Category Archives: USSR

POLITICAL MIGRATIONS ON POLISH TERRITORIES (1939-1950)

Cover photoThis recent book by Piotr Eberhardt was first published by The Polish Academy of Sciences in 2010 and then translated to English the next year. It is an in depth review of lately available records by a man who was himself deported, although he doesn’t say whether east or west.

The chapter concerning those deported east from Kresy has a concise overview of categories, destinations and numbers. Due to my family history I notice that those on the Ukrainian Katyn list and murdered at Bykownia are not included with the other Katyn sites. I will try and ask why not.

The numbers deported make sense, but may not please those who hold to the previously higher post war estimates. I am also pleased to discover that the numbers known to have died (at 12% if I understand the figures correctly) are less than I had guessed, although I realize that this is not the total number. He does give 3 examples of horrifically high death rates within this total

  • In February 1940 all the Poles in a train (about 1,050 persons) and some of the Soviet guard froze to death while stuck in snow drifts on the Kotlas-Vorkuta line.
  • Of 10,000 Poles transported to the Kolyma camps only 171 individuals survived.
  • Of 3,000 sent to Chukotka, nobody returned.

With 15 more chapters on migrations including to the German Reich; the Jewish, Ukrainian and Belarusian populations, plus repatriations, there is something for everyone who has an interest in the subject. The book is available free online in English from http://rcin.org.pl/igipz/dlibra/docmetadata?id=15652&from=publication

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The Long Walk

the long walkThis book by Slawomir Rawicz is a ripping good yarn which I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1960s. It chronicles the escape by six prisoners from a gulag in Siberia, and their walk to India. It appeared to be one of life’s great adventure stories and the movie The Way Back by Peter Weir is based on it. However research now indicates that Rawicz was in Ander’s Army, evacuated from the USSR across the Caspian Sea, at the time that he claimed to be walking to India. This is very disappointing.

However it does appear that this walk across the Gobi Desert and Himalayas did happen, but not by Rawicz. In 2009 Witold Glinski claimed that he was one of the men who completed the walk, and a British intelligence officer based in Calcutta in 1942 said that he had debriefed three starved men who claimed to have walked from a gulag in Siberia.