Monthly Archives: April 2015

KATYN – A PERSONAL ANNIVERSARY

The 13th April this year is the 75th anniversary of the arrest and deportation of my father, his sister and their mother, and the day I remember my grandfather’s murder at Bykownia near Kiev, one of the Katyn sites. Numbers vary, but with at least 320,000 deported and 22,500 murdered it was on the one hand a huge blow against the Polish nation and on the other a personal tragedy for so many. I am thinking about the personal side today, but am very proud to know how hard the Poles fought over the centuries to remain an independent nation.

katyn victim

Father, Forester and Family Man.

 

I know only one person who is still alive and remembers Wladyslaw Muskus, the grandfather I never knew. He says that granddad was popular with children, not least because he always carried a bag of sweets in his pocket, so I’m sure that I would have loved him! I am also very proud of his achievements, the first in the family to go to university, his endurance in the 1919-20 war with the Bolsheviks, the forestry business he started and the apartments he built before he was murdered at the age of 42. He knew what to expect from the Russians, his parting words to his wife were, “They want me to collaborate with them … you know me, I’ll never agree, so be prepared for the worst.”

 

Polish airforce

 

My father was only 14 when he was deported to Kazakhstan, but he did not let these two years of hardship and hunger prevent a successful life. I celebrated his 80th birthday with him in Ecuador where he was doing two years voluntary work! I regret that I am unable to share with him the success of his mother’s memoir, he died a few months before I found a publisher.

 

urszula muskus

 

I have happy memories of Babusia, my grandmother, and a huge pride in her resilience and kindness towards others. She spent an extra 14 years in the Siberian gulags because she stayed to organise food and clothes for the starving Poles fleeing south, rather than joining them.

 

When I think of the many second generation Poles scattered around the world, I know how lucky I am to know the details of my family background. So many know so little, I wish them all luck in learning more.

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KATYN 75 YEARS ON

The British Government acknowledged the 75th anniversary of the Katyn Massacres by formally handing over documents from the National Archives to the Polish Republic. I am not a historian so the following is a personal summary, a journey with my grandfather. The documents can be seen on the MSZ website

http://www.msz.gov.pl/pl/p/msz_pl/ministerstwo/historia/wydarzenia/katyn_w_stosunkach_polsko_brytyjskich_w_latach_1942_1980

The documents divide into six sections

  • 1-2               Polish deportations and missing officers within Anders’ Army.
  • 3-17             Discussion of German announcement of 13th April 1943
  • 18-36           US Congressional hearing of 1952
  • 37-52           Erection of Katyn monument in London 1970s
  • 53-61           Requesting HMG admit Soviet guilt and attend ceremony 1979-80.
  • 62                 Mass grave discovered near Orenburg 1980.

1-2             Polish deportations and missing officers within Anders’ Army.

In June and October 1942 Colonel Hulls, the liaison officer with the Polish army wrote two detailed reports full of raw intelligence informing HMG (His Majesty’s Government) of the plight of the deported Poles in the USSR, the deaths due to hunger and disease, the missing officers and General Anders difficulties in forming an army. They give a very good overall picture of what was happening.

colonel hulls polish deportations

1. Colonel Hulls report from Jangi-Jul 18.06.42

Lieutenant Colonel Hulls Anders Army

2. Lieutenant Colonel Hulls Qisil Rabat 29.10.42

I include this next section on the arrest of the embassy delegates because my Babusia, Urszula Muskus, was one of them. Because she stayed in Aktyubinsk to aid the Poles fleeing south she received a 10 year hard labour sentence and 4 years eternal exile in the taiga. She was not released until 1955.

Lieutenant Colonel Hulls polish embassy delegates

2. Lieutenant Colonel Hulls Qisil Rabat 29.10.42

 3-17            Reaction to German announcement of 13th April 1943

It may seem obvious now, but during the war years there was genuine disagreement as to who was guilty. Those with more experience of the Soviets believed in their guilt, but there were many who, knowing of the German’s many atrocities, believed them the perpetrators. Wartime expediency of saving the Soviet alliance dictated a non committal public policy while hiding the truth. These ethics were on the consciouses of those in the know.

German announcement of Katyn

44. Sir A C Kerr, British Ambassador in Moscow 20.04.43

5. Owen O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London

5. Owen O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London 24.05.43

Owen O'Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London

5. Owen O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London 24.05.43

5. Owen O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London

5. Owen O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London 24.05.43

katyn

44/15. Prof B H Sumner Research Dept. 17.02.44

katyn

44/16 H W Malkin Legal advisor 07.03.44

katyn massacre

O O’Malley British Ambassador to the Polish Government in London 13.04.44

Winston Churchill believed the Soviets guilty, but being an astute politician whose primary responsibility was to the welfare of the British public kept the secret until he wrote his memoirs.

 Winston Churchill katyn

12. Winston Churchill PM 30.01.44

Winston Churchill Nuremberg

44/47. Winston Churchill’s observation about Nuremberg 1946

anthony eden

44. A Eden Foreign Secretary 25.02.44

 18-36             US Congressional hearing of 1952

The requests from Representative O’Konski to interview witnesses in the UK and for the release of secret archives concerned HMG who wanted no part of it despite the Cold War being in full swing. The US administration seemed less concerned, but there was a flurry of discussion on what to do about it.

US congressional hearings into Katyn

22. H Hohler Northern Department 26.03.52

 37-52             Erection of Katyn monument in London 1970s

By this time HMG was keen to improve diplomatic relations and trade with Poland and the USSR, but there was wider knowledge of Soviet guilt in the UK. These documents cover the proposed Katyn monument, first in a churchyard in Chelsea, and then in Kensington Council cemetery at Gunnersbury Park. Supporting détente was the name of the game with HMG saying that they ‘deplored’ the proposal, but ‘could do nothing’ about it.

katyn monument in london

38. J L Bullard Soviet Department 11.07.72

katyn monument in london

42. D Tonkin Soviet Dept. 30.11.72

43. FCO - Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo 07.03.73

43. FCO – Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo 07.03.73

katyn monument london

44/68. R Butler Soviet Dept. 10.04.73

katyn monument london

52. Warsaw Embassy 28.09.76

 53-61             Requesting HMG admit Soviet guilt and attend ceremony 1979-80.

Pressure was building for public acknowledgement of Soviet guilt and with the Conservatives now in power Margaret Thatcher sends a Government Minister to the ceremony at Gunnersbury Park. The following year she approved a military band. It should be noted that Airey Neave, who was a close friend of Thatcher’s and had been assassinated by the Irish NLA, was one of the main supporters who got the monument erected.

Margaret Thatcher katyn

56. Margaret Thatcher PM 14.09.79

57. Warsaw Embassy 30.04.80

57. Warsaw Embassy 30.04.80

62             Mass grave discovered near Orenburg 1980.

It was reported that Polish workers on a ‘Friendship’ gas pipeline near Orenburg discovered a mass grave of Polish officers.

All in all there is little new for those who have studied the subject, but the discussion is put into chronological order. If you are tempted to read the documents I suggest that you start with nos. 1, 2 and 44. It is interesting to learn how governments work, and get locked into an international web of lies which have to be continued in order to avoid admitting to them. What’s new!