Category Archives: Polish deportations


Polish deportations


From September 1939 – July 1941 Stalin and his Soviet administration controlled Kresy, the eastern borderlands of Poland. They used this period to deport many families to Siberia and Kazakhstan, with educated and upper class citizens targeted to pre-empt any opposition to their dictatorial rule. The deportations were based on four mass arrests, but the reported numbers arrested have varied widely over the years.

10th February 1940. Osadniks (ex military given land to farm on leaving the army), foresters and their families were sent to gulags and forest camps, mostly in the north of Siberia. This group had the highest death rate due to the unexpected night arrest in the middle of winter.

13th April 1940. Mostly women and children were arrested as “dangerous social elements” and sent to forced labour on the kolkhozy of Kazakhstan. These were mainly the families of the 22,500 men murdered in the Katyn Forest massacre. As Urszula says, ‘It appeared that the Russians had arrested the husbands of nearly all the women in the wagon.’ My father aged 14 was one of these deportees along with his younger sister.

Urszula writes that she was arrested on the 13th Aprilin Rawa Ruska, changed trains in Lwow on the next day, and arrived at Alga 13 days later. Karta lists 49 trains leaving eastern Poland 13-20 April 1940. The one that has the closest match is listed as having left Rawa on the 20th. I cannot explain the discrepancy, but a single train from Rawa to Alga is not possible because of the change of track width in Lwow. This train carried 1333 deportees, slightly above the average number.

June/July 1940. Refugees who had escaped from German occupied western Poland, including many Jews, and were now living in the Kresy.

June 1941. Sent from the Lithuanian SSR to gulags and work camps.

Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum*

Victims of Repression 2009**

10 Feb 1940



13 Apr 1940



Jun/Jul 1940



Jun 1941






It is important to qualify that there is documentation of 320,000 deportees but we don’t know the full number because some archives remain closed and some documents no longer exist.

* Based on figures previously used by the Polish Government

** The publication of Institute of National Remembrance “Poland from 1939 to 1945. The Personal Losses and Victims of Repression under Two Occupations “, edited by Wojciech Materski and Tomasz Szarota, Warsaw, 2009. Based on research of NKVD train records by Dr. Alexander Guryanov and published by Karta. Some observers claim that the NKVD records are incomplete.

These four mass deportations by no means account for all the hundreds of thousands of Poles deported and murdered, the total is probably over a million. The death rates are estimated at 16-50%,  and maybe a quarter escaped from the USSR, mostly with General Anders.