Category Archives: Katyn Forest massacre

Last Katyn widow decorated.

This story is about Maria Czernek, 97, the last living Katyn Massacre widow, being decorated for her activity in cultivating the memory of the Katyn Massacre victims. I am posting it because it includes one of the best short, balanced and complete synopsis of the Katyn Massacre that I have read. My only criticism is that it does not mention Bykownia – but that is personal.

[At the award ceremony the audience was] reminded that Poland’s post-war communist authorities attempted to eradicate the memory of the 1940 Katyn Massacre from public memory, and stressed that it took “heroic efforts” by people like Czernek to preserve remembrance about the killings.

“They were forgotten, banned from schoolbooks and from collective memory. It took heroic efforts over years by people like you to preserve this memory”, Deputy Interior Minister Zielinski told Czernek at the awarding ceremony.

Czernek received the distinction for her activity in cultivating the memory about the Katyn Massacre victims, a large part of whom were policemen.

katyn

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POW’s, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet security agency NKVD in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in west Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.

The massacre was initiated by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria, who proposed to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps. The victim count is estimated at about 22,000. The executions took place in Katyn Forest, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. About 8,000 of the victims were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, the rest were Polish intellectuals, deemed by the Soviets to be intelligence agents and saboteurs.

In 1943 the government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in Katyn Forest. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Stalin promptly severed diplomatic relations with the London-based cabinet. The Soviets claimed that the killings had been carried out by the Nazis in 1941 and denied responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the massacre by the NKVD.

Soviet responsibility for the Katyn killings was confirmed by an investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004), however Russia refused to classify them as a war crime or genocide.

In November 2010, the Russian State Duma passed a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordained the massacre.

Thanks to PAP Last Katyn widow receives award.

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Vasily Blokhin, the man who executed 7,000 Polish prisoners in a month.

Vassily Blokhin NKVD executioner

Vasily Blokhin

Not a particularly revealing article, but it maybe of interest to those who lost relatives in the Katyn Massacre. It doesn’t say where he did his dirty deeds but Wikipedia says Mednoye, so he probably did not execute my grandfather Wladyslaw Muskus at Bykownia. Apparently he became an alcoholic, went insane and committed suicide.

The Man Who Executed 7,000 Polish Prisoners in a Single Month

Wikipedia

 

KATYN AND DEPORTATION – 13th April 1940

Katyn Forest Massacre. Marshall Islands

Issued 16.04.1990

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Marshall Islands issued a commemorative stamp in 1990 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre. (Katyn is one of several sites with the mass graves of 22,000 Polish officers and professionals murdered by Stalin’s NKVD in April and May 1940.) Why did the postal service on a group of coral atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean remember Katyn? I would love to know, especially considering that the UK, who had a close relationship with Poland during WW2, barely acknowledged the massacre had taken place by 1990. Can anyone help?

Katyn monument Jersey City

Photo from nj.com.

Here’s a photo from Jersey City where Polish residents came out to pay their respects and mark the 76th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre and the 6th anniversary of the Smolensk air crash.

I am lucky to have heard good stories about the grandfather that I never knew, and happy that one cousin is still alive who remembers his uncle, my grandfather, 76 years later. Wladyslaw Muskus was murdered at Bykownia near Kiev, and his family deported on 13th April 1940.

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.

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!

 

950 Soviet victims in ‘new Katyn’

bones in Katyn A Polish-Ukrainian archaeological team has uncovered the remains of Polish WWII soldiers among about 950 victims of Soviet repressions in Volodymyr-Volynsky, western Ukraine. Whenever headlines like this appear it makes me wonder where my grandfather was murdered? Is he in this mass grave?

The remains were found on the premises of a former NKVD (Soviet secret police) prison that functioned intermittently between 1939 and 1956. Up until the outbreak of the Second World War in August 1939, Volodymyr-Volynsky (Wlodzimierz Wołyński) had been within Poland’s borders. Alexei Zlatogorski, head of the Ukrainian branch of the archaeological team, believes the victims were killed between 1940 and 1941, before Hitler turned on his Moscow ally and invaded Soviet-occupied territory. “So far, we have found the remains of about 950 people,” he told the Rzeczpospolita daily. “These include Polish soldiers, but also civilians,” he clarified. Polish archaeologist Dr Dominika Sieminska described the remains as being in “very bad condition,” noting that they had been covered with lime. The Rzeczpospolita paper referred the find as a “new Katyn”, in an allusion to the massacre of over 20,000 Polish officers by the NKVD in 1940 at various points across the Soviet Union, including the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. The exhumations are scheduled to continue for several more weeks.

This blog and photo are copied from News from Poland at: http://thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/179931,Ukrainian-dig-reveals-950-Soviet-victims-in-new-Katyn

POLISH SCOTTISH HERITAGE FESTIVAL 18-29 June 2014

What a feast of events this festival includes at Summerhall in Edinburgh. I can only report on one day full of interesting and enjoyable activities.

Billy Kay spoke about the Scottish diaspora in Poland in the 16-18C, the many thousands who travelled as pedlars, merchants and mercenaries, and then settled and became integrated into the local population. Some rose to high status and were gifted land by the king, became Mayor of Warsaw or created vast wealth. Craigievar Castle, Marshall College and Robert Gordon College in Aberdeen were all founded by wealthy merchants who made their money in Poland. How many of the Poles who have come to Scotland in recent years are simply returning to their homeland?

The Officier’s Wife is an interesting documentary about the Katyn Massacre and this was followed by the Davno folk singers. They were good therapy after the difficult emotions of the film.

Katy Carr

The day was completed with a concert by Katy Carr. She is a great singer and the added graphics make her show into a well rounded performance. Congratulations to all involved.