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Polish Field Post in the USSR

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  • Paul Kobialka
    Hello Everyone! Pardon the delay in posting this message and relevant scans, my 8 month old son is #1 This is only a small fragment of my Polish field post
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2003
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      Hello Everyone!
      Pardon the delay in posting this message and relevant scans, my 8 month old son is #1 This is only a small fragment of my Polish field post collection and I will not go into much detail since I do not know how many of you will be interested in the subject. I have tried to upload 6 scans to the photo section of the kresy site, but the memory quota for the section has been exceeded, I will e-mail them directly to anyone who asks. Enjoy
      In September of 1939, immediately after the occupation of the eastern part of Poland, the Soviets started drastic purges which resulted in sporadic murders and arrests of very large numbers of people. Concentration camps (or correctional labour camps as they were called by the Russians) and prison camps began to spring up all over the European territory of the Soviet Union. The first mass deportations to these and other camps from the Soviet occupied Polish eastern provinces took place on February 10, 1940, the last in May-June 1941. The overall number of deported Poles is still not known, the Polish exile community estimates vary from 880.000 to 1.100.000 (or even more). The Polish ambassador to Russia - Stanislaw Kot wrote to the Polish exile government in 1941 that, upon careful examination, he estimates the number of deportees at about 400.000, new searches in Russian archives have put the numbers at around 280.000 deportees (looks much too small). The truth is probably somewhere in between, but let's return to the subject at hand. In spite of the difficult situations, horrible tortures, and terrible tragedies, hundreds of thousands of exiled Poles were given a chance to save themselves from starvation and lethal epidemics of typhoid, etc. by the signing of the Sikorski-Stalin Declaration on July 30, 1941. In this declaration Stalin agreed to the proposals of General Sikorski, that a Polish army should be organized from Polish officers, soldiers and civilian war prisoners, with its own command under Gen. Wladyslaw Anders. The origin of the postal system, which at first acted as a mediating medium in the individual camps themselves (messages or notes were written on any kind of scrap paper, rags,  wood, large leaves and smuggled from one camp to the other by transferred prisoners or bribed guards), later served as a means to transport messages and letters between the different camps. Still later it acted as an agency between the camps and the local Soviet postal system for letters which were sent outside of the camps to towns and cities in other parts of Russia or Poland. Soon the regular Soviet postal system was replaced by special assigned Soviet Field Post stations, with special numbers assigned to them. Finally there was established an independent Central Polish Field Post with a number of branch Field Posts to replace the duties of the Soviet Field Posts.
      2/ POLISH FIELD POST 1942:
      The above Field Posts were completely handled or managed by Polish personnel, but were under Soviet supervision. At the end of May 1942 the Polish Armed Forces established a Main Polish Field Post Office with branches in the different camps where Polish soldiers were being trained. At the same time it began to employ a Polish cancellation (see scan no. 1). Mail (private or military) sent to cities in Russia or Poland outside of the field post jurisdiction usually had both the Soviet and Polish field post cancellations, plus Soviet stamps.
      The Polish Armed Forces in the USSR developed a highly organized and a very efficient postal system of their own, which soon began to show its independence from the Soviet postal system. About the middle of June 1942, at Jangi-Jul, an idea was conceived of issuing a Field Post stamp for the newly resurrected Polish Army in the USSR. With the full knowledge of the London based Polish Government in Exile, the Field Post decided to issue a special stamp. The purpose of this was to cover the expenses incurred by the Field Post, to underline the independence of the Polish Field Post from the Soviets and the stamp would be an effective means of propaganda. A contest had been conducted and the competition for a stamp design ended on August 8, 1942. "Stan" was declared as the winner - the drawing depicted the eastern borders of Poland, showing the cities of Lwow and Wilno, superimposed on a background of a white eagle. Proofs of this design were made (see scan #2) but the quartermaster and other officers decided to abandon the design, due to the tense Polish-Soviet political situation, the Poles did not want to anger Russian authorities over the subject matter the stamp portrayed. The second award design was chosen on August 13, 1942, this stamp was known as "Dojdziemy" (we shall get there). From all indications it seemed very appropriate for the purpose it was to serve and would not create tensions between the Polish Forces and the Soviets which happened frequently at this time. The central picture portrays a detachment of Polish infantry marching toward Poland against a background of the Polish White Eagle, with radiating sun rays in back of the eagle. Upon the rectangular brown background, below the central picture, the word "Dojdziemy" is inscribed in white letters. The picture to the left portrays  the North Pole with ice, snow and polar bears, with a sunset as the background. Below the picture printed are the dates 1941 and 1942. The picture on the right portrays the tundra and frozen wastelands of Siberia with the northern lights in the background. Below the picture are the numerals 50 and the letters KOP, standing for the denomination of the stamp - 50 Russian kopecks. These two parts represent the lands where the Poles were held as prisoners in forced labour camps. Immediately the engraver - K. Polkowski began to work on the die. To complete it as soon as possible, he worked from early morning until late into the night. The completed die was not treated or tempered because of lack of time and materials for this purpose. A team of Poles from the printing department began to fix and set up an old and antiquated foot powered press, others prepared a mixture of glue, while others experimented with different shades of ink. After checking which colour would look the best - red, blue and black proofs are known to exist (see scan # 3 with a black proof on newspaper), the team chose dark brown as the final colour for the stamps. The most difficult task was securing good quality paper, which was scarce even in large Soviet cities (along with everything else). Finally after a great deal of searching, the director of the Field Post managed, for a bribe, to get 10 irregular sheets of paper from a Soviet print shop in Jangi-Jul. The stamp was printed from only one plate, this is why many variations of brown shade exist on the sheetlets. Due to the sudden order of evacuation of the Polish Armed Forces from the USSR, on August 20, 1942 the sale of the stamp was discontinued (it was on sale for only 2 days!!!) and the Polish Military Field Post was evacuated to Persia. 3017 stamps were printed, from these only 263 were sold and probably most used postally - this is the reason that used covers (envelopes) with the Dojdziemy stamp are so rare and extremely difficult to locate (see scan # 5).  128 stamps were lost, sold outside of Russia or stolen, 92 stamps were donated to the Allied Forces as souvenirs, 396 were damaged, torn, etc., 131 were deposited in the Archives of the Second Polish Corps in London. In later years approximately 2000 were sold as single stamps in souvenir booklets (see scan # 4) and the remaining tete-beche sheetlets were sold at auction. The "Dojdziemy" die was deposited in the archives of the Sikorski Institute in London and cancelled (see scan # 6). Different forgeries of this stamp exist, but are easily distinguished by philatelic experts.
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