest of the troops should be evacuated [to
... in response to insistent requests by me, they agreed that
a number of women and children should also go to Persia, bringing the total
number of evacuees to 40,000. The convoys were to go by rail to
Krasnovodsk, and from there by boat the Pahlevi.
... It was with
greatest difficulty that I had succeeded in persuading the Soviet authorities
of the necessity of including some civilians, women and children, with the
military convoys, for I knew it was the only way to save them from death by
starvation. The soldiers had shared their poor rations with the
civilians, who had gathered under the wing of the military for protection,
knowing that they could only survive in that way. Hundreds and thousands
of Poles had already perished in transit and reserve centres. I
accordingly gave orders that any Pole who reported should be included in the
military transport, and all nurseries and orphanages.
... The next day
I received a telegram from London... by the Chief of Staff, General Klimecki.
'Cypher telegram from London P.473, dated 27.3.42.
Commander Polish Forces U.S.S.R. British authorities are alarmed by the
news that families are included in military transports, this not being within
the framework of the evacuation scheme. In view of the great food
difficulties in Iran it is necessary to stop absolutely transport of families
until agreement is reached with British authorities as it may hamper or
restrict military evacuation....'
The time-table for evacuation had
been arranged. It was to begin almost immediately and would take place
over a period of about a week. Any Pole who did not leave Russia then
would probably never do so. Had I then, as suggested, to wait for an
agreement with the British authorities?... There was no time for long
explanations and arguments by telegram: either I could save the civilian
population or leave it to its fate. Evacuation might mean that some
would die in Persia, but if they stayed in Russia they would soon all be dead.
I decided to take full responsibility, and that the evacuation of
civilians should proceed as planned. Therefore I did not cancel my
orders and instructions."
So, as you can see, the evacuation of the
families was as a result of disobeying an order from the Polish government in
London and was against the wishes of the British authorities. Thank God
that General Anders made his own decisions - or those of us who are the
children and grandchildren of the evacuated families wouldn't be here
Eventually, in August 1942, the remainder of Anders Army was
allowed to be evacuated and with them their civilian families. In the
end some 115,000 Polish citizens - soldiers and civilians; men, women
and children - were evacuated to Persia with Anders Army. The military
went on to defeat the Nazis at Monte Cassino and the civilians were dispersed
in schools and camps across the British Empire. Only a few of them ever
returned to Poland after the war, their homeland condemned to ongoing Soviet
+ Research, Remembrance,
+ Discussion: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Kresy-Siberia
+ Film & information: http://www.AForgottenOdyssey.com
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